Monday, July 20, 2009

"Fat Acceptance"

Quick. Which one of these girls is more attractive?

I'm sure you didn't have to think. Neither of these two girls is a professional model. Neither is obviously stunning, nor very ugly in the face or deformed. They have the same skin tone and hair color, and they are in approximately the same state of undress, and in the same beach setting. They are probably within 3 years of age of each other (neither is "old"). The most obvious difference, of course, is that the girl in blue and green is fat, and the girl in black is not.

You chose black, I'm sure. But did you know that this is only due to social stigma against fat people? It's true! Actually, both women are equally beautiful, only our evil society unfairly stigmatizes the fat girl. Luckily, there are some brave academics out there working in the field of fat acceptance to save the day...

/end snark.

The New Yorker has a decent article out this week about obesity in America. The author is the prolific Elizabeth Kolbert and the article is good in that standard New Yorker way: the prose is clean and highly readable, even if it doesn't really tell you anything you didn't know before.

Kolbert reviews a series of books on why Americans (and, increasingly, people in other countries as well) are so goddamn porky. You've heard it all before: Our brains are wired to crave sweets and fats because those kept us alive in hunter-gatherer days; Modern "food technology" has given big food corps new ways to cram more calories into each bite (รก la high-fructose corn syrup); Super-sizing has slowly but surely increased the acceptable serving size, and humans are generally don't get wise to this unless it's specifically pointed out to them and even then they don't seem to care. Etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

But the real eye-opener, the real eye-gouger-outer, comes near the end of the piece, when she discusses "fat acceptance." I've been vaguely aware of the movement against stigmatizing fat people for a while now. Even the Simpsons satirized it well over 10 years ago when Homer larded up to over 300 pounds, started wearing mumus and a "weird fat-guy hat" and actually gave an impassioned speech about the rights of the obese to a bunch of snickering movie patrons.

But the "academics" quoted in Kolbert's article are truly unbelievable:

So what’s wrong with putting on an extra pound, or ten pounds, or, for that matter, a hundred and ten? According to the contributors to “The Fat Studies Reader” (forthcoming from New York University; $27), nothing. The movement known variously as “size acceptance,” “fat acceptance,” “fat liberation,” and “fat power” has been around for more than four decades; in 1967, at a “fat-in” staged in Central Park, participants vilified Twiggy, burned diet books, and handed out candy. More recently, fat studies has emerged as a field of scholarly inquiry; four years ago, the Popular Culture Association/American Cultural Association added a fat-studies component to its national conferences, and in 2006 Smith College hosted a three-day seminar titled “Fat and the Academy.”

At least back in the 60's it sounds like they were having fun. I'd have more respect for "fat activists" if they went around handing out candy rather than holding "three day seminars" at Smith College. Incidentally, what do you think was on the menu at that seminar? Did they truly embrace the cause and serve chili-cheese fries and churros, like stoners lighting up at a "Hemp Day" concert? Or did they eat tidy portions of grilled salmon with lentils, and if so, how painful was the cognitive dissonance?

Among the founding principles of the discipline is that weight is not a dietary issue but a political one. “Fat studies is a radical field, in the sense that it goes to the root of weight-related belief systems,” Marilyn Wann, who describes herself as five feet four and two hundred and eighty-five pounds, writes in her foreword to the “Reader.”
I almost can't believe this isn't a hoax. Weight is not a dietary issue? Does there come a point when self-satire reaches a saturation point and the ego must capsize in its own rancid sea of idiotic nonsense? Apparently not.

Kathleen LeBesco, a communications professor at Marymount Manhattan College and another contributor, has put it this way:

Fat people are widely represented in popular culture and in interpersonal interactions as revolting—they are agents of abhorrence and disgust. But if we think about “revolting” in a different way . . . in terms of overthrowing authority, rebelling, protesting, and rejecting, then corpulence carries a whole new weight as a subversive cultural practice.
This person has a real job, as a real academic. She pulls a paycheck. It's absolutely astonishing. She's just making shit up. What's up with that puerile play on the two meanings of "revolting"? Perhaps I'm being too generous, but I have to believe that on some level Professor LeBesco realizes how utterly facile and disingenuous this is. But then, one must never underestimate the power of groupthink to brainwash people. I've seen the inside of Cultural Studies and contemporary English departments up close and personal. People talk this way all the time without batting an eyelash. Corpulence as a "subversive cultural practice"? Hmmm.. maybe if an actress in a rendition of Hamlet is so fat she caves in the stage. I suppose that might count as corpulence subverting culture.
According to the authors of “The Fat Studies Reader,” the real problem isn’t the sudden surge in obesity in this country but the surge in stories about obesity. Weight, by their account, is, like race or sex or bone structure, a biological trait over which individuals have no—or, in the case of fat, very limited—control. A “societal fat phobia,” Natalie Boero, a sociology professor at San Jose State University, writes, “in part explains why the ‘obesity epidemic’ is only now beginning to be critically deconstructed.”
Ah, now we come to it. At root of all these kinds of verbal contortions is always a desire to shift blame to someone else. No one is ever responsible for their own actions. It's not you, you see, it's your bone structure. The real problem isn't obesity, it's talking about obesity. If we all just shut up and got sensitive, the fat would no longer get diabetes, nor would they look disgusting. The disgust you feel when you see a morbidly obese person isn't that person's fault, it's society's fault.

What vile, Orwellian bullshit. Not only do they make a claim that is patently false, but they then turn around and claim that it is the other side which is twisting reality. They claim it's all a false construct; but of course in the process of doing so they create their own ridiculous false construct. Anything, anything, to avoid the simple reality that fat people are unattractive and that if they ate less and exercised more, they would no longer have a problem. I hardly need mention that anyone who travels outside of the U.S. can see what normal humans look like. We have a diverse pool of genotypes in this country of course, but whether you travel to Africa, Ireland, the Mediterranean, the Korean peninsula, or rural Mexico, you can find the exact same genotypes, only not disgustingly fat. It's not your "bone structure," Eric, it's you.

Once again, the real irony, the real crime, of this "thinking" (and that's stretching the word to the breaking point) is that what it's really doing is relegating fat people to a life of second-class citizenship. They're trying to unsalt the ocean with teaspoons of rainwater. It's never going to work. It's against nature. But to the degree that they can convince others with their sophistry they conceal that truth, and thereby actively make the problem worse.

I don't know where all this is going. Race Studies and Gender Studies departments are of course completely out of hand and absurd at this point. But at least it was once possible to make a cogent and forceful argument that women and black people deserved a better seat at the table; and that it was worthwhile to actively lobby to this end. But the self-satire of the anti-merit self-esteemers has reached truly epic proportions (pun intended). I'd like to predict that this kind of prima facie absurdity can't go on much longer, but the track record of the absurdists is quite formidable. There's probably no end in sight.

In the meantime, enjoy the few remaining fit American women while you can, fellas. In the near future it's going to be all-outsourcing all-the-time if you want to find a girl who doesn't make you have to reach for the Viagra.


  1. "It's not you, you see, it's your bone structure."

    Even if that were true, mocking fat people is the only method of population control we have. Sounds like a winning strategy. Either shame them to excercise more or to refrain from having biological children. Problem solved.

  2. Growing up in Europe I am more than used to the "it's the society's fault" argument. Apparently, I was responsible for the junkies on the street, crimes, poverty, mass murderers and guys who keep their own daughter in the basement as sex slaves.

    It's that argument where stupid ideologies cross the line. By turning the table and putting the blame on us, they do more than just lie to themselves. And as a fellow academic, I get outraged by the travesty of accepting random bullshit studies into the curricula as well.

    But, the most fascinating thing are the chubby girls themselves. The reason you don't see them in Europe and Asia is that the marketplace is full of fit fertile females. The pressure on girl to stay this way is tremendous. The reason fat girls don't feel bad in the states is that they are surrounded by equally fat or even fatter girls - and guys willing/forced to hit that.

    The number one thing a girl can do to boost her attractiveness is to lose some pounds. It's as easy as holding back on sweet and fatty foods. Yet, many can't even manage that. Just keep that in mind next time a female posts snappy comments about male improvement on this or befriended blogs.

  3. @Manuel Diaz:

    Yes, but part of the problem is what the research shows is that basically ALL humans have the ability to get really fat. Our bodies are designed to store fat whenever they possibly can, and we crave sweet and fatty foods. So it's not like there is a subset of people in the population that you can target on a reproductive angle.

