Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simply naming it.

As a fat person, the number one most common insult I've gotten isn't any reference to pigs, or to how I eat too many cheeseburgers, or how sexually unattractive I am. The most common insult is "fat." There's no implicit "you're fat, and therefore something"--just letting me know, in case I forgot or something. Fat is supposed to be bad in itself.

This is why I'm glad my boyfriend calls me fat. Don't get me wrong--he also calls me cute, smart, wonderful, adorable, sexy--but if my body shape comes up, he has no qualms in calling me fat. Affectionately. And I'm glad he does, because I think he's coming from the same place as me on this: euphemizing it would legitimize the insult. If he called me "curvy" or "solid" or "a bit larger" or simply dodged the issue altogether, the implicit message would be "but you're not fat, because fat is terrible."

This is the same reason that I hate to respond to "dyke" with "I'm not gay!" Even though I'm not--the correct answer is "so what if I am?" "Slut"--so what if I am? "Whore"--so what if I were? "Cocksucker"--yep, did that Saturday night!

So many insults in our culture consist of simply naming a thing, a morally neutral human quality, and every time you fight back by denying it, you play into the idea that the thing they described is bad. I don't think the insults can lose all their power through simple acknowledgement--sometimes the tone of voice and threatening delivery are enough to intimidate you even if all they said was "YOU ARE A MAMMAL AND YOU BREATHE AIR!" But it helps to keep the perspective--how much can someone hurt me by simply telling me what I am? I already know that. And how much can someone hurt me by telling me that I have a neutral quality that I don't happen to have? That's incorrect, but it shouldn't even hurt. I'm not yet emotionally armored to the point where the only effective insult is "YOU CAUSE SUBSTANTIVE HARM TO OTHERS!", but I hope to get there some day.

So why is the post image a sad pig? Because pigs are adorable creatures that are quite intelligent and tidy. But someone just called it a "pig" and now it feels bad, even though it knows how incredibly stupid that is.


  1. This particular pig does have a nice house! I can't help but feel a bit jealous of the pig.

  2. Yes! This. I used to be called this in school (go to a much calmer one now, thank god). At first it felt awful but as I grew I find it didn't affect me as much -- yes, I'm fat, so fucking what? If that's the worst thing you can say about me I'm awesome.

    Since many of the people who bullied me and my friend were such awful individuals I could make up loads of things worse about them then their weight, this actually made me feel a lot better. I may be fat, but I`m not going to be the one who`s funeral is going to be full of people who are glad.

  3. "Why the world needs fat acceptance:"

    I've been using homosapien as an insult for a while.
    I think it's a perfectly valid insult.

  4. This is exactly the kind of namby-pamby feel-good bullshit I would expect from a lung-filling live-birther like you. Go maintain a constant body temperature and leave the normals alone.

    (PS-I'm fat. Don't tell anybody; it's a secret.)

  5. Hershele OstropolerJuly 26, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    perlhaqr: Online, I've been moving away from saying "X sucks" and particularly the elaborations, since except for the elaborations that impute bestiality and/or incest, I should think that would be a good thing.

    "I was arrested for using a ten-letter word that began with 'c,' and I would marry no woman who was not one." --Lenny Bruce

    9:39 anon: I certainly wouldn't deny it about someone. As a Jew (another bare truth used as an insult), I know where that leads

  6. Awww, I love pigs! The pig is a perfect example. Despite popular culture, pigs are actually very tidy and intelligent animals.

    That said, while I agree with the sentiments in this post, I've found that this strategy does not help that much when confronting bullies. I was bullied in middle school. Before that, I had been taught, over and over again, the following: that bullies will flail helplessly if you stand up to them, and that there's nothing wrong with being gay. So when bullies kept telling me "you're gay!" I very reasonably responded "Well, there's nothing wrong with being gay." Instead of diffusing them, I think this actually fascinated them, and they did not stop. If anything it made them worse -- that lesbian is proud of herself! I eventually switched schools.

    I totally get what you're saying about "fat." A few years later when people trying to insult me called me a "hippie," I laughed at them -- and that did throw them off, a lot! But even though I knew I wasn't gay (such as a 10-year-old can know that) and that there was nothing wrong with being gay, and my parents' gay friends were pretty normal, nice people and all, I was still really hurt and upset.

    I think my comment is more about bullying than about your point. Your point remains totally true and helpful... how we teach children to deal with bullies (or teach them not to bully), not so much.

  7. My wife is fat and it's one of the many things I love about her body. (She's a lot stronger than I am, and I love that too. It's exciting enough to have a wrestling match prior to sex; it's even more exciting to lose one, if you're me at least.)

    We've been married about seven years, and it took me about five of those to start figuring out that 'fat', by itself, is not an insult, that it's not a harmful word even when it's used without harmful intent. But I finally sort of got a half-assed epiphany on the subject when I thought, well, if it's rude to call someone a name they don't call themselves, doesn't the converse hold true as well? And my wife does call herself fat, not quite cheerfully but she seems a lot more comfortable with the word than when we met or when we married, to the point where I can use it myself without fear of inflicting accidental harm.

    As far as insults...well, I don't appreciate being called a hippie, because the original hippies were all style and no substance, just as hipsters are today -- I fucking well work for a living, so it chafes me a fair bit to be slandered as a bourgeois dilettante. (Considering that my hair goes down to the small of my back, it comes up more often than you might think.)

