Guest Blogger Occhiblu: More Problems with Racism and the Fatosphere

Shapeling Occhiblu sent a version of this as an e-mail to us yesterday, hoping we could post about it. But she’d basically said it all, so we asked her to guest post. Thanks, Occhiblu!

Note to commenters: This thread will be moderated with a heavier hand than usual. –Kate

By Occhiblu

Sandy at Junkfood Science linked yesterday to a syndicated column published in the Indiana paper The Star Press. Sandy’s comment on the article was, “This is a profound article on where we’re being led in the name of perfect health and bodies, and in the war on obesity.”

The linked column, “Perfect expression of the communist machine,” was written by rightwing columnist Kathleen Parker; it is a pile of racist drivel about how the Chinese value collectivism because of Communist dictators and how “free” people value humanity while Communist people do not. [Note from Kate: If you want to read it, go via Sandy's blog or Google it.]

Speaking about the substitution of Lin Miaoke for Yang Peiyi in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies because, she claims, Peiyi had imperfect teeth, Parker writes:

Sentimentality doesn’t enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant, and deceit is a lesson best learned young. Who cares that a little girl was told she wasn’t pretty enough to be seen by the world and that her voice — though lovely — belonged not to her, but to the homeland?

That single gesture, relatively small amid the extravaganza, said more about China than all the fireworks, human kites and dangling dancers. It said: The human being — the individual — is of no importance. The objectification of that child, her voice commodified for the purposes of the state, was the real ode to the motherland.

As I commented at the Star Press site, while one could certainly make an argument that dictatorial countries prize perfection over humanity, this article is not that argument. Ms. Parker does an excellent job, however, of ignoring the United States’ mass-produced and internationally distributed form of aesthetic perfectionism — our Hollywood actors and actresses are not exactly known for their “normal” and “human” appearances, and the entire industry is pretty open about discarding the imperfect, the old, and the odd — and she quite glibly ignores the cultural importance of collectivism as a Chinese value, not just a Communist one.

Putting others first, working in harmony with the whole, and striving for the good of the family and the community rather than the glory of the individual were not invented by Lenin. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Eastern history and thought can trace these values back through Confucianism, through Buddhism, and through Taoism. Anyone with even a modicum of humanity can see the beauty, power, and wisdom of these ideals. While these values may have been co-opted to support a corrupt political system in China, presenting China as if it were the only country in which religious ideals were exploited in order to prop up a power-hungry leader and deny the humanity of large segments of the population ignores what’s going on in our own country.

Parker does not stop at ignorantly categorizing collectivism as some sort of totalitarian mind-trick, however, she also goes straight for the Godwin gold:

Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Just as China’s selection as host country signaled its emergence as a global power, Germany’s marked that nation’s return to the international community following its defeat in World War I.

Although Adolf Hitler was already busy rounding up Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and others for detention and/or sterilization, the Games allowed him to pull a propaganda coup of peaceful tolerance. The Holocaust and World War II soon followed.

By implying that only totalitarian countries oppress their citizens, Parker ignores the United States’ wretched history of human rights abuses, including internment camps for Japanese- and other Asian-Americans during World War II, and sweeps away any bad that the West has committed (and there’s been a lot of bad). She’s also arguing that collectivist world views, which are strongly held by many non-Western cultures, lead to holocausts.

Sandy calling this article “profound” and explicitly linking it to weight-based discrimination in the U.S. is problematic, to say the least. Saying that this is where “we’re being led in the name of perfect health and bodies, and in the war on obesity” endorses this view that somehow the Chinese are more oppressively perfectionist than the West and uses the racism of the original column to erase the reality of Chinese culture in order to make a point about fat discrimination. She tosses Chinese culture and values under the bus in her effort to talk about why fat discrimination is bad.

I think it’s instructive to look at how the popular feminist site, Hoyden About Town, dealt with the same event. Writing about the substitution of one girl for the other, tigtog reinforces ways in which Chinese culture and Western culture are creating the same pressures on women. She writes, “Here’s just one high-profile example of how women are trained from a very young age to believe that their looks matter more than anything else about them, not just when it comes to finding a sexual partner, but also in terms of recognition and reward in other aspects of life.”

I am not Chinese or Chinese-American, so it may be possible that I’m missing ways in which tigtog’s piece glosses over or misses Asian cultural pressures that are different from the West’s, but I was really struck by how the feminist site took this event and used as a way of finding similarities in oppressions and of reaffirming the humanity of the two girls, while the site on the fatosphere linked to an article that erased the humanity of the Chinese and reaffirmed the primacy of weight-based discrimination.

And given that the linked article included the Holocaust and Tiananmen Square Massacre as the natural outcome of the Chinese worldview, that’s a very large claim that Sandy is making.

Sandy’s site does not allow comments, so the fatosphere feed now has an entry linking to a nasty racist screed, calling it “profound,” and aligning its argument with the struggle for FA, with no way of publicly questioning the blogger on this statement.

I find that really disappointing, especially since there has been so much discussion lately about racism in the FA movement. So this is my public statement.

198 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Occhiblu: More Problems with Racism and the Fatosphere

  1. Well said! This is a great illustration of something that, when the “How is FA failing POC and participating in racism” question comes up, is hard to name. Of course, explaining erasure is a difficult task, and you’ve done it well, IMO.

  2. It’s a great article. I do wonder, however, if a mixture of racism and cultural prejudice is at work in this particular case. I am by all definitions white (but not American), and I have heard things like that directed towards my culture. (I have heard people of my culture direct things like that towards people of other cultures as well, though.)

  3. Sorry, I meant it’s a great post (I am simultaneously having my parents on the phone talking in one language, and writing in the other – it’s slightly confusing).

  4. There’s certainly a lot in Parker’s article that’s short sighted and a plenty of relevant information that’s been left out in order to support her views. I don’t agree with much of what she says, but do we really have to be ideologically pure here in the fatophere? Is there no room for conservative viewpoints – for political diversity?

    Occhiblu’s critique of Parker’s article is excellent, but if Sandy likes the article and wants to link to it, then that”s certainly her prerogative. I wouldn’t be surprised if the degree of political sensitivity in the fatophere is already dampening dialogue and squelching debate.

    This post is an example of how things should work. When someone finds a particular post or linked article offensive, they can talk about why. Debate may ensue. However, I disagree with the idea that certain viewpoints should be disallowed; that there should be some kind of purity test. People of color certainly have diverse opinions about the weight issue. Why should FA advocates all be in lockstep when it comes to race and politics?

  5. I don’t think that Occiblu’s arguing that only one opinion is valid, but rather there isn’t space to conduct that debate. (Of course, correct me if I’ve misinterpreted.)

    This is an excellent post!

  6. Is there no room for conservative viewpoints – for political diversity?

    First, Kathleen Parker is not just representing a “conservative viewpoint.” She’s famous for representing the most extreme right-wing viewpoint, and no, there’s not room for that here.

