Nothing. To. Say.
The announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the Ferguson police officer who killed Mike Brown, coming on the heels of reading about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the frightening reality of how many of the U.S. soldiers come to be there (joining the National Guard for the chance to go to college, then being deployed to fill the ranks of a ‘volunteer’ army) was too much for me yesterday.
Thus the title of my post: Too much wrong.
In reaction to these shameful manifestations of injustice, I began thinking about and investigating the research on privilege. There are apparently eight or nine agreed upon forms of privilege. I added one. I found the illuminating statements below on the website of Media Smarts, a Canadian organization. They helped me to frame my thoughts.
“… privilege is not merely about race or gender… it is a series of interrelated hierarchies and power dynamics that touch all facets of social life: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, gender identity, age, physical ability, [and body size.]”
“… privilege, discrimination, and social groups all operate within interrelated hierarchies of power, dominance, and exclusion. Just because someone is privileged in one way doesn’t mean they may not be underprivileged in another (and vice-versa). It is therefore important to be aware of the various groups to which one belongs in order to be able to question our own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege.”
“… the privileged group is the one that is commonly treated as the baseline against which the others are judged or compared – it is seen as ‘ordinary’ [or the ‘norm’.]”
So here is one list of the forms of privilege and who has it, as they are generally present in western culture. The information is mostly taken from the Media Smarts website, with some modifications added by me.
- Gender (male authority, stories and perspectives)
- Gender Identity (how one identifies and express oneself in gendered terms)
- Racial (institutionalized racism: system structured to privilege one group over others)
- Sexuality (heterosexuality assumed)
- Religious (WASP: religious practices and observances recognized as the norm)
- Education (access to higher education)
- Class (economic status & social class)
- Ability (able bodied, w/o mental disability or addiction)
- Body size (“In terms of media, it is extremely rare to find representations of individuals whose [body] does not conform to cultural expectations. In the rare instances that such characters are portrayed, their nonconformity is typically used to elicit… laughter, or may be portrayed as a kind of mental [disability].”)
- Age (youth)
This gives me a lot to think about. I have a renewed awareness of the groups to which I belong. At the very least, I want to remain more conscious of the ways that my privilege makes things easier for me in my daily life. I do not expect that it will be comfortable, but it seems critical to focus on my “own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege…”
The work I am attempting to do here, addressing issues of fat stigma, sexism, corporate greed and so on, feels like a privileged indulgence, unless I also honor these realities. These seem like the right thoughts to carry with me into Thanksgiving Day 2014.
PS: How to be a White Ally by Janee Woods
What do I mean? Why is it a big piece of news for me?
I woke up at 5 AM this morning, obsessing about a brief article in the Globe yesterday and a careless comment made by someone who I know loves me and I was all bent out of shape. Got out of bed, came to this desk and began digging around on the internet to see if the N.Y. Times had also printed the item, from the Associated Press. As far as I can tell, they had not. I got more and more outraged and worked up. Maybe part of feeling ill was induced by lack of sleep, but the rest of it was from drinking poison.
Poison, you say? What? Well, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this quote previously. It is attributed to the Buddah. If I have, sorry, it deserves repeating.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
It hit me hard the first time I heard it. I’ve found it tremendously helpful in situations with other people, where I needed to let go of anger that wasn’t bothering them, only affecting me. So clear, so simple, so true.
Well, this morning I understood it differently. For a couple of years now, I’ve been writing and processing my hurt and anger re: a lifetime of fat shaming and stigma and the evils of the Processed Food Industrial Complex in all its parts. This has been a cleansing and healing journey for me. But I have remained stuck in the anger more than I want to be. In a funny (not hah-hah) way, it became comfortable to be swaddled in outrage, which is only one small step removed from the longtime familiarity (comfort) of living in shame. Not.
Each time I respond with visceral rage to the ugliness and ignorance (and in the case of this Globe/AP piece, sensationalizing spin of the media) of others, I dig myself in deeper. Ranting and railing against their behavior perpetuates my experience of feeling trapped and abused. ‘They’ may have been or may be victimizing me, but I’m the one who takes on the label of victim. I believe that articulating and expressing my anger was/is liberating. It was/is an important step toward freedom from being locked in self-blame. But now I need to step out of that anger box and stop wasting my energy.
