Too Fat for Gloves?!

Just a short one. I recently got a shipment of clothes from Torrid, one of my favorite semi-goth-but-less-than-they-used-to-be-but-hey-I-don’t-have-any-better-options-since-I’m-larger-than-a-24US clothing stores. Included in this shipment were these gloves:

Apparently can only be worn by 90 - 160 lb individuals

Take a look at the text up at the top left of the packaging. Yes, you’re reading it correctly, your fattie eyes do no deceive you!—-there is indeed a weight rating for a pair of gloves. Only individuals 90 – 160 lbs are allowed to wear these babies. Nyah-nyah-nyah-faaaat-wriiiists!

But lo and behold! They fit these large, long, fatty hands perfectly, and I kill that weight rating by at least 100 lbs:

Big Liberty's fine be-gloved paw

Big Liberty's fine be-gloved paw

In conclusion, all I have to say to Leg Avenue (the manufacturers of the gloves) is — SUCK IT IM A FATTIE WEARIN UR GLOVES HA!

The Mia Freedman Debacle, or, Why Moral Panics Need Strawmen

Bri King of Fat Lot of Good, fellow Fat Acceptance blogger and general advocate, recently came under fire as she found herself daring to push back against a so-called body image activist allowing virulently anti-fat comments on a recent post about feederism.

Bri has since been asked to comment for articles in several Australian news outlets. (students of sociology, pay close attention to the language used in the titles of each of these articles—five extra brownie points for some analysis, if you wish to provide it!)

1. Herald-Sun: Body blogger Mia Freedman gets heavied

2. Today/Tonight: Heavyweight fury

3. A Current Affair: Mia’s fat fight

The article is the fairest, though uses some cheap fat-mocking ‘colorful’ descriptive language here and there. Both of the other segments I watched briefly without the sound so that I could get a sense for the kind of imagery they put forth, and it’s immediately problematic — headless and legless fatties, thinner people who get attractive straight-on headshots, and so forth. But I think others can go through the segments with a bit more of a detailed analysis, what I want to talk about is what really went down, here, and why this is an example of how the strawman effect is the most powerful foundation block of a moral panic.

For Bri’s explanation and links to Mia’s post and its comments, please see her posts here (ordered by date):

1. This Angry Fatty won’t just shut up and go away…

2. still Angry Fatty

Freedman has since come back to explain that, in fact, she wasn’t talking about fat people in general but was highlighting the feederists, which we can all agree are bad, bad, bad! And why don’t us regular fatties just shut up about it, what, do we think that kind of behavior is good or something? Of course, the arguments being made against Bri are chock full of logical fallacies (extra points for those who list which ones!). And it shows either a great deal of ignorance or intellectual dishonesty on the part of a so-called body image advocate to claim that highlighting feederism in the midst of a moral panic where fat people are the folkdevils isn’t harmful to fat people in general.

Here are a few facts to chew on, in case you’re still not convinced:

  1. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if society wasn’t already panicked and disgusted by fat people in general. The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe there exist people who not only like being fat but want to get fatter?”
  2. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if the common wisdom wasn’t erroneously that people with few exceptions have the ability to control their body weight. The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe these people want to be fat when they could be thin if only they got their priorities straight or were sufficiently shamed, and further, that they want to be so very fat indeed?”
  3. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if the nanny-state wasn’t continually making its version of ‘health’ a public responsibility (thus placing people’s bodies into the black box of common ownership and hence critique). The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe these people are irresponsibly choosing fatness when it’s my wallet on the line?”

Let’s further the analysis, for those who still aren’t clear on the connection between these points — demonizing feederism in the context of a moral panic where fat people play the part of folkdevil — and why such a blog post, made by a so-called body image advocate, furthers general sizism and worsens general hate of all fat people.

Feeders/Gainers, and those who are seen as clearly choosing to get fatter, are the strawmen of the ‘obesity epidemic.’ Because one of the fundamental lines of reasoning behind the moral panic of fat is that the vast majority of fat people choose to be fat. Hence, in the common-wisdom narrative of the ‘obesity epidemic’ all fat people are, to some degree, feeders/gainers.

So demonizing feeders/gainers in the context of the ‘obesity epidemic’ moral panic is the same as demonizing the vast majority of fat people.

