Dispatches from the war on fat

So day before yesterday, over at that esteemed bastion of critical thinking, Marie Claire magazine, this happened:

The other day, my editor asked me, “Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?” … Yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.

It wasn’t just the one excerpt that was jaw-dropping. Writer Maura Kelly went blithely on (and on) about the ickiness of just having to exist in the same world with fat people,

To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair.

not to mention seeing them on her teevee, validating their right to exist and all.

My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese! And while I think our country’s obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it’s at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny.

She even dispensed some nutrition advice because everyone knows fat people really do have “a ton of control” over their issues, if they would just put their mind to it.

But hey, don’t get the wrong impression of her!

I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.

All of which unleashed a (justified) shitstorm and not just the 900+ comments on the post buthere andhere andall over.

Apparently gobsmacked at the reaction, Kelly apologized — hey she really thinks it’s totally cool to have all shapes and sizes of people in magazines and TV as long as they’re not, you know, obese — and also copped to having some underlying body image issues and a history of anorexia. Which, just maybe, might have influenced what she wrote. To her credit, the apology seems heartfelt and honest, if stillway clueless, and in no way does she deserve the more extreme responses, like having her address and phone number made public. That shit is not cool, nor is it remotely “understandable.”

So now ABC News says “The internet” is clamoring for aboycott ofMarie Claire over the post. Well, hey, it’s ABC News ya’ll, so it must be true. Sorry, The Internet, even if I readMarie Claire, or for that matter, even if I watched the damn TV show that sparked the whole mess, I seriously doubt the efficacy of a boycott. It’s a fashion magazine, fer chrissakes, just a symptom, a reflection. Shall we boycott the whole fashion industry, the larger media, the totality of prescriptive marketing, our culture’s obsession with hypersexualized youth and beauty and perfection and physical appearance? Let’s boycott the whole fucking country while we’re at it, The Internet, why not?

No, as teachable moments go, this was good one, so thanks clueless Ms. Kelly, and to your “provocative” editors, too, for providing a textbook illustration of fat-phobic hatred. Or, as some of us call it, everyday reality.

I’m a fat person, so I have to deal with this crap. Every. Fucking. Day. And, depending on the day, or the moment, I’m stronger for having faced it. I’ve learned a lot dealing with people hating me and being disgusted by me and diminishing me and oversimplifying me. Except when I’m crushed by it. Except when it’s another in a long line of obstacles I have to deal with. Except when it makes an already complicated situation even more complicated.

Because here’s the thing: whatever the many, many very legitimate concerns about overweight (and there are many, along with a crap ton of utter prejudicial bullshit nonsense), and wherever I am or am not along my road with being this way (and I have been all up and down that road despite you seeing me as a static snapshot) and whatever you or someone else truly feels they should offer me by way of advice or motivation or just plain unleashing (and I have heard more than you can possibly imagine, and in my experience, it more often than not, has more to do with the other person’s stuff than it does with concern for, or real insight about, mine), I am in the meantime, busy with simply being a human, so deal with it.

12 thoughts on “Dispatches from the war on fat

  1. Watching two people with rolls of fat making out isn’t my favorite thing, either, but that’s why there’s no mirror over the bed and absolutely no possibility of one of those sex tape fiascos in our household.

  2. Well I guess this twitess thinks that EVERY woman can look just like Barbie if she really wants to ( even though, physiologically speaking, that’s impossible).
    Thanks, Ms. Kelly for perpetuating the ongoing plague of eating disorders and neuroses among young women, because of people like you.

  3. Shall we boycott the whole fashion industry, the larger media, the totality of prescriptive marketing, our culture’s obsession with hypersexualized youth and beauty and perfection and physical appearance?
    Sure. That’s all intended to make people feel inadequate, so that they’ll buy moar stuf in a vain attempt at improving their pathetic lives. Why should we seek out stuff that’s intended to make us unhappy?

  4. agreed, dr2chase. My probably inartful point was focusing on one little part/magazine/writer isn’t going to change the larger overarching culture.

  5. The only people I want to see making out are Clive Owen and Angelina Jolie. Everybody else should just get a room.
    Seriously, the use of obesity as a health concern to bully other people about what they do and what they eat is such bullshit. It’s one thing for a person of any body type to have conversations with his or her doctor about look, these are my stats, these are my indicators, what should I be worried about? That’s somebody’s own private business and something we all have to do anyway.
    It’s another to use “I’m just CONCERNED, because of your HEALTH” as a way to glare at people eating ice cream. First of all, food subsidies and environmental policies, and second of all, just go get a fucking hobby already instead of constantly bothering about what other people do.

  6. You know what’s worse than being overweight? Being a stupid, judgmental bitch.

  7. Mmmmm, Clive Owen…mmmmmm. I wouldn’t mind seeing Joe Wilson and his wife getting all snuggly, either. But they are classy and wouldn’t do that on video. 🙂

  8. Funny that you’d have posted this today. I’ve just had a similar conversation about body image and being comfortable in your own skin with a friend who’s 6’7″ and sturdily built. He made the comment that overtly racist and sexist comments are no longer ignored in the workplace, and the obese and non-heterosexuals are the only “groups” that it’s still “okay” to make fun of. I had to disagree. After having LASIK two weeks ago got me out of 20+ years in thick glasses – fifteen of those in bifocals, I’ve seen some stunningly ignorant displays of misogyny. In the days after the surgery, I’ve had various and sundry otherwise intelligent colleagues make comments about my “lowering my IQ 20 points by wearing makeup” and “becoming a stupid bimbo, now”. One colleague, a native Iowan, who routinely makes comments about the “stupidity of Kentuckians,” has now added me to the mix, ie: “Of course, K, they don’t understand you because they’re idiot Kentuckians, and you’re just some hot piece of ass to them. You’ll never be taken seriously unless you go buy some glasses.”
    I’ve never been the target of any of this kind of behavior, and I’m not at all sure how to react to it. I’m not a flashy dresser – more classic and comfortable at work and granola or board shorts and a tee at home. Or holey jeans, a band shirt, and some kind of college-related sweatshirt. That’s all beside the point, really, because what I don’t understand is the thought process that would provoke such a reaction from a colleague – or in the “bimbo” case, my boss – that I’ve known for several years. They know I’m a hard worker who’s been nominated for the “outstanding staff” award by my colleagues every year I’ve worked for the college – even before I was a full time employee. How does all of that, and five years worth of day-to-day interaction, get brushed under the rug as soon as I take off my glasses and wear some goddamned eyeliner? Would they look at a male colleague who’d gotten LASIK and comment that he only did it to draw chicks to his cock?
    Sorry for the tangentially-related post. I’m still a little pissed about it, and not looking forward to dealing with more tomorrow. Motherfuckers.

  9. Damn. The last acceptable prejudice? If she had said that about Balcks, Muslims, Jews or gays there’s be a huge outcry about this. The journalist would be fired and rehired by Fox News for $2 million. But since it’s fat people …

  10. Shall we boycott the whole fashion industry, the larger media, the totality of prescriptive marketing, our culture’s obsession with hypersexualized youth and beauty and perfection and physical appearance?
    HELL YES. It’ll make us mentally healthier, fiscally sounder, environmentally smarter, and better parents / adults / mentors for youngsters.
    Oh, and Maura Kelly? You can kiss my shiny white size 7EEE boot tops.

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