Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: obesity

My Yearly “Fat” Post

I’m taking a quick break from my one week journal, after one entry! (hey, it is my blog and I can do what I want) because I’m reading all these posts lately on “fat acceptance – yes or no,” written by some female bloggers, and the tone of some of these posts — and the comments — is unsettling.

I find it odd that in the middle of difficult economic times and horrible disasters around the world, so many people are fighting online about weight issues.  Why aren’t women more supportive of each other on this topic?  I though blogging was supposed to be a meeting of the minds, not bodies.

What’s going on?!

Fat Acceptance is Bullshit
Jessica Gottleib

Coming Out
Swistle

I Call Bull
Aquafit

Fat Acceptance
Immortal Matriarch

What if Fat Doesn’t Mean Miserable
She Just Walks Around With It

I’ve written about women and size on my blog in the past.  In fact, someone asked me recently how I ended up with a majority of female readers.  It was not my intention when I started to blog.  If you go into my archives, you will see that my first three posts were dumb little items about pop culture.

My fourth post, on March 14, 2005, was a post titled OhmyGod!  A Size 14 in the Beverly Center!

This post was my first “true-life” entry (90% truth quotient) about shopping with “F,” my “cousin from Israel” for size 14 clothes at a popular mall in Los Angeles.  This “F” was not my cousin, but Sophia.  I was still unclear at the time whether to use her real name, or even to talk about my wife at all.  I was a blogging newbie.  When I wrote this post, I was not setting myself up to be someone specifically interested in women’s issues.  I’m not a woman, but I was MARRIED to one.  I was writing it as a guy who accompanied his wife when she went shopping for clothes, and it was a pain in the ass finding clothes for her.  Very few husbands enjoy shopping with their wives, including me, and I just wanted the experience  to be painless as possible, but after shopping a few times with Sophia, I understood why men wanted to date women who are size 2.  It wasn’t because they are “sexier.”  It is because they can get in and out of Macy’s in a shorter amount of time.  The size 2 clothes are on the main floor.  The size 14 clothes are on the seventh floor, by the kitchen appliances, and the styles tend to look like potato sacks.

This post attracted six commenters, all of them women, which was six more commenters than my first three posts combined.   The rest is history.  I started viewing my readership as being largely women, and once I tasted the forbidden fruit, I just couldn’t stop.

Throughout the years, Sophia’s size fluctuated between 12-16, depending on several factors, some health related and others just because we ate too many pastries.

Every year or so, I seem to bring up this weight issue, mostly because I saw how concerned she was over this subject.  In May, 2006, I wrote a post titled “Fat People.

In this post, I compared “fat” discrimination to anti-Semitism.   The comparison was probably unfair, but the post provoked a lot of discussion.

One of my favorite posts is titled “Neilochka Sex:  Boycott the  Fashion Industry!

In the post, I make fun of the lack of support between women over this weight discrimination issue.  If you think about it, mothers will boycott Motrin for a silly commercial, but say very little about 3/4 of their peers unable to go into certain stores which only cater to certain sizes (and surprise, surprise, many of those NOT size 2 are African-American and Latina women!)  I still get angry comments on this post, usually in support of the fashion industry.  I get a sense that some fashionable women don’t think other women “deserve” to wear nice clothes.

Three days ago, I wrote a darkly “funny” post about replacing our health care system with Jillian Roberts 30-Day Shred DVDs.  Some commenters got mad at me for writing statements such as:

“The fashion industry does a better job than the medical establishment in promoting HEALTH with their healthy thin, role-models. Those who insist that “real” (read fat) women should be portrayed in ads, are not your friends. These women, so-called “feminists,” are mostly lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies wanting to promote bad health to increase profits for diet pills.”

I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings, even though I thought I was making fun of exercise fanatics.   In some circles, this is called “satire.”  You should see what some female bloggers actually SAY without being tongue in cheek.

I’m not fat.  I don’t think Sophia is fat.  Neither of us have abs that are very impressive.  I do think obesity is an issue in America.  I do think exercise is wonderful and important, and I should try to get more healthy, no matter what my weight.

I also think education is important, and if guy drops out of high school, I don’t say he is a lazy loser, because I don’t know the circumstances of his life.   I also don’t look down him because when he becomes a plumber and makes ten times as much money as me, I don’t want him laughing at me for wasting my life with this ridiculous “writing” nonsense!

Be nice.  And remember, when you get to be 75, the bigger woman will always look younger.  My size 18 mother looks 60.  Her size 2 friend with 20 plastic surgeries looks 90.

We should all exercise.  We should all eat right.  Better education, housing, and pay for all Americans will do a lot more for obesity than calling names, or dismissing people wanting to accept themselves in a society that makes them feel second class.   Rather than judging each other on weight, we should judge each other on how many orgasms we have each month.  That is a better barometer of a person’s happiness.

Finally, as I said on Twitter earlier today, “God help us if they ever perfect penis enlargement and men are made to feel as insecure as women with their weight.”

Fat People

fat3.jpg 

I’ve written a number of posts about women’s weight issues, from an early post about looking for a size 14 at the Beverly Center to an inane post about Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie which still gets comments from crazed, anorexic teenagers.

It probably doesn’t make much sense why this issue interests me so much.  I’m not a woman and I’m not overweight.  I think what bothers me the most is the way being overweight is being demonized in our society — for both men and women, and “fat” has become a code word for something more than just weight, with meanings now associated with class and social standing.

This might sound weird to you, but I’m sure part of my sensitivity to a singled-out group comes from being Jewish.  I feel lucky to have grown up in New York City, where being Jewish is so common that even the Puerto Rican bus driver who took us to school knew when Yom Kippur was coming up.  While there were some tensions between blacks and Jews in my public schools, I never experienced traditional “anti-semitism.”  It wasn’t until I went to college and met Jews from other parts of the country, that I learned that the word “Jew” could be used as a dirty word.  Some synagogues in the South even used the word “Hebrews” so as not to appear too “Jewish.” 

