Unpacking the Fat: People Like Me

1. People like me get thrown off flights, especially if they’re too full, and asked to pay double for the privilege of waiting for the next one.

2. People like me can’t shop in most malls. We get strange looks and downright condescension if we go into certain stores.

3. I can’t turn on the TV and expect to see someone like me, in general. If I do, then that person is almost always being portrayed as something broken to be fixed, or otherwise in a negative light.

4. When I see people like me talked about in the news, it’s about how horrible people like me are, and what is the best way to get rid of people like me.

5. If I go to an adoption agency I will be told that people like me shouldn’t be parents.

6. If I go to an infertility clinic I will be told that people like me shouldn’t be parents.

7. If my child is someone like me (which they have a good chance of being) I will be told I shouldn’t be a parent. My child might even get taken away from me.

8. I can’t open a magazine and expect to see people like me. However I can expect to see ad after ad for products on how to prevent becoming like me, or how to ‘fix’ someone like me.

9. If I ride the subway/bus, I get dirty looks. People don’t think someone like me deserves to sit. If I stand, they tell me that I’m in the way of everyone else.

10. If I take a walk down the street in a populated area I can expect to be told how horrible I am from passing cars, pedestrians, people in shops — anyone I meet. I might even get things thrown at me, like garbage.

11. If I go to the gym I can expect to get talked down to, and treated like the reason I’m there is to ‘fix’ myself from being so broken and horrible.

12. If I drive my car instead of walk it’s taken as proof of why people like me are horrible. If I don’t go to a public gym it’s taken as proof of why people like me are so horrible.

13. There is big money for people who are trying to eliminate  people like me. They especially want to eliminate children who are like me. Most other people, even some people like me, think this is a wonderful thing. They hail an ‘enlightened’ future world that no longer has people like me in it.

14. People like me are blamed for the broken healthcare system.

15. People like me are blamed for global warming.

16. People like me are told that we can’t do certain things, and when we do, we’re told that we’re the exception that proves the rule.

17. I pay three times as much as what other people do for clothes, and it’s often much worse quality, style, fit, and selection. Clothes for people like me are segregated in stores and online, if they are available at all.

18. With some regularity the media debates on morning and news shows if people like me should exist, and how best to get rid of us if not.

19. People like me aren’t in trendy establishments. We are either barred from going, or the place can’t accommodate us, or we get condescended to and pressured to leave as soon as we walk through the door.

20. I can wear the same style and cut of clothing as someone who is not like me, and told that while it is perfectly decent on her, it is indecent on me.

21. People like me are told that we shouldn’t leave the house because of how awful we are, but that we are so awful because we never leave the house.

22. People like me are denied life-saving surgeries and the opportunity to donate organs unless we change.

23. My friends and family think it’s their duty to tell me how horrible I am, and how I should change.

24. People like me are told that we are stupid, lazy, immoral, and broken with regularity. I can expect to hear this several times a day.

25. People like me are never the heroes of books or movies. We are usually cast as the villain.

26. People like me have a harder time getting hired. Employers believe that people like me aren’t good representatives of their company, regardless of our skills, work ethic, experience, or talent. People like me are much less likely to appear in employee circulars and marketing materials. There are even workplace groups and contests where people like me are rewarded for altering themselves, and people who aren’t like me are rewarded for not being like me.

27. People like me are told that we aren’t as intelligent as other people. We are told that it is impossible for us to be economists, health care workers, or honest debaters.

28. People like me are told that we are the worst witnesses to our own experience. We are called liars if we relay experiences that do not hold true to what mainstream culture says about people like me. People who call us liars aren’t just our enemies – they are doctors, nurses, teachers, and our own family.

29. For people like me, social events like family gatherings and class reunions are often battlefields.

30. There is a whole month of the year dedicated to eliminating or preventing people like me. It’s called “Resolution Season” and is widely viewed as a positive and constructive, rather than negative and destructive, phenomenon. During this time of the year it’s nearly impossible to watch television, open a newspaper/magazine, read online media, or walk down a city street without being reminded that people like me are undesirable.

