Observations (And A Poll!) On The Lizzo-Jillian Michaels Bodyshaming Controversy

“The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels was being interviewed on the Buzzfeed series “AM to DM” when she opined, “We should always be inclusive, but, you cannot glorify obesity. It’s dangerous. It kills people.”

Well, of course she believes that. She’s a trainer. Her business is fitness, so it would be hypocritical if she said that it didn’t matter if people aren’t fit.

Interviewer Alex Berg , however, cited the  example of African American singer Lizzo, who is unquestionably obese and who flaunts her fat.  Michaels was unimpressed, saying,

“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes,” Michaels said. “I’m just being honest. I love her music, like my kid loves her music, but there’s never a moment when I’m like, ‘I’m so glad she’s overweight.’ Why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about her weight?”

Berg later tweeted,

What I was going to say here is that Lizzo has been incredibly important in giving so many of us a possibility model for accepting our bodies as we are and celebrating bodies that are normally ridiculed. Had to restrain myself from defending Lizzo’s honor!

Now Michaels is being flamed on social media as a fat-shaming bigot. Oh–and a racist of course, because she is white and Lizzo is black. I’m not even going to address that, as there is no question in my mind that if Berg had mentioned an overweight white singer like Wynonna Judd or Adele, Michaels would have said the same thing.

I will observe, however… Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: WeWork

I wonder: how many of the sensitive progressives doubtlessly applauding the fear-monger about President Trump being an “authoritarian” see the obvious hypocrisy on working for a comany like the shared workspace company WeWork, that uses its power of its employees to force them to accept the company’s social values in their personal choices?

On July 13,  WeWork announced that it is banning red meat, pork, or poultry at company events like its “Summer Camp” retreat and internal kiosks, called “Honesty Markets.” (Yecchh. Do you dislike this preening company already like I do?) It also announced that WeWork’s 6,000 global employees won’t be reimbursed if they eat meat at their business meals, except for fish. Eating fish is OK, because…well, just because. The owners didn’t like “Finding Nemo,” or something. You know, fish have mothers too.

The company boasts that these policies  will save 445 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, more than 16 billion gallons of water, and the lives of 15,507,103 animals by 2023. 15,507,103. Wow—those are some precise statistics. Of course, the policy makes no sense. Why are eggs acceptable to WeWork, when egg-raising causes as much theoretical environmental damage as raising chickens to eat? Oddly, WeWork doesn’t impose strict environmental controls on the buildings it uses for offices and work space.

Could it be that this is just blatant, shameless, cynical virtue-signaling? Of course it is. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Smokeless Tobacco Ban

Chicago recently became the fourth city—Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco—to enact a ban on using smokeless tobacco in sports stadiums. I initially ignored it, in part because I never use the stuff and have never known anyone who did, and in part because I knew that Major League Baseball has been trying, with some success, to discourage its ballplayers from chewing and especially spitting on camera, since it is a) disgusting and b) encourages impressionable tykes to take up an ugly and perilous habit. I’m inspired to make the issue an ethics quiz because of the pronouncements of law professor-blogger Jonathan Turley on the issue and the vociferous debate his comments sparked on his blog.

Turley wrote…

This is a lawful product like smoking tobacco. People have a right to make choices about their lifestyle so long as they do not harm others. That is why I always supported the bans on smoking in public areas due to the second-hand smoke research. That is an externalized harm. What is the externalized harm of smokeless tobacco?

…I happen to deeply dislike smoking and I find chewing tobacco disgusting. I also do not question the link to serious health problems like cancer. However, that should be the subject of an educational campaign by the government and MLB. Yet, in the end, people need to be able to make choices in our society rather than go down the path to paternalistic legislation regulating our good and bad choices.