The PFIC is the enemy and exposing, for myself, the links between its various elements is really important. But it is not a battle, a war that I can win. Not an enemy that I can conquer, no matter how many facts I uncover, allies I discover, insightful connections that I make or words I write. That’s just how it is. I can still ‘fight the good fight’, as so many other, inspiring people have done and continue to do, confronting both local and global issues. But as an individual, I cannot move forward in my life if I keep drinking the poison.
So, it’s a new day. Yes, I’m disappointed that the Globe editors chose to print an article, dramatically (and somewhat misleadingly) headlined: Global Obesity costs hits $2 trillion. They chose to emphasize the serious weight of the economic impact, rather than the sociological aspect of the issue. I am so sick of that bias.
I went to the source, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, wanting to understand how the $2 trillion figure was calculated. Can’t say I was able to decipher that information, but what I did find was an extensive and nuanced study, entitled How the World Could Better Fight Obesity. It is available for download, if you are interested. The PFIC is in there, on the list of things that need to change. I wish the media would not choose to inflame bias and stigma with crappy headlines and lifting phrases like ‘a stark prediction’, when the report is, in fact, an honest look at what is and what could be done. Grr. Breathe.
As for the person who loves me, who for some reason chose to describe a group of people as including ‘…two really fat people’ and in response to my reaction, stated: ‘That was the most obvious thing about them.’; well, I’m stymied. I’ll try to accept simply being puzzled by the choice and logic. As I toss away the poison potion, I’ll hope to release the hurt. That is my intention. I don’t want to hold onto any more hurt and anger. No more. Not swallowing it, not carrying it, not wasting time and energy on the victim life any more. Let the anger fuel forward motion.
Negative space is a concept that I (eventually) learned about in relation to visual art… There is power and image in the unfilled space. It is part of the art work, a choice made by the artist, as much as the shade or depth or even shape of the pigment used in the ‘positive space’. What does it say about our culture, (or at least my way of approaching art, which is common for the uninformed), that we focus first on the obvious, what was ‘put there’, not what was created by leaving space open?
Okay, I’ve demonstrated my limitations when it comes to ‘understanding’ visual art. To return to: negative space. My primary association with the words is using them to express my feelings, when I have entered or chosen to be in a negative space. Where the view, the attitude toward pretty much everything is relentlessly negative. That is how I felt about my writing and about the section of that writing that I posted yesterday. Bilious, as in bile, as in vomit. (I went back this morning and took much of it out…)
However, there is another way to look at the idea of space, which was gifted to me by this piece of writing, which I happened upon: Fat Bitches Don’t Sit On Trains: How A Crappy Morning Commute Doesn’t Have To Ruin Your Whole Day
The entire piece caught my interest, as you might expect, seeing as how it deals with the prejudging and treatment of a fat woman in public, as well as the author’s use of writing and ultimately sharing the story as a response. Been there and trying to do that. But there is one small (hah!) section of the piece that I want to focus upon. She captures in detail the effort many women, especially us XL types, but I think it’s a pretty standard behavior for many women, the effort we make NOT to take up space in public.
I sat down as I usually do when it’s a middle seat: I positioned my butt on the edge of the seat and gingerly slid back as far as I could without infringing too much on the space of the riders beside me, keeping my legs locked and my shoulders squeezed in as close as possible.
This offers another layer of meaning for the words ‘negative space’. How small can we make ourselves, in order not to offend, or in order to fit in? A daily practice for me, passing by animate objects, like people, and inanimate objects everywhere I go, even in my own home. I’ve become quite adept at assessing space visually and knowing whether I will fit. When it is within my power, I arrange the world so that it works for me. Passageways in my small home are as wide as they can be. I push back against my family members when they ‘forget’ and I feel blocked, constricted (disrespected) in my own space.
I can’t change the width of the center aisle on an airplane. I know when to turn sideways to move through a narrow space, although sometimes the repositioning is pointless, since ‘round is round’ and I am only choosing whether I put my belly/butt or my hips in the lead as I pass through the insufficient gap. In restaurants, I automatically gauge the space around and between tables, pre-planning my exit, seeking dignity in moving past others. I have become increasingly bold about moving empty chairs out of my way or saying an assertive ‘Excuse me…’ when asking someone to move their chair so that I can pass by. Actually, it is annoying just to think of it that way; that it is bold to behave as if I have the right to move through space!
