Monday, January 27, 2014

Not a Social Problem, or My Big, Fat Letter to MJ

Ragen Chastain, she of Dances with Fat fame, posted this morning her response to a Mother Jones article charmingly entitled "Grand Obese Party." (Get it? GOP! Lolz!) You're welcome to head on over, but it essentially says studies show Republicanism is very slightly associated with larger body size and Republicans value personal responsibility over government intervention, so if we vote Republican, we're gonna watch Americans' waistlines gradually expand. 

Oh, noes! Teh fatties are coming, teh fatties are coming! 

Ahem. Anyway, like Ragen, I felt slightly disgruntled that Mother Jones, a progressive magazine, jumped on board the fat hate bandwagon; as a result, I penned a letter to Mother Jones and Pacific Standard, the magazine that featured the story. I decided to publish my letter here in case others might commiserate or hey, maybe even challenge their own assumptions about the so-called social evil of obesity.

I'm stealing this from Ragen's post:


Let's give some feedback: 
Pacific Standard (who ran the piece):  pacificstandard@alissaneilpr.com
Mother Jones:  backtalk@motherjones.com
Comment on MJ's Facebook thread about the piece:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151981633102144&set=a.86221162143.85117.7642602143&type=1

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Dear Mother Jones and Pacific Standard:

I'm writing to voice my concern about Tom Jacobs' "Grand Obese Party" article. I understand your need to be both timely and provocative, but the article is offensive on a few levels. 

I admit I am deeply disappointed that your reporter -- and by extension, you -- trotted out the current cultural boogeypeople, TEH FATTIES, as another reason to loathe and fear Republicans. You may be shocked to know fat people can be liberal, too, although you shouldn't be, since, in spite of the "statistically significant" subtitle in the article, the correlation between fatness and conservativeness is extremely weak and does not prove causation. In fact, I am fat, well-educated, and very liberal. Incidentally, I am a college professor who teaches, among other things, social scientific research methods.

So, in short, the proof your reporter offers to link Republicans and fat persons is not only flawed but, well, not proof. This is not my greatest concern. I am mostly hurt and offended that Mr. Jacob's use of fat people in this article paints us (fat persons) as social problems. "
Bigger government or bigger waistlines: The choice is yours." Mr. Jacob's final line is offensive because it is deeply simplistic, scientifically incorrect, implies a subtle threat that if we don't vote progressively we will all come down with a bad case of fat, and, worst of all, assumes being fat is a bad thing.

I am fat. I am progressive. I vote in every election I can. I am smart; politically active; and live a very happy life with my partner, my cats, and my 381 pounds. I am not a social problem, and I don't appreciate Mr. Jacobs using my body type as such. I expect better of progressives; perhaps naively, I expect them not to perpetuate the overwhelming 
discrimination and oppression that plague fat persons. I expect them to recognize as illogical and discriminatory the faulty science -- the same scientific methods and assumptions that, in prior decades, characterized LGB persons as mentally ill and that told us non-Whites are inherently inferior to Whites -- that characterizes fat folks as ill-educated, lazy bumpkins whose only contribution to the U.S. includes raising the cost of healthcare. I expect better from you and other progressives. 

In the end, I have to wonder w
hat the point of the article is. Republicans are (very, very slightly) fatter. So what? Does this somehow prove Republicans are evil? Legitimize our disgust with them? Prove that if we vote Republican we'll buy into their anti-government rhetoric, forget to mandate our schools ban sugary soda, and gain 100 pounds in a year? 

I am not a social problem. I do not give you permission to use my body type as a shortcut for eliciting disgust and for demonizing other groups. 

Respectfully,
Elle Hill, PhD

2 comments:

  1. YAY!!! Effing YAY!!!!! You SAID it! And I stand behind you -- another fat, well-educated, liberal to the point of radical, politically and socially involved woman who does NOT give my permission to be cast as a headless fatty monster!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the validation and enthusiasm! I'm so glad my letter speaks to someone else! <3 Oh, and feel free to drop them a line.

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