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?

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Big dogs, and watchdogs, or: diversity makes us strong.

Hits count for a lot on the old internetz, but brother, they don’t count for everything. There’s something to be said for remaining critical and objective, but it’s not a trench in which to hide your biases while you fire at others. You’d think there’d be a low-tolerance for Baloney in the Fatosphere — I mean, we’re constantly getting the line, “Diets don’t work, but ~+~lifestyle changes~+~ do!” but apparently not.

Hit counts expose you in good and bad ways. And we all flub — maybe we don’t think about a particular political sect’s potential protests to that which we link, and perhaps we’re thinking one thing when we link and someone else is thinking an entirely different thing when they read that to which we linked.

No one is perfect. Especially not those who attempt to rip down a monolith with one out-of-context swipe. Constantly trying to find the keystone, those who desire to fell the monolith probe and pull, probe and pull. Finding a loose stone, they yank feverishly and, most of the time, are left with a heavy stone crushing them to the ground, the monolith still standing soundly.

It takes a lot of energy, that kind of hate, that kind of focus. Energy better directed where it can do the best good — like myth-busting the fat-haters — than trying (badly, and largely in vain) to paint another fellow blogger in the movement to be some evil word (fill in the blank. This word was: racist. We know that’s a loaded one around here. )

Here are some good posts which deal with the aftermath of this most recent in(fought?) hullaballo:

1. Shocking revelations about the Fatosphere (by Lindsay)

2. The Fatosphere is not a Hive Mind (by goodbyemyboy)

3. In a World Gone Mad (by Limor)

and a response — with a neat recent real-world example! — to the *real* issue at hand, which is the fight between those in the Fatosphere who support universal healthcare, and those who do not.

4. Taking a step back and thinking about the real story (by Sandy)

Healthcare decisions will no longer be those for individuals and their personal healthcare providers to make. Workers found to have high BMIs, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, or blood pressures will be required to enroll into wellness programs with their integrated disease management, along with weight loss targeting those with BMIs ≥35, and be given one year to improve, or be penalized $25/month. Those who are thin and have approved numbers will be exempt.

Diets aren’t ~+~lifestyle choices~+~, and government dictation is not the common good. Capisce?*

* An’ that ain’t racist, cuz I’m Italian. And you know what? It wouldn’t be if I weren’t.

Language as a Smoke-Screen

It’s long been accepted that political language is often filled with obfuscatory phraseology, meant to deceive people into believing one thing is true when, in fact, the actions behind the language imply the opposite. Vagueness in language is often employed in order to serve as a smoke-screen for deceit. For instance, take the following passage:

Plan for a Healthy America

“We now face an opportunity — and an obligation — to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates… My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”

— Barack Obama, Speech in Iowa City, IA, May 29, 2007

There are various forms of obfuscation employed in this speech snippet, taken from Obama’s campaign website. First, he begins stating we have an “opportunity” that is in fact an “obligation” to do such-and-such. Opportunities are not obligations: opportunities can be taken or ignored, signifying they are, in fact, optional. By beginning with the word “opportunity,” Obama makes what is in fact going to be mandatory seem optional, which is a much nicer state of things than mandatory compulsion. It is a trick to make people believe they still have freedom to choose when, in fact, choice will be taken away from them.

The next obfuscation is the phrase “to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s healthcare debates.” It is a phrase characterized by opacity: what does “failed politics of yesterday’s healthcare debates” mean, anyway? Does it mean we’ve been talking about it too much? Too little? In the wrong way? When was “yesterday”? In context, one might realize he is likely speaking about Hillary Clinton’s failure to get a single-payer healthcare system in place during her husband’s presidency. So the phrase was meant to mudsling without naming names, so that Obama could engage in character-bashing without being pinned as a character-basher. Again, language has been used to deceive.

The rest of the speech is an exercise in half-truths. His plan covers every American (false: some Americans will be covering other Americans who do not currently cover themselves and fall under some income demarcation, while some Americans who choose not to be covered will be forced to cover themselves. A “plan” cannot actively ‘do’ anything). He asserts your premiums shall be less — leaving out the hidden costs of co-pays, waiting lists, lower-quality care, intrusive programs into lifestyle and diet to be employed to make sure you’re not costing the system ‘too much,’ higher prescription prices, lower financial incentive by professionals to do research, higher costs of ‘optional’ care, etc.

If you are one of the “45 million Americans” (likely an inflated, rounded-up number) who doesn’t have health insurance, you shall ‘get it’ after Obama’s plan becomes law. You shall get it, indeed—some shall be getting a large bill they before with which they chose not to be burdened, for whatever reason.

Language has long been used in this fashion, and shall likely continue to be so used. Language plays a large part in how far we allow the government to intrude into our lives — if we are made to believe we still have freedom, our civil liberties can be degraded, one by one, and no one will notice until it’s too late.

That’s why Sandy’s reporting on the degradation of the Second Amendment taking place in the lead-up to the Supreme Court hearing on the latter is so very important. Allowing the government to search and seize without a formal warrant is a dangerous precedent. It can have implications, the most frightening of which do not involve arms: the government feeling free to break and enter as long as lip service is paid to public health and welfare.

We must be vigilant. And we must understand that our civil liberties were laid down as such for well-thought-out reasons, by people with experiential and/or academic knowledge on the darker nature of government power-mongering.