Sian Keen’s self-described “stories of women she knows” audio short entitled We Don’t Know What To Tell You, It’s Clearly Just Weight Related packs a real punch in its 10 minute running time. Covering biases in the medical profession against patients deemed ‘overweight’, distressing clips play of women relaying their frustrations with their GP’s diagnoses (or lack thereof). Alongside lists of features medical professionals typically latch onto such as height, age, and weight, the word ‘overweight’ is repeated cyclically during the piece to exemplify the frequency of these women’s shared experiences. These include doctors immediately assuming their patient’s blood pressure is too high with no tests and advising restrictive diets without asking what the patient is already eating. The consensus is that many doctors ‘just want a diagnosis’ and weight is an easy box to tick.
The effects of these encounters are damaging to say the least, and the female-only speakers establish the implicit gender-bias tied up with fatphobic diagnoses. We hear one woman tearfully say that she hasn’t weighed herself in four years as it ‘terrifies’ her, while another admits she feels unengaged with her body and is unkind towards it. The women, who remain unnamed, heightening the way in which they are dehumanised by the medical profession, ask that their doctors to ‘please treat us as people’ and that they should empathise and ‘ask more questions of their patients’.
The listener is placed directly in the ‘doctor’s seat’ by listening to the 10 minute episode, which reflects the length of an average NHS appointment, and we feel the pressure of this. This also works to make the listener reflect on ourselves and any current or future health problems we may face, especially as we are told that studies show thinner patients receive more compassion from medical professionals, institutionally stacking the odds against any patient deemed overweight.
We Don’t Know What To Tell You, It’s Clearly Just Weight Related is consequently a vital listen as the issues it broadcasts are widespread across age groups and health conditions. The message is clear: the consequences of living in a fatphobic society are undeniable and, as Keen demonstrates, potentially deadly.
We also interviewed Sian Keen and you can read that interview here.
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