    Second, this isn’t a call for Sandy to be removed from the fatosphere. It’s not censorship or silencing. As Occhiblu says, it’s a matter of publicly questioning things like this when they come up under a heading (“fatosphere”) that represents us all — because if those of us who strongly disagree are silent, it reads as a tacit group endorsement of racism.

    And finally, the Fatosphere is still evolving, but the bloggers here are staunchly progressive. As with dieters and anti-feminists, conservatives who disagree with the liberal politics of this blog can feel free to go elsewhere.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the degree of political sensitivity in the fatophere is already dampening dialogue and squelching debate.

    Dismissing legitimate concerns about racism and the exclusion of people of color as “political sensitivity” is a really common silencing tactic. So is claiming that free debate is being hindered by making sure the voices of marginalized people are given serious consideration. So that argument really doesn’t impress me.

    Besides which, this is not a forum for debate and never has been. It’s a forum for heavily moderated discussion, based on progressive principles.

  7. A very good post, but my minor quibble:

    “Sandy’s site does not allow comments [thus there's] no way of publicly questioning the blogger on this statement.”

    Isn’t this it? While one can’t always necessarily respond on the blog in question one has the right to respond at one’s own blog, or elsewhere, or email, or all of these. I don’t think turning comments off equals a blatant acceptance of one person’s viewpoint.

  8. I still respect much of Sandy’s work in the line of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but I started looking harder at her links etc when she posted an “global warming is a scam” video that was known to be financed by oil companies. She does advise us to follow the money though, so that will apply to what’s found on JFS as well as anywhere else.

  9. Oh and Occhiblu, thank you. That was very well put and covered a lot of the things I’d been thinking and wondering about WRT to the olympics and China in general.

  10. She does advise us to follow the money though, so that will apply to what’s found on JFS as well as anywhere else.

    I think that’s a very good way of putting it. Sandy’s the first to advocate for checking out sources and questioning the “experts.” That applies just as much to her blog (and mine) as anywhere else.

  11. Oh and Occhiblu, thank you. That was very well put and covered a lot of the things I’d been thinking and wondering about WRT to the olympics and China in general.

    Thanks! And yeah, the whole “ooooooooooh! the spooooooooky weeeeeeeird mysteeeeeeeeerious Orient!” vibe that’s been flowing lately regarding the Olympics has been rather unsettling to me.

  12. And finally, the Fatosphere is still evolving, but the bloggers here are staunchly progressive.

    I doubt I’m what you’d call “staunchly progressive,” and I’m a fatophere blogger, though not a very prominent one. Sandy’s a very important fatophere blogger, and I’m in awe of all the hard work she does in reading and analyzing the journal articles behind the “obesity epidemic” hysteria. Her politics seem to run libertarian, and I disagree with her on some issues, but I’m enormously glad that she’s out there.

    I consider myself a feminist and I’m aware of racial issues in a real world way, if not an academic one. But, I’ve written quite a few blog posts that I’ve never put online because I don’t have the time or emotional energy to deal with the aggressive criticism that would no doubt follow. There are also a lot of things I don’t post because they’re too personal. What can I say? I’m a wimp. You, Kate, are better at dealing with that stuff than most people, and obviously, you set the rules on your blog. But, please don’t assume you speak for all of us all the time.

    As with dieters and anti-feminists, conservatives who disagree with the liberal politics of this blog can feel free to go elsewhere.

    I’m neither a conservative nor an antifeminist nor a dieter, yet I do find myself going elsewhere more and more lately.

  13. Boy, was that simple link over-thought! I don’t even get where you come up with this. It was not a comment on Chinese people or a racial comment.
    I was merely noting the parallels of the history of oppression of any peoples who are undesirable or don’t fit the “ideal” (eugenics was more active here in the US than in Europe, if you know your history). I don’t know the author, but was looking at her comments about how heavy handed any government can get in trying to get a populace to all conform and look the “ideal” size and have perfectly fit bodies. It’s from the old Nazi slogan: You have a duty to be healthy. You have a duty to be fit…

  14. I would like to comment here from a personal level. I think if I had read Sandy’s post first I might have let it slide past my privileged (white) ears. I would have thought, yeah, women get the shaft everywhere and some places are worse than others. I just want to thank you occhiblu, for giving me this perspective, as it served to knock out another block of unnoticed racism in my head. I am a progressive and a liberal, but I know that I don’t know, you know? ;-)

  15. If I’m off topic, someone please tell me.

    Sentimentality doesn’t enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant, and deceit is a lesson best learned young. Who cares that a little girl was told she wasn’t pretty enough to be seen by the world and that her voice — though lovely — belonged not to her, but to the homeland?

    Substitute “corporation” for “homeland” and you have the general “Western”, “capitalist” viewpoint. I would submit that’s a feminist issue that crosses racial as well as purported “ideological” lines.

    “You, Kate, are better at dealing with that stuff than most people … But, please don’t assume you speak for all of us all the time.”

    Heh.
    *settles back with macadamia nuts; offers around popcorn*

  16. Substitute “corporation” for “homeland” and you have the general “Western”, “capitalist” viewpoint.

    Exactly. Which is why the Parker article was not only racist and othering, but also insanely stupid.

  17. I don’t really have anything to add to the post, other than it’s good. But can I just say that I find the concept of NO CONSERVATIVES ALLOWED!!!1! really disturbing? Not every conservative is a racist asshole. Some just have different opinions. It’s ok to disagree. Some stuff is a deal breaker, like being a racist asshole. If there’s a conservative racist asshole, then please, show them the door. But plenty of conservatives are perfectly nice people, with plenty to add to the discussion. If only one narrow viewpoint is allowed in the fatosphere, it won’t grow (besides the viewpoint of fat=not bad, obviously.)

    This is why I refuse to call myself a liberal–too many liberals get all douchey about it (not that kate was necessarily being all that douchey, but I find the sentiment itself pretty douchey. It’s stuff like this that puts me off reading all liberal blogs, with the exception of Shakesville, and then only for the occasional kate sighting and Kenny Blogginz.)

  18. Thank you for the reminder that I need to hunt down the actual article when it’s linked by someone else and not just take it on faith that that person’s done the homework/vetting.

  19. I left it out of the post, because it was such a weird point that I didn’t quite know what to do with it, but it’s probably also worth noting that the Parker column makes a swipe at China’s “obesity crisis”:

    A friend impressed by the opening ceremonies joked to me that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to find that many fit individuals to man so many drums. Although she was sort of kidding — in fact, China has an obesity problem — she may have been onto something.

    So it’s a racist article with a gratuitous anti-fat bias. I really see no way that this makes any sense as a link from an FA site, no matter how conservative or liberal one is.

  20. I doubt I’m what you’d call “staunchly progressive,” and I’m a fatophere blogger, though not a very prominent one. Sandy’s a very important fatophere blogger

    Dee – I believe Kate was referring specifically to the bloggers HERE, at Shapely Prose. Not to the bloggers in the Fatsphere in general.