    As for the ones I use myself, I've been getting a lot of mileage out of "asshole" and "sack of shit" lately; neither is gendered, both are endearingly scatological -- always a benefit in a good ripe insult -- and either is quite arresting, especially when decorated with emphasizing adjectives like "goddamned". Narrowing the set of insults I use also makes for easier mental retrieval when I need some words to hurl, so that's handy too.

  8. I love pigs and I hate it when people are mean to them. :( It is not the pig's fault you are biased against such an intelligent animal and prefer, like, cats. I mean, I like cats, but they are dumb sacks of shit.

    Also, "fat" is a body shape, not an insult. And even if skinny isn't an insult it's possible to say "anorexic" or "bony" with a whole lot of venom...

  9. I remember when I first read Rum Diaries (I think it was that one) and I was shocked that Hunter S. Thompson would use routinely use the adjective "fat" to describe a sexually attractive woman.

    It wasn't until just now that I realized how odd it is, that I was shocked by that, since indeed there are lots of fat women i find sexually attractive.

    You're right, the word "fat" when used about a person automatically connotes something bad. Strange culture.

    That said, you can avoid a lot of problems, including this one, by never saying anything about another person's appearance that isn't unambiguously a compliment. This may seem like a harsh rule, especially if you fancy yourself a funny person, but it avoids a lot of problems.

    [Obviously you can make an exception if you are serving in some sort of advisory role, such as when someone directly asks if some piece of clothing looks good on them, etc.]

  10. @Ozymandias:

    Good point, it's also important to remember that just because "fat" is an insult in our screwed-up culture doesn't mean that skinny people think it's awesome when others drone on and on about how thin they are, and say "joking" things like "I hate you for being so skinny."

    Not funny!

  11. Hershele OstropolerJuly 26, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    You needn't and shouldn't use "fat" as an insult even if you're not into fat people. You needn't and shouldn't use "fat" as an insult even if you're into thin people. (Obviously, you needn't and shouldn't use "fat" as an insult no matter what, if anything, you're into.)

    So, like, Aaron Em's first paragraph, as I read it, strikes me as missing the point. Fat isn't better or worse than not-fat; both just are, the rest is personal preference.

  12. I like my body, but I really don't want to hear any unsolicited comments about it. There is too much of a cross over between body shaming, sexual harassment, and general bullying - the bottom line is that my body probably isn't your business.
    There are times where body types are relevant to the conversation. In that case I don't mind hearing relevant, factual remarks about my body - but that's really the only time. You're not complimenting me if you walk up to me and say "hey, you look like you lost weight!" That implies that my weight is the most important thing about me, and it implies that loosing weight is always a good thing... and I'd so much rather hear "hey, you look HAPPY."

  13. re: Commenting on weight in general.

    I used to be anorexic, and now that I've gotten back to a place in life where I can watch what I eat and get regular exercise without overdoing it, I'm finding that comments like "you look like you've lost weight" are really triggering.

    When I started adjusting my eating and getting more exercise, the goal was to become stronger and improve my endurance. "Skinny" is not something I can ever shoot for again without starting to overwork and starve myself. After I went down a pants size I found myself falling into the thought pattern of wanting to go down 2 more sizes. Because of an irrelevant number on a pair of pants.

    Basically, weight is unfortunately such a loaded subject in our culture that many of us are struggling with major baggage... I've even told my boyfriend that I really prefer for him not to talk about my body in terms of "thinness". I know that I'm not everyone, but just fyi.

  14. Sneak: That pig is so cute.

    Rogan: As far as insults go, I find the primary ones I feel good about now are 'cockbite' and 'douchebag.' (Sometimes I extend it to 'nonconsensual cockbite,' but god, try shouting THAT at some asshole in a car as he drives by one day.) Both work quite well.

  15. I thought that was a cat wearing a pig nose!

  16. Maybe I wasn't clear enough--this post is really about coping with insults, internally.

    It's not okay to call someone else "fat" unless:
    A) You know that they understand the fat-positive usage of the word, and that they know you're using it that way
    B) You have the sort of relationship with them where it's generally appropriate to comment on their body.

    As for standing up to bullies--I wouldn't try to be clever. Honestly, the only thing I've found that works is just shrugging and going "eh, whatever" every time. If you can stick to that (and devaluing their insults in your mind definitely makes it easier), eventually most bullies will find that bullying you is just boring. Sometimes denying them a reaction is a better deterrent than any open resistance.

    1. I just wanted to comment, because my experience was very different from yours. I tried for years the "ignore it and they will get bored" strategy for dealing with bullies, and it was pretty much the worst advice I was ever given in childhood. I found that acting like I didn't care was one of the things that significantly increased the odds of the attack escalating. If they couldn't get a response with a verbal taunt, then they moved on to a physical one. And if I acted like that attack didn't hurt me, then I got attacked harder until I would react. It probably depends a fair bit on the nature of your bullies and the environment you are in. Maybe if you're in an environment where verbal attacks aren't taken seriously but physical ones are, so you can trust that it won't escalate, but I've never been in that environment.

