The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society ... It is a quality of mind that seems most dramatically to promise an understanding of the intimate realities of ourselves in connection with larger social realities. (Mills 1959, pp 6, 15)
The term, Sociological Imagination, was coined by CW Mills and refers to the working mechanism of the sociological mindset. It involves the tools one might use in order to evaluate issues from a sociological angle. This concept was primarily employed for the application of linking between issues faced by the public and individuals’ personal dilemmas.
This essay was developed in order to understand a mass media issue with the help of the sociological imagination. The topic chosen, was obesity.
Obesity has become a large and dark reality since capitalisation. I will use the tools of the sociological imagination template, ie analysing it as a risk issue in children and adolescents by employing historical factors, cultural factors, structural factors and lastly critiquing it. These four features will then help provide a holistic analysis of this major issue from a sociological angle.
The essay shall attempt to understand and argue about the major epidemic of obesity amongst children, adolescents and adults residing in Australia.
The World Health Organisation recognises obesity as a disease that has spread globally over the last 25 years approximately. It has only become a major issue in recent times, due to its rise and frequency in adults as well as children. The issue of being overweight has specifically risen since major fast-food restaurant franchises became incorporated and rapidly started expanding on a global level. In relatively recent history, being overweight has been looked down upon as a character flaw and as a source of amusement through social ridicule; but this has not always been the case. Large people in a lot of cultures and in different time periods have been viewed as symbols of prosperity and wealth. This last perception of the correlation between wealth and prosperity with obesity is not surprising; as the majority of the population at that time were unaware of the health risks and believed being large meant you were well-fed and rich enough to afford the same. Currently, in some African cultures – obesity is still looked upon as a sign of being prosperous and not a victim of malnutrition. This perception exists in a few tribes wherein food is scarce and hence being overweight gives rise to the old perception of prosperity.
Insurance companies since the 1940s have noticed a definite link between being overweight and shorter life spans. In 1996, the Body Mass Index was introduced wherein the classification and typologies of being obese was explored. The BMI classifies people on the basis of age, sex and height to measure levels of obesity. Currently 20-25% of children and adolescents in Australia are obese wherein 4.9% of boys and 5.4% of girls are obese. According to a research carried out by the WHO, a significant number of subjects reported a family history of hypertension (8.0%), obesity (5.4%), diabetes (3.3%) and stroke (1.4%), with 14.6% of participants reporting any of these NCDs.
Although the above stated numbers might seem less than impressive to some, there is a definite visibility on the internet, of a large population trying to lose weight. In fact, there are business sectors dedicated to the same, wherein both advertisers as well as the related companies are trying to exploit different sub-typologies of obese people. There are diets structured around weight loss techniques which focus on taking only specific food-groups, colour-based food and other varied dietary consumption patterns. Some examples of such diets are the Atkins diet, Weightwatchers diet and others. The popularity of such diets can be attributed to their success rate and the readiness with which they gain acceptance with major celebrities.
Today’s society is trying to get ahead of the obesity epidemic due to health risks, personal physical perceptions, and embarrassment, amongst a large variety of reasons. The truth is, not being obese and looking fit is currently a fad itself rather than an eternal lifestyle choice that the next few generations will inevitably not dismiss. Alternatively, it is nearly impossible for the human population to not have fat/obese people as a definite percentage of the population. Even if somehow, we managed to completely eradicate corpulence for a small time period, a subculture of obese people would automatically emerge.
Currently, there are plenty of people living in places like America (among other countries) who are proud to be fat and embrace their lifestyle as a way of feeling complete. To this demographic, being large is a way of being themselves and they are happy to even accept the ridicule that comes their way. The writer strongly feels that such a perspective while being unhealthy can be derived partially by their dislike for 'stick-thin' model figures.
The essay would like to conclude that while the world is aware of its issues with corpulence and the spread of obesity – there are various measures being taken to adapt to and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Many fast-food restaurants are recognising this need to eat healthy foods instead of constant and instant gratification amongst a large portion of the population. An excellent example of this is McDonalds’ ‘tick approved’ meals wherein they offer healthier food by providing more green vegetables and giving juice for the drink instead of a cola. These meals have been independently tested by the National Heart Foundation and approved. While this is a small step to reduction of weight issues – more and more people are trying to be active as an effort to being fit physically and mentally.
- Batch, Jennifer A. and Baur Louise A. (2005, February 7).Medical Journal of Australia Vol 182, Number 3. Management and prevention of obesity and its complications in children and adolescents. Viewed March 26, 2010 from here
- Germov, J. and Poole, M. (2007) Public Sociology: An Introduction to Australian Society. Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest N.S.W.
- Pesic, M. (2006, November 12). The History of Obesity. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from here
- Sande, Marianne A.B. van der et al (2001) Family history: an opportunity for early interventions and improved control of hypertension, obesity and diabetes. Viewed March 27, 2010, from here
Disclaimer: This was born out of an assignment requirement, done for the subject 'Introduction to Sociology' - a beginner course into the fascinating field of Sociology. As per the parameters of the assignment stub, the idea was to divide the word-limit between all 4 factors so as to exercise effective knowledge of the Sociological Imagination.The noder has simply put his homework on the Internet, in the spirit of Node your homework. He requests no copy-and-pasting be done.