A Canadian gender studies professor claims new drugs deployed in the fight against obesity is a “dangerous” new front in the culture war on “fatphobia.”
Fady Shanouda is an associate professor at the Feminist Institute of Social Transformation at Carleton University who specializes in “fat studies” and “fatphobia.” On Monday, the fat studies professor wrote the new hype around Ozempic, a type 2 diabetes medication being prescribed off-label to induce weight loss, perpetuated the “harmful idea of a future without fat.”
“It is steeped in fat-hatred that could further damage our relationships to our bodies and food,” Shanouda explained. “The language used around Ozempic is about ending the so called ‘obesity epidemic.’ The very description is laced with the idea of eradicating fat people.”
Shanouda went on to note Ozempic, the name-brand medication for semaglutide, fails to “cure obesity.”
“Certain users of the drug have lost significant weight, but they will need to take this costly medication in perpetuity,” the professor wrote.
In May, The Wall Street Journal titled coverage of the new medication with the headline “Obesity Could Be Pharma’s Biggest Blockbuster Yet.”
“Patient testimonies have focused not only on the dramatic effect on their waistlines, but also on how quickly many seem to pack the pounds back on if they stop taking the injections,” the Journal reported. “That may not be ideal for patients, but for Wall Street it is a feature rather than a bug.”
According to Shanouda, however, the primary problem with Ozempic extends to the drug’s use to eliminate obesity in the first place.
“In a world marked by scientific uncertainty, the promise of ‘a cure’ as a magic elixir is the ultimate expression of science vanquishing the bad enemy,” Shanouda wrote. “Drugs such as Ozempic can be understood as a form of ‘pre-emptive obesity biopolitics,’ a term used by United Kingdom geographer, Bethan Evans, to describe policy interventions that seek in the present to prevent fat futures.”
The blog post follows New York City Mayor Eric Adams declaring obesity a protected class in May.
Obesity, meanwhile, a symptom of a toxic diet, remains the public health crisis of our time. People who are obese are at higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and many types of cancer, just to name a few.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 3 American adults 18 and older were considered categorically obese in 2021. The CDC reported nearly 1 in 5 children aged 2-19 were already obese between 2017 and 2020. Harvard researchers estimated before the coronavirus lockdowns that roughly half the American population will become obese by the end of the decade.
A study from the University of Colorado Boulder published in February found people who are obese are up to 91 percent more likely to face an early death. Obesity, in the meantime, lowers quality of life, jeopardizes fertility, and hampers military readiness. Every consequence of obesity, from the explosion of chronic disease to the risks to national security, is exacerbated by a cultural erasure of “fatphobia.”