Another One Takes the Cut

I debated a bit whether to post this, but decided to.   When I started this particular job some year and a half ago I was pleasantly surprised to note that there were plenty of fat people around – safety in numbers, you know?   And I was far from the fattest by any means.    But where you find plenty of fat people, you find Biggest Loser competitions, you find dieters, and you find gastric bypass.  Sometimes despite knowing the fact that you believe the surgery (even in your libertarian heart) ought to be outlawed except for all but the most extreme cases of people who are caught between a rock and a hard place and can’t even get out of bed (though that doesn’t mean the surgery will be a cure) your supervisor insists on spouting off to you about how great she sees other people doing with either diets or surgery.  Even when said supervisor never succeeds in a diet herself; she internalizes every example of someone who has taken the cut or starved themselves thin and goes on and on about how it’s a cure for all “the sugar” and how “good” this or that one is being.   Gag me.

Well this time, the first woman who actually made me feel comfortable here, both because she was very fat and because she is really very nice, has decided since her brief, once-in-a-lifetime romance crumbled, that she too has to undergo bypass.    At first I didn’t get it; my supervisor said, “She’s going for a bypass,” and I thought something was wrong with her heart – I was shocked!  This woman has no trouble walking except for some knee pain from various prior falls in her life, she’s over 50, she eats a fair-seeming amount of so-called healthy food, she doesn’t have any mobility issues, no heart problems, no lung problems – just a very large amount of fat from the waist down.    And so-called pre-diabetes.   You don’t even know she’s fat until she stands up, because her shoulders and face are small; she’s like the fattest-bottomed pear I’ve ever seen, and she looks good to me.   She looks…healthy.  She IS healthy.

My fear is that she will no longer remain healthy after such life-altering surgery.

Against all hope, when she mentioned it to me, I hopefully mentioned “So…are you getting the band?”  (Please please please be getting the band.)   Nope.   “Because on the band you can cheat, and with the bypass it’s just one-time, it’s a done deal, there’s no going back, nothing you can do about it.”   Do people hear themselves when they say things like this?   Has she been informed that it can KILL her?   Has she been informed that it’s supposed to be for *serious* health problems and she doesn’t have any?   And then she gets nothing but encouragement from the people around her.   Now I’m not going to say anything one way or the other except to hope for a good recovery – but there is no real recovery from surgery designed to create within you a disability and malnutrition, is there?

I am afraid she will possibly turn to substances, if indeed she uses food for comfort (who doesn’t?) as so many surgery candidates do.   I am afraid that she will get rickets or any one of those other hideous malnutrition diseases or, God forbid, as happens frequently, they simply cut a little too much, you go bald and shrivel away and die over the course of a year, only they can’t attribute it to the surgery anymore.   I’m afraid she is going to wreck her healthy glow and her cheerful disposition.

Am I afraid that I’ll be one of the fattest women in the place?   No.   I have a feeling she will not even get down to my size before the first year is up and she’s not the only fat person by a longshot.   But I’m uncomfortable with how this surgery has been portrayed in this establishment, how many people have undergone it, and how many are held up as having done so well.   I don’t want her to be an example, do I?    Well, no.    I don’t fucking know how to feel about it because of that, and frankly, I don’t want to keep thinking about it right now.    It’s enough to make a person go on a diet, isn’t it?   (Well, no.)

Flying SWA Fat

Thanks to Marianne at The Rotund for her recent post – Death Fats With Wings: 10 Tips For Flying at 300 Pounds

Please read it if you get a chance. It’s a great guide for Traveling While Fat — which, as we know, isn’t that easy to do these days (with seat widths getting smaller and airlines cutting down on flights and using fat people as customer ire scapegoats).

I wanted to relay my recent experience with flying Southwest Airlines while fat. SWA, if you might recall, was one of the first US airlines to openly state that it will charge “too” fat passengers for an extra seat. Other airlines followed, and now nearly all airlines have explicit anti-“too”-fat policies. These policies usually base off of whether one needs a seatbelt extender, has the ability to put down the armrest, or doesn’t unreasonably encroach on a seatmate’s real estate.

I flew a total of four separate SWA flights (one roundtrip connecting once on each leg). Here’s what I determined:

1. For the wide-of-upper-body (which the tall and fat usually are), go for an aisle or a window. ONLY go for the window if the window is placed where your shoulder would naturally fall (centered above the armrest). Otherwise the window seat could actually be less roomy than the middle or aisle seats.