31. Many Western countries have publicly funded campaigns which claim people like me are a problem to be rid of.

32. The very existence of people like me is called one of the top problems of our modern age.

DISCLAIMER: Not complete, nor in any particular order. A list like this is always a work in progress. I might edit to add more later. Feel free to add your own in the comments, and I might add them to the list. Thanks to the authors of the many privilege-unpacking lists I’ve seen in my time.

EDIT (2/9/12): Added #26 – #31. 

I don’t like her: She’s obese.

Today I was subject to such blatant, naked sizist hate that I’m still struggling to process its rationalization (that is, its lack of rationalization).

My very good friend is visiting my workplace for a couple weeks, to help train and be trained. Though I’m very lucky to work mostly from home, twice a month I commute into the city and to the office. I was excited to visit with her — we made lunch plans, and it was a beautiful day.

We talked about lots of things during lunch. I feel more comfortable speaking to her about my life than anyone, even probably my husband (sorry, sweetie!). After a while she brought up a colleague of ours, asking me how I felt about him. He’s a megalomaniac, believes he’s a super-special snowflake who is genetically superior to most people, and his stated goal in life is to prove himself “better than other people” (and yes, that is a direct quote. Amazing, huh?). He’s also the big boss’s new protege. Eh-heh. It’s like that.

I express this to her, though she’s heard it before. She’s in agreement. Then she tells me she’s at the point where she doesn’t feel the need to say another word to him, ever. Sensing a story, I ask her to back up and explain. You can imagine my surprise (and how proud I was of her) that the reason had to do with me. She, him, and a few other colleagues were out at lunch. There are animated arguments, the typical fare between competitive scientists. Then she overhears this person say my name, then:

“I don’t like her. She’s obese.”

My friend, being the lady-in-shining-armor that she is, and also being a strong ally, anti-sizist, and fat-positive — not to mention well aware of my activism and views on sizism — presses him on his statement, asking him why he’d say such a thing. He responds:

“She’s obese. And you know, she gets defensive about it.”

My friend’s got a hold of the special-snowflake now, and won’t let go. She says:

“Defensive? Defensive? Don’t you think she might have a good reason to get defensive, that, you know, certain people discriminate against her because of the way she looks?”

My friend is a ballet dancer. She knows how to use every bit of her body expressively — she showed me the look she gave the special-snowflake, and it was not, in any way, ambiguous. She was pissed, y’all.

The special-snowflake didn’t have much to say to this, apparently.

Later on I’m talking to a colleague and friend about my novel (he was honestly interested and asked, I don’t just bug people about my novel!) and special-snowflake makes an appearance. He challenges something I say, I respond, but it’s time for me to leave so I can fight with Boston traffic. So I close out the impending brawl with a sugary-sweet, “Oh, I can’t argue with you. I wouldn’t want to sound — defensive — or anything.”

Down the stairs I went, every — obese — bit of me.

I think I handled it fairly well, considering the special-snowflake’s ingenue status with respect to the big boss, and my friend handled her end extremely well. But it’s still bothering me. Eating away at me. And this is after a week away at a writer’s conference, where the response to my work, and the great people there, boosted my self-esteem enormously.

I know it’s not rational. This dude has real deep-seated issues, he’s got a toxic personality, and is a scary person in other ways (he harassed my friend — the one who stood up to him — a couple of years ago). I don’t care what he thinks. But that raw hate, so close to me, makes me feel extremely uncomfortable in my work environment. Especially considering the favoritism he so obviously enjoys.

It bothers me. It bothers me that I’ve spoken to this person at length and on several occasions about a wide variety of topics, ranging from poetry to physics, and this — this — is his opinion of me. I’ve been reduced to a superficial visual characteristic. Part of me is thinking, “Are you serious? Really, dude? How in the world can you pretend to be any kind of intellectual, to know anything about philosophy and political science, and not see your own views in this matter as deeply problematic?”

Also this — this — is the kind of person who gets ahead in my industry. This is the person getting showered with praise and opportunities. This–a nakedly obvious small-minded bigot, who feels just fine hating you, thanks–is the person bending the ear of the powerful. The idea that this person will eventually, and probably soon, be leading people under him, makes me shudder.

