It’s Kind of Creepy Out There

I’m in the grouchy stage of not-writing. Ha ha ha. I know. What’s different? But I’d like to have some good chunks of writing time to start really getting into the book and I just don’t have it. And it’s making me grouchy.

The weather has a cool edge to it this morning, which is disconcerting. It’s almost like fall is in the air, though I suppose it’s probably just the spring that has been muted under our early summer.

Goofus continues not to leaf. It also continues to have buds that seem to have green on them. I just don’t fucking know.

I wrote a post for Pith the comments under which have already grown so stupid that I’m not going to read any more of them. Once you see someone being all “I’m going to insist you’re saying all this stuff that’s the opposite of what you’re saying, just so that I can argue with a position I’m more comfortable opposing,” all hope is lost. At least for me.

I mean, seriously, if saying that pictures accompanying stories about obesity should reflect the bodies of the people you’re actually talking about and show faces, like how real people are photographed, means I’m saying they shouldn’t run photos… well, then, what’s there to argue?

I got into it a little in that post, but I think there’s a reason they don’t show obese people, but always show the asses of morbidly obese people. It’s not just what I said there but it’s also that “fat” is both a physical characteristic and a moral judgement.

I’m obese. Like the death fats. And I have people telling me, still, all the time that I’m not really fat. And I’m never quite sure how they mean that. That I’m fat but I’m not really fat, like those huge people? Or that I’m fat, but I’m not gross like those fat people who don’t dress well or don’t bathe very often or what? Or weirder (and I do sometimes get this impression) that I am literally not fat, no matter what my actual body looks like, because to be fat is to be gross and they don’t find me gross.

I get bullshit for being fat. I have heard enough that no one will ever love me because I’m fat to last a lifetime.

But it’s weirder that I have a kind of thin privilege, too, not because I’m not fat, but because I don’t read as poor or uneducated or dirty or a minority. It’s like if we’re standing at the intersection of weight, gender, race, and class, because I’m an educated white woman who meets some basic level of conventionally not ugly, I can sometimes use the “not fat” road, even though I actually am. Yes, I often get kicked off it, but as often as I get kicked off it, I get people trying to pull me back onto it.

Believe me, I don’t want people running around calling me Fatty-Boombalatty or anything, and so it’s not like, if you say, “Oh, but you’re not really fat” that I’m going to put you under my boob and smother you with it or something. I’m happy to hide in plain sight, even if that makes me a coward.

But it’s creepy to not be seen for who you really are.

And it’s especially creepy when it shows you that “fat” in our society is more a judgment of a person’s worth than a neutral descriptor of the type of body they have.

That, especially, is why I think you don’t see an average obese person’s photo next to stories about the obesity epidemic. They need to show you a person “everyone” agrees is disgusting in order to motivate you to see the obesity epidemic as a problem. Seeing what obesity actually looks like for most people–in other words, a neutral photo of the actual issue under discussion–would not kick up the same levels of revulsion. Hell, I even think showing a morbidly obese person–her whole body and face–wouldn’t do it.

Those photos are designed to make it as easy as possible for you to make a moral judgment about the value of that person. If they give you other cues–that she’s conventionally not ugly, that she’s well-groomed, that she’s got a lively sparkle in her eye, that she’s confident–you won’t shove her down the “something to be ashamed of and hidden” road.

(I don’t have all morning so I’m glossing over the whole issue of using a woman’s fat ass, usually clad in affordable clothing, to illustrate a problem that has leveled off among poor and middle class women, but is rising in rich men, but it’s there.)


9 thoughts on “It’s Kind of Creepy Out There

  1. You know I pretty much agree with all your sentiments here; I don’t know what I can say that doesn’t echo you or repeat what I’ve said already a million times.

    But yes. You are articulating very well the experience of an educated white female who is overweight.

  2. Pingback: How Well Do You Know That How Well You Are Is Not Always Your, Well, Choice? « Just Another Pretty Farce

  3. I think there’s a practical reason to the ‘headless fatties’ thing. You don’t have to get a model waiver to use the shot. I know you see photos of random street scenes all the time which include people who haven’t agreed to their image being used, but being used as the poster child in a fat and evil story is a bit different. If the person in the picture is recognizable you can bet there would be a complaint/scandal.

    You’re entirely correct on the effect of the picture though. It’s very dehumanizing.

  4. What you wrote here and over there is so, so good. I have the same sort of thin privilege even though I am not thin, and it is very creepy. For whatever reason, people outside my family never comment on my weight, and even then it’s restricted to one or two people who never got very far with it. I’m not sure why that is since people are DELIGHTED to kick the shit out of fat people.

    Also, I had never seen the OBeast site before, so thanks for that.

  5. W, then we should also see crowds of headless thin people illustrating other kinds of news stories. But we don’t.

  6. I think you missed a step in my logic there O.C. There’s no need to use headless people, fat or skinny, in other kinds of news stories because they don’t mind their head being in the picture if you aren’t using them as the epitome of some perceived flaw.

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