  21. I should have mentioned, the author of the article is definitely an asshole, and should not be tolerated. But saying that conservatives should go elsewhere seems as if you’re painting anyone who votes Republican with the same brush.

    On another note, how do you do italics in comments?

  22. I like this post, but I have two worries. First, I don’t think we can assume collectivism is innocuous. It is a value that leads to certain behaviors, which might include human rights abuses. If it does, that doesn’t mean the value needs to be discarded- but we should certainly raise awareness and consider protections.

    Second, (with the caveats that I haven’t read the original piece, nor do I intend to and that I agree that the piece sounded misinformed and oversimplified to the point of uselessness), I think the post goes to far in implying that we should only criticize human rights abuses in other countries if we either are blameless ourselves or point out that that particular problem is universal. China has an awful record on human rights, and we need to be able to talk about that.

  23. Thank you so much for bringing this up. I saw that post on JS, and while I can’t say my jaw dropped, I was disturbed. Like, what the $%@! does right-wing reactionary Yellow Peril fear-mongering have to do with HAES?

    And, yeah, littlem — that nailed it.

  24. I think the post goes to far in implying that we should only criticize human rights abuses in other countries if we either are blameless ourselves or point out that that particular problem is universal. China has an awful record on human rights, and we need to be able to talk about that.

    That was my initial reaction as well. I didn’t like the article that Sandy linked to because it was obvious that the author knew absolutely buggerall about China and had no intention of finding out.

    The problem with well-known political writers is that once you know their politics that colours everything they write. I think that’s what is happening here. I didn’t like the article much, but being from the UK and not having heard of the author, I couldn’t see anything in it that was racist – I read it as a rather ill-informed stab at critiquing another political regime, and there’s no law against that. I also get a bit tired of the theory that if you don’t say “andofcoursetheWestisnotblamelessinthehumanrightssphere” every time you express an opinion about another regime then you’re automatically trying to brush imperialism etc under the carpet. But now that I’m aware of her politics I can see what she isn’t saying, if you see what I mean. I’m just not sure that it’s fair to play the man and not the ball in that way.

  25. Besides which, this is not a forum for debate and never has been. It’s a forum for heavily moderated discussion, based on progressive principles.

    That doesn’t say much for progressive principles, now does it? Basically, it’s whoever agrees with your politics is welcome.

    I really enjoyed this blog, but the far-left feminist monopoly being dictated on fat acceptance does nothing for the movement in general.

    She’s famous for representing the most extreme right-wing viewpoint, and no, there’s not room for that here.

    But there is room for the extreme left-wing? Got it.

  26. I’m hesitant to say anything at all about this, since I am particularly prone to foot/mouth interactions, and not terribly well-versed in spotting racism. Nevertheless…

    I can see the racist angle here, because occhiblu nicely pointed it out with “Projecting our own problems and deficiencies onto those who don’t look like us has a long, unpleasant history…”

    But, not knowing shit from piss about Kathleen Parker, her political viewpoints or other writings, my initial impression about the article, and Sandy’s comments, was that some people have an axe to grind with communism — not necessarily with Chinese people. I may not carry that same axe around, or choose to grind it on every convenient headline that comes my way, but that’s just me.

    I have to ask: is it more racist of Parker to attribute collectivism (with which she clearly has a big, gnarly, and likely hypocritical problem) to the Chinese political system, than it would be to attribute it to Chinese cultural traditions? occhiblu seems to imply the former, since that is what Parker does in her article, but I’m thinking that the latter might be equally problematic.

    At any rate, I do agree that calling out an entire nation for injustices that we, ourselves perpetrate constantly (and only criticizing ‘collectivism’ when it comes in the guise of Chinese communism and not, say, Christianity) is awfully suspicious when that nation also can be conveniently parsed as ‘other’ due to physical appearance.

    Maybe it’s a dog-whistle thing; I don’t know. I don’t know for certain if Parker’s intentions were racist, or if her words will serve to strengthen racist frames — though I strongly suspect the latter. I do know that, at the very least, it’s an inconsistent position, if not intentionally hypocritical.

    And…please don’t kill my friend Dee.

  27. I’m neither a conservative nor an antifeminist nor a dieter, yet I do find myself going elsewhere more and more lately.

    And that’s your choice. Kate’s point was that we have a certain politics here, and we don’t apologize for it.

  28. emilymorgan – collectivism has its problems, so does individualism. The thing is, it’s notoriously hard to have an objective view of a more collectivistically oriented culture when you come from a more individualistically oriented culture (and vice versa). Of course, that does it is not allowed to be critical, but criticism should be worded carefully (and with a careful look at what is going wrong in ones own culture).

    In addition, as has been said by occhibly, teaching women and little girls that their bodies have to be perfect to make them “worthy” of public attention is not in any way specific to collectivist cultures.

    I have seen both, people from more collectivist cultures and people from more individualist cultures claim that certain things could not happen in their culture but only in a culture that is far more individualist/ collectivist. Usually that is not true – things just take different shapes. And often people’s perceptions are very onesided. (Famous example: I had someone from a collectivist culture claim that Hitler could have only come to power in an individualist culture. That was a completly misinformed remark because German culture was very collectivist at the time, and I don’t think that the collectivism in itself was the main problem. I have seen people from individualist cultures make similar remarks about other examples.)

    Bottomline: Blanket criticisms of either collectivism or individualism are usually highly subjective (and based on prejudice). Both, collectivism and individualism have advantages and disadvantages – what is more important, they became dominant orientations in different cultures for a reason – usually because they offered some kind of advantage in the respective culture. Also, collectivism is not the same as devaluing the individual, and devaluation of specific people, no matter if they are seen as “not beautiful enough” or if they have some other “undesirable” characteristic happens in all cultures and it’s a good idea to look if a specific form of this problem is not also present in one’s own culture before one starts to criticize other cultures for it.

  29. @ Dee and Sarah

    I don’t speak for Kate any more than Kate speaks for the fatosphere, but I’m fairly certain that when she said that some political viewpoints were more welcome than others “here,” “here” referred only to Shapely Prose. And Shapely Prose, as you both pointed out, does not speak for the blogosphere. So… what’s the problem again?

  30. is it more racist of Parker to attribute collectivism (with which she clearly has a big, gnarly, and likely hypocritical problem) to the Chinese political system, than it would be to attribute it to Chinese cultural traditions?

    Yes. Because it *is* a Chinese cultural tradition. And it’s a valid worldview that informs much of Asian (and therefore Asian-American) culture.

    You can take any culture and put it somewhere on a spectrum from “individualist” to “collectivist.” Western society, and especially New World Western society, tends to be pretty much all the way over on the Individualist side of that spectrum. Glorification of individual choice and freedom, at least to the extent that it’s generally accepted in the US, is a particular worldview, not some sort of objective reality.

