Quick Hit: Wired Defines “Fatosphere”

So, the good (I guess) news is that the word “fatosphere” made it into Wired‘s “Jargon Watch” last week. The bad news is, here’s how they defined it:

Fatosphere n. A blogosphere of the obese, by the obese, for the obese. Often designated “no-diet zones,” fatosphere blogs seek to counter medical claims that obesity is a health epidemic.

Mmkay. I suppose “A bunch of blogs our factcheckers have never so much as glanced at” wasn’t as catchy.

Over at BFB, commenter Richie79 offers this alternate definition:

A loosely interconnected network of individual blogs, homepages and activism sites conceived with the purpose of countering weight-based discrimination through challenging social and medical misconceptions about fat people.

I like that one a lot better. What do you guys think? What’s your definition of the “fatosphere”?

75 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Wired Defines “Fatosphere”

  1. Wow Wired, any chance you can be more patronizing and insulting?

    I would define it as Richie79 said it

    “A group of people who are working to promote health at any size, truth about the obesity epidemic and objections to discrimination of any kind.’

  2. I think Richie hits it right on.

    And after all, why WOULDN’T they have someone in the fatosphere concoct a succinct definition?

    What are these writers thinking? Obviously they are not. Doesn’t the fact that it’s called the fatosphere and not the obesosphere provide a clue? Saying the fatosphere is about obesity is complete disconnect.

    I mean, it’s good that we warrant a spot, but if they’re going to get it wrong….

  3. Eh. I think this is one of those myopic things that people IN a movement can get up in arms over, but for someone like me (I have maybe 4 fat blogs on my blogroll), I genuinely didn’t see anything malicious about the blurb. Its a perfectly reasonable summary for someone compiling a list of web jargon and therefore not necessarily expected to be 100% knowledgeable on every term.

  4. I think it’s interesting that they chose to use the word obese repeatedly when the word actually preferred by most fatosphere denizens is “Fat.”

    …. If by interesting you mean ignorant.

  5. Yep, I’ll go with Richie 79′s definition as well. And withoutscene hit it right on the head. The repeated use of the word “obese” – especially when it carries so much negative, pseudo-medical baggage – is, I feel, being used to discredit us and mislead other readers. For a start we don’t solely blog for other fat people. The Wired definition could easily be interpreted as saying we’re a bunch of self-deluded whackjobs with our fingers in our ears, flying in the face of medical opinion – and it’s my guess it probably will be.

  6. Wow…could Wired’s definition be anymore condescending? The repeatedly use of the word “obese” is offensive; we’re not doing this just for fat people. We’re not some self-enclosed group of wackjobs that are in denial.
    I definitely like Richie79′s definition. He pretty much hit it right on the head.

  7. So Rose, you’re saying that only people already familiar with the movement would find the definition misleading. Gosh, if the only people who think it’s wrong are the ones who know something about the term being defined, it must be a great definition! Good job, Wired!

    It’d be one thing if the terminology we were objecting to would otherwise be replaced by a particular bit of jargon — if, say, we only wanted to be referred to as “spheronauts” or something. But all we’re asking is that they do just enough research to realize that the “fatosphere” uses the term “fat.” Could be wrong, but pretty sure that people know what “fat” means. (Well, and we’re also asking that they don’t get so enamored of crusty phrasing that they say “of the x, by the x, and for the x” about a network that is only about the x. That’s just lazy writing.)

  8. I like your version of what the definition should’ve been Kate. I think another good idea would be, “Websites that were never visited, because Wired.com would rather presume that it’s little more than fat people consoling each other over being fat, instead of actually doing their job, and looking at the blogs and what they really represent.”

    I don’t really see how these people could be so ignorant and smart at the same time about this. Well, I figure they all probably have some varient of Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have myself.

    Most of the people I’ve talked to in Asperger’s chats are completely ignorant about fat issues, other than what the medical community tells them. I don’t know if it’s an issue of not understanding sociality enough to empathize with someone, which is not to say that all Aspies are unempathetic, it’s a stereotype someone claimed about people on the Autism spectrum. Whatever it is, I’ve given up a long time ago trying to explain to them that the scientists are wrong.