I recently returned to my car in a local parking lot, to find that the thoughtless driver of an oversized vehicle (hey, I drive a station wagon, I’m not taking a Mini Cooper or Prius superiority attitude here) had parked so closely beside me (I do love how we identify with our car, referring to it as me) that I could not open the driver’s door wide enough to get in. I tried and wrenched my back for my efforts. In the end, with a surprising sense of humor and lack of shame, I stopped a young man who was passing by. I explained the situation. His first words, endearingly, were “I just had a beer…”. I said he just needed to back the car up about five feet. Which he did and we both laughed and he went on his way. I wonder what he thought and if he mentioned the experience to anyone later?
I guess that is an example of when I could have moved into a negative space and I did not. Hmm.
It was suggested to me that I could try a poem in these daily blog posts. Here goes: it’s an old one… (With apologies for excessive spacing; I can’t seem to fix it.)
“We call them thigh peg chairs:
The ones with front legs that poke above the seat”,
I say to her, speaking to and in spite of her smallness.
Sharing vocabulary from the other side:
Booth bulletins, cushion updates,
Reports on seat depth and…
Chair arms that discomfit while dining,
Leaving bruise-like marks on ample thighs.
Airline seat-belt extenders,
Narrow seats with immobile arms
That cut into soft flesh.
Theater seat arms that
Wedge and take the fun out,
Giving an edge to recreational pastimes.
‘Why do I go there?’
‘Do I forget?’
The fact is
Normalcy tricks me,
Beckons to me, seduces me.
Why must I announce,
To friends & strangers, over and over,
That I don’t fit?
Am I misshapen or is it the chairs?
Thank you to all veterans.
I am sorry that you have had to take (or are taking) the risks you have (are) in service to our country, because too often they have been pointless risks.
In addition to a fervent wish for peace in the world, I wish for physical and emotional healing for all veterans and their families.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I’m having a bit of a ‘bad day’. That happens. Of course there are many ways to deal with these occasional visits to negative terrain. There are the obvious, oft-touted healing methods, like taking a walk, meditating or reading something uplifting. Three of my favorites are drinking water, writing and sleeping. (Pardon me while I pause for slug of water.) And then there is the sensible idea of reaching out and talking to a friend. In these darker moments, I vary between an aching desire to be heard and an equal desire to retreat and isolate. But let me tell you what came up for me just now when I thought about calling a friend.
I realized that what I needed was to be heard, without judgment and to be understood, without struggling to explain. That’s a lot to ask. I have many good and dear friends who I know would respond to my reaching out. They would be kind and listen to me without judgment. Or, to be more specific, I would be able to babble and share my current, craziness (reality) without fearing that they would judge me. Which amounts to the same thing, in a functional sense: I get to evict some of the negative mojo that is swirling around in my head and gut. Some relief is sure to follow that expulsion and I am extremely grateful for the chance to spew freely, in the belief that I will not be judged.
However, wanting to be understood is a tall order. In the negative interior landscape where I currently (and temporarily) reside, it is ‘pert nigh’ impossible to summon the energy or vocabulary to communicate subtleties. However, unless my listener has previously walked the same path or has supernormal insight, I cannot expect deep understanding without making the effort to share details. I have found this to be true with friends as well as listening professionals (talk therapists). And so, what I can realistically ask for is empathetic listening, without judgment.
Which led me to think of songs about friendship. The first to arise was Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, with these lyrics: “When you’re down in troubles, and you need some love and care, and nothing, nothing is going right… You just call out my name… You’ve got a friend… Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend”
Next up was the song That’s What Friends are For. Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, but best known as recorded by Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Elton John. “…For good times and bad times, I’ll be on your side forever more, that’s what friends are for…” And then there is Bill Withers’ classic Lean on Me: “Lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…” I realize that these are all oldies, and that there are newer paeans to friendship. Have you a favorite?
In closing, because I am tired; being in funkyland is exhausting… Or am I in this funk because I am tired? Chicken? Egg?
In closing, I’d like to bring a column from last Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine to your attention. Wonderful title: How to Shut Up a Fat Shamer. Written by regular advice columnist, Robin Abrahams, who goes by the title of ‘Miss Conduct’. She never pulls her punches and for this reason I am always entertained and often, as in this case, cheered by her certainty about decent human behavior. Please check it out.