EDIT: I just found out that dozens of people from an old messageboard haunt of mine — where I met my husband — linked to my blog and snarked me in a thread on the messageboard. Some of the people I’d even been friendly with; that was a wake-up call. They actually went to the extent of analyzing some picture of mine to see whether I’d gained weight in the four years since I was active there (I certainly have), then suggested that this blog exists because I’m irresponsibly attempting to claim victimhood status when of course my weight’s entirely in my control, and blah-ed on and on about how fat hate doesn’t exist (ironic, much?), or creepily that it does exist and is justified (ew).

Score for the day: Bigotry: 2, Tolerance: 0

It’s the Little Things…

I was reading up on lower back exercises, when I had the distinct pleasure of coming across this little gem:

Circled text:

In addition to imparting strength to your core back muscles, this exercise, will also keep a tab on your waistline! Isn’t that a great incentive to do this lower back exercise, specially for the fairer sex?

Fat hate in everything, specially for you laydeez. We know you love fatphobia, and specially like keeping a tab (is that like the soda? Cuz that stuff is gross) on your waistline.

This is just one of the too-many examples of fat hate and size restraint/obsession just about everywhere one looks. It’s especially bad during the height of Diet Season, but this stuff is pervasive, regardless of the time of year. It’s only during Diet Season when it’s the focus of every. damn. conversation.

(NOTE: FFS is my favorite internet acronym, “For Fuck’s Sake!” I even use this in RL, lots. But I always speak it longform)

Universally Loathed

So many intelligent people can’t comprehend the genetics of size, which I find both astoundingly disappointing and rather nauseating.

If I hear one more time — just one more time — that the size of my body implies I’ve got some bevy of psychological issues, whoever makes that claim will be told in no uncertain terms why they are wrong. I’m done being silent about this, going along when other people spew misinformation and bigotry because I don’t want to rock whatever boat. I’m not out looking for a fight, but unfortunately you don’t have to go far these days to either get attacked or experience others being attacked for happening to embody the ‘wrong’ shape.

Nearly every group strives to disinclude fat people, to the extent where vociferous, well-reasoned  arguments will be levied against the culture of lookism only to then exclude fat people yet again. For example, a recent comment (which sparked this post), ran along the lines of: “Judging potential partners based on looks is wrong, but hey, sometimes you can tell when someone’s messed up and that’s when they’re OMGFAT!”

(because, the argument ‘from reason’ further stated, fat people must be fat because they overeat and they must overeat because they have some disturbing emotional problems which imply they are broken and hence undesirable partners)

I’ve had conversation with and read articles written by people with multiple degrees in tough disciplines which still cave to the rabid cultural assumptions surrounding size. My hypothesis is this usually stems from the fact that they themselves aren’t fat, nor do they have any experience with people of size. Since they’re perfectly reasonable and intelligent, that must mean fat people are broken! The same goes for average-sized people who rag on very thin people: they can’t seem to understand that many naturally thin people have tried to gain weight and can’t, and are mocked or derided for their size.

It’s all so very unscientific, and so very non-rigorous and logically fallacious that I can’t help to conclude there exists an intellectual double standard concerning size. I’m not quite sure why – perhaps it stems from the infallible authority granted to doctors and other medical researchers, who are of course just fallible people subject to the same bigotries as the rest of us, and who don’t necessarily conduct their research more rigorously nor do they possess some sort of super-reason inaccessible to the rest of us.

All of this leads me to conclude -

If you are a person of size there is one thing you can count on in modern society, and that’s being universally loathed.

So right, I’m pretty pissed off.

…because it’s abuse. It’s a way for one set of people to commit violence against another without having to make the effort to be physically violent. It’s a way for them to feel artificially superior by climbing on the backs of the deviant ranks, though really whatever status system being contrived is based on completely arbitrary values. (Like thinner is better – better for whom? Like more makeup is better than no makeup – better for whom? Like dark hair and blue eyes and fair skin is better – better for whom? Why? How did it come to pass? How is it rigorous or objective in any sense whatsoever?)

I’m going to say it right back – Modern Culture – yeah, look at me when I’m talking to you, damnit – I loathe you, too.