    So what I’m saying is if most of the people at wired are Aspie, which I presume because Asperger’s Syndrome is also known as people who are major nerds. They probably just don’t get it. Perhaps it’s a fear of change, or a fear that we don’t have all the answers. Both which can be huge issues for people on the Autism spectrum. The point I’m making, is you can’t really place too much stock into why they created such a poor definition for the Fatosphere.

    If you are wondering how come I’m Aspie and I do get it. My theory is because I’m female, somehow Estrogen counteracts the stronger Aspie traits that show up in men. Like, I was a major dork until I went into puberty. I’m still a bit of a dork, but I’m also aware of things outside of myself. Which it seems is a problem a good deal of Aspies have.

  9. Jackie, the people at Wired aren’t Aspies. I mean, some of them are, but you’re thinking of geeks, not magazine writers. The people at Wired work in publishing, which does not have a high Aspie concentration.

    (I was pretty Aspie as a kid too, mind, though I never got diagnosed as being non-NT. But I am not a very good journalist, because I hate calling people on the phone. :) )

  10. Who doesn’t hate calling people on the phone? shudder

    Seriously though, people who work at a technology magazine ought to know how to look stuff up on the internet and read it.

  11. The repeated use of the word “obese” – especially when it carries so much negative, pseudo-medical baggage – is, I feel, being used to discredit us and mislead other readers. For a start we don’t solely blog for other fat people.

    Exactly the two biggest problems I had with it. We don’t solely blog for other fat people, AND not all the people blogging are even fat, AND out of those who are fat, some don’t fit the medical definition of “obese.” So it’s a complete mischaracterization of the fatosphere, in addition to using terminology that many people within the movement find offensive.

    Furthermore, our purpose is to raise awareness and fight discrimination. Countering specious claims about the health risks of obesity is only one part of that. So that’s yet another total mischaracterization packed into so few words–and one that’s clearly meant to dismiss us as whackjobs who don’t believe in science.

  12. Seriously though, people who work at a technology magazine ought to know how to look stuff up on the internet and read it.

    Yeah, I actually almost followed that up with “but I am pretty good at LOOKING THINGS UP ON THE INTERNET, which is really all this required.”

  13. Richie rocks. He’s one of my favorite FA’s. Too bad he’s engaged. ;-)

    Well, even though I MYSELF am considered obese, not everyone in the movement is. It’s non-education and ignorance on Wired’s part. Fat , overweight, and obese are linked so much these days by the media and medical community that those that don’t know the actual terms will associate smaller plus sizes with being obese.

  14. Um.. a group of bloggers who advocate respecting your fellow humans regardless of the size and shape of their bodies?

    Huzzah for journalistic integrity. :P

  15. I notice that a lot of people IRL are uncomfortable with the word ‘fat.’ I bought some +size slacks on sale and they rang up at the price advertised (in small print underneath the larger ad for regular sizes.) The cashier thought it rang up wrong and I pointed out the small print in the ad and said, “Yes it is on sale but, see, they charge $2 extra for fat people.” She giggled like I had used a bad word.

  16. I notice that a lot of people IRL are uncomfortable with the word ‘fat.’

    Oh, hell yeah. That’s part of why we’re so adamant about reclaiming it. Because it really is the most accurate word, and there shouldn’t be so much stigma attached to it–which is exactly why many people use medical terms like “obese,” assuming that will be less offensive.

  17. I still struggle to embrace the word FAT. I shudder every time I hear it, sadly, because of the negative associations attached to it (discriminatory behaviors, derogatory remarks, bullying, etc.) For that reason, I think it’s important to have FAT in the definition, although not necessarily in ALL CAPS. :)

  18. I’m guessing they just read that NY Times article and think they’re experts now.

    And word to Jackie: Female Aspies are more complicated, I think. Aspie symptoms are less socially acceptable in girls, so we’ve been conditioned to at least to try (and try, and try, and try) to reach out of our little neuroatypical demimondes, whereas boys are more likely to be left alone to “be themselves.” Therefore a lot of Aspie females can “seem” NT if you don’t scratch the surface too hard. Hence I was not diagnosed until the age of 44 despite seeing therapists for 30 years before that.

    But concur with FJ that these are journalists writing about geekdom, not geeks as such. I had the worst frigging time as a journalist because of my AS; it’s very much a social profession. (Cold calls — yikes!) And yeah, it’s not too much trouble to ask that they visit a couple of these sites and see for themselves, unless they really ARE afraid of catching fat.