2. For the wide-of-hips: Go for a window seat. That way your hips can push out under the armrest on the window-side without encroaching, and you can lean into the window a bit, which can pull your lower body a smidgeon away from the middle seat. Avoid the middle seat at all costs — if your hips squish under the armrests, better to have one seatmate who has to deal with it rather than two.

3. If you are traveling with wide-framed companion and the flight isn’t full, get a good boarding spot and find an empty row behind the wing (where most people won’t want to sit). Sit in the window and aisle seat. Chances are, most people will squeeze between two average- or petite-framed people rather than sit in your middle seat, and then Voila! you have the whole row to yourselves, and can fly much more comfortably.

4. Further, don’t be afraid. The SWA flight attendants I have known have all been remarkably friendly. I think they would try their absolute best to keep you on the flight and not enforce the SWA rules whenever possible.

Not Sorry for MeMe Roth

If you’ve been reading about the recent irrational statements by MeMe Roth like I have, you are likely not surprised. MeMe Roth has been featured on news shows as an “expert” on obesity, since she purportedly has a fat family and is herself thin (and conventionally attractive and young enough to appeal to the talking news-Barbies and -Kens).

I’ve been scanning through the comments on the wonderful posts about MeMe Roth’s telling comparison (overeating is like raping your own body) and disordered confession (she refuses to eat until she runs four miles, which at the time of the interview – 330pm – had not yet occurred), and I noticed a good bit of anger, as well as much pity.

Where do I stand, as a victim of abuse and recovering disordered eater?

Not. Sorry.

Why?

Because she’s hurting other people. If she kept it inside or amongst friends and family (though NOT children), I’d feel sorry for her. I really very truly would. But the idea that she goes on national television, lies consistently about her one-person “organization” so that she can pander her hate agenda in front of millions of people already damaged by the misinformation fed to them by a culture that worships thin, makes me very assuredly shed every last particle of pity I could potentially feel for MeMe Roth.

Regardless of what one’s issues are, and how they were obtained, one NEVER has the right to harm someone else. Psychopathy is no excuse for murdering souls. The idea that MeMe Roth (Meredith Clements) was ever given a informational platform in the first place lets you know how sick and fatphobic our media culture is. Sure, she was likely put on not because the journalists producing the shows actually agree with everything she says, but because she’s “good TV.” However, it’s not like they could put someone on who they thought the public would perceive as a total raving lunatic, and certainly not multiple times. That means that they themselves buy into at least some of her rhetoric.

And that, folks, is the scariest part of this whole mess. Get Meredith Clements off the screen and into counseling, please! I will never be sorry for someone who foists their issues onto others in such a destructive manner. We all have stories, but not one bit of what has happened to us gives us the right to hurt others.

Nobody Wins the Oppression Olympics (except the haters)

I’ve been reading a bit of the reaction to this pulled ad, and have some thoughts. As a quick summary, the ad features jokes about people of color, Jewish people, gay people, and people of size, and is meant to highlight that for those who consider the first three jokes unacceptable, the fourth should also be considered unacceptable.

If this is an ad that is trying to make the point that jokes about people of color, Jewish people, or gay people are not cool and we need to also place fat jokes in the not cool category, it fails. There’s one overarching rule about the Oppression Olympics: nobody wins (except the haters, as they laugh their butts of at the infighting of civil rights activists).

However, there is a way this ad could work:  if it were appealing to people who already believed that jokes about people of color, Jewish people, and gay people were wrong, but may not believe jokes about fat people are wrong. On its face one might think this is a small group, but trust me, there’s plenty of fat hate in liberal-minded communities. This ad would contrast what liberal-minded people already considered repugnant with something they perhaps did not, and make them think about why it’s okay to hate on fat people, if they’re so liberal-minded and all.

If the ad were portrayed as described in the last paragraph, it could work and be really meaningful. In that context — the one where the audience is filled with people who already don’t think it’s okay to hate on people based on their skin color, heritage, and sexual orientation — throwing size in the mix is interesting and could be the catalyst for those particular people to start questioning their own possible sizism.

Considering that the ad isn’t going to mean much to anyone except a liberal-minded audience at any rate, the argument that since the public *isn’t* completely liberal-minded is the reason the ad should be pulled, seems to taste a bit flat. There are indeed times when talking about discrimination as a general abstraction with many examples (including discrimination based on color, heritage, and sexual orientation) can help movements who don’t yet have a popular foothold even amongst the liberal-minded.