And the comments on Freedman’s site prove this point to be true, as do many of the comments on the Herald-Sun article linked above. Those commenters don’t care if Freedman was talking about feeders/gainers in particular — to them regular fatties aren’t really that different from feeders/gainers. So what Freedman has written has the effect of only reinforcing the bigoted notions of fat put forth by the common-wisdom narrative, reinforcing people’s disgust over fat people. What Freedman has written reinforces their horrified sensibilities concerning what and how it is proper to consume food or think about wellness and how they believe ‘proper thought’ to be inextricably tied to a particular ‘proper’ size. What Freedman has written reinforces the idea that it is okay to hate and ‘be against’ this behavior, which to them is only an extreme version of what they believe all fat people do.

Freedman, a so-called body image advocate, is doing nothing more than promoting the ‘proper’ body — one that isn’t too fat — by means of what she surely believes is well-placed concern about feederism.

Still don’t believe me? Take the tenor of the comments on any article which treats this debacle (including comments on Freedman’s blog). The high level of outrage and disgust signify rage and panic over someone daring to be an outspoken member of a deviant class. This is traditionally how moral panics police their deviant classes. If most of these commenters came in with honest curiosity or concern over health, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt the level of emotion would be quite a bit lower.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate a comment I made on Bri’s blog about this whole debacle, in particular the backlash against her take on the situation.

Remember, the ‘obesity epidemic’ is a moral panic, and by being an outspoken member of the deviant class you threaten the status quo and that’s obviously ruffling some feathers.

In fact, congratulations are in order: it seems you’ve advanced your particular message to the third stage of activism. For as Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

They’re definitely fighting you. Cheers, Bri, keep on!

EDIT (5/13/10, 11:30p EST): Please also take a look at Spilt Milk’s current Freedman post. She replies to a comment Mia Freedman made to Spilt Milk’s blog—it’s really fantastic, please read it!

NOTE: If you have come to submit the comment, “But don’t you know that feederism is bad? What, are you promoting feederism or something?” I might actually publish it, just to get laughs. But I request in any case that you re-read this post — and again, if you’re still scratching your head — and if you can’t get it after that, congratulations! You’re a bigoted pawn of the moral panic. Or should I say, I send my deepest regrets to your friends and family.

Ashley Graham on Jay Leno

Ashley Graham, the model whose Lane Bryant ad was banned from ABC and Fox for — being too racy? Showing too much ‘flesh’? No one really knows for sure — was interview on Jay Leno the other evening.

The news is that the commercial is back on (I guess being showed by NBC in the 9 o’clock hour?).

Part 1 of the interview, in which there is a very positive reaction to her concisely-put size acceptance messages:

Linking, having problems embedding on WordPress at the moment.

Part 2 of the interview (short):

Link

Note that you can click on the videos in my VodPod sidebar widget.

Will Chris Christie’s Fat Frankness Turn the Tide?

Chris Christie, Republican candidate for New Jersey governor, has been at the center of a controversy which has propelled him from the favorite to win to merely sitting on the knife’s edge of public opinion. What was the propellant?

His opponent’s focus on his fat (see Rachel’s excellent post on the subject).

But there are some who are claiming Christie may have turned the tide recently by doing nothing except coming out and defining that focus which has been weighting him down in the polls, as it were:

I found Chris Christie’s new tack very smart. He called out his opponent for the ads in a subtle, humorous way: by basically coming forward and owning his fat. “I’m fat, Don.”

Imus went on to, in mainstream media fashion, probe Christie for the numbers that would best determine whether or not he fell into some socially-shunned BMI category (which is why not allowing yourself to be labeled by such numbers is so important). Christie gave his height, but when Imus asked:

“How much do you weigh?”

Christie responded: “550 pounds.” (followed by laughter)

The point Christie was making wasn’t that 550 pounds was comically huge, but that he might as well weigh any number that is “large enough” to put him into some socially-shunned BMI category, since that was the way he was being treated, simply based on his appearance. The actual number isn’t the point. The point is that he falls into what is currently considered to be “too large,” and being too large to be taken seriously was what he was trying to own. He subtly expressed the ridiculousness of the importance of that number to his political campaign, while at the same time acknowledging that his opponent wants it to be important.

