February 24th, 2012

Communist Matryoshka

Fat Shaming Double Team

So I got into a fight on the train. That was fun. I sat down next to a woman who was in the mood to do some fat shaming. It happens from time to time. Being a woman of a certain size, I take up a certain amount of space. Occasionally, people don't like to share, and feel compelled to yell at me and my "fat ass" for sitting too close to them. Whatev.

The thing that surprised me was how little I cared. I sat down, and this woman said something snarky about my "fat ass." And I turned, looked her in the eye, and calmly said "fuck you." She started getting riled and proudly announced that I didn't know what kind of an asshole she could be if she was so inclined (I may not know, but I've got a pretty good guess). I said she started it, she said no, I started it by touching her when I sat down (she was taking two seats, BTW, and had ample space next to her to slide over. And yes, it *was* the only empty seat on the train). I let her have the last word, and that was the end of that.

And it struck me: Sure, I was pissed, but I wasn't really mad -- mostly, I just didn't give a shit. Not scared, not fuming, no blood pressure surging -- just calmly refusing to let some douchenozzle treat me like crap.

It's been that way for a while now. Remember when I broke up with aaronbenedict? I called him on the phone, told him that it was over, talked for a bit, and then said goodbye and went to class. Made it through class with only a few momentary lapses in concentration, too. A handful of friends called or emailed in the days following to make sure that I was OK, and I was. I was fine.

Is this perimenopause? Are fading hormones calming my once unpredictable emotions? Or maybe it's just getting older. I kinda feel like I have seen it all at this point. Or maybe something else? I don't know.

But you know what did piss me off? Collapse )

It was just incredibly ironic timing, that I would be staring at one of those "Yo! Ugly fatty!" ads at the same time that some obnoxious bitch would feel the need to yell at me for taking up more space that she personally feels that I deserve. I said it once tonight, and I'll say it again: Fuck you.
Occupy Times Square

(no subject)

Because last night's post seems to have struck a chord, I wanted to talk a bit more about fat, fat shaming, and the old trope of hiding behind so-called "health concerns" to cover up plain old-fashioned looksism.

I started to deconstruct the awfulness that is this poster, but let's talk about it some more:

The poster says "Portions have grown. So has obesity, which can lead to many health problems." First of all, there's the word "can." "[O]besity ... can lead to many health problems." Not that it does, mind you. Just that it can. You know what else can lead to health problems? Being underweight. Or being a so-called "normal" weight, but eating nothing but crap.

Which leads me to the assumptions that this ad makes, with its imagery of fast food french fries and an extra large woman, climbing the stairs. One of my previous commenters categorized her as an "overweight [person] being miserable on a subway staircase." If you can't see her face, how do you know she's miserable? Hint: It's because that ad is seeking to perpetuate exactly that stereotype -- that fat equals unhealthy.

It makes me think about the recent story about the British teenager whose diet consisted solely of McNuggets. To quote from the article I just linked:

... According to the Mail, Irvine has suffered from breathing problems, anemia, and inflamed veins due to her diet., and recently was rushed to the hospital after she collapsed...

It's also inspired timely commentary from health "experts." Last week, a PR agency pitched me a story pegged to Irvine's collapse. A "weight loss specialist" could be made available to "comment on the dangers of Stacey's addiction" and "speak to the dangers of childhood obesity." The doctor in question has "specialized in the study and treatment of Bariatric Medicine" and has "directed the operation of multiple Weight Loss Centers."

Thanks, but according to the gratuitous Daily Mail glamour shots, Irvine is thin. Her health problems are not related to obesity, and they won't be solved by stapling her stomach. Yet we're so culturally hardwired to believe that unhealthy equals fat and vice versa that even photographic evidence (full-body photographs of Irvine were attached to the PR email) isn't enough to break the habit.

Wait ... what?!? Eating nothing but McNuggets did cause health problems, but didn't cause obesity? Why, it's almost as if what mattered was her diet, and not her appearance!

The NYC Health Department has another ad campaign, this one targeting daily caloric intake. It's certainly a much better campaign that the Portion Size campaign, although I still think it falls short of the mark.

Who here remembers the movie Super Size Me? Quick show of hands: Who thinks the culprit to Morgan Spurlock's deteriorating health was probably the incredibly low quality of McDonald's "food"? If it doesn't decompose, it shouldn't be considered food.

So while I'm glad to see a campaign that doesn't resort to fat shaming, I still think that the Caloric Intake campaign misses the mark. Have you heard of The Vermont Prison Study? In a nutshell, participants in the study were fed up to 10,000 calories a day in an attempt to make them gain weight. "Researchers were surprised during the “fattening up” portion of the study when they found that some of the inmates couldn’t gain more than 18% of their body weight, even when eating 10,000 calories a day." Ten thousand calories a day, and they still couldn't make skinny people fat.

Maybe it's because a person's size has to do with not only diet and activity level but also age, and metabolism, and genetics, and probably other factors too. Good luck shaming somebody out of their genetics.