But my loathing is based in reason. Because I loathe any entity, group, or collection of ideas constructed in order to do violence to other people, to keep them from reaching their full potential.

I especially loathe intelligent individuals with willful blind spots. Perhaps that’s because I used to be one of them, I’m not sure. Regardless, while I don’t think intelligent people need to be perfect (honest intelligent people will be the first to claim that they’re not perfect) I do think they have a responsibility to closely examine their own potential biases. Else doff that elitist mantle: you are no enlightened thinker if you willfully latch onto a belief because it conveniently supports your worldview without making sure it is rationally sound.

Most modern intellectuals, along with everyone else, have been socialized to believe fat people are low-status, disgusting, and broken. Hence they are willfully ignorant with respect to any information that might suggest the opposite. They want to keep finding us ugly, and disgusting, and broken. They want to other us. They want their bigotry to be reinforced, because they have a visceral fear of fat people.

And visceral fears are difficult to root out. Flipping through the pages of history they might in fact be one of the stickiest points of human prejudice. Why is that? I have a few theories.

Visceral fears are self-regulating. Teach a populace to loathe something, and they often self-segregate based on that characteristic. In that same sense those fears are passed from generation to generation, since children will be — through horrid, memorable abuse and punishment for deviance, often at the hands of their parents, teachers, and peers — well-taught to toe loathing’s line.

So what do we do? How do we handle being loathed? Well I know what we can’t do — OBEY.

Which suggests that the initial reaction we must cultivate is ANGER.

(I won’t go into constructive/destructive anger at the moment, but obviously I believe the above falls into the constructive category)

So get angry. What makes you angry about the way you were treated in your past, or currently, or the way you fear you might be treated in the future? Why do you think it’s unfair? You have every right to loathe what is being done to you, because it is objectively wrong. You know that, you agree with that, or else you wouldn’t think this whole Fat/Size Acceptance thing holds any water.

Get pissed; you deserve it.

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.

Quick Hit: Mika Brzezinski Thinks Americans too Fat, Answer – Higher Taxes

Here’s a quick hit (h/t NewsBusters.org):

Food Fight: MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski Advocates Tax on Meat, Soft Drinks, and People Who Consume Them

SCARBOROUGH: Now when we say ‘sugar,’ do you mean coke, cocaine, or is that code for sugar with Paterson, or is it actual sugar?

BRZEZINSKI: [ignoring Joe, continuing to read] “In view of our obesity epidemic and the extra burden it places on our health care system – not to mention the problems it causes on a crowded New York subway when your neighbor can’t fit into a single seat – it is a reasonable proposal.” He goes on now to talk about red meat.  And you all need to think about this.

[snip]

BRZEZINSKI: No, people who want us not to just be an obese, sick country.  I’m going to read one more, Peter Singer again, Professor says –

That’s right, you disgusting fat pigs that are causing all the traffic problems (cuz, yanno, overcrowding isn’t due to bad scheduling or antiquated trains and lines…it’s due to your FAT!) should be taxed in order to shift the health care costs you will definitely, beyond-a-doubt based-on-scienterrific-studies incur at MY skinny-assed expense! (btw, not that Peter Singer doesn’t have very particular political views, no, he’s a very objective source on this).

More headbashing gold:

SCARBOROUGH: Don’t get mad. I can stay up for actually 20 hours consistently, but the thing is I haven’t had a great diet my whole life. Okay, I’ve probably eaten more Big Macs than most human beings alive, and I’m serious about it. But at the same time, I lead an active lifestyle. My blood pressure is 120 over 80. My cholesterol is fine. They’ve done one of those scans. I have no plaque. I want to live that way. That’s up to me.

BRZEZINSKI: I’m glad for you. This isn’t about you.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s up to Americans.

BRZEZINSKI: Look at America.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s the problem, Mika. It’s not about you. You want to project your values on everybody else. We don’t want to live like you. We think you have serious issues with how you treat your children. I want my children to eat a Big Mac. I want my children to have pizza. Now, afterwards, I’m going to take them outside, and I’m going to run them, and they’re going to be healthy.

