CHHS Research Seminar (online) – Dr Luna Dolezal

Dr Luna Dolezal addressed CHHS members on February 3rd to discuss ”Fat Shaming’ under Neoliberalism and COVID-19: Examining the UK’s ‘Tackling Obesity’ Campaign’.

Dolezal’s article explored the dynamics between fat shaming, neoliberalism, ideological constructions of health and the ‘obesity epidemic’ within the UK, using the Tory Government’s recent Tackling Obesity campaign in response to COVID-19 as illustrative. Dolezal drew attention to the ways in which ‘fat shaming’ as a practice that encourages open disdain for those living with excess weight operates as a moralising tool to regulate and manage those who are viewed as ‘bad’ citizens (LeBesco, 2004). In doing so she begins by outlining how the ideological underpinnings of ‘health’ have been transformed under neoliberalism. She then considers the problematic use of fat shaming language that is often used as a tool to promote ‘healthy’ lifestyle choices by those who view it as not only an acceptable way of communicating the health risks associated with obesity, but also a productive way of motivating people with overweight and obesity to lose weight (Brown and Baker, 2013, p. 24). Drawing on Graham Scambler’s theoretical framework regarding shame and blame (2020), Dolezal discussed how “heaping blame on shame” has become a “wilful political strategy” under neoliberalism, particularly as it relates to individuals with excess weight or obesity, and how the Tacking Obesity campaign leverages fat shaming as a means to encourage normative models of self-care and self-discipline.

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