    Given how individualistic US white society tends to be, that means that pretty much all other cultures fall farther toward the Collectivist side of the worldview spectrum. Parker’s article therefore insults not only Asian values but also… pretty much everyone who’s not committed to upholding the dominant American way of life as the one and only truth, with no room for other ways of interacting with or interpreting the world.

  31. P.S. Thanks Occiblu for the post. I also have been really squicked out by some of the media representation of China as this creepy, homogenous culture… I can’t even sit down on the subway without seeing a Metro paper with some godawful headline. (One recently had images of the fireworks, the little girl singing, some planted audiences members, and some hysterical headline that roughly said “What else are they faking?!”)
    It’s important to call this out, since criticisms that like Metro paper and the linked Parker article mostly function to make American problems less visible. They are the fakers. We would never do such a thing!

  32. I have to ask: is it more racist of Parker to attribute collectivism (with which she clearly has a big, gnarly, and likely hypocritical problem) to the Chinese political system, than it would be to attribute it to Chinese cultural traditions? occhiblu seems to imply the former, since that is what Parker does in her article, but I’m thinking that the latter might be equally problematic.

    The thing is, anyone who has ever read up a bit on collectivism and individualism will have come across the point that China (and other East Asian cultures) has been fairly collectivist for far longer than China has been communist (if you can even call the current Chinese system still truly communist).

  33. i’m afraid that i don’t have anything political to contribute to this conversation. but i had a personal realization that i’d like to share.

    when i read sandy’s most recent article, i felt complete dismay. i’ve noticed her draw thin conclusions before, but this one was just way out there. and immediately, i started re-evaluating everything i read from her before, wondering if it was true or just more fluffy conclusions. i was even contemplating whether i should bother to read her anymore.

    then i stopped and analyzed my thoughts. why is it that when someone says something i think is wrong, i automatically discount everything they’ve said in the past? that’s silly. no one is right 100% of the time.

    i’ve traced my thought patterns back to my religious and scholastic upbringing. as i child i was told that everything my elders taught me was true, and to question it was a sin. if my instructors found a “lie” in anything, the entire book in question was thrown out as false. it was inconceivable that something could contain both lies and truth at the same time. but i think the perceived danger really was that if the two were together, then the student wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other. they’d have to actually *think* instead of *accept* what they were being taught.

    despite the fact that i had some wonderful college professors who encouraged me to use my mind, i realize now that i’ve fallen back into those old “all or nothing” patterns. this has been a wake up call for me. i don’t want to cherry pick my truths, but i need to evaluate what i read and not just automatically write it off as completely right or completely wrong solely based on who the author is.

  34. (One recently had images of the fireworks, the little girl singing, some planted audiences members, and some hysterical headline that roughly said “What else are they faking?!”)
    It’s important to call this out, since criticisms that like Metro paper and the linked Parker article mostly function to make American problems less visible. They are the fakers. We would never do such a thing!

    This is particularly ridiculous since the Olympics have been a show event (at least when it comes to the audience) that allowed the respective host country to project a certain image for many, many years now. And this is also true for the Olympics that have taken place in the US. (Nonetheless I am not happy that the Olympic games are currently hosted by China – but that’s a different topic.)

  35. queendom, I don’t think anything you’re saying is in conflict with anything I’m saying. It isn’t the specifics of Ochchiblu’s criticism of the Star Press column, but some of the generalizations that she makes or implies while presenting her criticism, that give me some pause.

  36. I don’t think condemning Sandy in any manner is the right thing to do. I looked over Sandy’s post about it and it’s two tiny paragraphs – just because something is “profound” doesn’t necessarily mean it is “good” and she made no indication of her feelings about it beyond a correlation to the war on obesity. While it was very informative to read occhiblu’s guest post and I’m glad it was posted, I greatly disagree with the attack on Sandy and feel that it was a big jump to a conclusion about her. Not everyone is as diligent as Kate to put disclaimers about potentially offensive articles on every blog post and if it was really that bad, perhaps someone should just shoot Sandy an email requesting that she put such disclaimers on her posts.

  37. Another point, to echo what Paul and Dee and others brought up:

    Sandy’s site does not allow comments, so the fatosphere feed now has an entry linking to a nasty racist screed, calling it “profound,” and aligning its argument with the struggle for FA, with no way of publicly questioning the blogger on this statement….I find that really disappointing, especially since there has been so much discussion lately about racism in the FA movement. So this is my public statement.

    I think it’s fine for people to have comments turned off. Their blog, their rules. Most people who syndicate their writing over the feed also read the feed, as well as trackbacks, and are not ignorant of the reactions their writing garner on other blogs.

    I disagree that there’s ‘no way of publicly questioning the blogger’ since you’ve just admitted that by writing this, you’ve done so, occhiblu.

    That said, I am very glad you’ve done so.

    I left it out of the post, because it was such a weird point that I didn’t quite know what to do with it, but it’s probably also worth noting that the Parker column makes a swipe at China’s “obesity crisis”

    I found that weird too, but I guess Sandy was focusing more on the overarching ‘physical perfection as social requirement’ theme in the article. It’s funny how Parker somehow manages to attribute American “obesity” to a sort of awesome individualistic rebellious streak (“a country not lately known for rigid adherence to rules”) AND an inability to delay gratification. It comes off as implying that fat people are childish but, conversely, being fat proves we’re free Americans!!!

  38. I understand the limitations of individualism, but frankly, I think it might be what’s saving fat westerners from the kind of thing that’s going on in Japan right now, or worse. There’s some logic in the idea that the philosophy of individualism is important to preserving the rights of fat people in today’s toxic environment.

    (and thanks, peggynature. I’m pretty safe here in my real life, which has improved greatly.)

  39. I also get a bit tired of the theory that if you don’t say “andofcoursetheWestisnotblamelessinthehumanrightssphere” every time you express an opinion about another regime then you’re automatically trying to brush imperialism etc under the carpet.

    I totally agree, and that’s not the argument I’m making. There’s a difference between insisting that one’s own history be spotless before objecting to human rights abuses (which is an impossibility, and insisting on it is a way of squelching protest) and calling someone out for insisting that only other people do horrible things and we totally don’t do that here (which is what I am calling out Parker for saying, because that is the argument she is making; *her* argument also serves to squelch protest, by casting one group as blameless and another as guilty with no room for overlap).

  40. There is absolutely nothing hypocritical or silencing about SP declaring itself to be staunchly progressive. No blog can be everyblog. Be who you are.

    Personally, it’s one of the things I love best about SP.

    Unabashed leftism is desperately needed in the world. If it’s not your cup of tea, go get another cup of tea somewhere else.

  41. queendom — no worries! I think you explained my point better than I did!

    Dee — But there are *also* ways in which collectivism can work to combat prejudice. If there’s a sense that “We’re all in this together,” there can be room for more compassion. And it’s very easy to flip the fat discrimination argument as one against individualism; you could frame the current nastiness about FA in the US as people valuing their individual choices above the common good (“Well, I never let myself get fat / cancer / old, why should I pay for other people who did?”)