“Don’t insult people’s appearance. It’s rude and tacky.”
“… it is no more acceptable to mock people for the shape of their skin than for the color of it. Mocking other people’s bodies is a nasty, childish, uncivilized habit that is beneath dignified people.”
I believe it was Descartes who said: “I think, therefore, I am.” I could say, or certainly in the past could say, “I feed, therefore, I am.” This is (has been), obviously, not always a good thing. Particularly when used against myself, as in “My worthiness is determined by my service to others… i.e. feeding them.” But that is the shadow side. There is so much that gives me pleasure about feeding others. I am proud of my knowledge and my skills and I love to share them, as well as the resulting food for consumption. Random associations include:
- long time friend JR saying: “Cathy used to bake all the time… ” which recalls the years when I worked as a baker and constantly baked sweets at home for my friends;
- talking with a young mother about ways to put together quick, easy, nutritious and varied pureed food for her baby;
- making a Key Lime pie for my elderly grandmother every Christmas for 15 years;
- cooking up large batches of Guatemalan black beans and rice for family and friends;
- trying new recipes and food/flavor combinations;
- playing with fresh produce or herbs from my own garden or a farmers market…
Many happy memories. I am quite sure that I could continue adding to this list for a long time and that it would more than out weigh [sic] the ‘cooking as a responsibility and burden’ occasions that are also a part of my history. And I do want to share my thoughts about the subject line: The Care and Feeding of Friends and Friendship.
Nurturing is what makes a friendship strengthen and grow, just as feeding a child is essential for its growth and development. Sharing food is an elemental manner of nurturing; preparing the food adds another layer to the connection. In virtually every culture, the act of eating together represents an essential bond for family and community. There is some powerful magic that can happen when humans focus on their food, setting aside, even briefly, the contentious stresses of everyday life. Sitting together to eat or drink can bring forth the conversational sharing that solidifies relationships. I’m not saying that people must share meals in order to have healthy meaningful friendships, but it doesn’t hurt, does it?
Alright, I am going to move away from this warm fuzziness for a bit, because I need to share something from Caitlin Moran’s book, which I mentioned yesterday, How To Be a Woman. I’m just going to put the raw material out there, which for some reason I’ve avoided doing in this blog, thus far. I think that I’ve begun to understand why I shied away from putting it out there. When I first read it, it knocked the wind out of me, in both a good way and a terrifying way. Good, because she put into words something that had been my experience, but I could never have articulated. Terrifying, well, for the same reason, I guess. It explains a piece of my personal psychology and experience, in part by placing it in a larger cultural context, which is devastating in its simplicity, obviousness and outrageousness.
from How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
[The fact is that]… people overeat for exactly the same reason they drink, smoke, serially f**k around or take drugs. In this trancelike state, you can find welcome, temporary relief from thinking [and feeling]… Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction and self-obliteration. You get all the temporary release of drinking, f**king or taking drugs, but without… ever being left in a state where you can’t remain responsible and cogent.
In a nutshell, then, by choosing food as your drug… you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, pop in on your mum and then stay up all night with an ill five-year-old… something that is not an option if you are [shooting/snorting drugs] or… knocking back quarts of Scotch.
Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of f**king yourself up while still remaining functional, because you have to.
Fat people aren’t indulging in the ‘luxury’ of their addiction making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead they are self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice. [Emphasis is mine.]
Well, it happened again. Every time I read this, I am struck dumb by the truth of it and the power of it. In one fell swoop it deconstructs so much for me about addiction (of all kinds) and women, food, care-taking and responsibility.
I encourage you to check out the whole book, which is, as stated by the reviewer I quoted yesterday “… as much attitude as analysis. … in equal measure, intellectual, rebel[lious] and goof[y].” Or at least to take a look at this article about the chapter from which these lines are drawn: I Am Fat. Moran describes a visit to a friend in a British rehab center who reveals to her the ‘ranking’ of addictions being treated there. And Moran plays out a pointed and hysterical tale about dysfunctional and beloved rock and roll musicians, whose behavior and unreliability are forgiven and somewhat glorified. What if they used food instead of drugs? They would show up for every performance, but how would their fans react to the fact that they look not wasted, but fat?