  19. Ugh, stupid people make me stabby. If they’re so freaking versed in the science, they should know that ‘obese’ is a very narrow and arbitrary measure. For example, I may not be obese, but I am fat!

    And one thing I’ve wondered about, off-topic, is how Aspie and social anxiety interrelate. Hell, do they? I’m talking out of my ass here.

  20. Incidentally, I’m posting to avoid making a phone call to a realtor, the prospect of which is totally freaking me out. ;)

  21. which is exactly why many people use medical terms like “obese,” assuming that will be less offensive.

    Do people really use obese to be less offensive? I know people use “overweight” to be less offensive than fat, but I usually see obese used to be more offensive. Obese, even more than fat, seems to be a synonym for sloppy, lazy, unhealthy, gross.

  22. Hmmm. I didn’t realize that I am not allowed to commune with the rest of the wonderful people who regularly comment here. I guess my BMI of 22 means I just don’t belong ….. Sniffle.

  23. Fatosphere n. A blogosphere of the sane, by the sane, for those seeking sanity. Often designated “no-diet zones,” fatosphere blogs seek to counter medical claims that are insane.

    Fixed that for them.

  24. Moonlight, I was just about to say the same thing, except I don’t know my BMI. Seriously – of the obese, by the obese, for the obese? Does that mean I’m not allowed to read it, and that the merely “overweight” bloggers are products of our imagination? Insanity, indeed.

  25. I thought the same thing, Moonlight & Zilly. ‘Cause you know these bloggers are all about excluding people.

    /snark

  26. I’m guessing they just read that NY Times article and think they’re experts now.

    Don’t give them so much credit. If they’d read the whole article–or even the first couple of paragraphs–they’d know we prefer the term “fat.”

    Do people really use obese to be less offensive? I know people use “overweight” to be less offensive than fat, but I usually see obese used to be more offensive. Obese, even more than fat, seems to be a synonym for sloppy, lazy, unhealthy, gross.

    You know, to my ears, it IS worse, hence objection to it… but I think a lot of people, and especially journalists, use “obese” in an effort to sound clinical and detached when what they mean is “REALLY FUCKING FAT ZOMG.” When I’m talking about those who would fall into the “morbidly obese” BMI category, I usually say “very fat” or “extremely fat” people, which freaks reporters right the fuck out, let me tell you. “Fat” is one thing; “extremely fat” is insulting! You did NOT just say that!

    Basically, the fatter you are, the more journalists want to medicalize the way they refer to you. In that context, “obese” is seen as more sensitive than any other way of describing an extremely fat person. (Because of course it’s only ever used to describe the extremely fat–all moderately fat people are just “overweight,” even if our BMIs mean we can’t get health insurance.)

  27. I recently had a conversation with a friend and every time I said “fat” she’d reply substituting with the word “heavy.”

    ME: Pretty much every person in my extended family is fat.
    FRIEND: Yup, everyone in my family is heavy, too.

    It became kind of sadly comical. The F word was cringe-worthy for her.

    And Kate, I totally agree that to most people, “obese” means ZOMG fat. I was just reading a novel (The Emperor’s Children) where someone said, “He’s fat. I mean, he’s not OBESE, but he’s fat.”

  28. Ahh, yeah you’re probably right about journalists. I was thinking more about random internet commenters.

  29. And you know, I’ve become comfortable saying fat, but I still have trouble describing people who are… well, “very fat”. Morbidly obese is of course very offensive, but “very fat” or “extremely fat” still seems rude to me. There’s no reason it should, but it’s just hard to break free of conditioning.

    I think it was fillyjonk who says to the average person, “obese” means “fatter than I personally consider acceptable”. It seems to be how people use it.

  30. IMHO most of the stuff I read in Wired (esp. bits like jargon watch) tends to be written in a tone that is glib with extra snark sauce, which is how the comment struck me. No excuse for being ignorant, though.

    Loving the “stabby” too ..

  31. I think it was fillyjonk who says to the average person, “obese” means “fatter than I personally consider acceptable”. It seems to be how people use it.

    Absolutely. Fillyjonk is brill. Also, I will henceforth be referring to myself as a “spheronaut.”