      What I did find worked was one of three things - either getting somebody bigger and stronger to beat the bully up and warn them that I was off limits. A solution I quite dislike, but at least it kept me safer. Getting them to think that something I didn't mind was a good way to harass me and trying to direct the harassment in that direction (please don't throw me into the briar patch!) Or (and kind of a variant on the previous) using humor and weirdness. For example, I might go into a long big-word including scientific-sounding lecture about the thing they just said and how fascinating it is that they said it or whatnot. This would give them something to laugh at and they can show their friends how weird and ridiculous the kid they want to bully is, and I get to not get beaten up, have a mental exercise of coming up with something that sounds impressive, and get to mentally laugh at them for being so ridiculous. Not exactly healthy either, because you get into a mindframe of social interactions are inherently adversarial, but if you're being regularly bullied, I'm not sure there's a good way to avoid that or to learn healthy social interactions until you are actually somewhere where most interactions are safe ones.

      Anyhow, that's my experience, and I'm sure others have had other experiences. But I wanted to toss it out there for all the people who are ignoring it so they'll stop as much as they possibly can and finding that it never works for them. I didn't hear alternate options as a child, so it took me a very long time to give up on that strategy or to realize I wasn't just not good enough at ignoring them or some such when it never worked with my bullies. And I want people to know that sometimes it doesn't work.

  17. I think one of the weirdest things about fat as an insult is that it's totally unclear how fat you have to be to qualify as fat. I'm fatter than a lot of people, and I'm skinnier that a lot of other people. Where's the fat line? When I was in middle school kids would use fat to mean someone who ate a lot or unhealthily, regardless of what their body looked like. As in, "look at me eating this burger and fries, I'm so fat right now."

    Even if you are fat, how often does someone calling you fat have anything to do with an actual standard weight or shape of person? I think a lot of times they're just saying that they want you to feel bad about yourself and they're not very creative.

  18. Emma - I think of "fat" as the same thing as "tall" or "pale"--there's no specific cutoff, but it's a relative descriptor.

    Although all that goes out the window when someone's just trying to make you feel bad. :(

  19. @ f.:

    I don't know you, but I want to hug you so much right now. I'm in the same boat re: recovering from an eating disorder in which I starved myself and exercised for hours and hours every day. You are describing exactly what I feel, every day. I am SCARED to go back to exercising, because I can still hear that siren song. So I sit here, unhealthy and feeling like crap because my particular body requires SOME exercise and healthy food (which I completely burned myself out on) to be at its best, afraid to do anything to help myself for fear of getting back on that ride.

    @ holly:

    I love this post. I love the pig, and want to tell him that he's a good pig.

    I don't get called fat all that often, and when I do it's usually on the internet in a context where the person can't even SEE ME, which means it's awfully hard for me to feel anything but withering disdain, but on the occasions where I get it from people IRL, it's anyone's guess as to how I'll feel about it. Mostly, I avoid putting myself in situations where I might be made fun of or rejected because of my size.

    The shitty thing (well, ONE shitty thing) about fat hate and self-loathing is that we internalize it so thoroughly that we hate ourselves more often, more effectively, and with far more vitriol than others do. And that's what they want. So we do their work for them.

  20. Rogan: As far as insults go, I find the primary ones I feel good about now are 'cockbite' and 'douchebag.'

    I've stopped using "douchebag" as an insult, too, since douchebags are at least useful, and usually the person I wish to insult with that phrase... isn't.

    I have taken to using "cockbiter" and "cockbitery" in place of "douchebag" and "douchebaggery".

  21. Naamah: Your last paragraph really resonates with me. The insults other people can insult me with are dwarfed by the ones I can call myself... mostly because "fuck you" is a far more possible response to other people. :)

    perlhaqr: Douchebags really aren't useful. They cause yeast infections and, besides, vaginas are supposed to smell like vagina. So when I want to call someone a useless tool of the patriarchy who causes mild yet annoying and painful illnesses, "douchebag" is the term I use. :)

  22. re: fun insults, a friend of mine recently introduced us to the phrase "douche canoe." It has no real meaning, but it's awfully fun to say and conjures a rather amusing mental image. ("Fuckwittery" is another one I like for sheer mouthfeel appeal.) Although now that Rogan's introduced it, I'm totally adding "nonconsensual cockbite" to my cursing vocabulary.

    (On a side note, this reminds me of one of my husband's stories about a Slovakian exchange student he used to work with. One day the young man came up to tell him, excitedly, that he'd learned how to curse in English. When my husband - naively - asked for a demonstration, the guy beamed proudly and announced to the world [in his thick, Boris-and-Natasha accent,] "Vaginal bloodfart!"

    One day when I stop giggling at this, I'm sure I'll find it sexist and offensive. But I'm not there yet.)

    When it comes to being insulted, though, it has less to do - for me - with the words they use, and more to do with the intention behind them. I mean, I know I'm fat. I call myself fat. It's a descriptor, like you said. I'd like to not be fat, and I'm working on it, but it'd be silly to pretend that's not what I am. But if someone is calling me fat, what they're actually saying is "I hate you; I don't respect you; I don't consider you a person." It's that intention behind the words that hurts and infuriates, regardless of how true and/or benign the actual words are. (I've been trying to tell myself that I don't care what they think and therefore it shouldn't matter since I was, oh, about 6. It hasn't worked yet. Apparently I'm doomed to give a shit about what people think of me.)

  23. Emma,

    In my experience, when men say "fat" they mean "visible dangling/bulging bits" (gut, arms, chin). The definition is very relative and somewhat rooted in personal ideas of aesthetics.