The Christie vs. Corzine race should be watched closely by those interested in fat politics. Whatever your affiliation (or lack thereof), this race could set the precedent for future races involving fat candidates of any party. If Christie is able to turn the ownership of his fat to his advantage, future campaigns against fat opponents might be less willing to utilize fatphobia in their platforms. If he isn’t, it is still an important case study, and could be a depressing sign that the moral panic against the obesity folkdevil has not yet reached its climax.

STUDY: About those middle age fat chicks

There has been released recently a widely pressed study — another Nurse’s data dredge — showing that middle age women have increasingly greater chances of not making it to “healthy” old age (health is defined including certain levels of mobility, as well as the not having any diseases) if they are overweight or obese, compared to “thin” people.

Link to news article about study

Lie warnings in the news article — contains blatant lies via “expert” testimony (that weight is a modifiable, non-genetic factor — as  we know on this blog quite well, weight is 77% heritable, second only to height).

Link to the full text of the study

Looks like the study is another data dredge of the Nurse’s Health Study. Recall that this study is the parent of the most-cited article on health and obesity, “Body Weight and Mortality Among Women,” which concluded that even mild overweight (and extrapolating upwards from there) was associated with a greater risk of premature death. Sound a bit like the conclusions drawn in the most recent study, except replacing premature death with greater ill-health.

Recall Campos in “The Diet Myth” — he used the very study cited above to show how manipulations of data, and selective interpretations, could account for wildly different results. So different as to contradict the very conclusions of the authors themselves — in fact, he showed that the Nurse’s Health Study was another example of the inverted J-curve of mortality with respect to BMI, placing those at greatest risk of “premature” death in the underweight range, next in line the far opposite end of obesity (which is still on the level of some “normal” folk), and with the least chance of “premature” death in the overweight category.

Given the fact that this is the same Nurse’s Health Study, just a few years older, the inverted J-curve must still present itself. Which is likely why the authors didn’t tackle longevity in the study, just a very specially-defined “health” status, which likely maximized the amount of “unhealthy” over-70s in the overweight/obese category. Let’s check out the study a bit more.

Their definition of “health”:

Although there is no consensus on the definition of successful ageing or healthy survival, the working definitions in most previous studies8 9 11 12 were based on the concept raised by Rowe and Kahn, which incorporates not only chronic diseases but also physical, cognitive, and other functions.23 We used this same concept to derive our comprehensive working definition of healthy survival. Specifically, for our primary definition, healthy survivors were participants who survived to age 70 or older and as of age 70 were free from 11 major chronic diseases—that is, cancer (except non-melanoma skin cancer), diabetes, myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (because cognitive function was assessed near 2000 for 99.1% of the study population, we used the disease status up to 2000 for this domain); had no major impairment of cognitive function; had no major limitation of physical functions; and had good mental health. We defined nurses who survived to the age of ≥70 and did not meet these four criteria as “usual survivors.” In our cohort, there were 1686 (9.9%) “healthy survivors.”

First of all, the study is a giant set of self-reported surveys. Got that? While causes of death and major diseases (like diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s) are checked up on with medical records checks or with a phone interview or with additional questionnaires, the study authors are not bringing in the women and doing thorough checkups on them. That’s the nature of epidemiology — the belief that even though the data quality is vastly poorer to more rigorous, in-lab studies, if they crowd enough people on to the rolls, they will make up for the data quality with numbers. In other words, it comes down to the power of statistics to produce correlations that are then reported as study results.

Secondly, the definition of ill-health is very complicated, obviously crafted to maximize the results they obviously desire in their introduction (remember, introductions are usually written before the study is even begun — they are often extrapolations of the abstract, and the abstract is often what is submitted to various organizations in order to procure grant money to get funding to conduct the study).

And yes, we have the J-curve phenomenon, which is never mentioned in the study. Why could this be relevant? Simply because if there are more overweight and obese women living to old age than thin women (which is suggested by the J-curve), there is more potential for the number of overweight and obese women to have a greater incidence of “ill-health” as defined by the study. Then, if you play the numbers game just right, you can likely easily show that for every 1 “unheathy” older thin person, there were 1.8 “unhealthy” fat people. Yep — 80% is an odds ratio. It makes it look huge, right? Like 80% of all fat people who live to old age get sick? That’s why they used that number. It’s much less scary if you for every 5 unhealthy elderly thin people, there are 9 unhealthy elderly fat people, with “unhealthy” being defined on the four-point physical function, cognitive function, mental health, and chronic disease-having criteria as quoted above.