BRZEZINSKI: So just run it off, and the calories will burn, and there won’t be plaque building up in their heart.

Yes, Mika. You obviously have a greater understanding of the science behind this than the average American you want to order around. :: cough ::

BRZEZINSKI: It’s not about you eating one, Willie.  It’s about America eating way too much and all the things they shouldn’t be eating and America being completely obese. And us pretending –

SCARBOROUGH: America, meet your new nanny, Mika Brzezinski.

BRZEZINSKI: – because it’s not P.C. to say you’re fat.  Fat and unhealthy.

SERWER: Tofu, bean curd, that’s where we end up.  That’s okay.

SCARBOROUGH: In Mika’s world, we end up eating tofu and bean curd.

BRZEZINSKI: No, in my world, we actually talk about what we’re putting in our bodies.

Yes. As if no one talks about what we eat ad nauseum now. No. There aren’t thousands of diet plans, food plans, nutritionists, dieticians, medical researchers, and lobbies that talk about food as a moral, financial, and health issue every fucking day. Nope. You’re right. Doesn’t exist. We need to talk about it MORE!

And the last, but not least, of the bigoted statements made by this ignoramus:

SCARBOROUGH: We know that you are trying to foist a nanny state on the rest of us.

BRZEZINSKI: All I want you to pay a little more so I don’t have to pay for your big butts, okay?

That’s fine. Though don’t look to my pocketbook the next time you tear an ACL working off that naughty, naughty pizza.
EDIT: I just wanted to note that the comments are pretty fat-positive, though this isn’t a blog that necessarily aligns itself with FA. It just typically holds the belief that your body is your business.

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!)

Good Morning AMeMeMeeerica

What is Good Morning America’s obsession with this woman?

And why was she put on today’s show …. two days after the show with Marianne?

Also, why was she given a face-to-face interview, an intimate, softball, cushy interview at that?

She spent her time promoting fat myth after fat myth (obesity causes people to lose their aspirations, Americans can’t “control” themselves, we’re all going to be in the “throes of an obesity bailout” ??)

Here’s some more gems:

“I come from a family of obesity…when you grow up with that and see what it does to people, it’s hard to throw your hands up [about it]“

She generally is misusing parental rights in order to torment her kids and still have them sent to public school.

Obesity statistics —- “one in three are obese” (this is wrong, by the way)

“we just elected a president based on change…we’ve got sick kids, we’ve got fat kids, the school environment needs to be a default of safety”

“Let them call you names, you’re your child’s advocate, there’s no excuse to freshly mint a new fat child in this country.”

Also, the segment featured videos of headless fat children (I’m sure filmed without their permission), randomly interspersed in the segment, focusing mostly on poor little boys’ jiggling tummies. Grrrrr.

So what’s up with GMA, anyway? Does anyone think the timing of this segment is a little too coincidental — Monday, Fat Acceptance; Wednesday, MeMe-brand Obesity Hate?

It reminds me of Rachel’s segment (not on GMA), where MeMe was in the “panel.” This time they just disallowed any debate whatsoever, and gave MeMe the last word.

I’m fuming. Goddamn bubblegum media. When did that woman’s hate become so okay, so reasonable, something an educated anchor would nod to head to, sitting across from her, as the anchor throws the hateful woman softball after softball? You could tell MeMe was absolutely thrilled to be there, since she didn’t have any awful fat people to debate with!

NOTE: I can’t find MeMe Roth’s GMA segment on the GMA website. If anyone sees it later, could you please comment with the link? Thanks!

EDIT: Found the segment. In the “related links” below the article is the link to “The Young, Fat, and Fabulous” (Marianne Kirby of the Rotund’s segment). Perhaps some people reading the hateful, irrational, self-loathing words of Meme Roth will click on that related link, eh?

edited to correct show dates

edited to add Meme Roth segment on Good Morning America: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/BeautySecrets/story?id=7857306&page=1

No Fat People in Concentration Camps

Oh, how many times us fat activists have seen trotted out this tired platitude:

“Don’t you know, there were no fat people in concentration camps?”

