So, feminists blogs are rightfully all abuzz about this stunningly awful article in the The Prospect. I saw it at Pandagon myself. Here's the abridged story...
There once was a pretty pretty girl. Said girl develops paranoid schizophrenia complete with audio hallucinations. Girl is eventually hospitalized where the staff marvels at her pretty prettiness. They put her on a drug which cures her schizophrenia and also increases her appetite and she gains 42lbs. Staff is alarmed that her pretty prettiness is gone and take her OFF the medication that cured her schizophrenia and put her on something else. The weight comes off, the voices come back, and the docs grudgingly put her back on the first meds. She gets better again. She gets fat again. She's okay with this. Her family is okay with this. Doctors and journalists can't get over the fact that her pretty prettiness is now lumpen (seriously, they said lumpen) lumpiness. They are even more shocked that she's okay with not being crippled with schizophrenia if it means being kinda fat. She's sane, but at what cost? *gasp*
Reading the story, its genuinely alarming how the medical professionals (and their journalistic storytelling partners) are so fixated on her appearance when we're dealing with a young woman with an extraordinarily debilitating mental illness that was destroying her life. Granted, weight gain from medication is different than being born (or dieting oneself) fat. In so far as the medication may have induced an extremely increased appetite and changes in her metabolism, those things should be considered if they can be controlled. If they can't be, then it should be quickly recognized that the benefits outweight the complications. But its clear they weren't concerned about the health implications of the drug's side effects. No, here we get a glimpse into the honest motivations of at least some in the health care business as with regards to fat people. It really isn't about health. Its about the pretty prettiness.
The flip way the article talks about her is very close to sickening and absolutely crosses over at points. Such as the "charming" tale of her apparent rape by a fellow patient at her psych ward. Its related as an anecdote of just how pretty she was. The lad just couldn't keep himself from breaking into her room, you see. She was THAT pretty. The article doesn't even flinch as it proceeds to say how she got worse at this point without every pausing to consider the break-in by a male patient who entered her bed and one dearly hopes but honestly doubts went no further.
It lingers on the details of her weight gain. No glancing consideration of health concerns, which I'd grant would be at least a valid concern in this limited scope, even if nothing could be done about it. The story laments at how her face filled out (first with human emotion, then sinisterly followed by FAT!) and her belly grew out of her jeans. Honestly, its like I'm reading some humiliation based Feeder eroitca. So, the pull her off the drug, let it run out of her system, and start her on something new. Her mental problems resurface. Do they put her back on the first drug, which she had only been on the normal dose of? Nope. They up her to the max of the new drug, unwilling to give up on her pretty prettiness. Meanwhile, this young woman is going through hell as her disease completely consumes her.
And yet, even in such an obvious case, the doc apparently had to struggle to do the obvious thing. Sure, she didn't hear voices anymore, but she becomes so doughy! Thankfully, they do the right thing and cure the girl to the great pleasure of her family. But it doesn't end there. You see, it turns out the the young woman is very happy that she has been able to recover from her illness. She didn't seem to care much about gaining some weight. Presumably, to her the opportunity to live a normal life was far more desirably than looking pretty. And thus was unfathomable to her doctors who were still consumed with guilt for what they had done to her.
Seriously, he cures this woman and is just beside himselve over turning her pretty prettiness into fatty fatness. He looked at it as Faustian pact. Once beautiful and insane, now fat and sane. This is genuinely regarded as an equal trade off. As in fat was just as bad as paranoid schizophrenia. Indeed, he ponders whether he lack of concern is a side-effect of the drugs or a product of her illness to begin with. Because clearly she must be crazy to be happy about recovering from a severe mental illness at the cost of a few pounds of fat. Honestly, the whole story is just shocking and distressing and sad. Sad that doctors would treat a patient like this.
Its not like weight gain is an unknown side effect of this drug. They knew it would happen and they knew they couldn't control the side-effects. I don't get all the shock and distress over it. Even assuming the damage to her metabolism does make her vulnerable to health problems from being fat, those risks are still relatively minor. Especially in the stark contrast from having your life controlled by severe mental illness. I'm stunned that all the doctors care about is how she looks, not her mental health or physical health. And I'm also just as shocked that the writer really thought there was some kind of tragic dilemia here. Woman was sick. Woman got better. Hooray! What's the problem? It is pathetic that being a little fat and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia could be seen as equal.