  42. The thing is, anyone who has ever read up a bit on collectivism and individualism will have come across the point that China (and other East Asian cultures) has been fairly collectivist for far longer than China has been communist (if you can even call the current Chinese system still truly communist).

    I’ve always been taught (in Canadian university) that collectivism in East Asian cultures is a traditional, cultural trait, not a communist one. It wasn’t until reading Parker’s article, actually, that I ever realized someone might attribute that collectivism to communism.

    But I asked my question because I wonder — if Parker had criticized Chinese collectivism as a cultural, and not political trait, maybe we’d find it racist, too, because criticizing the culture of people who don’t look like you is just as (if not more) ‘othering’ than criticizing their political system.

  43. There’s no problem with SP declaring itself progressive, but, imo, there is a problem with saying that anyone who isn’t progressive isn’t allowed here.

  44. I understand the limitations of individualism, but frankly, I think it might be what’s saving fat westerners from the kind of thing that’s going on in Japan right now, or worse. There’s some logic in the idea that the philosophy of individualism is important to preserving the rights of fat people in today’s toxic environment.

    Dee – I think you might have a point with that specific example. On the other hand, a more collectivist culture would probably be less likely to make it very hard (or in some cases almost impossible) for a fat person to get health insurance, etc. Aaand… while I don’t know how true that is for Japan, some cultures are actually becoming more fatphobic partially due to American influence.

  45. occhiblu – I think we did it again ;)

    But I asked my question because I wonder — if Parker had criticized Chinese collectivism as a cultural, and not political trait, maybe we’d find it racist, too, because criticizing the culture of people who don’t look like you is just as (if not more) ‘othering’ than criticizing their political system.

    peggynature – actually my point was that criticizing a culture is more racist (or actually culturally prejudiced) than criticising a political system. Criticising a political system is often a good idea – as long as it is not about saying that your own political system is perfect (something which does not exist) or that a certain political system can only exist in a certain culture.

  46. Those are excellent points, occhiblu, but collectivism can also result in the exclusion or even destruction of those who don’t fit in.

    Our individualistic, capitalist, democratic society is responsible for creating the current worldwide moral panic over body size. However, some of the forces in our society that have helped create this problem are (at least for now) limiting its scope. And, seriously, this isn’t fundamentally about race or politics or even culture. It’s about scapegoating, zenophobia, self-righteousness, social dominance, and all the other nasty human tendencies that create and nurture every type of hatred.

  47. Peggynature, I think if you read the Parker column, it would help. I don’t have anything against criticizing a political system, or criticizing a culture, provided it’s done with (a) respect, (b) knowledge, and (c) humility. Parker’s column displays none of those.

  48. And, seriously, this isn’t fundamentally about race or politics or even culture. It’s about scapegoating, zenophobia, self-righteousness, social dominance, and all the other nasty human tendencies that create and nurture every type of hatred.

    Which can — and do — exist in both individualist and collectivist societies. What I’m arguing against is the declaration that those people over there are unique in having these problems due to their cultural values which are “repellent” (Parker’s word) while we people over here are “free” and “human.”

  49. I for my part do actually find it more problematic to criticize a culture than a political system, since while the culture of a nation influences its political system (and vice versa) a culture is at least in some of it’s parts far more stable over time than a political system, and it is far more defining of the identity of the people that are part of it (or at least that’s how I see it). That doesn’t mean that it is necessarily wrong to point out certain problems in a culture – however, it is really hard to do so in an objective way. Different cultures have different ways to get things done, for example – but it takes a lot of time to learn why a certain way to do something might make sense in a certain context although that way is unfamiliar to oneself. But yeah… that’s slightly off-topic, I guess…

  50. You can take any culture and put it somewhere on a spectrum from “individualist” to “collectivist.”

    This is not a subject I’m particularly informed on. But that said, is this kind of statement really fair when we’re talking about a huge country like China with – what was it? – some 52 different ethnic groups and over a billion people. Even if we take the majority culture within it, can we really generalize that we can put it on an individualist/collectivist spectrum?

    I don’t know – maybe it’s my individualist point of view that is uncomfortable with doing that and people in China generally wouldn’t be. But statements like that make me uncomfortable.

    Perhaps it’s for the same reason that it makes me uncomfortable to assume that we can draw a straight line between the general views of the populace in China and the behavior of the leadership. I know they’re not disconnected entirely, anymore than George Bush’s actions are disconnected from the general view of the people in the U.S. either, but it’s not a straight line correlation either.

  51. Glad you wrote this piece, Occhiblu. The Parker piece is mind-boggling (really? This couldn’t happen here? So it is Britney Spears’ incredible vocal prowess that made her a star?) But I think the aggressive ignorance really makes this so offensive. The conflation of communism and collectivism without any nuance in terms of the differences between the two (and WITHIN the two–Soviet Communism =/=Chinese Communism) is really offensive. I also find the conflation of political and cultural issues is really sad. You can’t really unpack the cultural OR political complexities of the situation without any reference to, for instance, the Chinese domestic political situation AND their international political/economic concerns.

  52. I suppose that previous comment looked like it had no point, didn’t it? To clarify, I think what I’m trying to say is that I think we need to be aware in these discussions that we can’t point to an action of the government and assume that it’s reflective of a cultural trait that’s controlling it. Related, certainly, but . . . well, there’s a reason there’s dissent for the Chinese government to suppress, which is that there is a diversity of opinions, views, beliefs, etc., which I think can get lost in these discussions.

  53. LilahMorgan – saying that a culture is more collectivist or more individualist always is a statement about the “average” person. Levels of collectivism and individualism in people of a single culture also differ. (Among other things, women tend to be more collectivist than men across cultures – but again this is of course not true for ALL women, just for the “average” woman.)

    Perhaps it’s for the same reason that it makes me uncomfortable to assume that we can draw a straight line between the general views of the populace in China and the behavior of the leadership. I know they’re not disconnected entirely, anymore than George Bush’s actions are disconnected from the general view of the people in the U.S. either, but it’s not a straight line correlation either.

    I can only repeat what my friend from Hong Kong says (who is quite collectivistically oriented I would say). According to her the current Chinese government is in many ways not truly communist or collectivist anymore. A statement that – if it is true – questions the link between “collectivism” and “mistreating little girls/ cheating” even more questionable. (Although it would be also hypocritical to say that the Chinese government is “only bad”… again, something like that rarely, if ever exists.)

  54. but, imo, there is a problem with saying that anyone who isn’t progressive isn’t allowed here.

    harveypenguin, Kate said As with dieters and anti-feminists, conservatives who disagree with the liberal politics of this blog can feel free to go elsewhere. She didn’t say they must go elsewhere. You’re “allowed” here as long as you abide by the comments policy and you don’t give us stabby pains behind our eyes.