In closing, a comment about an editorial in today’s Boston Globe. It expresses a very sensible opinion, with reference to some very interesting research about food labeling. You can find the full text here. But…
Can someone please tell me why the editorial writers or staff decided to include a photograph of two XXXL women, taken from behind, which emphasizes their XXXL butts? The headline is One soda = a five mile walk. The research tracked the behavior of black teenagers. So, is this choice of image perhaps playing to the basest responses of the reader? Is it about shaming? Misogyny? Shock value? Comedy?
It is cruel and wrong, wrong, wrong. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, for furthering erroneous stereotypes. It makes me so mad.
I do believe that humor is a keystone to friendship. We are drawn to people who laugh at the same things we do, who make jokes that make sense to us and who, best of all, laugh at our jokes. I also believe that there is a lot of crass and unkind humor in our world, the prat fall, slapstick sort of humor that may begin with surprise and silliness, but too often descends into laughing at the misfortune of others. It’s a fine line, I will admit, but think of the many comedians (I will not even discuss the moronic ‘humor’ in many dumb and dumber films) who may start with self-mockery and then quickly are trashing ‘others-ness’ for a cheap laugh. Yuck and shiver.
Oh, wait… For a moment there I thought that I had moved away from the issue of body size, but ‘duh’, there is no humor more ubiquitous and taste-less than fat jokes. In addition to being crass and unkind, fat jokes are lazy, uncreative and lacking in wit, as well as humor. And they are flipping EVERYWHERE. Do not try to tell me that they are not. A large man or woman is automatically seen as comic… a butt shot, an eating scene, so many endless visuals in the media. Slap, slap, slap.
Okay, moving back to the friendship and humor theme, I wonder, is there any such thing as an un-hurtful ‘fat joke’? Can the stout tell jokes on themselves, among themselves? Perhaps, but the slippery slope is that any such ‘in group’ witticisms are at immediate risk of becoming self-shaming, because they are overlaid with the prevailing sense that size is an acceptable target for mean-spirited humor.
Had to pause to look up the word ‘wit’ in the online dictionary, because the computer didn’t like how I spelled witticism. Found this interesting distinction:
If you’re good at perceiving analogies between dissimilar things and expressing them in quick, sharp, spontaneous observations or remarks, you have wit.
Humor, on the other hand, is the ability to perceive what is comical, ridiculous, or ludicrous in a situation or character, and to express it in a way that makes others see or feel the same thing. It suggests more sympathy, tolerance, and kindliness than wit…
So, perhaps my personal definitions of wit and humor are somewhat at odds with the dictionary, but that’s neither here nor there. What I find interesting in this quote is the idea that humor intends to ‘make others see or feel the same thing’, which goes back to my opening thoughts about humor as a foundational part of friendship. When a humorous comment strikes home for me, I know that the speaker sees the world in a way that is similar to my own outlook and I enjoy that.
The other phrase that really struck me in this dictionary note (which attempts to draw distinctions between wit, humor, irony, sarcasm and satire) is the statement that ‘ [humor] suggests more sympathy, tolerance and kindness.’ Really? That is a fascinating idea. Is that to say that wit is the quick, sharp jab of comedy and humor is a gentler creature? I’m all for tolerance and kindness, that’s for sure. I’ll have to think on that a bit.
If anyone is reading this… what say you?
And in the Not Laughing department:
Some thoughts on beauty. Last Friday evening I saw a local production of the play, Hairspray. I remember seeing the earlier movie version, with cross-dresser Divine as Edna Turnblad, but I didn’t really love it or get it at the time. The more recent film with John Travolta in that role is a favorite. The music is fabulous, the teenage take on the 1950’s becoming the 1960’s is fun – and somewhat accurate – and the treatment of the civil rights issues of prejudice and integration are moving.
And then there is ‘the fat stuff’. From the first time I watched the movie, there were a few lines that just exploded for me; that’s not the best description, but as close as I can get right now. When the teenage heart-throb sings to the fat girl, “Tracy, I’m in love with you, no matter what you weigh…”, there’s a little pop in my heart and brain. Just to hear those words spoken. And I’ve got to admit, the zing is still strong, even after hearing the line multiple times. I wait for those words. I do, I wait for them. It feels rather sad and pathetic to admit it, but I do.
