or: Why I still Can’t Believe Sanjay Gupta was a Brain Surgeon.
Feministe on how CNN’s Sanjay Gupta is selling two moral panics for the price of one. Apparently Sanjay felt the burning need to do a segment on why: “some people believe that working mothers may actually be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.”Zuzu asks, reasonably, why aren’t fathers also being blamed? An excellent question, but who says they’re not? Here’s an article from earlier this month blaming “permissive” fathers.
Actually, I’m hard pressed to think of an aspect of modernity that hasn’t been blamed for the “obesity epidemic.” Here’s a partial list of malefactors just from the past two months’ of headlines:
protein in infant formula
mother’s weight gain in pregnancy
reduction in the nutrient content in food
abundance of junk food and the lack of physical activity
living in a rural area
living in the suburbs
plastic in baby bottles
lack of family support
mother’s early puberty
“environmental food cues”
not enough fruits and vegetables in diet
inaccurate infant growth tables
lack of individual responsibility
britain’s one-hour lunch break
larger portion sizes
lack of personal responsibility
the fear that being slim will make people think you have AIDS
reading about the obesity epidemic
poor urban planning
southern high-fat diet
mother’s diet during pregnancy
disruptions of the circadian clock
That’s just from Google News since April. And it’s incomplete since I blew through the headlines pretty quickly – most of these are from articles that were purporting to identify a or “the” cause of “obesity” in their headlines.
If you did a search of the medical literature you’d be rewarded with even more esoteric suggestions, like high preprandial ghrelin to obestatin ratio or right prefrontal cortex deficiencies leading to impaired “moral cognition” or an unconscious method of protection against renewed sexual abuse.
Like other moral panics, who or what you choose to “blame” for the “sickness” is probably based on your diagnoses of society. Conservatives see it as a failure of the family, or of personal responsibility, or look towards their nostalgic visions of the 1950s, grieving the loss of authoritarian fathers and housewives. Liberals have their own lens: those with an environmental slant may look for toxins in the environment or urban planning; those with an anti-corporate outlook blame the food industry and its additives and advertising.
In other words, that Sanjay Gupta selected to do a segment on working mothers – out of all of the endlessly proliferating “social ills” that have been recently fingered as the “cause” of fat – almost certainly says more about his prejudices than it does about fat.