    When women say "fat", they seem to want something more absolute, like a clothing size.

    I have never, *ever* met a guy who thought this way. Nor did my attitudes toward my own weight (I used to be fat) have to do with my pant size, they had to do with my gut and lack of a visible jawline.

    These are not the same ways at all of assessing "fatness", and failing to recognize the difference will make for many unproductive conversations.

    A very close female friend once attempted to argue that the "media" was harming women with its focus on "thinness" by telling me that Marilyn Monroe's dress size would be considered fat by today's standards.

    I, and every guy I know, do not consult dress sizes when we decide whether or not someone is fat. (Nor do most of us care about an actress that the world decided was the pinnacle of beauty long before we were born, but that is a separate point)

  24. Anon, are you saying that you *don't* believe the media harms women by focusing excessively on thinness--of both types?

  25. I like that post very much (like nearly every post of you, Holly!).

    But on a totally different topic:

    "So why is the post image a sad pig? Because pigs are adorable creatures that are quite intelligent and tidy."

    And that's some good reasons not to eat them!

  26. Simone,

    The short answer is no. Not at all.

    The long answer is that it's very difficult for me to even agree that the media *does* focus excessively on thinness. In fact, when I do hear stories about weight, they are far more commonly about how beautiful "curvy" or "real" women are (far more members of the media are positive about Christina Hendricks or Gabourey Sidibe than negative, and the few that are negative are heavily criticized). In my experience, the side of the "real" woman (not especially fit, visibly insecure about their appearance) is overrepresented, if anything.

    Also, I don't agree with the helpless role than the question implicitly places women in. I believe that women are smart enough to recognize when some standard (if that is even the right word) is unrealistic and not become neurotic about it. I don't believe that expecting women to see that a plastic toy isn't an accurate representation of an obtainable physique is asking too much. I don't necessarily expect them to realize that men aren't constantly comparing women they meet to Barbie's measurements; but it does seem incredible obvious from my perspective.

    I can understand that it's distressing to some women that they aren't perceived as sexual attractive because of their physique, but what I don't understand is the belief that any amount of rhetoric will change what men (as a group or individuals) find attractive. Even less do I understand the effort to make other peoples' aesthetic preferences line up with yours through moral outrage. (I'm not accusing you of doing any of these things)

    If you believe that any of this is misogynist, I would be interested in your reasoning.

  27. This reminded me of the very first time I was called a Jew like it was an insult. I was in sixth grade, and somebody just yelled it at me: "JEW!" I was so confused. I was like wait... What? That's just... A fact. I brushed it off.
    However, I realize I did not have a similar feeling when people told me I was fat. THAT one brought on immediate feelings of shame and inadequacy, where I really should have brushed it off the same way I did JEW. It's just part of who I am.

  28. Anon - What media are you looking at? Gabourey Sidibe gets so much attention because she's a very rare exception to the usual Hollywood look; Christina Hendricks is only Hollywood fat and would be extremely average in the real world. And just about every other actress and model would be freakin' tiny in the real world. The pendulum is shifting slightly in favor of the "curvy," but it's notable because it's an exception and not a big one.

    It's not about Barbie; the reason I've hated being fat is because I've been humiliated by strangers, friends, and family for it. Call me helpless, but I'm not "smart enough" to just shrug that off.

    And I don't think it's misogynistic exactly, but I do think it's sort of... annoying to assume this is all about "so you gotta fuck us now." Nobody even said that. Just don't be a dick. What I'm talking about here is "haw haw, fatty," not "I'm very sorry, I'm just not attracted to you."

  29. Holly,

    Wow, thanks for the response, I really enjoy the blog.

    What media am I looking at? The same (poorly defined) one you are, I'm assuming. But perhaps we are referring to different things. When I said that, I meant stories that explicity discuss weight. In my experience, explicit discussion of weight almost never pushed an anti-fat agenda. Sure, you can go to bodybuilding forums and find pretty extreme anti-fat stuff, but mainstream news? Not so much. Not for aesthetic reasons. Health, maybe, but that's entirely different.

    This isn't really my main point, by I feel the need to say that I *strongly* disagree with the claim that Christina Hendricks is "Hollywood Fat". She wears a girdle. She is very overweight. If you want to say she's average, well, in the United States, overweight is average, so I don't see your point. Also, freakin tiny? Perhaps compared to the average American, who is both sedentary and eats horribly, but among people who exercise regularly and eat well, it's not that unheard of.

    I get the feeling (please correct me if I am mistaken) that what you are talking about is implicit stuff, like the fact that nearly all female characters are played by women who fit within a narrow range of possible looks. Or that lad mags or whatever only sexualize women who look a certain way.

    True enough, but how exactly is that harming women? The claim seems unfalsifiable, which makes it seem more like an emotional plea than any product of inductive reasoning. Do you think that if that all went away, athletic kids would stop giving fat kids shit? I don't.

    Um, I'm sorry, but I kind of don't know how to respond to the "humiliated" thing. It puts me in a position where saying "I was insulted a lot as a kid too, some of it for being overweight, some leading to getting routinely assaulted while my teachers refused to intervene, so I have some experience with both insults and humiliation", is sort of off the table, because our experiences weren't remotely similar (also it sounds patronizing). For what it's worth, the Barbie line you referred to wasn't directed at you specifically, it was directed at some commonly recurring arguments against "the media".