  55. It is, indeed, very interesting how the Nazi analogy only applies, in Parker’s article, to the Chinese, and she draws no parallels whatsoever to the US. It’s not like the US has ever quashed dissent, or demanded conformity/assimilation from its citizens…nope.

  56. I really enjoyed this blog, but the far-left feminist monopoly being dictated on fat acceptance does nothing for the movement in general.

    We, your Far-Left Feminist Dictators on High, appreciate your deep concern. Since we control every facet of the FA movement from our secret dungeons (powered by WordPress), we’ll spread the word.

  57. I can only repeat what my friend from Hong Kong says (who is quite collectivistically oriented I would say). According to her the current Chinese government is in many ways not truly communist or collectivist anymore. A statement that – if it is true – questions the link between “collectivism” and “mistreating little girls/ cheating” even more questionable. (Although it would be also hypocritical to say that the Chinese government is “only bad”… again, something like that rarely, if ever exists.)

    That all makes sense – I just – and this could be related to the somewhat fogged stated I seem to be in today – felt like some of the discussion was shifting towards painting the entire country with a broad brush. Which I’m sure wasn’t intended and certainly the original article was doing it much more egregiously than anyone here. Just the idea of ranking cultures on a spectrum at all – even if we are just talking about the average person in them – as if they can be distilled into a single data point kind of gives me the heebie jeebies.

  58. LilahMorgan, you may be more comfortable with it if you think of it as a distribution/spectrum of collectivism/individualism scores found in one country that can be compared on a line to other distributions/spectra of scores from other countries by looking at the means of the different distributions and their variability.

    sincerely,
    your friendly neighborhood psych grad student :) :) :)

  59. Kate said As with dieters and anti-feminists, conservatives who disagree with the liberal politics of this blog can feel free to go elsewhere. She didn’t say they must go elsewhere. You’re “allowed” here as long as you abide by the comments policy and you don’t give us stabby pains behind our eyes.

    I didn’t so much have a problem with what Kate said. It’s a sentiment that’s been popping a lot lately everywhere (mostly in my personal life), and I suppose my overall frustration with the topic led me to be a little ranty.

  60. It is, indeed, very interesting how the Nazi analogy only applies, in Parker’s article, to the Chinese, and she draws no parallels whatsoever to the US. It’s not like the US has ever quashed dissent, or demanded conformity/assimilation from its citizens…nope.

    Actually, I think the Nazi analogy is generally unhelpful. While there ARE parallels between certain policies and events in many countries with what went on between 1933 and 1945 in Germany the analogy is far too often used to show how bad the either side is (and how much better one’s own side is) – not in order to engage in a productive discussion. Suppression, discriminatory policies, and worst of all genocide are bad enough in their account without comparing them to nationalsocialism. (I say this as a German, so maybe I have a strange point of view on this, but still.)

  61. Probably, Emilymorgan. :-)

    I must admit that part of my issue, in addition to being somewhat fogged today, is that I have an entirely unused anthropology degree that instilled in me a deep mistrust of cultural analysis that purports to do anything other than relate narratives. :-) (Perhaps ironic given that I wager anthropologists have ultimately essentialized more cultures than everyone else on the planet combined, but there it is.)

  62. LilahMorgan- yup, I have a similar issue, except that I think mine is more that I now have impractical standards for proof. I can’t read a newspaper without curling up in a corner muttering about correlation and causation.

    p.s. I just noticed we’re secretly cousins or something. Awesome.

  63. I was so busy being confusing and derailing that I didn’t even see this comment until just now, upthread:

    Sandy, on August 23rd, 2008 at 7:23 pm Said:

    Boy, was that simple link over-thought! I don’t even get where you come up with this. It was not a comment on Chinese people or a racial comment.
    I was merely noting the parallels of the history of oppression of any peoples who are undesirable or don’t fit the “ideal” (eugenics was more active here in the US than in Europe, if you know your history). I don’t know the author, but was looking at her comments about how heavy handed any government can get in trying to get a populace to all conform and look the “ideal” size and have perfectly fit bodies. It’s from the old Nazi slogan: You have a duty to be healthy. You have a duty to be fit…

  64. Peggynature, it’s not that you didn’t see it — Sandy is not a regular commenter here, so her comment went to the mod queue. Approved comments get reinserted into the thread based on their timestamp, which is a little weird for people who have been reading a thread since its beginning.

  65. Ahhh, okay that explains it.

    That said, maybe I should have added: I’d be interested in reading occhiblu’s (or anyone’s) response to Sandy’s comment, since this goes back to the original topic at hand.

  66. I also missed Sandy’s comment.

    It was not a comment on Chinese people or a racial comment.

    But it was, because the linked article *was* about the Chinese people and *was* a racial comment. By ignoring how the column itself was buttressing negative Asian and Asian-American stereotypes, you end up reinforcing that history of oppression of any peoples — which, I assume, is the exact opposite of your actual goal.

  67. Kate, I completely disagree with you and here’s why:

    One, yes, the article does ignore the beauty and individualism of Chinese culture. However, the spotlight is on China, which is the host of the Olympics. Second, China is on its way (if not already there) to becoming a world superpower. The U.S. owes China billions of dollars and the fact that we have to repay them at some point suggests that we are going to be connected to China for a little while.

    The article wasn’t a scholarly article on Chinese culture. Yes, the author should have talked about the all of the protests that some Chinese citizens are partaking in to deplore human rights violations. BUT, it is what it is.

    Up until recently, if an American protested against the war or anything else, they might be arrested and receive a fine but they wouldn’t be sent off to a detainee camp which is perfectly legal in China. Don’t forget, China is a country that dictates what Western imports are allowed inside the country.

    So, if a certain television show comes on and it promotes something that the DICTATOR of China is against, the show cannot be seen. Also, China is racist against black people.

    A group of inner-city band students from my town of Detroit were supposed to perform at the Olympics, only to be turned away at the last minute due to crowd control. I’m not saying that THIS PARTICULAR incident was racist but I will say that some like this is far less likely to happen here in America.

    A world-renowned Olympic athlete was denied a passport to China because he was outspoken critic of the Darfur crisis.

    Yes, the author did ignore the human rights abuses committed by the U.S. However? The U.S. gave apologies to the Japanese-Americans and very recently, they apologized for slavery.

    Has China ever apologized or given reparations to its citizens for committing abuses against them? Sorry, the answer is no.

    I think what the author and Sandy are trying to say is China is a country where the citizens are TOLD what to do and that could happen to the U.S. Yes, the u.s. does celebrate perfectionism but it’s not a REQUIREMENT yet. In China,
    married couples are only allowed ONE child per household. If they have more, they have to pay a fine.

    Is that a requirement in the U.S? Again, the answer is no.

    I think that the article was more of an indictment on China as a country as opposed to the Chinese race. The people that live there can’t even control what’s going to happen.

