“Am I that bad?”: Middle-class moralism and stigma in policy documents on the detection and treatment of obesity

Iben Charlotte Aamann, Mikala Erlik

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In this article, we explore health policy discourses related to the detection and treatment of obesity. We suggest that ‘fat phobia’ and the moral panic associated with the obesity epidemic might be understood as a symbolic class struggle.
By analysing cases in guidelines to inform health professionals on how to intervene in family lifestyles, we show how the moral judgements implied in the representations of mothers of overweight children are matters of class.
As displaying one’s moral value has become a central feature of the neoliberal subject and constitutive of the middle classes, especially with regard to health behaviour, the mothers of overweight children are represented in two ways according to their class position: as passive and irresponsible or as morally worthwhile and responsible because of the shame and fear of being judged as a lower-class mother.
The conclusion suggests that the obesity epidemic discourse is not only about the moral regulation of the lower classes; the class- based stigma of fat people also serves as a legitimation of the retrenchment of the welfare state and thus also increased inequality in health care.

Translated title of the contribution"Er jeg så slem?": Neoliberal styring via moralsk klasseangst i sundhedsinterventioner rettet mod forældre til tykke børn
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Publication statusSubmitted - 2022

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