What do you think? Should the ad have been pulled because it “participates in the Oppression Olympics”? Are there times when talking about discrimination as a general abstraction doesn’t marginalize discriminated groups, but rather empowers them as being part of a more general phenomenon, an ugly part of human nature against which all sorts of marginalized groups should band together and fight? Should talking about sizism in the same breath as racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism be avoided, regardless?

Up in Arms: Judging a First Lady the Wrong Way

Puerto Rico Campaign 2008 Michelle Obama

For Mother’s Day (this past Sunday — hurry and send those belated cards, people!), Sally Quinn of the Washington Post brought the objectification of powerful women to new, dizzying heights: The Nation’s Embracing, and Embraceable, Arms

The laser-like focus on a First Lady’s body is nothing new. First Ladies who are young and conventionally attractive are held up as role models and breathlessly worshiped in conversation and print by members who sympathize with the party of that Lady’s husband; First Ladies who are dowdy, fat, older, or aren’t conventionally attractive are praised more for their programs or character, but tend to fade into the background or turn into fodder for late night talk show hosts (and these days, the comedic evening dailies).

However, the essay by Sally Quinn is, I think, a much more modern creation. Beauty has always been seen as a means to endow the lucky genetic accident with princess-like qualities, but today Healthism has pushed the idea of certain body type = moral superiority to a new, frightening level. That this is an essay espousing Michelle Obama’s role model status by turning her thin and toned arms into a symbol of the superior qualities of the Modern Female, implies that flabbier, less-toned, less youthful arms could not convey the same message of female strength and feministic advancement.

The conversation had been high-minded — religion, philosophy, the nature of evil…

…We then began a discussion about the significance of the first lady’s arms. Actually, it turned out to be equally serious. Michelle Obama’s arms, we determined, were transformational. Her arms are representative of a new kind of woman: young, strong, vigorous, intelligent, accomplished, sexual, powerful, embracing and, most of all, loving.

I can see how toned arms can imply youth, physical strength, and physical prowess. But strength of conviction, vitality, intelligence, ability, sexuality, kindness, and love? Certainly older women, or women with larger or non-toned arms, can have all of those qualities. Never for a moment when I used to lift weights did I think, “My arms look more toned now, I must be more intelligent/kind/able/loving!”

It truly is nonsensical and bizarre to claim that the shape of one’s arms can convey so much information about her moral character traits. And no, I think this went well beyond a simple symbolization in order to sell Mother’s Day copy about a popular mother in American culture at the moment. I think it is a symptom that, despite our liberal call for judging individuals based on their true character traits and not based on what they look like, we are, as a society, plunging ever deeper into the chasm of classifying character based on having the “right” body.

Individuals – especially women, but not exclusively – are invested with qualities they may or may not have, simply because of the way they look. Hence, Michelle Obama’s arms make her a “better” First Lady, woman, and mother, because they have a certain shape and circumference. She is endowed with greater qualities of character because of having the “right” kind of arms. By that same reasoning, women who don’t have those arms are ultimately worse women, mothers, role models, employees, students, and wives (“embracing,” “strong,” “accomplished,” “intelligent,” “loving”).

Ms. Quinn, you are sadly, quite wrong. And the kind of tripe you gush has nothing to do with feminism or praising Michelle Obama — it has everything to do with objectifying women and dehumanizing the First Lady. For shame.

On Weddings and Women and Weight (oh, my!)

s_bride-dress-200x300

In a week I’m going to be a married lady.

I’m looking forward to the ceremony, and the reception, seeing people I haven’t seen in a while, and getting family members together who haven’t seen each other in a while.

However, I’m not wrapped up in my wedding as if it were some peak of my youth, or a day which will transform me into some new “wifey” creature I have yet to meet. This is despite the (still, in this modern age) drumbeat that weddings are, for young women, as meaningful and final as death (it’s no coincidence that many classic novels featuring women end in marriage or death). Heck, I’ve been living with my fiancee for two years now, we have a mortgage and a cat, it’s not like much will change once we get married.

Marriage ceremonies, for many, center around a fundamental objectification of a woman.  Marriage is the ultimate day of triumph for a lady and her family, and hence much moola is invested in making the day a huge bash, and dressing up the women and their friends, meant to convey that the woman is a valuable, worth-while wife, as our current culture still defines her.

The ritual is, in fact, centered around making the bride appear as if she has high value, within the strictures of how value is defined in our modern times. This is from where the tradition of the parents of the bride paying for the wedding stems (it is a symbol of her dowry, which, most of the time, was the only monetary value with which a woman came into her married life). Also, the appearance of the woman herself must be that of a valuable object. One can’t convey to one’s family that one’s future bride has a math masters and a great singing voice and is kind to children and that is her true value: no, all the family will see is a woman in white, parading her body down an aisle.