Here’s a quote to further give you the sense that the data was very chopped up and carefully manipulated to maximize the desired outcome. Note here that four BMI categories (underweight, normal, overweight, obese) are turned into several more:

For analysis of BMI, we grouped the nurses into six categories according to their baseline BMI: <18.5, 18.5-22.9 (reference), 23.0-24.9, 25.0-26.9, 27.0-29.9, and ≥30. For analysis of weight change, we calculated weight change between age 18 and 1976 and grouped the women into five categories: lost ≥4.0 kg, stable weight (reference), gained 4.0-9.9 kg, gained 10.0-14.9 kg, gained 15.0-19.9 kg, and gained ≥20 kg.

Furthermore…the first chart in the study really says it all…this is a null study. What is the difference between 22.9 and 24.4? I know, it’s subtraction, but apparently the to the authors, this is basically what underpins their entire set of results. That’s right — in 1976, when the study started, the average BMI of the group of ~1600 “healthy” survivors was 22.9, and the average BMI of the group of 15,379 “unhealthy” survivors was 24.4.

Also note that the study authors decided to disinclude women who had lost weight between ages 18 and the study start.

I think the strongest fishy smell to this study is that there was no discussion about how weight gain between 18 and 50 greater than a certain amount can be indicative of disorders they did not test for (PCOS, Cushings), and that they didn’t discuss the possibility that many of these women may have been undiagnosed with diseases which have weight gain as a symptom (like Type II diabetes, hypoglycemia, some thyroid conditions). It’s possible that in their four-point determination of “health” status, which was based on presence of chronic disease (only 11 diseases, not including PCOS, Cushings, lipedema, hypoglycemia, and some lymph disorders which have weight gain as a side effect), mental health, cognitive function, and physical function, ignores the way ones physical function, for instance, can be negatively impacted by lipedema and lymph disorders, or how one’s mental health can be negatively impacted by the stigma associated with PCOS and other weight-gain related conditions, or that one’s mental health can be negatively impacted to a large degree in our culture by being “fat.”

Another issue to address is that fatter people do have a well-known greater incidence of mobility issues when they age compared to thinner people. It’s just gravity, people.  A lean elderly person with no other chronic conditions will feel stronger, having the same rate of deterioration as a fatter elderly person. Does this mean that the fatter elderly person is less “healthy” and this means being fat is bad? I think the level of health is the same in the two, it’s the level of ability that is different. And in that sense, this study is clearly defining good health as being “most youthful.” And I don’t really agree with that definition, and though  I’m not a medical professional, I don’t think a lot of medical professionals would agree with that definition.

The study doesn’t draw as strong conclusions as it would proclaim. Even if we were to give them the benefit of the doubt in the most complete sense, what they are saying in their results is that elderly thin people — a small part of the population — will be about 80% more likely to not be depressed, and to be mobile, than all elderly people with BMIs over 30 (a much greater amount of people). What does that say, really? They are free of fat stigma, especially as is usually compounded by doctors, which elderly people have to visit far more often than the average younger person. They can also fight gravity better in their relatively deteriorated condition than people who are heavier. That’s common sense.

Finally, the funding:

Funding: The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants AG13482, AG15424, and CA40356) and the Pilot and Feasibility program sponsored by the Boston Obesity Nutrition Research Center (DK46200). QS is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Unilever Corporate Research. MKT is supported by the Yerby postdoctoral fellowship programme.

When it comes down to it, what this study *does* do very well is satisfy some of the most highly prized marketable points in favor of the diet industry:

1. Panic women further about their health. The younger, the better.

2. Make them believe that the “normal” BMI cutoff isn’t good enough. They should ideally be as thin as possible, with the best outcome their desire to be underweight (which was shown by this study to be the greatest indicator of “healthy” survival). Therefore, virtually all the population of women is “too fat,” at all points of their adult lives.

3. Get more middle-aged women, who are typically less vain and image-centric than young women, panicked about weight.

What do you think about this study?