It’s a brilliantly ignorant phrase, at once loaded with misconceptions about fat and about the nature of concentration camps, all while insulting the experience of those who actually had to survive, I dunno, war and genocide and stuff.

As such, I think it’s beneath us to really take it on in a serious manner, debunk, and explain where the misconceptions have taken root. Really, it’s about as well-thought out as the playground curse, “Well you wouldn’t be so fat if you were dead, fatty!” …Well, no kidding. ‘Cuz I’d be dead. Which means eventually a skeleton. Which has no fat.

Usually it’s only the supremely ignorant, or the supremely hateful, who would dare unleash the “no fat people in concentration camps” platitude. A Temporary Lapse of Reason recently posted on a New Zealand doctor who apparently teaches this platitude to his students. (I wonder, does he ever have any students who are fresh from a course on the human metabolism take him to task when he brings this up?)

I think it’s important at this point to remember one important thing, that’s often lost on the non-academic media: there are crackpots, who are so entrenched in some kind of bias that it skews their whole perception of their research and academic goals, all throughout academia. I come from a background of math and physics. At one point in time I was very interested in theoretical physics, and learned a lot of various theoretical physicists (I’m still quite interested, though I come from a different field at this point — complexity theory). I discovered that there was a different theory for the universe for every day of the week, color of the rainbow, flavor of ice cream, and so forth. And that many very serious, life-long academics, were entrenched in theories which, on their face, were a house of cards.

In mathematics it is the same way, though you’d think it would be the field least yielding to crackpots (and it might very well be, but that still doesn’t mean it is entirely free of them). There are many mathematicians so entrenched in expressing ideas using one particular branch of mathematics, that when they encounter these ideas more cleanly and intuitively expressed via different methods, they reject the different methodology all together. These people, who have to prove thousands of statements, using mathematical logic, before they are granted a PhD, can entertain irrational impulses in their professional lives.

Imagine then, a field that is much less precise, much more opaque, much more influenced by politics (and vice versa), much less known than mathematics and physics. It would stand to reason that there would be many more wrong-headed and irrational life-long academics. That is, life-long academics from prestigious places who cling to irrational ideas and theories, because they can bear to think out of the tired, dusty box in which they learned and in which they’ve spent the better part of their life researching within? These people, even when encountering a preponderance of counterexamples to their claim, have the ability to weave in and out of rationality, at once making grandiose, easily disproven claims, and using the force of their dusty “experience” to lend credibility (this is a fallacy of logic called “argument from authority.”).

Getting back on topi, it’s therefore not important to debunk the heath claims made by this so-called doctor — we’ve done it handily, many times before. And, quite frankly, he’s a crackpot if he would ever state such irrational platitudes in the first place. His hate, sense of superiority, and disgust is showing, worn proudly on his sleeve. Through the lens of his hate and bias, his statements might make some kind of sense (and certainly do to the writer of the article, who sadly takes him seriously). But without that lens? Even on their face, to someone who knows nothing about the science of the human metabolism and genetics, they’re utterly ridiculous.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. Sometimes, insulated by the Fatosphere, we forgot what the average politician likely believes about fat people.

Quoted from A Temporary Lapse of Reason:

But Dr BirkBeck’s desire to take ‘further steps’, to ‘make people realize’, shame people, legislate their bodies, medicate, mutilate, or otherwise impel people into his ideal of what is good for them is FAR from uncommon. And it all stems from the root of moral superiority that says ‘I know what’s best for you’.

This is such an important distinction to make. As it stands, if you are a fat person in New Zealand, Dr Birkbeck’s words are just words. If you don’t like him, he doesn’t have to be your doctor. However, his words can become dangerous if it is possible to legislate one’s health (I’m not sure if this is currently the case in NZ).

Then all it takes is for one demagogue-doctor to sway some committee comprised of the majority party in power, and suddenly a fat person finds that they are disallowed from obtaining health insurance, or penalized/taxed for their fat, or given an ultimatum to lose weight or be financially penalized at tax time, etc. The legislature can even exonerate itself in the eyes of the non-fat and self-loathing fat (the majority of voters, to be sure) by claiming the extra money from the fatties will be going towards “programs” to “help them” lose the required weight.

