NOTE (added a few hours after my initial post): Even as I was writing about this post, I felt a little uneasy about it. Jen clarified why in the comments and on her own blog. I considered taking this post down, but will leave it for now and see what kind of discusion it generates.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the moral neutrality of food, specifically green beans and chocolate cake..
“You talked about food being morally neutral – bodies are morally neutral too.”
Imagining a hypothetical question like the one that sparked the green beans/chocolate cake debate:
“So an obese person is the same as a person who’s thin?”
Here’s my response:
An obese person is an obese person and a thin person is a thin person. They are obviously not the same person, and they are not the same from personal/subjective standpoint. But both are morally neutral. Ascribing qualifiers like “good” or “bad” is personal and subjective, not morally neutral.
The obese person may have stretch marks and cellulite. The thin person may have stretch marks and cellulite, as well. Is that morally good or bad?
A thin person might have a thick midsection and protruding belly and an obese person might have an hour-glass figure and relatively tiny waist. Morally, is one better than the other?
The obese person may take a five-mile walk every day while the thin person may sit at a desk all day. Is that morally good or bad?
Or maybe the obese person is in a wheelchair and thus has a sedentary job, while the thin person has a job that keeps her on her feet and active all day. Is one body better than the other? Or are they morally neutral?
The thin person may have high cholesterol and diabetes. The obese person may not. Or vice versa. Is it good or bad either way, morally?
The thin person may eat a “paleo” diet while the obese person may do the same, or might be a vegan. Or both may subsist on a diet of fast food. Is either good or bad, morally?
The thin person may be asked to be a model in a magazine, while the obese person might be the photographer. Is this morally good or bad?
The thin person may have severe acne while the obese person may have flawless skin. Is one better than the other? Morally?
Both the thin person and the obese person might hate their bodies. Is it good for the obese person to hate his/her body, but bad for the thin person? From a moral perspective?
The thin person may have an eating disorder like bulimia. The obese person may have binge-eating disorder. Is one better than the other, morally?
There’s an Olympic swimmer who has a belly and an Olympic weightlifter who weighs 325 pounds. Are their bodies morally better or worse than, say, a 110-pound supermodel who can’t run a mile or curl a 10-pound weight?
And what about a person who is thin, healthy in every way, loves his/her body, and is strong and fit? Where does this person’s body fit on the morality scale?
I believe all bodies are morally neutral.
What do you think? Are all bodies morally neutral?