EDIT: I also want to point out that all the study participants were white. Considering the strong genetic component of body size and what we are increasingly learning about the relationship between ethnicity and body size, the fact that this study is extrapolating to all non-white in its fundamental message is absurd, and another one of its many weaknesses. (not to say all people of particular ethnicities are shaped the same, of course – I’m shaped very differently from my own paternal grandmother, for instance)

Unfriending the Bigots

Ah, Facebook bigotry.

Guaranteed to be even more awkward than your ordinary brand of internet bigotry, as it usually involves family, friends, classmates, or coworkers.

I recently got into a bit of an exchange with a person I’ve met all of once, who thought it necessary to masturbate his fat-hate onto my Facebook wall. Seriously, I can just picture some of these bigots with pleasure-faces as their hate oozes out into the world, delighted as pigs in shit often are to root publicly, messily, and splashing it up on you if you’re not careful to stand far enough away.

I shot back with a link to the heritability study and told him that “even if adiposity measures health in some kind of reasonable way (which *hasn’t* been conclusively shown, despite “common” knowledge), your health isn’t someone else’s business, so bugger out of their life. Trust me, fat people know they’re fat. No, really. They do.”

Yeah, a bit grammatically incorrect. I don’t deign to be that careful with my sentence construction when I’m addressing hateful morons that really, really need to bugger off with their hate, oh, yesterday.

I’m rather pissed. And do you want to know the earth-shattering, oh-so-deviant, gravity-defying status update to which the douchebag above was referring?

Body obsession occupies women’s time and minds, as a tool of patriarchy to pin us down. What if we could put this energy into politics, poetry, science, or art?

And his response (get out your bingo cards!):

Well, I guess we’d be a race of super advanced fat people, like in WALL-E… :-)
Obsession is always bad, I agree. That said, from a health perspective, we do let ourselves go quite a bit, women and men, and I think it’s very easy to over eat and under exercise. I also find it funny and a little pathetic that one of the biggest research fund hogs in the world right now is a pill to make you lose weight. Seriously? Is it *that* hard to go to a gym 3 times a week?

Gah.

What’s your story of fat-related Facebook/MySpace asshattery? Or rather, have you noticed the sheer determination of bigots to be bigots in *your* space?

(oh yeah, and I totally unfriended his ass. Hence the title of this post!)

Fat Ladies Singing

Deborah Voigt, pre-WLS, performing

Deborah Voigt, pre-WLS, performing

In the comments of a recent post on Shapely Prose, a few of us in the fat community mentioned that we were classically-trained singers. For those not in the know, a classically-trained singer typically sings opera or folk music and ballads.

An interesting thing about classically trained singers is that, for a significant span of time, fat people were quite present and sometimes dominated the scene, especially as what are called “Wagnerian sopranos.”

As you can see, there are faces of all sizes in this crowd, but the average is decidedly fat, even in the modern-era sopranos. It should be noted that Deborah Voigt, the last soprano on the list, got WLS after being fired off one show by a fat-phobic director for not fitting into a dress. The director decided to replace the filler of the dress, rather than letting the dress out, or switching to a more reasonable period dress. Voigt then caved to insecurity and concern trolls and butchered her healthy organs in a three-hour weight Voigt, post-WLS, in the controversial "little black dress"loss surgery procedure. She lost 100 pounds afterwards and was rehired by the company that had fired her for being too fat. Her fans have cheered the results of her barbaric surgery, and she’s working more now than ever, though I’m fairly certain her voice and talent haven’t improved because she now can fit into some particularly-shaped bits of cloth.

But she’s not the only one on that list who was plagued with problems based on her weight. Want to guess which is the next one? If you scanned through and picked out the other modern soprano of the fatphobic era we all currently “enjoy,” you’d be correct. Jane Eaglen has also been badly characterized and passed over because of her weight in favor of thinner, less capable singers. Unlike Voigt, however, Eaglen refuses to apologize for or mutilate herself because of her weight:

Eaglen doesn’t fit the stereotype of a reigning superstar. In this age of marketable singing actresses who pride themselves on being nimble and trim, the thirty-eight-year-old Eaglen is a throwback to an earlier age of Wagner sopranos, resplendently zaftig and virtually immobile onstage. She acts with her voice, not her body. And she’s proud of her appearance, making no apologies for her weight, arguing that as long as she’s healthy, it’s no one else’s concern. If a director won’t work with her because of her size, she says, that’s his problem, not hers. Such candor and defiance are refreshing, if controversial.