His supporters on the blog were typified by this comment by Beth (not our Beth, I presume)…

“Tobacco, in all forms, is NOT a singular activity that affects no one else. Tobacco use weighs very heavily on the public at large in the form of health care costs, higher insurance premiums, toxic litter, poisoned air and ground spit. To suggest that limiting tobacco, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes should not be controlled substances goes against all manner of policy for the public good. Wrong stance, Mr. Turley.”

This comment, from “wonderer,” is a fair summation of the other side, which mostly came from the libertarian side of the metaphorical aisle:

“The efforts to ban “icky” behaviors are of a piece with the bans or taxes on sugared beverages. What seems to be happening is that some people want to push bans on behaviors of “out of favor” groups. Those “big soda” people are Walmart denizens, so they clearly need to be told what to do. But keep hands off urban bicycling. As risky as that is, it’s one of the things “enlightened” people do. Bans (at least here in California) seem to be all about the condescension.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is a ban on smokeless tobacco in ballparks an abuse of government power and an unethical breach of personal choice, autonomy and liberty, or is it a responsible use of government power to encourage public health and safety?

I’ll hold my fire on this one until sufficient numbers weigh in. Remember, the issue here isn’t policy, but ethics.

 

 

Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month: Chicago City Council

Rugby, my pure Jack Russell Terrier (though "pure" is an oxymoron with Jacks)

Rugby, my pure Jack Russell Terrier (though “pure” is an oxymoron with Jacks)

Laws affect our lives too much to be concocted by dolts. If elected officials are going to restrict our freedom, they have an obligation to do so only with good cause, careful consideration, precision, and after making certain that unintended consequences will be minimal.

On the other hand, elected official could just say “What the hell, let’s see how this turns out,” and be like the Chicago City Council, which passed an ordinance banning the sale of pure breed dogs.

This is as nice an example of good intentions gone stupid as we are ever likely to see. The intent is to cut off the supply of dogs from s0-called puppy mills, which are rightly regarded as too often cruel and irresponsible. However, in pursuit of that elusive goal, the city council didn’t bother to craft a law that addressed the problem effectively, or that even made sense.

Continue reading

Ethics and Altzheimer’s Testing: An Easy Call

Sometimes I think bioethicists spend too much of their time looking for new ethical dilemmas rather than giving thoughtful guidance on the dilemmas we already have. A recent example: the New York Times wrote about a supposed ethical dilemma appearing in the wake of new tests that reveal the likelihood of whether an individual will get Alzheimer’s at some point in the future. As the article put it:

“Since there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s, is it a good thing to tell people, years earlier, that they have this progressive degenerative brain disease or have a good chance of getting it?…It is a quandary that is emblematic of major changes in the practice of medicine, affecting not just Alzheimer’s patients. Modern medicine has produced new diagnostic tools, from scanners to genetic tests, that can find diseases or predict disease risk decades before people would notice any symptoms. At the same time, many of those diseases have no effective treatments. Does it help to know you are likely to get a disease if there is nothing you can do?”

My question is: “What’s the dilemma?” Continue reading

Food Preparation and the Right to Have Unethical Views

Ethicist Chris McDonald, who holds forth on his  Business Ethics Blog, has a provocative post on the right to know what you’re eating on another of his blogs, the Food Ethics Blog. I have no quarrel with the main point of his post, which I recommend that you read it here.

A related point in the article, however, not involving ingredients but food preparation, caused me to stop and ponder. Dr. McDonald writes…

“… imagine again that you’re a waiter or waitress. As you set a plate of food down in front of a customer, the customer asks: “Were any ‘minorities’ involved in the production of this food? Do you have any foreigners working in the kitchen?” Appalled, you stammer: “Excuse me?!” The customer continues, “I don’t like immigrants, and I don’t like the idea of them touching my food. I have the right to know what I’m eating!” Does this customer have the right to that information? Most of us, I think, would say no, of course not. She might see that information as really important — important to letting her live her life the way she wants to — but few of us would agree that anyone else is obligated to help her live out her racist values.”

I think the customer’s request for information regarding who is preparing one’s food is a valid one. Continue reading