Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Also today in pig-headed ignorance, and today in ignoring science, and today in failing to think through consequences, and today in hating on children.
A CHILD’S weight should be included in their school report as part of a radical plan to tackle the obesity crisis, according to [Professor David Penington] who led Australia’s successful response to the AIDS epidemic.
I find this mindblowing, not just for the complete disregard for science, but for the astonishing idea that it’s a good thing to shame children about their weight, and that somehow, magically, this will make them thin and happy. It doesn’t work with adults because (a) shaming just upsets people and (b) shaming does not result in weight loss and (c) weight loss does not lead to better health (just google “obesity paradox” and you will find the evidence), and it works EVEN LESS with children because….. (hold your breath, here’s a giant reveal that seems to have escaped Prof. Penington), CHILDREN DON’T GET TO CHOOSE WHAT FOOD THEY EAT.
As parents, we impose our own lifestyles on children. The children in my house? They’re great at argument (conceptual, inferential, evidential, you name it – they argue it and yes, this is a problem from time to time), but sports, well, whatever. They play a bit and we go and cheer them on, but really, it’s just not a big deal. That’s because in our house, discussion is a Big Thing. But they miss out on sport, which is a large part of many families in New Zealand, because it’s just not a big deal around here. They are deeply influenced, and the patterns of their living set for a long time to come, by the way that Mr Bee and I live.
And the type and amount of food they eat, and the exercise they do, or don’t do, is deeply influenced by us. They have no responsibility for what does into their lunchboxes. That’s MY responsibility. I’m the one who buys the bread and the sandwich fillings, makes the muffins, ensure there’s some fruit and some yoghurt on hand, so that they can make their school lunches.
So when Prof. Penington sets out to shame children, not only is he doing something that is completely ineffective anyway, but he totally missed his target.
I’ve had enough of teachers and doctors and (alleged) experts filling the school curriculum with do-gooding nonsense, which only leads to children coming home and trying to get their parents to change. But exactly how much power do children have to change their parents anyway? Very little indeed. It’s an intolerable burden to place on children. I think Prof. Penington must hate children too.
Ah, Twitter. Both a boon and a bane. Great for organising social outings and sourcing hot shoes. Really, really bad at social justice.
It’s somewhat depressing to jump on Twitter after a nap, only to find people who should know better making fat jokes. In the guise of punning about music. I really wish this were an uncommon occurrence. Sadly, it really, really isn’t.
Oh! You’re so funny! Fat people like to eat lots! They’re obsessed with buffets and friands and ham. Great.
And of course, when a bunch of people called out the fatshaming, there was a chorus of whining of “but I just wanted to make puns about food!”. How nice for you. Then why did you have to include the hashtag about fat people? Why denigrate people because of how they look and their perceived relationship with food? Because you can, because you didn’t think, because fat people don’t have feelings you could possibly hurt.
Here’s the thing. If the Beatles were fat dudes? It’s very, very unlikely they would be famous enough for you to be making puns about them. Sure, random dude on Twitter, you can name four fat artists (Adele, Beth Ditto, Aretha, Fat Joe), so everything must be OK, and there’s no imperative in the music industry to be thin. Or something. Would the girls have screamed, so long and so loud, if they four nice-looking boys from Liverpool have been overweight.
I wonder if the people who wrote that hashtag over and over again took a moment to think about the people they might be hurting when they tweeted. The teenage singer who wants a career but was told she can’t because she’s too big. The boy who wanted to be on TV, but was fat. Any overweight person who had the temerity to think that despite their size they might be entitled to personhood. I can only speak for myself, but it felt like being punched in the stomach. I mean, I couldn’t feel it, on account of being so desperately addicted to curly fries, but still.
Let’s play fatshaming bingo, shall we?
Don’t believe me about that first one? How’s this from North & South’s FB page?
Is sugar the new fat – and will it cause the next wave of heart disease? (No, our cover model isn’t especially fat but, like many of us, you can bet she’d like to lose a few kilos. What she probably doesn’t know is how much “hidden” sugar she’s eating.) In the new North & South –Donna Chisholm reveals some surprising new discoveries on why we gain weight.
So. North & South is clearly the new Cosmo. Vague, threatening claims about weight on the cover, and references to “breaking up”. Chuck in something about a blowjob, and the transition will be complete.
I mean, do they actually know this woman would “like to lose a few kilos”? To me, she looks strong and healthy and beautiful. But, then, what would I know, being a fatty? And OF COURSE, it’s a woman. Men aren’t fat, right? It’s only women who suffer from obesity. I’ve only skimmed the article, because I value my mental health, and smarter people than me can debunk the claims therein. Also, what I care about is how this issue is presented. But as far as I could tell, this is a stock photo. So HOW DARE someone suggest she might want to lose a few kilos?
Inside the article, there’s a few more photos. A (male) researcher, and a dude who has cut sugar out of his diet. And another stock photo of an overweight woman, back to the camera, hunched over the scales she is standing on. So: Men, capable of talking about weight. Women, just used to illustrate the story.