Given the current Healthistic trend and the moral value invested in the width of a woman’s hips or the circumference of her upper arm, one can be damn well sure that the sense of the value of the bride will be, for many family members, tied into those numbers. Many a wedding I’ve attended has featured snarking about the bride: “Oh man, she shouldn’t have chosen spaghetti straps, really,” or “Oh man, she’s really spilling out…strapless?” or “I bet they won’t do the garter ceremony with her!” or “She really should have done something about those arms before the wedding.” And so forth.

So much value can be placed in, and so many assumptions can be made, from the appearance of the woman alone. And for many women, it is the one day they will be on display like no other, where all eyes will be on them, eyes of people who do not know much about the bride except how she looks. Given women are aware of how much value is place in their “numbers,” it can make even sensible ladies throw their sense out the window and try that liquid diet, or put their personal lives in jeopardy in order to get another hour at the gym. Even more sensible family members and friends can be sympathetically oppressive, suggesting the bride change her eating habits or exercise, making not-so-subtle hints about the way in which the dress fits. Silence is also telling: your mother and attendant are silent as you model your dress, saying weakly how it looks good, while the mother and attendant of the thinner girl gush about how she could “be in bride magazines,” etc.

30 lbs, the magical amount of weight for any bride-to-be to lose, can turn the lead-up to a wedding from stressful time filled with planning into a veritable nightmare. The day of the wedding the bride, hanging on to her most prized asset — her weight loss — greets friends and families through a starvation-induced haze. For what? So that she is not judged harshly by the possible (probable) bigot in their midst. She reinforces that a woman’s value is tightly wrapped up in the shape and circumference of her body parts, like an animal to be sold to the highest bidder.

What’s the point of this? The point is to bring attention to how harmful and damaging such a “wonderful” day can be for a woman, when it is the day she is told she must treasure as one of the best in her life. In order to be worthy of such a day, she is told, she must starve, sweat, whittle down, and loathe her body. The sum of a sufficient amount of torture and self-loathing, she is told, is one day she can rest on her laurels, since she will find her self-worth — at long last — in the approving gaze of strangers.

Face Transplant

Connie Culp

Above is Connie Culp, recipient of a face transplant. Her own face was shot off by her husband years ago, who then turned the gun on himself…and failed again. He’s locked away, thankfully. Connie managed to survive as well, but despite much reconstruction she had no sense of smell, no nose, one eye, no lower eyelids, could not eat or taste, and would not be able to recover these things through conventional reconstructive efforts.

One time a child said to her mother, “Mommy, you told me there were no real monsters and there’s one right there!” (To the pain – very real pain.) She magnanimously told the child that she wasn’t a monster but a woman who had been shot and showed the child how she used to look via her drivers’ license.

Through the efforts of a kind donor family, she was given a whole new face by the Cleveland Clinic, and at only 1/4 – 1/3 the cost of normal reconstructive surgeries. She can now smell, eat, taste, and is doing fabulously – having to take very few immuno-suppression drugs, regaining blood flow and muscle tension. The excess folds will be removed as she continues to recover.

The clinic is going to **absorb the costs** of the surgery because it was experimental. This is the beauty in action of what is left of the free market – because they were allowed to make and use profits, they were able to advance medicine greatly, help people in genuine need regain meaningful things in their lives (smell and taste and food? Let me tell you, she’s mighty glad to have now eaten hamburgers and fries and pizza again!) In addition to advancing medicine and help someone in real need, they are even advancing a way to help cut the costs of some very expensive procedures, like reconstructions. All without the government using trillions of confiscatory tax dollars to do so.

These things don’t occur under fully socialized regimes, and can’t in the long run, because it all has to be rationed and progress – real progress – doesn’t get made. The market is able to let people do fabulous things like this, things that would have been pure science fiction only scant years ago. Why are we so willing to kneecap it and halt the progress of the most advanced societies on earth (who also end up providing care pro bono to some of the poorest people in the world – where do the children from Middle America with harelips or who are conjoined come to get free advanced surgeries to save their lives?) while trading in our liberties at the same time? Not without a fight.

And to brighten your day, here’s a bit of cheer! (Though I’m a little sad the cloud left at the end – without him there wouldn’t be rainbows now, would there?)

I might have chosen a different product, but it’s nice anyway 🙂 H/T The Rotund