Of course, we all know such programs don’t work in the long term (or even short term, looking at some examples from the UK), and what you’ll end up with is a fat tax and useless programs set up to torture fat people. Fat people will be tortured (and possibly mutilated via ‘discounted’ WLS, when the Bunsen Burner weight loss programs don’t work), and will have to foot the bill for their torture.

Dr. Birkbeck, I recognize your methodology, but it hasn’t been in practice for about 80 years or so…

This is another reason why it is vital to make sure that no body of people has the power to legislate your health, and at the very least you have the option to opt-out without financial penalties, the non-payment which could land you in prison. It should never get to the point where some people are fined or otherwise for simply existing as they are. And fat people, by virtue of their existence, would be fined/taxed by a government if any government believed it would be popular to do so. As long as they can get the votes they mean and bring in more revenue, what do they care?

Given our current culture’s entirely irrational views on health, it would be the worst possible thing to get government involved in the legislation of health. It would take a single Dr. Birkbeck to sway some subcommittee regulating the distribution of healthcare that cutting fat people out of the system, and making them pay for it besides, would be a boon to their balance sheet, and it’s all over.

It’s vital to preserve competition in the field of healthcare, just as competition is a boon to any industry. That way people can still vote with their dollars on a much more grassroots, individual manner, that could have the power to see fail one healthcare company overnight, and rise a new, better company in the morning. Actual voting will not give an individual this kind of power over their healthcare, not by far. An individual vote for a politician is so far displaced from the choices those politicians might make about healthcare, there’s no way effective change could occur in the time it would need to occur. The idea that voting for a particular politician will give you more power over your own healthcare than currently exists, is a fantasy, and a dangerous one.

The last thing I, as a fat activist want, is the current fatphobic culture to have the majority vote over my private health matters and, as a consequence, fundamental way of life (since I would be forced to become a marionette to their anti-scientific whims by virtue of my fat). What we have in the US now, and in every other country that hasn’t adopted a government-run healthcare monopoly, is not ideal. There should be far less regulations, restrictions, and tax fiddle-faddling with healthcare as it stands, so that the average person might have a chance of actually affording basic care out-of-pocket (like most people can for auto-insurance).

But that’s not the point. As many prominent economists have noted, it is nearly always a worse idea to move away from greater competition than towards. When you adopt a planned economy, you become a planned citizen. And a planned fat person, in our current culture, and certainly as well detailed by the words of Dr. Birkbeck, is a nonexistent fat person.

The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom

I’m writing this in response to a heartbreaking post on RandomQuorum. I was just going to leave a comment, but really, this hits too close to home for me to be able to leave a comment of any kind of reasonable length.

As background, the author of the post is going through a tough time in her marriage. She married long before her discovery of FA and body positivity, when she was still in dieting-mode, at war with her body. Naturally, negative comments from her husband about her weight were, before FA, likely met with agreement and an extra tablespoon of self-loathing and dieting incentive. Now, after FA, she realizes them for what they really are: the words of a troll.

Yesterday she made the first post on the subject of this particular tough spot in her marriage, to which she had several replies, including a real live troll.

I did manage to catch a troll though! And it’s lucky I didn’t find their comment until this morning, because today I find it kind of amusing/ironic, but yesterday it probably would have made me homicidal.

My dear troll Vicky said: [insert inane troll platitudes here]

After which she and her husband sat down and had a talk about what was concerning her (good for you, by the way — it’s best to air your concerns as they come up, or else they would just fester and make you feel worse). In the description of her conversation, she many times compares her husband’s words to the words of the Vicky-troll. I’m not sure if she was intentionally showing how similar they were, but after reading the post I came away with one very clear impression: her husband is The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom.

Us bloggers know how annoying trolls can be. It’s annoying enough when they junk up your spam box, or even ecstatically get a bit of hate through your filters. Sometimes the words of trolls can rankle for a long time after they’re said, in an almost irrationally important way — like the first “Moo!” from a schoolyard bully, or that time mom clucked when you were weighed at the doctor’s. Now imagine the fat-hate troll — the one who really doesn’t care about you as a healthy person and instead wants you to change your body for their shallow, visual/sexual benefit — in your livingroom. Permanently. There, with you always, to waggle their fingers at your — gasp, SECOND Hershey kiss of the day, and it’s only 7pm??! — and then scurry off to post vitriol on My Fatt Spouse (intentionally mispelled. No search candy for you!).