  32. Perhaps ‘obese’ is to ‘fat’ as ‘homosexual’ is to ‘gay.’ Have you noticed that bigots now exclusively use the word ‘homosexual’ in public discourse but gay people almost never do? It sounds foreign and distant and technical. They want to be sure we know they’re talking about a discrete category of the diseased, and not about real people.

    I found that quote triply offensive because as usual it assumes that only whiny minorities want to hang out with whiny minorities. Concerns are not shared among the oppressed, y’all, nor should they be something that any non-oppressed person should care about.

  33. Perhaps ‘obese’ is to ‘fat’ as ‘homosexual’ is to ‘gay.’

    Totally.

    I found that quote triply offensive because as usual it assumes that only whiny minorities want to hang out with whiny minorities.

    Right on. LOTS of people like hanging out with whiny minorities! ;)

  34. someone said, “He’s fat. I mean, he’s not OBESE, but he’s fat.”

    My vet said those very words about Moxie just last week!

    Y’all, I’m sorry to say that as a non-obese person, I will be forced to resign my co-blogger status, and in fact never even load SP in my browser again. I’ll miss you! *sniff*

  35. Dear Wired: way to boot me out of the fatosphere. Way to boot out of the fatosphere any concern for me. Or any other thin – excuse me, “non-obese” – person.

    Fatosphere: “a network of blogs, websites, and other Internet-based reading material and the people who read it, both of which advocate the radical and shocking notion that people are, holy crap, PEOPLE, no matter how you personally feel about their particular shape.”

  36. Y’all, I’m sorry to say that as a non-obese person, I will be forced to resign my co-blogger status, and in fact never even load SP in my browser again. I’ll miss you! *sniff*

    Okay, here’s what’s hilarious: I FORGOT ABOUT YOU when I was thinking of fatosphere bloggers who aren’t fat earlier.

    Everyone is fat on the internet.

  37. Everyone is fat on the internet, yep, especially if you write for TMZ.

    *snort*
    *dies*

    And I totally can’t take credit for stabby, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember who to give credit to!

  38. Okay, here’s what’s hilarious: I FORGOT ABOUT YOU when I was thinking of fatosphere bloggers who aren’t fat earlier.

    I’m so oppressed for being thin! I’m under constant pressure to get fat!

  39. I’m out of witty repartee about this horseshit. I just posted to say DAMN y’all are funny. And fuck jackasses who can’t be bothered to learn something before trying to teach someone else about it.

  40. I love cold calling remember, it is my tiny superpower) and henceforth offer to place any cold call that any of you don’t want to. Just ask in the comments. I’ll be your “representative.”

    “Hello, I am representing killedbyllamas and would like to know why you can’t knock another 100 grand off that ocean view condo. Should we be talking to another realtor or are you going to play ball?”

  41. I am also quite fond of stabby, as well as shouty. Both of which I am feeling having been without the internet, fatosphere and non-fatosphere alike, for the past six weeks.

    (and belated congrats on the book deal, kids. way to go!)

  42. Is Wired’s definition supposed to be an actual serious proposed definition or just a “Look how witty we can be!” definition? It’s not at all witty or funny but I can see some dumb frat boy thinking he’s hilarious.

    “Haha, man, listen — by the obese and for the obese! Get it? Like, like for the people, by the people? Get it? Hahaha, bro. It’s sooo funny, you don’t even know, dude. Don’t play like that. Haha! Hand me a beer.”

    I can’t see a journalist submitting this very awful definition for actual consideration.

  43. funny, my primary mental health provider (who is thin but totally gets it) was asking, er, prodding me to say what word I wanted to use when talking about this stuff. In essence, what label. I talked for a good portion of my session sounding (to myself) incredibly neurotic saying, well, I don’t really like hearing myself referred to as fat, although I can say it about myself, and I don’t really feel heavy, and as I’m short I never really feel big. I haven’t settled on the right thing yet (voluptuous was ruled out as having a sexual connotation when it isn’t always appropriate). I said I feel like it’s not that I am fat, more that I have fat. And everyone has some fat, so it’s just that I have more fat. I have extra fat. But again, fat is a little cringeworthy still, and extra adipose tissue (I got an eyeroll with that one from my primary mental health care provider) is so, I don’t know, clinical. PMHCP said, “doesn’t the fashion industry use the word ‘plus’”? My turn for an eyeroll.
    I don’t like being called diabetic, I prefer “person with diabetes” to emphasize my humanity before my medical condition. Person with fat? Person with extra fat? Now with 20% more fat/10% less fat?
    I’m still looking (with 20% less nerosis, but hey, you should have seen the baseline).