Additionally, I highly recommend this article, which is surprising fat-positive, and textually sneers at shallow producers and directors who are trying to turn opera into yet another plastic veneery low art form. The article was written as an angry (yet classy) response to what happened to Deborah Voigt.

Jane Eaglen, performing

Jane Eaglen, performing

These stories hit close to home for me. Growing up, I always had an extraordinarily powerful voice. My grandmother and grandfather sang semi-professionally during the post-WWII years before they had children, as a way to make a little extra money. My grandfather was English — a broad, tall man with power — and my grandmother was German, a petite, yet broad-framed woman whose voice could knock your socks off. My Italian grandfather on the other side of my family had perfect pitch and was an extraordinarily tall, broad-framed man.

Those qualities all came together in me. I inherited large lungs, a large frame, a voice that could knock your socks off, and perfect pitch.

For a while, it was obvious that I was going to do something with singing, as a career, that is. But I kept losing leads to more petite, prettier, wispier voiced bodies. Frustrated, I concluded that the world of performance was inherently fatphobic and began turning my attention to other pursuits.

Only recently has my voice changed yet again (one’s voice changes constantly, and in a good way if you maintain it, until well past 50). I’m singing parts I could never quite handle right before. My voice is so powerful that my neighbors can hear me singing even when all the doors and windows in my house are closed (and my house is well-insulated!). My perfect pitch means I can practice without accompaniment…and I’ve begun to write music again, namely, operatic music.

Accepting a body that is widely unacceptable in a particular culture or society is one thing. Your main battle is with hate: banish hate and disgust, and you will be able to reach that place of acceptance.

However, my fat, tall, broad body allows me to produce uniquely beautiful music I would be unable to produce in a different body. Fat acceptance, for me, is not enough. I need to revel in my fat. Love my size. Appreciate it the way women today are told to appreciate a rock-hard stomach. It allows me to do things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise do. It adds to my abilities rather than, as we are taught to believe about large size, takes away from them.

Appreciating and loving your large size, especially in an age that would have you revile it, is, in my humble opinion, the hardest step of fat acceptance. But for many singers who have profiles similar to mine, part of what we can do is defined by that size (and I hate to say it, but WLS-induced bulimia cannot be good for one’s voice, ultimately).

Misdiagnosis of Cushing’s Blamed on Fat

I’m not sure if anyone in the Fatosphere has brought this up before, but I was watching episodes of TLC’s Mystery Diagnosis for the first time, and came across an episode where a woman with Cushings is ignored for years, because one of the symptoms of Cushings is rapid weight gain. And guess what the various doctors she saw said when she complained about the weight gain? Yup — “eat less and move more.” And when she did, eating a starvation level of calories and exercising with personal trainer? “Well, I bet if we locked you in a closet and gave you only water, you’d lose weight.” (!!!)

Her story begins at about 6:37, and goes into the next part, which I included.

Another One Takes the Cut

I debated a bit whether to post this, but decided to.   When I started this particular job some year and a half ago I was pleasantly surprised to note that there were plenty of fat people around – safety in numbers, you know?   And I was far from the fattest by any means.    But where you find plenty of fat people, you find Biggest Loser competitions, you find dieters, and you find gastric bypass.  Sometimes despite knowing the fact that you believe the surgery (even in your libertarian heart) ought to be outlawed except for all but the most extreme cases of people who are caught between a rock and a hard place and can’t even get out of bed (though that doesn’t mean the surgery will be a cure) your supervisor insists on spouting off to you about how great she sees other people doing with either diets or surgery.  Even when said supervisor never succeeds in a diet herself; she internalizes every example of someone who has taken the cut or starved themselves thin and goes on and on about how it’s a cure for all “the sugar” and how “good” this or that one is being.   Gag me.