All I have to say is that the author of the post linked above is some kind of brave I never was, when I had to deal with The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom. When my eff-wad ex said I needed to “lose 50 pounds” if he was going to marry me? — I curled up and cried on my side of the bed, then started starving myself (what else could I do to lose weight? I had already dieted myself down to well below my setpoint). When my self-loathing dad’s “Christmas present” one year was to, on Christmas morning, explain to my brother and I how drinking enough water will make us skinny and promptly stuck us on diets (he was starving himself at the time) — I internalized it, realizing what he wanted more than a talented, sweet, generous, loving daughter, was a skinny one. A few years later I got the praise from him that I wanted, when starvation caused my spine to rise out of my flesh, like a mountain range (and not when I had won third place in the debate competition, that is).

The most dangerous fat-hate troll is The Fat-Hate Troll in the Livingroom. There, he can live where all trolls want to be — inside your head, pushing your buttons, getting you to do what they want you to do, all the time. What kind of love would have you abuse your body? If it’s ignorance which drives his call for you to diet, I ask: has he not watched you diet umpteen times before, and fail? Has he not seen what it has done to your mental and physical health? And, if he’s not really concerned with health but instead with looks, isn’t that fact something that should greatly concern you?

Saying that the world treats fatter people more harshly is a coward’s argument (and is what my dad used, when he would flog himself yet again with some new diet). The world ain’t gentle, and it ain’t fair. But cowering in the corner won’t make the world treat you any better, it will just attract the bullies who feed off cowering conformists. Maybe what’s bothering your husband is that you are no longer cowering in the corner, and he feels like he doesn’t have as much control over you as he used to. Back when you were preoccupied with being thinner, he didn’t have to care so much about your character, individuality, and thinking of you as an attractive woman outside the media-condoned box (which can take some real bravery on the part of many men and women alike). All he had to do was crack that whip — unleash a fat-negative comment — and you were back where he wanted you to be, and he didn’t have to do anything at all.

When it comes down to it, I’m so sorry to say, his arguments are completely self-centered. He’s not even pretending to be concerned about your health. And that is something that might be the real flaw, not his fat-hating attitude. He’s asking you to abuse your body so that he can find you more sexually interesting, and can cart you around like a trophy in public (or, at least, not have to feel “ashamed” of you). This is a real problem.This is not something that can be fixed by convincing him fat isn’t bad, or that you can’t be thin. I’m not sure any of that really matters to him. He’s not treating you like you’re his wife — he’s treating you like you’re his favorite shirt. Can’t let it get too faded or misshapen or wrinkled, what will people think?

The idea that he’s already foisting upon you the necessity of losing post-baby weight kills me, and really drives home his objectification of you.

I’m sorry to say, but the author’s husband and Vicky-troll and two sides of the same coin. And yes, marriage is not something you just discard. Not without a fight. And you are fighting, and really trying to make it work. But is he honestly doing the same for you? Is he even trying to understand where you’re coming from? Or is he so afraid that he’s going to lose whatever control he has over you (which is symbolized by his irrational fear that you’re just going to “keep getting fatter” and Eat the World and so forth), that he, like my eff-wad ex or my dad, will do anything to put you back in that place where your self-abuse can stroke their egos, can exonerate them from ever really thinking or caring about you, and can justify their own deep-rooted bigotry?

Not all husbands need to be indoctrinated in FA not to fat-hate. My husband grew up in the same fat-hating culture as everyone else, and his sexual preference is generally not women as fat as I am (and wasn’t before he met me). We found out that’s just because of what he had been exposed to, and in fact he was attracted to me and loved me for who I was, fat or thin. When it comes down to it, this isn’t really about fat. This is about control and objectification. And his desire to control you, and his objectification and de-humanization of you won’t necessarily be changed by him accepting your fat (though for that same reason I doubt, quite honestly, that he ever would accept your fat).