  44. Calling people… agh. I hate it so much. I used to have to get quotes from subcontractors and I was that person who would have to call back like 8 times because I was stressed out so much by calling that I would end the call too quickly and neglect to get some vital piece of information. I’m the person everyone in the office hates because I prefer to send email even if you’re in the room with me. So Mary, you are awesome and your quotation at the end there is both hilarious and kick-ass. Oh, that realtor would play ball, all right.

    In more topical news, I guess I will start an overweightosphere. Until Moonlight0806 and Zilly mentioned it, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t be in the fatosphere by Wired’s definition. Wouldn’t it have been much tidier (if still inaccurate and condescending) for them to say “of the fat, by the fat, for the fat” instead?

    Richie79′s definition is perfect.

  45. Wellroundedtype2: I am with you. Fat people are much more than just fat. They can also be smart, creative, passionate etc etc. But no, TEH FATZ are all that count in this world. Or they take precedence over everything else anyway.

    Becky: Why do we need to differentiate between how fat someone is compared to someone else? Why do we need a term that separates the slightly fat from the extremely fat? I don’t think we do. Fat is fat is fat. I think designations such as obese and morbidly obese just cause more segregation between people. They give mainstream more opportunity to bring fat people down.

  46. Damn, I’m not obese either! Does this means I can’t read this blog anymore? Or do I just have to sit in the Invisible Corner with the bisexuals and the fat vegans? ‘Cause I’ll only do that if I don’t have to wear the dunce cap. It chafes.

  47. I kept the bisexual corner nice and warm for you Johnny. But I’m obese, so I get to belong here! Ha ha!

  48. I’m the person everyone in the office hates because I prefer to send email even if you’re in the room with me.

    Somehow I misread that as “… send email even if you’re in the bathroom with me.” *smacks forehead*

  49. Woohoo, thanks Mary! Though in this case it would have been, “what the fuck do you mean you just rented the cute lil’ pink house to someone else? You told killedbyllamas that you only show it on Saturday and Sunday, so really, no hurry…”
    Yup, stabby again.

  50. Stabby is from the Simpsons, it’s a Fat Tony quote. “I don’t get mad, I get stabby”. (Heh, Firefox does not consider stabby a word).

    Bri, I agree about obese and morbidly obese. And for the most part I agree it’s not useful to differentiate. But people who are very fat experience a whole different level of discrimination than people who are only somewhat fat. And when discussing that, I tend to stumble over what kind of wording to use, because I have a hangup about describing somebody as “very fat”. That’s all I meant.

  51. Perhaps ‘obese’ is to ‘fat’ as ‘homosexual’ is to ‘gay.’

    I think you are spot on there, Fat Louie. Its a way of labelling us as unacceptable in a so-called ‘polite’ way. As others have said, it medicalises (which I can’t bring myself to spell with a ‘z’ being Australian and funny like that) us and our bodies. Will post about this more at some stage.

    But with the Wired definition of Fatosphere? One way to combat it would be to agree on a real definition and then all post that definition on our blogs and keep posting it. Google-bombing it, if you will – or doing what that person whose name is MUD here did with Santorum. What do you think?.

  52. Fillyjonk, well I thought since Wired is a magazine that appeals widely to dorks, it must be written by dorks.

  53. “And word to Jackie: Female Aspies are more complicated, I think. Aspie symptoms are less socially acceptable in girls, so we’ve been conditioned to at least to try (and try, and try, and try) to reach out of our little neuroatypical demimondes, whereas boys are more likely to be left alone to “be themselves.” Therefore a lot of Aspie females can “seem” NT if you don’t scratch the surface too hard. Hence I was not diagnosed until the age of 44 despite seeing therapists for 30 years before that.” – Meowser

    I can see what you’re getting at, however I was a major tomboy until puberty. So I think the estrogen has something to do with that.