    I think "so you gotta fuck us now" is a bit misleading; my point was more "so if you ever say anything about how fat women aren't sexy, you will be ridiculed on moral grounds". Your rather measured position is not at all what I was referring to.

  30. Anon - Christina Hendricks is not "very overweight." The Internet says she weighs 154 pounds and she's 5'8"--this gives her a BMI well in the "normal weight" range and is generally about what an average-size woman that height weighs.

    Gabourey Sidibe is very overweight--which is irrelevant because she still doesn't deserve to be made to feel bad about it.

    I get the feeling (please correct me if I am mistaken) that what you are talking about is implicit stuff, like the fact that nearly all female characters are played by women who fit within a narrow range of possible looks. Or that lad mags or whatever only sexualize women who look a certain way.
    That's true--and the fact that fat characters are often used as objects of comedy and/or portrayed as lower-class only.

    Do you think that if that all went away, athletic kids would stop giving fat kids shit?
    Couldn't hurt. And in many ways, "that all" is shit in itself. When TV claims to say who's sexy, and no one on TV looks like you... kinda stings.

    "so if you ever say anything about how fat women aren't sexy, you will be ridiculed on moral grounds"
    I don't think you can say fat women sexy. You can say you aren't attracted to fat women. Sexy is subjective.

    (Also, best to only say you aren't attracted to fat women when it's actually a question, and not when a fat woman happens to be around or be the topic of a discussion. Otherwise it's kind of unnecessary.)

  31. Holly,

    You think the BMI is valid? Really? That's interesting. Again, if you have to wear a girdle (and she does), you are very overweight.

    Ok. I'm not pro-being-a-dick, which I hope comes across.

    "When TV claims to say who's sexy, and no one on TV looks like you... kinda stings."
    Here's a major point of disagreement (aside from the whole "using things that aren't people as subjects in sentences that you accuse of having hostile agendas" thing): I don't think that "tv" decides that, I think that that's the opinion of the average person to begin with (most people find guts and double chins unattractive, that seems uncontroversial), so most of the people who grow up to work in tv will write or cast people in line with their own opinions.

    "I don't think you can say fat women [aren't] sexy"
    I don't understand your use of the word "can't" here. I'm not trying to be a dick, but what do you mean? Obviously you don't mean "you aren't capable of saying that fat women aren't sexy", because I am. If you mean "In my opinion, saying that fat women aren't sexy is a faux pas" then it looks like you are using the word "can't" merely to lend credibility to what you say, which seems at odds with the rest of your arguments, which are very precisely stated.

    "Sexy is subjective"
    Well, yeah. So is taste in music or films. I don't think that most adults actually believe that when somebody says "this album is great!" that greatness is some quality that the album has, like its running time, that other people who don't agree on are simply not seeing because of how stupid they are. But we still use language as if that is the case.

    Why? I don't know, but that's how the language is. So, you're instructing (or encouraging) me not to talk about sexiness in the normal way I talk about everything else. Are you telling me that I should speak (and write and type) in E-Prime for everything, or only for the subjects which have the possibility to hurt your feelings? (This sounds really obnoxious, but I honestly don't intend it that way; I am curious about how consistent you are in your beliefs)

    "(Also, best to only say you aren't attracted to fat women when it's actually a question, and not when a fat woman happens to be around or be the topic of a discussion. Otherwise it's kind of unnecessary.)"
    Yeah, I knew that actually, but I appreciate how thorough you are.

  32. I don't buy into BMI entirely, but when someone is tall and has a low BMI, it's a pretty good benchmark for figuring that they aren't huge.

    As for girdles, they make girdles in extra-small. (And nobody on Earth "has" to wear one unless they're recovering from surgery in something.) It's hardly an indicator of being overweight, much less "very overweight"--it's an indicator of wanting to look smaller or differently shaped.

    5'8" and 154 is actually a very ordinary size, not skinny but by no means anywhere near obese, and if you consider that "very overweight," well, I don't think you have a leg to stand on in arguing that our culture has no bias against fat people, or that it's easy to rise above that culture.

    only for the subjects which have the possibility to hurt your feelings?
    Yeah, actually. You do have to be more careful talking about things that hurt people's feelings. And fat--especially for women--is a really emotionally charged thing.

    Shit, you don't have to. There's no "can't" here. You can totally talk all day and into the night about how fatties aren't sexy. But that would put you square in dick territory.

    I'm not asking you to say fatties are sexy, understand. Just maybe to leave your opinion of our sexiness out of your discourse entirely.

    And seriously, Christina Hendricks is just not that big.

  33. Holly,

    I don't understand why people don't just stick to body fat percentage, personally.

    I feel like you're falling prey to the differences in determining fatness that I mentioned earlier (you're talking about sizes, guys, including me, don't care about them).

    Again, if fat is ordinary in this country (and it is) then your point isn't exactly served by saying that someone's physique is ordinary.

    Did I argue that our culture has no bias against fat people? I thought I argued that our culture doesn't have an agenda advocating unobtainable (alliteration!) thinness. I agree that our culture has a bias against fatness.

    Btw, you didn't answer my question about whether I should use E-Prime for everything.

    It makes me a dick? So saying "fat people aren't sexy" is a dick thing to say, but saying "in my opinion, fat people aren't sexy" isn't? Is it really that much to expect people to understand that "imo" is implied when we aren't discussing matters of objective fact? I don't think it is. This isn't even addressing the differences of opinion about how adults should be expected to handle insults (because that seems to be a source of major disagreement between us), it's just about recognizing when something is subjective without someone telling you.