Earlier in the play/film, during the fat girl’s fantasy about winning the heart of the heart-throb, triumphing over the pretty girl, Tracy sings to her ‘rival’, “Amber, much to your surprise, this heavy weight champion takes the prize…”; fat girl triumphant, with a tinge of revenge? Stirs me up a little. When the fat mother of fat girl sings about not being seen by neighbors since she was a size 10 (?) and not having left the house in years, I feel a little sick and scared. I guess I relate to that wish not to be seen. The daughter’s response “Welcome to the 60’s…things are changing out there…” leaves me wishing that had really been true in the 1960’s, my years of adolescent suffering. Things were changing in many ways, but fat acceptance was not one of them. It was the era of Twiggy.
In the rousing, closing musical number, the fat mother shakes ‘it’ on the dance floor, singing: “… if you don’t like the way I look, well I just don’t give a damn!” and my heart rises up at the cheer leading positive declaration. I wanna feel that way. But I feel acutely aware that this is fiction. An internal battle between Yes! and nope, is activated. Generally I push it aside and enjoy the upbeat passion that wraps up the show. Those see sawing emotions are too familiar and the battle is never resolved for more than a split second, so why bother?
An earlier scene, which is powerfully delivered by Queen Latifah in the Travolta film, carries the refrain “Big, blond and beautiful”, which led me to begin writing this reflection on beauty. It’s a rallying cry, of sorts, toward self-acceptance and owning one’s right to take up space, to define beauty for oneself. I don’t find this number as moving as the integration/civil rights anthem that comes later. As I ask myself why that is, I wonder if it’s because racial integration and civil rights for people of color are so widely agreed upon. The wrongs of slavery, segregation and racial profiling are so profound and the path toward righting those wrongs is (and will be) the work of generations. We are clearly not a ‘post-racial’ society, but many/most of us are cognizant of the issues.
The right to feel beautiful, to believe you are beautiful, even when you are fat, seems trivial and self-absorbed in comparison. Clearly the writer of Hairspray, John Waters, was drawing some parallels. To what end, I wonder? A last note about the stage production, as opposed to the more recent film… the script contains considerably more fat-bashing dialog. There I was, 60 years old, sitting in the audience and not personally receiving the abuse, but the sneering and mocking was stinging. It wasn’t sufficiently mitigated by the positive messages embedded in the play. Again, hard to admit, sad and dis-empowering, but I guess echoes of traumatic moments, even second (third, fifth?) hand, carry barbs.
So, it turns out what I have to share right now are these thoughts about the play, Hairspray. My thoughts on beauty will come another time.
You may remember a post I wrote about a month ago, about Maria King’s ‘fat-bashing’ Facebook post. Well, this week in the Boston Globe there was an Op-Ed piece championing Ms. King’s viewpoint. The headline reads: “Pro-fat is an unhealthy status quo”. I must say, Globe editors, unless the author, Cathy Young chose that title, it seems like a provocative choice of words. The Globe is fairly consistent about presenting both sides of political issues, but there was no balancing opinion piece on this topic. Which raises the question of whether the American attitude toward fat people is a political concern…
Ms. Young’s point appears to be that the ‘fat acceptance’ movement is dangerous. As she critiques the promotion of ‘fat pride’ and the normalization and celebration of body size acceptance, I would ask Ms. Young to consider three questions.
First and most importantly, as she references the ‘rise in childhood obesity’, I ask, does she mean to say that it is better for children to grow up obese and filled with shame and self-loathing? Does she really believe that it is irresponsible to present children with models of self-acceptance, regardless of body size? She states that fat-bullying is not okay, but in the absence of any positive role models, the fat-bashers (adult & child) would seem to have cultural approval for expressing their negative opinions.
Ms. Young quotes several studies, some which support her p.o.v and another, which she disparages as flawed, which is invoked by ‘pro-fat activists.’ Her reasoning is confusing and frankly, insults the intelligence of the participants in the study. Plus, we all know how easily one can find studies to support or debunk any point of view.
My second question for Ms. Young is whether she has done any research into the role of processed foods in childhood (and adult) obesity? For more than half a century, the processed food industry (with near-silence – or complicity – on the part of our government) has knowingly sold/fed the American public ‘food products’ that contain heavy loads of salt, sugar and fat. These addictive substances have fueled billions of dollars in profits for the processed food and diet industries. I would suggest that Ms. Young read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, or at least the opening chapters, and educate herself.