  54. Bri, I agree about obese and morbidly obese. And for the most part I agree it’s not useful to differentiate. But people who are very fat experience a whole different level of discrimination than people who are only somewhat fat.

    Exactly. Furthermore, no matter how we try to discourage it, “But what about MORBIDLY OBESE people who are REALLY UNHEALTHY?” remains a frequently asked question in this line of work. Before you can get around to explaining that there is no weight limit on human rights, you need to reframe the question.

  55. kate, for a woman to have a “morbidly obese” (40+ bmi), at average height (5’5″), she’d have to weigh 245 pounds. which is not very much, and is still comfortably midsized, using my not very scientific definition of midsized as someone who can shop at the mall at lane bryand and supersized as someone who can’t. (yes, supersized is a crappy term, but i still like it better than any of the other ones i’ve heard, although this may be midsize privilege on my part and if a supersize woman wants to come along and tell me what they’d prefer i’d love to hear it.)

    if i am trying to describe someone in particular who is fat, i will usually just say “about my height/taller than i am/shorter than i am and bigger than me/smaller than me”.

  56. Hey Johnny B. Average, I’m an overweight bisexual vegetarian. Party in the Invisible Corner!

    Also, on the topic of euphemisms we hate, can “big girl” be removed from the lexicon forever? It sounds so condescending to me. “Yeah, she’s a big girl but she’s pretty cute.” I sort of cringe when I hear “girl” used to describe someone over 21.

  57. “whiny minorities”?

    Minorities? Last time I checked, 64% of adults in the US were at least “overweight”, and I know that a “normal” BMI doesn’t mean you won’t be perceived as fat. (ask any man with a belly!)

    Not to mention England, where the BMI cutoff has been lowered to 20 recently. ;-) So, underweight borders right on overweight. Poor British, must be dropping like flies, left and right.

  58. @wellroundedtype2: Perhaps you should try some sort of really positive doublespeak, like “adiposity enhanced”!

  59. Person with fat? Person with extra fat? Now with 20% more fat/10% less fat?

    I love that. But where do I count from? The thinnest I ever got or the fattest, or the weight I was before I ever dieted, maybe the weight I was after DS was born?
    Now with 83% more fat, 29% less fat, etc?

  60. fatosphere: a remarkable oasis of internet writers who share a vision of a hate-free future and civil rights for human beings, including fat people.

    i love that i can come here and read, free from the expectation that hateful bullshit will attack at any moment in written form. and gain a few (verbal/written) weapons to use at my next opportunity in waking life.

    so thanks, kate.

  61. send email even if you’re in the bathroom with me

    Hahahahahaha! I would probably do that if I could.

    Person in other stall: So, SC, how’s it going?
    Me: [typing]
    Person in other stall: Oh, bummer, I hate it when they get you for no turn on red.

  62. ……..MORBIDLY OBESE people who are REALLY UNHEALTHY

    Meaning that they have varying levels of health, just like other people that are not ‘morbid’ ?!!!

    By the way, how fatal is ‘morbid obesity’, as related to actual numbers, not theory, and is there any other category of morbidity that seems so lacking in actual death?

  63. By the way, how fatal is ‘morbid obesity’, as related to actual numbers, not theory

    Statistically, there are more premature deaths in that category than others, but it’s not that big a difference. Certainly not big enough to assume that everyone in that category is going to die young and miserable.

    I hope you understand that I was referring to idiots who put things in those , to achieve a “gotcha,” not saying anything about fat and health myself.

  64. I’m the person everyone in the office hates because I prefer to send email even if you’re in the room with me.

    This sounds like me… I like face to face contact and I miss it when I don’t get it in sufficient quantities (which is pretty much all the time), but I also avoid it since I am only comfortable enough with very few people to enjoy it.

  65. I’d comment, but I’m not really here. Or, maybe, this comment is actually going to some thinosphere blog since the fatosphere isn’t FOR me. And this comment can’t actually show up on SP because SP is in the fatosphere and therefore comments posted must be by fat people. And it also can’t actually be about me.

    So let’s just consider this nonexistant comment about me to be an exercise in narcissism. Since no one is actually going to see it anyway.

  66. Yes, q, face-to-face contact needed but only with a select few pretty much describes me to a t. I have previously suspected we were similar in some ways, and this only confirms my suspicion. :)

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