In a comment over on this post at Shakesville, Kate Harding said something really awesome (well, she says many awesome things):

You don’t get to call yourself pro-equality and anti-bigotry if you’re still a fucking bigot. Not a very difficult concept, you’d think.

To put this in some context, the actual entry is discussing a truly disgusting bit of “journalism” published in what is supposed to be a progressive space.

This is just another example of the often-observed progressive tendency to defend all sorts of causes while stepping on the faces of fat people. And, of course, this isn’t all progressives (nor is it all conservatives). But it does appear to be a disturbing trend. PETA’s letter to Michael Moore (though I loathe most of PETA’s publicity stunts) also falls into this category.

What truly strikes me is the nature of the metaphor Jaime O’Neill is trying to construct. He wants to provide commentary on our national condition. He wants to make us think about being politically active again, about caring again. The problem is that he is mired in fat-phobia and, because he probably believes everything he’s ever heard about fat=death, it is far too easy to jump from an “unhealthy” body to an unhealthy nation. He’s fallen into the classic mistake of equating fat and/or health with morality.

He’s also, it seems, got quite a hard on for control.

We must reclaim our bodies and our minds from those who’ve snatched them from us. If we can regain our bodies and our minds, maybe we can regain our country, too.

Now, our bodies are complex mysteries. We know a lot about them but not nearly enough. And, even though we inhabit them, we do not have total control over how they react to things. Over how WE react to things. Because our bodies? Totally not separate entities that we can program to do our biding. Body and mind both influence each other but neither one has supremacy – and that is a terrifying thought.

Because it means we can’t, really truly can’t, totally control our bodies. Hell, as anyone who has ever experienced mental illness or just not been able to concentrate because of low-blood sugar can tell you, we can’t really control our minds, either.

And if we can’t control our SELVES, well, what else can we do but howl into the night, baying in fear to keep the dark away?

Well, we can learn to work with our bodies and our minds. We can control the things we can control and accept that we don’t HAVE to be in control of every single aspect of our lives for life to be good.

Fat does not indicate a body out of control. Because our bodies were never UNDER OUR CONTROL to begin with. If society is about who has the power and who does not have the power, then this idea that bodies are not controllable is an even more terrifying notion – it removes the standard marker with which power games are played.

And I think that is where fat-phobic progressives are going wrong. They believe in fighting for what they believe is the right thing to do (and it is! hooray activism!) but when what they believe is just reinforcing the dominant social paradigm, it is time for people to start questioning them.


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5 Comments

  1. Shade
    Posted July 5, 2007 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re on to something here. What is dieting (and anorexia) really about? Control. (over themselves)

    Why do hateful people make hateful comments to fat people in public? Control.

    Why do hateful people make hateful comments to women like Melissa McEwan on the ‘net? Control.

    Why do trolls come onto these blogs and scream about the “fatties”? Control!

    Why are we, as a society, so obsessed with control, anyway?

  2. admin
    Posted July 5, 2007 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Well, in a lot of ways, control parses as power. So, for people who don’t have social power, perceived control over themselves is a stepping stone to at least SOME dignity. But it seems to have backfired miserably.

    I blame our culture’s fear of death.

  3. Posted July 5, 2007 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “Because it means we can’t, really truly can’t, totally control our bodies. Hell, as anyone who has ever experienced mental illness or just not been able to concentrate because of low-blood sugar can tell you, we can’t really control our minds, either.

    “And if we can’t control our SELVES, well, what else can we do but howl into the night, baying in fear to keep the dark away?”

    That, right there, is the source of almost all my pain.

    Ouch.

    Ow.

  4. wriggles
    Posted July 6, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    We used to believe that God was up there controlling things, we’re losing that, so it’s gone ‘downstairs’ and become we humans control ourselves, the planet and everything.

    We’ll learn!

  5. zenjen
    Posted February 9, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to comment and say that I remember reading the essay in SN&R, since I live in the area that it’s distributed in. I wasn’t much aware about fat acceptance back then, so when I read the article, I didn’t get much upset with it. Was it cognitive disconnect? Acceptance that what the ‘journalist’ said was true? I don’t really remember, but reading the article again now through the perspective of someone who knows and accepts fat acceptance, well, let’s just say I’m a little pissed off at and ashamed of SN&R. To put things in perspective, the mainstream newspaper in the area, The Sacramento Bee, that SN&R always rags on for growing money troubles and shoddy journalism (Sac Bee does kind of suck BTW) did have a cover story about how it’s possible that people in the ‘overweight’ BMI category might be more healthy than people in the ‘healthy’ weight category, based on studies. Unfortunately I don’t know too much details on that article, because I didn’t buy it when I saw it and I forgot to read about it online (maybe I’ll see if I can find it later.)

    I think at least some of the hypocrisy of many progressives’ actions toward fat people comes from ignorance and lazy thinking, because I was there once. And control, that too (A look at extreme environmental activism can tell you that much).

    Hopefully though if SN&R prints something like this again, I’ll be more able and willing to do something about it.

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