Lastly, Young disparages the ‘the left wing notion that anti-obesity stigma equals bigotry (and patriarchal oppression, when directed at women)’. I’m sorry, but seeing the words ‘left wing’ in this argument made me chuckle. However, I guess in a way she’s right – it is a human rights issue – albeit one that the average progressive individual may not be comfortable espousing. Be that as it may, I ask Ms. Young: do you really, honestly contend that sexism/patriarchal oppression is not a factor in fat stigma? There are thousands of studies that confirm that girls and women are judged on their appearance. They know it, from a terrifyingly young age, and they strive to meet unhealthy standards of ‘beauty’. Yes, fat is a feminist issue, (with a nod to Susie Orbach).
Young closes by likening obesity to alcoholism. There may be parallels, but I would say that to call either ‘condition’ a ‘self-inflicted’ one demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and insight on her part. She is simply incorrect when she closes with the accusation that promoting self-acceptance is ‘assist[ing] in denial’. In my opinion, health, in every meaning of the word, requires a foundation of self-acceptance and pride, not shame.
Writing is going well. More connections keep sprouting, from my little head, the newspaper, the Internet and books. I’m going to offer a couple of things for you to watch/read & consider. Here is something worth watching:
Beautiful, heartbreaking, and ‘moving’ as the friend who posted it on FB said. Because who is perfect? Accepting and honoring the body we each have, our vehicle in this lifetime, that’s the goal. I thank the Gods and Goddesses for artists, humanitarians, Europeans…
I’ve been reading a cookbook, called True Food from Dr. Andrew Weil’s restaurants of the same name, that I found at the library. Always resisted the hype around this man, but some of what he (and the other authors) has to say is spot-on in terms of healthy food vs. PPFIC food products. I’ll definitely be trying some of the recipes.
And finally, here is an excerpt from a book that will be published in a couple of days, called The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better, by Jonathan Bailor. I’m not keen on the subtitle; I have visceral reaction to words like: “Lose Weight”, but what he has to say in this scrap is interesting. (Emphases mine)
Calorie Myth #3: All Foods Are Fine in Moderation
“Most diets suggest that we can eat whatever we want and be fine as long as we monitor our portion sizes and don’t eat too many calories. But as we’ve discussed, calories are not all that matter. What comes along with calories can disrupt our fundamental biology for generations. So why do we hear so much about calories and eating “everything” in moderation? One reason is that many of the institutions perpetuating this myth are funded by companies that produce processed foods. These institutions can keep their corporate benefactors happy and appear reasonable by preaching a message of moderation.(The “foods” aren’t bad—your willpower is! It’s your “personal responsibility”to resist them!) Now anyone can sell anything and everyone is happy—except for the consumers whose biology is being broken.
Why Hormones Matter More than Moderation
When we are told to focus on calories and moderation instead of food and biology, “healthy” quickly becomes a highly relative term. For example, a popular fast food chain celebrates the health benefits of its offerings that contain less than 400 calories. Never mind the high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, trans fats, and pink slime in these edible products we collectively refer to as “food,” they’re low calorie and therefore “smart” choices.
We know this is absurd. We know that the nutritional and hormonal impact of calories matters immensely. But we can see why the calorie craze is perpetuated. Want to sell anything and call it healthy? Convince people calories are all that matter. Then mix together the cheapest and most shelf-stable ingredients you can find and call it edible. Finally, shrink the serving size until you can call it low calorie and therefore“healthy.” One-hundred-calorie snack packs for everyone!
Misguided recommendations around moderation are not new. Just a few decades ago we were given a message of smoking in moderation, but then the science linking smoking to addiction and disease became clear. The link between inSANE foods addiction and disease is now clear.
As Yale University’s Kelly Brownell puts it, “By 1964, there was sufficient scientific evidence . . . [but] many years passed and many millions died before decisive action was taken to [turn the tide against smoking]…. Repeating this history with food and obesity would be tragic.”
Will a single soda or candy bar every once in awhile kill us? Of course not. But neither will a single cigarette every once in a while. The question is what we should be recommending. The message of moderation and calories is rooted in money, not science. Accurate recommendations would revolve around food quality and hormones, not calorie count and moderation…
Again, I haven’t read this guy Bailor’s book, so I’m not recommending it or endorsing his theories… but I do appreciate his take on the PPFIC and it’s food products.
Happy New Year. Next post will be on 1-1-14