‘,’A mentally ill, obese woman and reactions to same at the Daily Mail’,’0′,”,’publish’,’open’,’closed’,”,’a-mentally-ill-obese-women-and-reactions-to-same-at-the-daily-mail’,”,’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1257850/Super-sized-mother-determined-worlds-fattest-woman-years.html ‘,’2011-06-05 10:23:12′,’2011-06-05 10:23:12′,”,’0′,’http://socimages.blogsome.com/2010/03/16/a-mentally-ill-obese-women-and-reactions-to-same-at-the-daily-mail/’,’0′)

Just when I have a million important things to do that are late, along comes something I would really like to invest time in writing about. A mental note has just been made for the future.

I am a regular reader of the UK Daily Mail tabloid, online version, for various reasons, which range from serious to personal entertainment. However, I am only interested in some types of posts or some subjects. In particular, when I am looking at an article in order to analyze society, it is simply crucial to read what the reactions in the comments tell us about current cultural attitudes in the West. (Most commenters are anglophone and a good number are British).

This week the Daily Mail published its sensationalist, dumbed-down and completely irresponsible version of the news of a mentally disturbed woman, Donna Simpson, whose goal is to be the fattest one of the planet, thus she spends most of her day stuffing herself with food in order to gain weight. (excerpts:)

The42-year-old from New Jersey, U.S, is set on reaching the 1,000lb mark (71st) in just two years. Remarkably she insists she is healthy, despite now needing a mobility scooter when she goes shopping.

Ms Simpson already holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s fattest mother, when she gave birth in 2007 weighing 38stone. She needed a team of 30 medics to deliver her daughter Jacqueline during a high-risk Caesarean birth.

Yet although she can only move 20ft before needing to sit down, she wants to be even bigger.

‘I’d love to be 1,000lb,’ she said.

‘It might be hard though. Running after my daughter keeps my weight down.’

Of course, no mental health professional was interviewed to educate the public on what might be going on in the mind of such a woman. To make things more ghastly in her case, she is married to a psychologically abusive man, so-called “feeders,” who encourage such women to eat until they literally explode from health diseases. The woman also has come across a website celebrating obese women, where she was flooded with emails from men encouraging her to eat more.

To achieve her goal, Donna says she will need to eat up to 12,000 calories a day (the average woman should consume only 2,000.) To fund the massive $750 weekly food shop, she runs a website where men pay her to watch her eat fast food.

‘[the men] sent me gifts through the post, like protein shakes to help me put on weight faster,’ she said.

And she unrepentant of her weight-gain goal, despite risking her own life in the process.

‘I love eating and people love watching me eat,’ she said.

‘It makes people happy, and I’m not harming anyone.’

Thus her disordered psychology is reinforced by her husband and other strangers via the Internet. Donna is also the mother of a little girl who is growing up in a certainly unhealthy family environment.

The reactions from commenters on the Daily Mail are mostly disturbing, but nothing new or unexpected for Western societies. Here are some general trends in the 300+ comments (they have closed down accepting more comments).

1) There are many comments assailing Donna as stupid, as if her actions were a result of lack of IQ.

2) There are many comments assailing Donna as horribly selfish.

3) In many comments she is also deemed to be exercising perfect choices for her behavior, as if she had no psychological issues which would hamper making other choices.

4) A good number express the view that she is to be respected because she is an adult and has chosen to behave this way, but to be adamantly criticized because she is a mother. It is very telling how many commenters say that if she wants to do harm to herself, then it’s her “right,” but she cannot have this same right towards her daughter. Several people ask about the role of child services in this case.

5) There is a glaring absence of criticisms towards the psychologically abusive husband (only very few comments).

6) There is a certain number of commenters who get a tremendous laugh from the perverse interactions at the obese women’s website.
7) Several commenters recognize she is mentally ill and should be put in a psychiatric hospital, without going into details.
8)  There is a minority of comments from people who are clearly better informed about destructive psychological dynamics, who highlight several possible reasons as to why this woman is self-destructing at the same that she claims to be choosing to do this and that it causes “no harm.”
9) Another series of comments has to do with health and welfare insurance issues and who pays for all the problems that may arise from this situation.
10) A couple of comments go for the nationality criticisms against the US, since Donna is American.
11) Then there are the usual stock of jokes and jabs, and word puns, typical of any tabloid.
Needless to say, there is a lot to write about all of this: obesity, mental health, choice, responsibility, freedom (personal versus social versus government), dysfunctional relationships, men who are “feeders,” media coverage and tabloid coverage, social attitudes about all these issues, etc.  Additionally, I see a strong parallel between Donna and her husband and couples who practice S&M. The discourse used to legitimize both is exactly the same.

 

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