The Fatslayer Chronicles

Feb 20, 2006 at 21:50 o\clock

Yellow Bellied

Today's Weight 173.0lbs 


I dislike myself intensely today - I’m ashamed and disgusted at myself for being such a yellow-bellied coward.


I work in the finance department of an NHS hospital, and this morning I had a meeting with the Director of Finance and the Director of Patient Services. We were discussing the alert status of the hospital (we were on black alert, which means that things were very very dire with not a single bed available in the hospital and folks queuing in A&E for a place to lie down), and the conversation turned to demand management as the way to solve the capacity problem in the longer term.


The conversation went something like this:


Director of Finance (DoF):    One way to reduce demand would be to refuse to treat patients who smoke or who are grossly fat. It’s not fair that they block beds from more deserving patients when they’ve bought their condition on themselves.


Director of Pat Svs (DoPS):  Hmm, that’s a tricky one, because where do you draw the line?


DoF:                                Well, smokers should have to agree to quit before we commence treatment, and no-one with a BMI over 30 should be treated unless they’re classified as an emergency. Elective surgery just shouldn’t be an option.


DoPS:                              Isn’t drawing the line at 30 a bit extreme?


DoF:                                Not at all! You can’t argue with the facts, and it’s a fact that a BMI over 30 makes you obese. As a surgeon would you want to wade through someone’s wobbly fat before you could even see their internal organs? Ugh, it’s disgusting.


DoPS:                              But 30’s not exactly gargantuan, is it?


DoF: (with a shudder)         It’s big enough. I see them waddling round the corridors, wheezing and puffing and hauling themselves along to the orthopaedic department on sticks. It’s not sticks they need, it’s their jaws wired shut. That’d solve their joint problems AND our bed capacity problems, wouldn’t it?


The DoF carried on in this vein for some time, to the increasing discomfiture of both myself and the DoPS (himself not exactly snake hipped and lean). Her choice of words became more and more colourful, and she crossed the line from outlining a valid (if extreme) argument, into being gratuitously rude towards the obese.


She included words such as gross, wobbly and disgusting in her comments towards fat people, and generally belittled and derided them, without batting an eyelid or seeming to have any conception that her comments could be offensive.


I wanted so badly to say something, but I just sat there and tried not to look as if I was taking her comments personally, and I didn’t say a single bloody word. 


What a fucking coward I am.


Partly I kept my mouth shut because I felt humiliated, and partly because she’s my boss and she has a filthy temper, and partly because I didn’t want to sound like some prim and proper missy who took offence at the drop of a hat.


But hell, I WAS bloody offended!


I remembered her telling me when I joined the Trust that I would be held responsible for ensuring that my staff respected the Trust’s Equality and Diversity policy, and that I mustn’t let them get away with any off-colour jokes or comments that could be construed as racist, homophobic, sexist etc.


But it seems to be open season on fat people.


Presumably she wouldn’t have dreamed of making racist comments in front of a person of colour, or homophobic comments in front of a gay person, but (not for the first time) she openly insulted fat people in front of one of them (me).


I phoned K to let off steam, and he told me I should see her obtuseness towards my feelings as some sort of backhanded compliment, as it suggests that she doesn’t consider me to be one of the much-maligned obese brigade. Hmm, that’s small consolation. She voiced the same views when I had a BMI of 43, and it didn’t seem to make her pause or think that I might find her attitude and comments insensitive and rude.


I know I should have said something, and I wish I could turn back the clock and act with a bit more backbone.


I am utterly ashamed and disgusted with myself. Having missed the opportunity to say something at the time, I can’t decide now whether I’ve left it too late, or whether I should bite the bullet and raise the issue with her again.


Any advice, anyone?