And this. Everyone’s favourite.
The ubiquitous headless fatty. Sigh.
Want to bet, based on the pose, she’s smiling, or pouting, or something other than looking ashamed of herself? And we couldn’t have that, could we?
Last night, I was flicking around the TV channels, while sipping my nightly bourbon and devouring the souls of babies, and came across E! News. Shutupyoudon’tknowmylifedon’tjudgeme. I watched for five minutes, this “news”, wherein gossip and fashion and scandal and a dating show pass for actual information.
They were reporting on this video, something that has reduced me to tears already twice this week.
This video has been shared far and wide. It is wonderful.
E! News showed some footage of a news panel, wherein a (thin, white) woman, said the email isn’t bullying, it’s “feedback”. And then E! asked people to tweet what they thought, under the hashtag #bullyingorfeedback. And I hate myself, so I went and looked at the hashtag.
Here’s the thing. I can’t imagine a world where someone daring to comment, regardless of whether it was in a private email, on your body is considered anything other than bullying. Where saying “you’re not fit to do your job because you’re fat” (because that’s what he was saying, despite the role model concern trolling) is considered “feedback”. Where your worth and ability and talent is prescribed not by how you do your job, but by how your body looks in a navy suit.
Feedback is “that story you reported on was bullshit”. It’s “There’s a spelling mistake in your copy.” It’s even “I don’t like that blouse you wore today”. It is not “you’re too fat to be on TV.”
And the reason I can’t imagine a world where that’s considered feedback, is that I’ve never lived in that world. We live in a world where women, regardless of their size, shape, colour or sexual identification are asked to hate their bodies. Where nothing we ever do is good enough. We’re too fat or too thin, too pimply or too pale, too tall or too brown.
Where men from passing cars feel free commenting on my tits. Where a doctor filling in for my regular doctor feels the need to pass judgement on my weight, without reading my patient notes. Where the size of my body is fair game for comment, shaming and faux-concern.
For Jennifer Livingstone to stand up against that is brave. For her to say “screw you, friend, and here’s why” is an act of courage. But of course it is. Because living in the world, as a fat person, being on TV, having a public profile, all of those things take bravery, and a thick skin.
I’m tired. I mean, I’m fat, so of course I am, because along with being fat comes being lazy, being stupid, being unhealthy and being poor. But mostly, I am tired of having to ask why I don’t deserve to be treated with basic human dignity because of how my body looks. Of having to explain that you can’t tell anything about my health, physical or emotional, because of how my body looks. Of knowing how the world feels about me, and that there is people in it who believe that I – clever, talented, kind and generous as I can be – should never be a role model because of how I appear.
Fuck ’em. That’s really all I can say. And it’s all I should have to.
Bouquets and brickbats time, for the New Zealand Listener.
The cover story this week is about weight loss myths. It’s not on-line yet, but if you can buy a dead tree version, it’s worth it. The story is familiar to people who have even a passing acquaintance with the fatosphere and fat acceptance, as I do. The standard points:
– Dieting doesn’t work for the great majority of people (that would be 95% of people).
– Fat seems to be linked to poverty;
– Diabetes and heart disease don’t have a causal relationship with fat, or if there is a causal relationship, it’s a minor one, or it comes about through side effects.
– The death rate for fat people is no better and no worse than the death rate for thin people.
– Health At Every Size (HAES) is the way to go.
So far, so good. The story even ventured into some difficult territory, talking to a woman who had instigated severe diet control, and lost a huge amount of weight, going from size 22 to size 12 through dieting alone. But is she happier?
“… It’s still the same me and in some ways I am happier. There’s no doubt you have more social approval…. but there are things that I miss from when I was a larger woman. I got enormous pleasure from eating and loved to feel as though I could eat when I wanted to eat. That’s a wonderful thing and a wonderful pleasure…” She weighs herself every day and says sometimes she feels that her life is destined to be one “where I hardly eat anything”.
The story works hard against all the myths about weight and weight loss. There’s no alleged “balance” from people think that it’s just a matter of will power and diet. It’s all about debunking the myths. In the mainstream media. That’s fantastic.
But… the writer talked to four people, all of them academics: Andrew Dickson, Linda Bacon, Robyn Longhurst, and Cat Pausé. The printed article had pictures of three of them: Andrew Dickson, Linda Bacon, and Robyn Longhurst. Dr Dickson is a large man. Dr Bacon seems to be of slender to moderate size. Dr Longhurst is slim. Only one largish body in sight, and certainly not a fat body. The only person who was interviewed for the article, and who was not pictured, is a fat person, Dr Cat Pausé. Cat is fat. Not large. Not weighty. Not chunky. Fat.
So as far as the New Zealand Listener is concerned, we can talk about fat, but we can’t picture it. Erasing people who are fat, and hiding them from view, turning fat people into just words, but not whole people with bodies and faces and lives and realities, even in a sympathetic article. Erasure. So many ways to do it.
So here’s a picture of Cat. It’s her signature piece.
And here’s Cat’s reflection on the 20/20 segment on fat acceptance in New Zealand.