In recent years, the concept “neoliberalism” has emerged to represent everything that is bad, or at least nothing good. Some have questioned whether the concept is so overused to the point of being meaningless. In public health, there has been an explosion of neoliberal analyses. In an editorial for Critical Public Health, Kirsten Bell and Judith Green lament the ”reductive ways neoliberalism often tends to be used.” One such reduction is the characterization of the beneficent welfare state as under-attack from maleficent neoliberalism. This characterization is not only simplistic, but it misunderstands the effects of neoliberalism on the provision of welfare. I suggest that the proliferation of “lifestyle” practices and policies can better help us understand the relationship between neoliberalism…

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In 1899, in one of the most influential speeches of his career, Theodore Roosevelt called on his fellow citizens to live a “strenuous life.” Roosevelt praised a life of restless movement, always active, always seeking to improve one’s strength and the strength of the nation, always trying to get ahead and to succeed in an endless struggle for survival. In the wake of Darwin and in the age of Social Darwinism, competition, personal responsibility, and constant improvement had become natural laws, considered as governing any interaction between individuals, groups, and nations. Roosevelt preached the gospel of fitness, and its message and tone sound familiar to us, even if we have never heard of his “strenuous life”-speech before. In this blog…

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Most of us probably know this situation. We hurry to catch a bus, but we are too late, too sluggish, and the bus takes off without us. We missed it! Sometimes we blame jammed doors and crowded streets; sometimes we blame the bus driver or other passengers who refused to wait or keep the doors open, even though we were almost there; sometimes we blame ourselves because we might have left earlier; and sometimes, we start wondering about our fitness and why we can’t run that fast anymore. At least that thought comes to my mind occasionally: “Wasn’t there a time when I was kind of faster and didn’t get out of breath that quickly when running for the bus?”…

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It is a contradiction to work for social justice and perpetuate fatphobia at the same time. This should be obvious, and yet many people with strong commitments to social justice often use rhetoric that entrenches the oppression of fat people. A popular, but pernicious, set of fatphobic assertions takes the form of what some scholars refer to as the “foodscape argument.” On its surface, the foodscape argument (which is also known as the “obesogenic environment” thesis, or the “environmental” theory of fatness) seems progressive. The theory postulates that western industrial societies are experiencing an “epidemic” of “obesity,” which is driven in large part by economic inequality. According to the foodscape argument, low-income people lack access to nutritious foods and are…

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In the ever so popular sideshows of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Fat Lady was a fascinating spectacle staged for the amusement, horror and repulsion of the visitors. She was one of the freaks who was feared, yet also marveled at for her assets, her fat body. Today, there are only few sideshows left (in Coney Island for instance), but the tradition of displaying so called freaks for amusement has not vanished, it has merely switched its medium to television, or more precisely to Reality TV, a genre that is overtly popular and profitable for broadcasting stations. The fascination with “real” people and their lives does not seem to cease as more and more programs that negotiate and…

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