    Further, I think that Sandy was trying to show a relationship between facism and a little girl being rejected to sing the national anthem because of her looks. Whereas there are pressures on children to be thin, I can recall several years ago when a chubby little girl named Bianca Ryan won America’s Got Talent. Would she have won in China? No because the decision would have not been made by the people but by the dictator.

    And whereas China does have a beautiful culture, don’t think for a second that if you or I were to try to apply for a VISA, that we would be denied because of our opinions.

    I think we all must be careful not to “jump to conclusions.”
    I certainly found SOME faults with the article but not enough to jump on Sandy.

    As far as the comparisons to Hitler, I think what the author was trying to say that the indifference to a free-thinking society moving from democracy to facism was the cause and the Holocaust was the end result. I mean, Elie Weitzel said that what caused the Holocaust was indifference and I see that same indifference growing everyday.

    Sandy does research on her blog out of her own pocket. No one has sponsored her and yet, day after day, she has GRACIOUSLY posted articles to give readers an alternative to mainstream media. I’m not saying that her opinion is absolute but a lot of what she says on fat makes sense and she’s a powerful ally.

    Yesterday, I was at Sue W’s blog (Sueth’s Sayings) and I just so happened to connect to her blogging profile and I saw that she had a weight-loss blog. I was quite taken aback and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I don’t know her reasons for having a weight-loss blog and a blog on the truth on fat but I suspect that the rise of facism has a lot to do with it. However, I’m not one to judge.

    Lastly, for Kate, you are a writer that I have always admired and wanted to be alike. You are a formidable woman. Years from now, young girls are going to be reading about you in much the same way that growing up, I read about
    Mother Jones, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart.

    No, you don’t have to agree with everything that Sandy says but a lot of good information comes from her blog. Kate, you are a trailblazer and YOU ARE ABOVE THIS BICKERING!

  68. (Political theorist rant). I get annoyed by the conflation of Communism and Fascism which have been warring ideologies. (And one of which we sided with against the other in WWII). And the comparisons with Nazism are not generally helpful without some sort of underlying similarity. Not all genocide or totalitarianism is fascist. Just as not all pressures to conform (to health/beauty norms) come from the state.

    In other words, what queendom said (but more elegantly than I).

    And I welcome our Far-Left Feminist Dictators on High. But I fear I use Blogger. Am I expelled from the Revolution?

  69. Questioning isn’t bickering.

    I strong disagree with some things Sandy has said or linked to in the past. (Heck, I’ve disagreed with some things Kate says.) That doesn’t mean I have to flounce off the feeds in a huff, because I also find some things said to be incredibly valuable. It just means I have to use my brain and decide for myself whether I agree or disagree with particular statements and positions.

    I’m going to requote this from an earlier comment, just for oomph:

    i’ve traced my thought patterns back to my religious and scholastic upbringing. as i child i was told that everything my elders taught me was true, and to question it was a sin. if my instructors found a “lie” in anything, the entire book in question was thrown out as false. it was inconceivable that something could contain both lies and truth at the same time. but i think the perceived danger really was that if the two were together, then the student wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other. they’d have to actually *think* instead of *accept* what they were being taught.

  70. Actually, I think the Nazi analogy is generally unhelpful. While there ARE parallels between certain policies and events in many countries with what went on between 1933 and 1945 in Germany the analogy is far too often used to show how bad the either side is (and how much better one’s own side is) – not in order to engage in a productive discussion.

    I didn’t think it was ‘helpful’ either, queendom. I was being sarcastic. I thought it was suspicious that Parker would only draw the analogy to China, and not the US.

  71. Questioning isn’t bickering.

    Count me in on that. I have constructive, sometimes enthusiastic, debates with my friends all the time. It isn’t something to be “above,” and I think this sort of criticism and questioning is handled quite well at Shapely Prose.

  72. I really enjoyed this blog, but the far-left feminist monopoly being dictated on fat acceptance does nothing for the movement in general.

    I am, for the millionth time, amused and appalled at what passes for “far left” in the United States.

  73. Oh, peggynature, I wasn’t disagreeing with you! It’s just that comparisons with nationalsocialism are quite often thrown around in the fatosphere (or at least that’s my impression) – and that makes me uncomfortable. I thought that this might be a place where I could express why I don’t think that’s a good idea.

  74. Also – I find statements that somehow seem to imply communism and nationalsocialism are the same particularly distasteful because communists were actually heavily prosecuted by the Nazis. That does not change the fact that since then some very ugly things have been done in the name of communism/ socialism, though.

  75. Oh, and apologies for all the typos in my posts here… *blushes*

    I tend to skip typing letters and/ or words when I get very engaged in a discussion.

  76. I doubt I’m what you’d call “staunchly progressive,” and I’m a fatophere blogger, though not a very prominent one. Sandy’s a very important fatophere blogger… But, please don’t assume you speak for all of us all the time.

    Dee, others have already said it (I was out for the afternoon), but to clarify, I was speaking only of the bloggers at SP. That’s why I said “the fatosphere is still evolving, BUT…” I was drawing a distinction between the personality/political leanings of the fatosphere as a whole, which I can’t control, and this blog, which I can. If the fatosphere as a whole ultimately goes more right/libertarian, then it’ll be SP that doesn’t fit, and we’ll bow out. That’s fine.

    I didn’t mean to pick a fight with you, Dee, but as Sweet Machine said upthread, all I was doing was reaffirming the principles of this blog — which is especially important to do on a thread like this.

    I think it’s fine for people to have comments turned off. Their blog, their rules. …
    I disagree that there’s ‘no way of publicly questioning the blogger’ since you’ve just admitted that by writing this, you’ve done so, occhiblu.

    Peggynature, first, I totally agree with the “their blog, their rules” principle — I mean, obviously, I invoke that around here constantly. As for the other part, as I said, Occhiblu made a guest post out of an e-mail here. And I do believe that line about having no way to publicly question Sandy came from the original e-mail — which was Occhiblu asking us to publicly question her, not knowing she’d have her own chance. So you’re absolutely right that that’s just what she’s done here, and I think she’d agree with that, too.

    I am, for the millionth time, amused and appalled at what passes for “far left” in the United States.

    Dude, tell me about it.

  77. We, your Far-Left Feminist Dictators on High, appreciate your deep concern. Since we control every facet of the FA movement from our secret dungeons (powered by WordPress), we’ll spread the word.

    Have I told you lately how much I love you, SM? (You too Kate!) :-)

    Also — awesome post Occhiblu. Much food for thought.

  78. I read the Parker piece through Sandy Swarcz’s link, and, as much as I seriously disliked the piece, I thought it fit in well with Sandy’s general libertarian leanings, criticizing (as it does) governmental power as a Very Bad Thing. The big difference between Parker and Swarcz is that, while Parker was presenting a dichotomy of “Evil China” vs. “Wonderful USA,” Swarcz tends to present the USA as always on the edge of becoming too much like China–that is to say, in her writing, she tends to approach all governmental regulation as inherently suspect (whether that regulation is against fat people or putting warnings on baby formula).