    Also, if you are saying that I must clarify that I am only stating my opinion, will that go both ways? By that I mean, do you expect fat women to say "In my opinion, I am sexy, but of course sexiness is subjective, so I am neither right nor wrong when I say that"? Or are you ok with fat women saying "I'm sexy". I am.

    Out of my discourse? But I *do*. Look at my posts: I started answering a question (about what determines "fatness") then answered Simone's question, then responded to your posts. I hope you don't assume that just because I don't agree with you, I spend time going around harassing fat people. Even if I didn't have a sense of empathy, it would seem like such a silly way to spend my time.

    I'm a little confused, I thought that your thesis was basically "sexy is subjective" but now you are telling me that I'm wrong about Christina Hendricks?

  34. Anon, I don't even know what we're arguing about anymore.

    The only think I'm really trying to prove is "be nice to people" and beyond that, ugh, whatever.

  35. Holly,

    Well, I asked you some questions after you asked me some questions, so there's that.

    I'm sorry if it's frustrating or something, that wasn't my intention. I thought that it was fair to ask you questions since you started talking to me.

  36. If you're going to argue that being 5'8" and 154 is "very overweight" by definition, then yes, you're being a douchecanoe.

    (I also like 'douchecanoe' because it's so silly and meaningless. Like 'fuckmuppet'. 'Douchebag', however, is an insult because a douchebag is a gross thing, being used to clean female parts.)

  37. Oh, the multi-layered levels of wrong...

    @mythago: Totally with you on the height/weight thing, but you kinda lost me on the insults. Female parts? Not gross, generally speaking, and also normally self-cleaning, so I'm strugling to see where an unnecessary "hygiene" device gets its insultiness from.

    May as well call them an antiperspirant and have done with it.

    Also, "fuckmuppet" is not meaningless. In fact, there's probably a large number of people with a Miss Piggy fetish. Or maybe Gonzo...

    @Anon: saying "fat people aren't sexy" is as ridiculous as saying "black people aren't sexy", or "blue-eyed people aren't sexy".
    It reduces their entire physique, shape, size, level of athleticism and style of movement into one derogatory word, and then ignores every other meaningful thing about that person. Whether it's "just" your opinion or not, saying it tells people much more about your values than it ever will about the supposed "fat people" you have in mind.

    PS. Wasn't sure who this Hendricks person is that we're using as a benchmark ... then I followed the link ... now I'm wondering just how sane Anon 9:18 actually is. No, really, who were you talking about again?

  38. Um, wow, I guess I'm kind of obligated to respond. Here goes:


    Two things about your Christina Hendricks assertions:
    1) I don't recall agreeing that the 154 number was correct in the first place
    2) For the last time, read my post about the differences in determining fatness. You can cite numbers (accurate or not) all you want, but if someone has a gut so large they need to wear a girdle to fit into a dress, they are fat (also for the last time, "imo" is implied whenever not talking about statements of fact).

    I surprised I have to point this out, but I didn't insult you (or Holly, or Simone) for having a difference of opinions. (I also didn't pat myself on the back for ripping off Patton Oswalt's "douche-random word" bit)

    @Mr Monster:

    Comparing "fat people aren't sexy" to "black people aren't sexy" is wrong in about every way possible. A more accurate comparison would be "people who have poor hygeine aren't sexy".

    Why? I'll walk you through it: being "fat", like having poor hygeine, is entirely due to a person's choices (repeated, made hundreds of times), completely changeable, and reflects to some degree or another on what the person values. *None* of these things are true about skin tone or eye color.

    Your moralizing that follows this terrible analogy is tedious, and I suspect not really an invitation for me to comment so much as a chance to vent your frustrations. I'm happy to let you have that.

    Insulting me for having a difference of opinion? Directly after criticizing my "values"? I'm not sure if you're familiar with hypocrisy, but excellent work.

  39. Anon, I believe you have crossed what is called in astrophysics the Troll Event Horizon.

    I don't really feel like re-explaining everything I've ever said about weight (it's morally neutral, it's difficult to change at will, it's not an excuse to be a dickbag, it's an attribute of a human being who has feelings), so I'll just say--you're starting to sound suspiciously like a "but fatties are FAT" troll. Knock it off.

  40. Holly,

    Wait, what? How? I've insulted no one. I'm responding to people who have insulted me.

    I've made clear, in almost every post, that we have differences of opinion, and that I don't seek to make anyone feel bad because they disagree with me.

    I agree completely that's it's not an excuse to be a "dickbag". Completely. Without reservation. I agree that it's morally neutral. I never said it wasn't. I agree that it's difficult to change.

    If you're upset that my responses to the insulting posts of mythago and Mr Monster is not quite as courteous as my previous posts, I'm sorry. Really. I attempted to respond to them as politely as possible. I know that having rude comments on your blog isn't cool, so I did my best to deal with what they said without worsening the situation.

  41. Anon, you're insulting me. I'm much shorter than Ms. Hendricks and much heavier. And while I'm not offended that you don't find me sexy--hell, there's lots of people I don't find sexy, for all sorts of reasons!--I'm a bit offended that you keep continuing this argument, as it suggests some issues with fat that go well beyond "doesn't give me a boner, but hell, neither does granite or a domestic mouse."