Comments for this entry:

  1. dietgirl wrote at Feb 21, 2006 at 11:38 o\clock:it is just plain disturbing that she said that out loud, in her job in a health care organisation... bloody hell...

    i kinda feel a little shellshocked just reading about her words, let alone actually being her employee right there in the meeting... i would have had the same silent reaction as you!

    don\'t have any advice but can just understand why you didn\'t pipe up at the time.
  2. BethK wrote at Feb 21, 2006 at 14:31 o\clock:Oh my... She is clearly part of the problem isn\'t she? Confronting her prejudice in front of one of her peers would have done nothing to change her mindset and could have been seriously career limiting for you. I\'m sure it made you angry, but professionally, there wasn\'t a whole lot you could have done in that situation.

    You can\'t *not* treat obese people for complications that may or may not arise from their obesity anymore than you turn away someone with HIV who may or may not have contracted it through high risk behavior. If your boss has a brain in her head, those views will never be voiced outside of that meeting lest she be bitch-slapped into next week (as she so richly deserves) by someone from Legal.

    From the hospital standpoint, I would let the DoPS deal with it. It\'s possible that this person was unwilling to get into it with her in front of one of her subordinates and has *zero* intention of ever supporting the DoF\'s \"ideas\" at the management level. Depending on your relationship with the DoPS you might let them know how disturbing you found you found your boss\'s comments and get assurances that her viewpoint is not shared.

    As for your relationship with your boss... That\'s tough. Transferring to another department comes immediately to mind! If that\'s not an option, schedule some time with her and in your most detached and professional manner, tell her how you feel about what she said and how it may impact your professional relationship going forward. I don\'t know how things are in the UK, but in the US, phrases like \"hostile work environment\" carry a tremendous amount of weight (so to speak) in the employer/employee relationship.

    Hang in there, girl. Illegitimus non carborundum est!
  3. PastaQ wrote at Feb 21, 2006 at 17:10 o\clock:Sometimes I think I should just write up a list of arguments against commonly held fat stereotypes so I can quickly argue with people like that. I could make a list all the reasons BMI is a flawed system, reasons it is so difficult to lose weight and it\'s naive to lay blame solely on the fat person, how once you eat a lot of carbs you start to crave carbs even more etc. etc. I\'m really informed about this stuff because I\'ve been reading about it for the past year, but most people are ignorant to this information.

    But I totally relate to feeling like a chickenshit when I don\'t speak my mind. Oh, to be brave!
  4. PastaQ wrote at Feb 21, 2006 at 17:14 o\clock:P.S. - You could also argue that not treating fat people is a form of class discrimination since obesity is more common in the poor. Rich people get to live, poor people have to die. Similarly people have argued that the American death penalty is a form of genocide since death row inmates are much more likely to be black than white.
  5. Debra wrote at Feb 21, 2006 at 22:22 o\clock:Your boss is a bully and you took the only path you could take without making the situation escalate. I think you can raise the issue with her anytime you like -- there is no rule in the Universe that we always have to pounce on offenders on the spot. If you do let her know politely but firmly that you are shocked and offended by her insensitive lack of professionalism and downright dangerous policy suggestions, she will cave. Bullies always do. They also retaliate. Damn bullies.
  6. Kirsten2 wrote at Feb 23, 2006 at 13:04 o\clock:I totally can\'t say I would have acted any differently - I\'d have liked to, but would I have dared? Don\'t know.

    30 is indeed a silly number to pull out of the air - after all, plenty of fit, muscular people have BMIs over 30 (including, apparently, Brad Pitt, and I doubt he\'s her idea of repulsive). Sounds like your boss doesn\'t have the faintest idea how the numbers relate to actual body size or physical condition.

    However, what it comes down to is this: she is in charge of the finances, not deciding on a case-by-case basis who gets treated and who doesn\'t. She doesn\'t have the power to make doctors or admissions staff turn people away.

    I do think that if you have the nerve to bring her to task, that\'s laudable. But you shouldn\'t feel you have to - and you can\'t be the only person who feels uncomfortable with her way of thinking.

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