Well this time, the first woman who actually made me feel comfortable here, both because she was very fat and because she is really very nice, has decided since her brief, once-in-a-lifetime romance crumbled, that she too has to undergo bypass.    At first I didn’t get it; my supervisor said, “She’s going for a bypass,” and I thought something was wrong with her heart – I was shocked!  This woman has no trouble walking except for some knee pain from various prior falls in her life, she’s over 50, she eats a fair-seeming amount of so-called healthy food, she doesn’t have any mobility issues, no heart problems, no lung problems – just a very large amount of fat from the waist down.    And so-called pre-diabetes.   You don’t even know she’s fat until she stands up, because her shoulders and face are small; she’s like the fattest-bottomed pear I’ve ever seen, and she looks good to me.   She looks…healthy.  She IS healthy.

My fear is that she will no longer remain healthy after such life-altering surgery.

Against all hope, when she mentioned it to me, I hopefully mentioned “So…are you getting the band?”  (Please please please be getting the band.)   Nope.   “Because on the band you can cheat, and with the bypass it’s just one-time, it’s a done deal, there’s no going back, nothing you can do about it.”   Do people hear themselves when they say things like this?   Has she been informed that it can KILL her?   Has she been informed that it’s supposed to be for *serious* health problems and she doesn’t have any?   And then she gets nothing but encouragement from the people around her.   Now I’m not going to say anything one way or the other except to hope for a good recovery – but there is no real recovery from surgery designed to create within you a disability and malnutrition, is there?

I am afraid she will possibly turn to substances, if indeed she uses food for comfort (who doesn’t?) as so many surgery candidates do.   I am afraid that she will get rickets or any one of those other hideous malnutrition diseases or, God forbid, as happens frequently, they simply cut a little too much, you go bald and shrivel away and die over the course of a year, only they can’t attribute it to the surgery anymore.   I’m afraid she is going to wreck her healthy glow and her cheerful disposition.

Am I afraid that I’ll be one of the fattest women in the place?   No.   I have a feeling she will not even get down to my size before the first year is up and she’s not the only fat person by a longshot.   But I’m uncomfortable with how this surgery has been portrayed in this establishment, how many people have undergone it, and how many are held up as having done so well.   I don’t want her to be an example, do I?    Well, no.    I don’t fucking know how to feel about it because of that, and frankly, I don’t want to keep thinking about it right now.    It’s enough to make a person go on a diet, isn’t it?   (Well, no.)

Nobody Wins the Oppression Olympics (except the haters)

I’ve been reading a bit of the reaction to this pulled ad, and have some thoughts. As a quick summary, the ad features jokes about people of color, Jewish people, gay people, and people of size, and is meant to highlight that for those who consider the first three jokes unacceptable, the fourth should also be considered unacceptable.

If this is an ad that is trying to make the point that jokes about people of color, Jewish people, or gay people are not cool and we need to also place fat jokes in the not cool category, it fails. There’s one overarching rule about the Oppression Olympics: nobody wins (except the haters, as they laugh their butts of at the infighting of civil rights activists).

However, there is a way this ad could work:  if it were appealing to people who already believed that jokes about people of color, Jewish people, and gay people were wrong, but may not believe jokes about fat people are wrong. On its face one might think this is a small group, but trust me, there’s plenty of fat hate in liberal-minded communities. This ad would contrast what liberal-minded people already considered repugnant with something they perhaps did not, and make them think about why it’s okay to hate on fat people, if they’re so liberal-minded and all.

If the ad were portrayed as described in the last paragraph, it could work and be really meaningful. In that context — the one where the audience is filled with people who already don’t think it’s okay to hate on people based on their skin color, heritage, and sexual orientation — throwing size in the mix is interesting and could be the catalyst for those particular people to start questioning their own possible sizism.

Considering that the ad isn’t going to mean much to anyone except a liberal-minded audience at any rate, the argument that since the public *isn’t* completely liberal-minded is the reason the ad should be pulled, seems to taste a bit flat. There are indeed times when talking about discrimination as a general abstraction with many examples (including discrimination based on color, heritage, and sexual orientation) can help movements who don’t yet have a popular foothold even amongst the liberal-minded.

What do you think? Should the ad have been pulled because it “participates in the Oppression Olympics”? Are there times when talking about discrimination as a general abstraction doesn’t marginalize discriminated groups, but rather empowers them as being part of a more general phenomenon, an ugly part of human nature against which all sorts of marginalized groups should band together and fight? Should talking about sizism in the same breath as racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism be avoided, regardless?