    I'm also insulted by your statement that fat is a choice, because I have many times made the choice to be skinny, but it hasn't worked yet. I have never once made the choice to be fat. I've made the choice to not be hungry, but that's a very different thing.

    Also, I don't ever wear a girdle. Seriously. And I can even wear nice dresses! Turns out that--like girdles--they make dresses in all sorts of sizes.

  42. Also, seriously, how often does someone ask you "do you find fat people sexy?"

    It's such a non-issue.

    Although not as much of a non-issue as the myth that fat girls want your boner. We really just want your respect, and answering that request with "WELL YOU CAN'T HAVE MY BONER" is deeply disrespectful and also rather "women are for sex"-objectifying.

  43. Holly,

    Ok, I'm sorry, but I don't see how you can say "you keep continuing this argument" is the basis for the "you're insulting me" thing. You started the interaction by talking to me, I responded to what you said point by point, because that's what a respectful discussion is. As I understood it, when we were talking, it was very civil.

    I only started posting again because other posters insulted me, as well as made very poor analogy. I did not harp on a subject with no provocation. Literally every single post of mine has been a reply. Every one.

    I think there's a misunderstanding here; I didn't say "being fat is a choice", because that's not true. What I said was "[being fat is] entirely due to a person's choices". Plural. That's why it's difficult, because it's not a single choice, it's thousands in succession. Saying "fat is a choice" is asinine and wrong. Just like being muscular isn't choosing to go to the gym once, being fat or not fat isn't a single choice.

    I am sorry that when I originally said that, it wasn't more clear, I should have realized that clarification was necessary, because nearly everyone doesn't mean what I meant when they comment on choice.

    I don't know why you're bringing up the girdle thing. I'm sure you can wear nice dresses. I'm not interested in insulting you. You seem cool, from the blog posts.

  44. In response to your second post,

    You have my respect. Taking what you posted seriously and responding to it is a sign of respect. If I didn't respect you, why would I do that? If I didn't respect you, and I was interested in hurting your feelings, why wouldn't I just cut to the chase and say something horrible like "tl;dr fatty"? I don't spend time thinking about what people that I don't respect say.

  45. I don't know what you're trying to prove then, anon.

    We agree, awesome, handshake, I'm going to bed.

  46. The "I'm not fat!" or "I'm not a dyke!" thing reminds me of something I read in the book Yellow, where the author talks about the dilemma Asian Americans sometimes find ourselves in when ppl attack us and say "Asian ppl eat dogs!" or something along those lines. xD And the thing is, if you respond by "No we don't!" or "I'm not like those Asians, I don't!" we're admitting that there's something wrong with it (when in some cultures, or places, eating dogs does happen, I mean which animals are different from others is a cultural construct), and something wrong w/ "those" Asian ppl. :\ So the solution he suggests is to question why is that an insult? Why is that bad? What's wrong w/ eating dogs? :] Like you did in the post. What's wrong w/ being a dyke? :] Even if you're not, why is it bad if you are?

    What's wrong with being fat? (I know it's pretty ironic for me to say that since I've got the ED :\ and maybe I have no right to :\)

  47. I - I have a confession to make.

    My mother was a fat woman. No judgements made here, she was my mother and she was awesome and that was that. And as you've said, pigs are adorable, intelligent, clean, and personable animals. And my five-year-old self thought he was very clever, after watching a documentary on pigs, by making a direct comparison to my mother - and then proceeded to not understand in the slightest why this prompted a spanking, because pigs are awesome you guys what did I say wrong???

    (Though if any good came of this, it was probably that my parents saw how useless the punishment was and took to telling my what I'd done and why it was wrong, thereafter.)

  48. "I've insulted no one." Anon

    Wrong again.

  49. @Mr. Monster:

    Really? No "you're wrong about my analogy, here's why" or "here's where you insulted people"?

    Just "Nuh-uh"?


  50. (ohforfuck'ssake)

    @Girdle Troll:

    First, I'm pretty sure you know damn well where you insult people, and I think you take great pleasure in doing so. Just because you can smile, and smile, and be a villain doesn't make what you're saying OK.

    You know what? I had a point-by point response all mapped out, but then I realised I was just re-stating what other posters had tried to get across to you. Which you ignored. So I'm not going to waste my time.

    The one thing I would really like to say is that your poor hygiene analogy doesn't work. For someone to have consistently poor hygiene requires them to conistently neglect themselves. For somebody to be fat does not require self-neglect, nor do their "choices" (which you pin the blame on) have to be consistent or even recent. In fact, your assertion that someone's physique is entirely due to their "choices" is just plain wrong: why you seem to disregard genetics and upbringing I can't say, but also please bear in mind that someone's ideal actions are often curtailed by circumstance. What they would like to do is not always what they end up doing. So people can "choose" to do the things that will make them thinner (or fatter) all they want; they'll still end up a variety of sizes based on factors other than their own personal preference.

    tl:dnr Yeah - just "Nuh-uh"

    And that's all I'm going to say on this.

  51. Addressing Mr. Monster's claims necessitated stating certain facts that might appear as if I believe that weight loss is trivially easy. I don't. I know from personal experience that it is hard. I just don't believe it's impossible.