    The shaming angle is really where it's at. Humans are frail creatures, and they will do all kinds of fucked up things in bad circumstances. Being permissive about morally rotten behavior just leads to more of that behavior. I don't favor laws or anything — personal freedom is worth even more than good health and attractiveness — but I do favor social shaming.

  4. @11minutes:

    Oh my, it's so tragic when you see it: a young girl with a beautiful face, early twenties and still full of energy and life, and she's fat. What a waste of beauty!

    And you should be grateful you stayed on the hard sciences side of the campus. Over in the English departments I saw some pretty sad examples of "thought."

  5. Yes, I saw that on Friday--a beautiful young girl, who would have been a ten with about 30-50 lbs. less of her, clinging tenaciously to this tall, gorgeous National Guardsman in fatigues, at a fast-food place. I didn't see what she ordered.

  6. one quick point...there isn't a creature on this earth that is more unfortunate than a fat chick with small tits.

  7. Fat chicks are creatures? What? I thought they were ugly props that blocked my view of the beautiful world.

    I have no respect for any type of fat person, I will make "prejudice" generalizations as soon as I see one or interact with one. I assume they are lazy, have low impulse control, unhealthy, bitter, irresponsible and a massocist (Enjoys both physical and psychological suffering).

    If you had any type of self-respect you wouldn't purposly hurt yourself unless there was something psychologically wrong. Fat people like to say they have thyroid problems even though about 4% of people actually suffer... so the remaining 46% deserve to be held responsible for their own selfish behavior. Nothing convinces me to skip dessert than watching a fat girl drink soda or shove junk food down her blubbering tuby face. I would rather die than let myself FAIL to that level.

  8. LOL, what an enjoyable post.

    P.S. Its such a shame the girl on the left isn't in shape. I mean the major tools to work with are there. Good skin, pretty attractive facial features, nice blonde hair. She could be hot if she just -wanted- to be, but obviously loves eating honey buns and pizza and drinking coca-cola more than sleeping with/eliciting the love of a hot guy. So she is fat, and probably settles for a fat sloppy guy.

    I bet she smells.

    BTW-----all kidding aside, fattness and diabetes, and heart disease, and blood clots, and worn-out bodies (not easy being fat, those folks die sooner) is going to be costing us *all* a lot of money if we get that national health insurance. It really will be all of our business then.

  9. Regarding the issue of fat, a very enlightening book is "Good Calories, Bad Calories". It looks like we got a lot of things wrong about diet.

  10. i make a point of sometimes looking fat women up and down with a squinty look in my remind them of what people are thinking when they get the extra queso at moe's or have the all you can eat buffet at the chinese place down the street....and it is an issue: fat people have more health problems, particularly late in life...meaning those of us gainfully employed will pay for their adult onset diabetes. "no man is an island unto himself."

  11. @ Master Dogen

    Don't we all know that one person who can eat absolutely absurd amounts of food and never gains an ounce? I think that if the vast majority of metabolisms are capable of growing fat, there are some stellar ones...

  12. @Anonymous - all the people I know who seem to be able to eat without getting fat are extremely active. Activity level is the single most factor that changes metabolic base rate. Other than that our caloric need does not vary much (see link below):

  13. I think your first point was to the cunt of the nail: antifat attitude is strickly a cultutal feature (as demonstrated on the conversation above.) I think you forgat one point though, the waist to hip ratio, aka curves, the main indicator for high fertility on females.

    I´m a thin guy, so I of course have limitations towards fat chicks, but I have also noticed that different people have a different "optimal fat level" depending on their body structure. Some girls just look better with a little more fat on there bodies (i´m not talking about your examples :). And as much as I get turn off by over weight the same thing goes with too skinny girls, and they don´t have to be anorexia types.

    As an example. Im dating two girls at this moment. The other one is skinnier, the other one fatter, although not obiesed (body mass index high-normal, i´d guess.) The fatter one is way hotter, because she has curves, great tits and so on. Even though the skinnier is probably more attractive in the eyes of our culture, the fatter one makes my dick go up way faster. I "blame" the waist to hip ratio for this.

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