Who decides who much you are worth? Last time I checked, there was no quantifiable value attached to a human life, but I think we spend our lives trying to work it out all the same. Or rather society does it for us.
And it’s an interesting concept when you think about it, because who determines how much anything is worth? Those of us who have been paying close enough attention to the news, will have learned a lesson or two about value over the last few weeks courtesy of the people over on Reddit.
[Never thought that was a statement I would hear myself saying.]
What the GameStop scandal has to do with weight stigma
You see, the guys on Wall Street had decided how much GametStop stock was worth. They were so confident in their assessment that they bet billions on it by through hedgefund investments. But then a group on Reddit who, from what I can tell, were either bored or pissed at the world, decided to teach those Wall Street guys a lesson. So they all invested in GameStop stock.
STwo things happened. Firstly, the price of GameStop stock skyrocketed. Secondly, the guys on Wall Street crapped their pants and had a meltdown. Apparently it’s OK for them to decide what something is worth, but not for the rest of us plebs.
What I loved about this wasn’t the fact that the crazy conspiracy theorists on Reddit wiped out billion dollar hedgefunds or that we got to see stockbrokers throwing a tantrum. No, my favourite thing about this story is how we all got to catch a glimpse of the people who are in charge of deciding how much things are worth.
And it turns out they are fallible just like the rest of us.
Who determines your worth?
Did you know that there is no law protecting us from weight discrimination? You can’t deny a person a promotion based on their gender, ethnic origin, religion or disability but you can deny them a promotion because you believe they are too fat. You can also jack up the cost of their insurance, deny them life-changing surgery or medical treatment, and say whatever you like about them in a public arena.
And as of today, there is nothing UK citizens can do about it. No legal protection. No way to challenge these decisions or force people to treat us fairly. Nada. And what that tells me is that I am valued less than my straight-sized fellow citizens. I am worth so little, that my rights aren’t even protected by law.
And that is really starting to piss me off. Because I spend a lot of time arguing with people that it is possible to be fat and healthy. But what happens to fat people who aren’t healthy? Are they not just as worthy as everyone else? Are they not entitled to the same basic human rights and to be treated with the same amount of human decency as the rest of us?
The bigness scale
Over the years, I have heard people say something along the lines of “you’re big but you’re not that big”. Apparently that is supposed to be some kind of compliment. Which is really quite offensive if you think about it. Apparently there’s a scale of bigness, and the implication is that your value decreases as your bigness increases.
I can still buy clothing in regular size shops (even though I am at the top end of the scale). I don’t have to buy a second seat on a plane or ask the air hostess for an an extendable seatbelt. I will never be a catwalk model but I don’t quite fit into the morbidly ob*se category.
So according to society, whilst I am by no means as worthy as a thin person, I am worth more than a really fat person? Well f*** you society. Who says you get to make all the rules? And who are you anyway? Who exactly gets to decide whether I am worth it?
Follow the money
That’s a complicated question. But like GameStop, it is possible to determine my stock value. It may not be the guys on Wall Street, but there are definitely large multi-billion dollar industries that profit when my stock plummets. How?
Well to start with, some people get to tax me for my “excess” fat. True story. Insurance companies will increase your premiums based on your BMI and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Even though so many studies have shown that this is not fair for two fundamental reasons. One, there are plenty of fat people who are healthy. Two, there are plenty of thin people who are not healthy.
So what do people like me do when they are unfairly penalised for their weight? Why they turn to the weight loss industry, of course. And as we all know, the weight loss industry makes you a promise that they know they are not able to keep. But they have absolutely no problems taking lots of your money nonetheless.
Now it seems to me that insurance companies and weight loss programmes have every reason to go into business together. First they tax me for being overweight. Then I turn to fad diets and so-called “fitness and nutrition experts” to help me to shed the weight. Only that hardly ever works and is virtually impossible to sustain long term. So now I have spent money on insurance premiums as well as weight loss programmes that don’t work. And I’m no better off. In fact, I am worse off because I’ve got less money and my health has most likely worsened as a result.
It’s not just money that determines value either. Morality and virtue come in to it too. Studies have shown that most people consider fat people to be lazy, lacking in self-discipline, less well-adjusted and having less self-control. Those are some giant stereotypes for people like me overcome.
Those stereotypes affect me in the workplace, in school, in the criminal justice system and they affect my ability to access good quality healthcare. They are perpetuated by the media and by healthcare professionals, who are notorious for judging people’s health based on the way that they look.
Everywhere I look, the message is loud and clear. I am worth less than a thin person. And that sucks. Because when you delve deep enough you realise that this form of bias is rooted in racism. It is born of white, evangelical Christian beliefs that date back over 100 years ago.
It profits white privilged men in suits who sit at the top of their ivory towers and make decisions that penalise the poorest and most vulnerable members of society the most.
You get to decide who determines your worth
Somewhere along the line, this journey stopped being about my personal weight losses and gains, and became about something more. Something bigger and more profound. It’s not thin versus fat. It’s capitalism versus health. Privilege versus oppression. White supremacy versus the rest of the world.
[Don’t get offended by that last comment. It you’re reading this and you’re white, you probably don’t buy into white supremacist ideals. Not all white people are white supremacists. But white supremacy favours all white people… Think about it.]
So I started this blog post by asking “who says you’re worth it”? And I guess only you can answer that. The question is who do you actually want to determine your worth? Greedy insurance companies? Fitspo accounts on instagram? Your nextdoor neighbour?
Did I ruffle your features today or do you agree with what I have to say. Make sure to leave a comment below and join in the discussion. And if you like what I have to say, you can subscribe to my website and never miss another blog post again.