    @Mr. Monster:


    So, just to make sure everyone is caught up, I'm a "villain". Avert your eyes, fair maidens, what follows is a summary of my evil, devious, smile-filled plan:

    Step 1: Answer question, make no personal attacks

    Step 2: Wait to be asked a direct question and respond to that with an unpopular opinion. Damage to her self esteem will be maximized by not making any personal remarks.

    Step 3: When the blog writer asks me a direct question (and I know she will, because all smiling villains can see the future), address what she says point by point

    Step 4: Repeat step 3 as needed, taking especial, villainous care to clarify any points of confusion

    I don't mind you saying "I had a great argument showing exactly how you're wrong, but I'm not going to say it". I do mind you saying that I've ignored what anyone has said to me. That is simply a lie (if you have read my posts, willful ignorance if you haven't). I have responded to what every person who addressed me said.

    Awesome, dude! (srs) You responded to my analogy! Allow me to show you the same courtesy:

    "For somebody to be fat does not require self-neglect"
    So by your definition, lack of exercise and caloric excess isn't self-neglect?

    "nor do their "choices" (which you pin the blame on) have to be consistent or even recent."
    So a moment of indulgence from years ago, makes a healthy diet (in the "what-I-eat" sense, not the "eat-weird-shit-for-a-little-while" sense) and exercise irrelevant?

    "In fact, your assertion that someone's physique is entirely due to their "choices" is just plain wrong"
    You've misread my comment. I didn't claim that a "physique" was due to their choices, I said being fat was. Those are different. Mesomorphs can't turn ectomorph, that's obvious.

    "why you seem to disregard genetics and upbringing I can't say"
    Because neither makes an informed adult unable to make unpleasant choices.

    "What they would like to do is not always what they end up doing."
    This is a really intellectually dishonest bit of equivocation. Yes, what people visualize and tell themselves they will do, they don't always do. But, there is no circumstance where someone physically initiates an action to lose weight, and their brain says "DOES NOT COMPUTE" and they become paralyzed.

    "they'll still end up a variety of sizes based on factors other than their own personal preference."
    But not other than their caloric intake. Which is subject to choice.

    I'd like to thank Holly for graciously allowing a spirited discussion such as this one to continue.

  52. Anon, this isn't "spirited," this is asinine.

    Freakin' let it go already.

    I'll be over here, deciding to be fat (which I call "eating dinner").

  53. Holly,

    *sigh* Ok. I'm done apologizing.

    My posts:

    1) "here's how I think men and women are different in how they decide who is fat"
    2) "I don't agree that the media focuses excessively on thinness"

    Then what happened?

    You started asking me questions.

    I answered the questions. I asked you some, which you mostly didn't answer (should I use E-Prime for everything? is sexy subjective or not?).

    What did you do? Accuse the guy you asked the questions of saying "WELL YOU CAN'T HAVE MY BONER".

    I politely said, "that's not what I mean". Every time you did this. Every time you accused me of saying and believing something I don't, I explained my position.

    You assumed, that because I didn't quietly agree after your first post, I was some mustache twirling cartoon that hated you.

    Know what?

    I don't hate you. Even after all your bullshit misreading and refusal to honestly participate in a discussion you started, I feel no urge to call you a name.

    People make mistakes, and you're a legitimately talented writer that I still respect, so making some glib remark about Rhetorics majors like I want to would be wrong. (and no, that doesn't count as apophasis)

    Best of luck, I look forward to seeing your response where you interpret this as "KiLl ThE FaTties!!1!".

    (If you read my posts, maybe you'll notice that I never said fat women can't be sexy, other than to quote your use reference accusing me of saying it. Or maybe that's too much to hope for. )

  54. Anon Troll:

    Regarding 'choice':

    I'm fat. I am also very healthy. I eat a normal amount of calories and less fat than average. I exercise slightly more than average. I will probably still be fat for a long time.

    I did not choose to be fat. I chose to be healthy, to be happy, to not starve myself. If that reduces me as a person, me as someone with feelings, me as someone who deserves no less respect, then fuck off.

    There are legitimate medical diseases and conditions wherein people literally cannot not be fat. You don't have to date anyone you find unattractive--in fact, you don't have to date anyone at all!

    Stop saying 'but fat women are UNSEXY! Won't somebody think of my boners!' Stop pretending you're concerned with health. Stop saying people who are average-sized are fat.

    -A Huge Pig

  55. I feel that 'fat' isn't quite right, because I don't actually have that much fatty tissue. I'm much more muscular, which people mistake for 'fat'.


  56. Anon Troll,

    Being fat is not necessarily a choice. And even if it is, it doesn't deserve any hatred because of that.

    Being unhygenic isn't absolute. What would you consider to be a standard of hygenie? Showering every day? What about not having leg hair? Wearing antiperspirants? Even then, some people cannot necessarily help with their hygenie. Some people smell bad, and they literally cannot kill it. (Rotting fish syndrome, for example.) And some people choose to abide by different standards of hygenie, and it doesn't give you (or anyone else) leave to disrespect them.

    Also, you can generally get clean with a good shower. You can't stop being fat so easily.

  57. Anon who keeps leaving increasingly anti-fat comments about how he doesn't have anything against fatties here, you can give up, because I'm not going to publish them.

    Perhaps you have been tragically misunderstood. In that case, you've just got to walk away knowing that there are five or six people, on the Internet, who do not even know your Internet name, who will forever misunderstand you. Sorry. Such is life.