I learned about “jewing down” the price, with its negative connotations of cheapness and unscrupulous behavior.   Was my mother “jewing down” all these years?  After all, my mother’s whole shopping strategy was to “shop for the bargains.”  I always thought that was what you were supposed to do!  But then I learned that wealthier “Manhattan” Jews went  to the more expensive stores to buy the products at higher prices — so they can look less Jewish!  After all, if the non-Jews are too dumb to look for the bargains, then we should become dumb, too.  But this never really worked, because then buying at the better store became the Jewish thing to do, so it undermined the whole reason for shopping there in the first place.  Luckily, things have changed, and now everyone is like my Jewish mother from Queens, shopping amazon.com to save ten bucks on a digital camera (with free shipping!).  (note to Arab media:  does this mean Amazon.com is a Zionist tool?)

I remember having a Jewish friend from Louisville in college and he was so obsessed about not being seen as a “cheap Jew,” that he would scold me if I picked up a “lucky penny” off the street. 

I don’t need to go into a history lesson about how Jews have been demonized throughout history.  You still see those images of beady-eyed Jews with hooked noses in Arab newspapers.   It’s the dehumanization of a people that makes it easier to exterminate a group or blow up a bus.

Not that Jews don’t have their own bigotries.  I’ve always been a bit of a snot-nosed kid on this subject of bigotry — always on a crusade.   I remember when my uncle would come visit, he would always used the word “schvatza” when talking about blacks.  (schvatza simply means black in Yiddish, as does the name Schwartz (like Schwartzenneger.  It doesn’t really have any negative connotations to it — it means black — but when Jews say it, they usually say it with a negative spin, meaning “ghetto blacks.”   When my uncle would say this, I would leave the table, angrily saying, “I will not listen to any of this racism!”   In retrospect, if I met a kid like me today, I would find him a humorless prig.

Now what does all this about Jews and blacks have to do with “overweight” people? 

I think the association started when I was listening to this song from one of my favorite artists, Ben Folds.   While reading the lyrics, think about how the imagery of “fat” people is used symbolically to represent everything that is wrong with our American consumer culture.

All U Can Eat (They Give No Fuck)
by Ben Folds

Son, look at all the people/In this restaurant
What do you think they weigh?
And out the window/To the parking lot
At their SUVs taking all of this space

They give no fuck/They talk as loud as they want
They give no fuck/Just as long as there’s enough

For them

Gonna get on the microphone/Down at Wal-Mart
Talk about some shit/That’s been on my mind
Talk about the state/Of this great nation of ours
People look to your left/Yeah and look to your right

They give no fuck/They buy as much as they would want
They give no fuck/Just as long as there’s enough

For them

Son, look at the people/Lining up for plastic
Wouldn’t you like to see ’em/In the National Geographic
Squating bare-assed in the dirt/Eating rice from a bowl
With a towel on their head and/Maybe a bone in their nose

See that asshole/With a peace sign on his license plate
Giving me the finger and/Running me out of his lane
God made us number one/’Cause he loves us the best
But he should go bless/Someone else for a while
And give us a rest

(They give no)Yeah and everyone can see
(They give no)We’ve eaten all that we can eat

Fat people = all you can eat = SUVs = Walmart

Now, I actually agree with Ben Folds about our culture of overconsumption.   But I don’t feel comfortable singling out larger-sized people to make the point.  Poetry can be used for harm as much as for beauty. 

I can hear the twelve year old kid in me asking the questions…

“Do you mean that skinny people never go to all-you-can-eat buffets?  Or that skinny people don’t own SUVs?  Isn’t it a fact that most rich people are actually thin — and they are the ones who are most benefiting from our society.  Isn’t it an easy target to use the fat Midwesterner as the symbol of the ugly American?”

Am I being a snot-nosed prig again? 

Recently I saw some reformed racist on Oprah explaining to her that “nigger” isn’t that bad of a word; he would never think of Oprah as a “nigger.”  And I’m sure there are people who still use the expression “jew down.” 

Maybe you’re thinking, “What’s so wrong with demonizing fat people, just like we’ve successfully demonized smokers?  Maybe it will force them to change.  We do have an overweight country.  And being fat is not healthy.”

But do we really want to shun those who are full-figured in the same way we force smokers out of the restaurant?   Why do so many women, for example, avoid “hanging out” with an overweight girlfriend?   Are they afraid that getting fat is catching?   And isn’t the very fact that I’m using the word “overweight” a sign of my own brainwashing by society?  By whose standard is someone overweight?  Am I talking about someone 400 pounds or a woman who is size 12?

Have you read about this poll done by Fitness Magazine?

“More than half of Americans say they’d rather lose their jobs than get fat.

Fifty-eight percent of women and 54% of men say they’d rather be unemployed than gain 75 pounds. And 63% of women and 55% of men say they’d rather be poor with no extra pounds to lose than rich and substantially overweight.

75% of men and 80% of women say they wouldn’t give up 20 intelligence-quotient points to gain the perfect body.”

Clearly, there is a large percentage of the population that fears being fat more than being poor  (I doubt these respondents were ever poor).  Being poor has some coolness to it  — songwriters write about it all the time.  But being fat is “shameful.”  And I’m sure there are many intelligent, liberal-minded, perfectly politically-correct people out there who would never think of saying anything bigoted against Jews, blacks, gays, Muslims, etc. — but who see no problem at all singing along with Ben Folds:

“Son, look at all the people/In this restaurant
What do you think they weigh?” 

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