What Chris Said

Sometimes, the best thing about blogging is that you’ll be struggling to figure out how to say something and just when you’ve given up, someone will come along and articulate it.  So, today, in the threat about Rev. Warren being a big ole fat slob over at Shakesville, Chris Clarke says (among other things) this:

What the fat insults say, when it comes right down to it, is that those of us who are fat are on notice. We can escape mockery and condemnation by our supposed allies as long as we behave the way they decide is correct and appropriate, but as soon as we veer from strict agreement with and support of those “allies,” it becomes open season on our fat asses.

And lord knows I don’t want to reopen that whole other can of worms, but I hope it’s obvious that this is more broadly applicable (which, when you think about it, is a fitting pun).  You can read through and change all the “fat”s to “girly”s and see how it works when we’re discussing women’s place in progressive politics.  And, actually, anyone’s place in progressive politics.

11 thoughts on “What Chris Said

  1. In that comment he links, I think he misunderstood the point of what Sadly, No! was saying in response to him. As far as Sadly, No! was concerned, it is not “open season on [his] fat ass” unless something he does rises to a Richard B. Cheney level of diabolical evil. I don’t think Chris Clarke is ever in any danger of that.

    I also don’t think overweight people are in any danger of widespread persecution, at this point or at any future point. It’s not just that “some of my best friends are husky,” it’s that EVERYONE knows someone who is overweight. If obesity persecution ever caught on in any kind of major way, it would be the shortest-lived bigotry meme ever to rear its ugly head. We’re talking about a tenth of the population at a minimum, with no significant racial, economic, or geographic boundaries to speak of.

    If fat people decided to throw their weight around their opposition would be crushed instantly.

  2. Thank you for pointing that out, Aunt B. I don’t usually read the comments at Shakesville because they can freeze up my computer, but that thread was worth the risk. It’s nice to see one place on the web where people will call fat hatred what it is.

  3. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but some people who are non-fat-bigoted will still use otherwise banned adjectives on their portly pets. It’s like those words must find a way out, SOMEhow. All that aside, The Madame of our household wishes me to congratulate you on your post and for the link to that excellent thread over at Shakesville. Had not been there before and we’ll definitely be popping in again. She hated Al Franken, a blowhard in his own right, for the Rush Limbaugh is A Big Fat Idiot book title. Yes, he’s a big fat idiot, but it has nothing to do with his weight. Franken could’ve been magnanimous, but he had to take the low road.

  4. Autoegocrat, I don’t think anyone’s arguing that fat hatred rises to the level of racism or sexism (and one of the things I like about Shakesville is that they are very conscientious about not falling into the trap of comparing oppressions). I, for instance, being a fat person, do not see myself as being oppressed because I am fat.

    I do, however, clearly see myself getting (until recently) shoddy healthcare because of it–and I know that I have and have many friends who have avoided going to the doctors no matter how bad they felt because we know that you can go in with a broken arm and be told that it’s because you’re so fat.

    I was at a bar with Brittney Gilbert over in East Nashville–where all the supposedly trendy cool progressive kids live–and a guy felt free to come up to me and say “Are you really going to eat more?” like it was his business.

    I could go on, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There’s a whole lot of fat hatred in our culture. And it sucks for the people who experience it. And it’s not too much to ask for people who are ostensibly on our side to not use our physical attributes as an insult.

    It’s not the end of the world that they do, but if they’re wondering why they can’t get everyone to march in their parade, well, they need look no further.

    I don’t believe I can stop people from being assholes in ways I find annoying (though, obviously, I continue to try). But I sure as hell don’t have to play along like it’s okay.

  5. Sometime, we need to have a discussion (a live discussion) on “fat.” Among other points, I submit:
    1. Fat is the last characteristic that you can verbally fault a person for in our “politically correct” world.
    2. Fat used as an insult often doesn’t mean fat at all. See also: gay, lame.
    3. Almost everyone has thought they were fat at one point or another and almost everyone fears being fat. At least, in this country. Do they make fun of fat people in Africa?

    I think we could have a lively discussion.

  6. Also note that studies show that fat people are paid less for doing the same job as a thinner person, at least if they actually GET that job, since fat is also held against us during employment interviews.

  7. I do think it’d be interesting. I don’t think fat is the last characteristic, but I do think it’s one of the last things that is so widely used as an insult, but that people stay oblivious to it actually being insulting.

    So, if someone comes up to you and says “Move, fatass.” most people just assume that it’s the person saying it who has a problem and that you probably aren’t bothered by it. Which might be true if the barrage of fat-insults wasn’t near constant.

    I think you’re right that fat used as an insult isn’t always about an actual physical attribute. But I would say that “fat=immoral” in our culture to such an extent that striving to stay unfat is seen as virtuous in almost a religious light.

    I’m not the first person to say this, but even as we become a more superficially secular culture, we’ve not given up our religious language, we’ve just transferred it onto our bodies and having control of our bodies.

    3. I’d guess it depends where abouts in Africa. I’m sure in South Africa–the place that gave us Charlize Theron–thin is highly prized. But I had a professor who did some work in the Peace Corps in a country in Africa where the women were worried about how much weight she lost while she was there, because they were afraid her mother would be insulted that they had not taken better care of her.

  8. I’m also interested in the cultural shifts in acceptance…fat is good, then bad, then good, then bad again. Like with being tan…it’s good, it’s bad, it’s good, it’s bad again.

    When we have this discussion, I will tell you all the reasons I have tried to stay thin. And why I don’t think I’m thin, despite hearing people tell me that all the time. In short, thin=control. Being thin shows others that you are in control of yourself and can be in control of others. This is very valuable in the corporate world (where the higher up the chain you go, the fewer fat people you see). It’s more important for women, than for men. The threshold for “fat” is much higher for men than women. (I’ve written that for the benefit of the six people in this country who don’t already know that.)

  9. Being fat myself, (separate from my physical impairments….) It is the last acceptable point and laugh situation. and Chris Clarke is right. As long as we don’t Eat Too Much of the Good Food, we’ve got allies….when we stray from the straight and narrow, strangers in restaraunts will *point* and *stare* before they actually invade the space and start speaking, as if they were intervening in *anything* that was their business

    It’s serious though when doctors state that disabilities I’ve had since *birth* are due to my obesity.

    No one disputes that existing impairments can be negatively impacted if one is overweight.

    But, impairments that I’ve had since I was thin are not *caused* by my obesity.

    Makes me wonder what medical schools are teaching these days.

  10. Yeah, the last time I checked, there is no such thing as obesity-induced cerebral palsy.

    You wouldn’t know it to read a mainstream publication, though. I mean, fat is being blamed for everything. It’s even contagious! *eyeroll*

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