    As for the question of collectivism as problematic, I’d argue that American capitalism insists on prizing individualism while supporting conformity (a strange variation of collectivism in which people aspire to a hive mind while under the impression that they’re each and every one wholly a unique and special snowflake). We are told to buy (the same product) so that we can be (a different person).

    But back to the article–yes, I found it racist, as I think that American anti-Communist rhetoric tends to never have moved beyond the place it was when the “Yellow Menace” was in the news (now masked as a “they’re huge, they make all our stuff!” fears of Chinese expansion.

    I guess I’d say, though, that I think Swarcz’s linking to it wasn’t likely based in racism so much as in unbending Libertarianism, even though I would agree that, in linking to it without questioning Parker’s racism, Swarcz did bring racism into the Fatosphere (the upside of this being that, hey, we’re now all talking about it!)

  79. We are told to buy (the same product) so that we can be (a different person).

    Express yourself… with botox!

  80. As for the question of collectivism as problematic, I’d argue that American capitalism insists on prizing individualism while supporting conformity (a strange variation of collectivism in which people aspire to a hive mind while under the impression that they’re each and every one wholly a unique and special snowflake). We are told to buy (the same product) so that we can be (a different person).

    This is something I have thought for a while now, too. However, the way I define collectivism and individualism has to do with my background (social psych) and with the scales that are used in my field – and on those scales Americans score higher on average then Chinese people.

  81. WRT Parker’s attributing so much of the icky things about China to the Evil Commies –

    One thing that Parker probably knows but would never mention: Karl Marx himself insisted that societies had to go through a few centuries of both capitalism and democracy before they should even attempt communism. The path of societal evolution, as he saw it, was as follows: Tribal – Feudal – Democratic Capitalism – Democratic Communism. He would have been horrified to see Russia and China — both of which were still very much feudal states during his lifetime — attempting to skip the democratic-capitalist stage and go straight to communism.

  82. I guess I’d say, though, that I think Swarcz’s linking to it wasn’t likely based in racism so much as in unbending Libertarianism, even though I would agree that, in linking to it without questioning Parker’s racism, Swarcz did bring racism into the Fatosphere (the upside of this being that, hey, we’re now all talking about it!)

    Yes, this. The point wasn’t “ZOMG, Sandy’s a racist!” It was “A prominent fatosphere blogger linked approvingly to a really racist post, and this is the kind of thing we need to talk about.”

  83. I am, for the millionth time, amused and appalled at what passes for “far left” in the United States.

    I’m there with you, Sniper (and Kate), and I’ve never lived anywhere BUT the U.S.! On some sort of realistic, world-wide scale, I’m a moderate to slightly left-wing person (yay gay marriage, boo religion taking over government, no war, no wiretapping), but I’m clearly a member of the Far-Left Feminist party in the U.S.

    Pfft.

    Also, I agree: most comparisons to Nazis are odious.

  84. As for the question of collectivism as problematic, I’d argue that American capitalism insists on prizing individualism while supporting conformity (a strange variation of collectivism in which people aspire to a hive mind while under the impression that they’re each and every one wholly a unique and special snowflake). We are told to buy (the same product) so that we can be (a different person).

    So good, it had to be repeated.

    Remember when it was OK — in fact, expected — that rock stars and pop stars expressed political opinions? How many current popular-music stars that teens listen to are politically active, much less openly questioning the status quo?

  85. I liked this summary I found about collectivist vs. individualist cultures:

    Every country contains both individualists and collectivists, but most countries have a preponderance of one cultural type or the other. Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede’s survey of cultural differences in over fifty countries found that individualists predominate in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Africa and most of the countries of Northern and Western Europe. Collectivists are predominant in most of the rest of the world. Because examples of both types may be found in every country, however, one must remember that generalizations about the individualist or collectivist nature of a country are based on a statistical tendency that does not apply to every person within its physical boundaries.

    And I also think it’s hard to overestimate how steeped in some of this stuff we are, and therefore how difficult it is to recognize it. In one of my courses we had an assignment to go through some of the standard cultural dimensions (like collectivist/individualist, future-oriented/present-oriented, etc.) and then we broke into small groups to discuss it. Though I like to think of myself as more collectivist than most, my white Western self answered each of the sections with “I believe…” Though he said he thinks of himself as extremely individualistic compared to his family, the Filipino-American I was working with answered each of the sections with “My family believes…”

    It was such a little thing, but when I pointed it out we both laughed at how natural each of our responses seemed to us and how unnatural the other’s seemed. Because this kind of stuff is just embedded in that gut-level “feels right’ kind of place — and because it’s always going to be a relative contextual measure — it can be really hard to see when it’s influencing our own thinking.

  86. (a strange variation of collectivism in which people aspire to a hive mind while under the impression that they’re each and every one wholly a unique and special snowflake)

    I’m not disagreeing that we’re sold products to make us all appear and act the same, but the unique and special snowflake rhetoric has never rung true to me. It seems like it’s generally used specifically to slap people down for stepping out of line or standing up for themselves, particularly women, of course. “Oh, she thinks that? Well isn’t she just so speshul.”

    The myth of Today’s Youth and Entitlement is right up there with the myth of People Today Take No Responsibility for their Actions. Everyone knows that they and their friends and family has the proper attitude; it’s all those Other People they don’t associate with that are the problem.

    Umm, sorry, that was tangential, wasn’t it? But seriously, y’all. Do you really actually know someone who thinks they’re incredibly special and unique? Isn’t this whole blog about the ways in which women are systematically devalued and told they’re not?

  87. Remember when it was OK — in fact, expected — that rock stars and pop stars expressed political opinions? How many current popular-music stars that teens listen to are politically active, much less openly questioning the status quo?

    I think a fair number are, hence all the satires of Hollywood liberal types pimping priuses and posing with panda bears. (I mean, okay, Brittney Spears and Jessica Simpson aren’t, but there’s Natalie Portman and her green shoe line and Leo DiCaprio and the like). This seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing for celebs – either their uninformed imbeciles or their spouting off about things they don’t know about and people should be listening to real policy leaders.

  88. Great post – I’m so glad to finally read a discussion that talks about the implicit racism inherent in the criticism of the whole fiasco. It’s really grizzled me that the overwhelming response seems to be that this is something that happens as a result of oppressive Asian values rather than something more over-arching, something that underscores the need for the feminist movement as a whole.

    (I’m Chinese)

    Minor quibble though – Lin Miaoke is the one we saw on TV and Yang Peiyi is the singer. You seem to have reversed that in the post.

  89. Minor quibble though – Lin Miaoke is the one we saw on TV and Yang Peiyi is the singer. You seem to have reversed that in the post.

    Oops, yeah, the second half of my sentence is wrong. It should be “.. because, she claims, Peiyi had imperfect teeth, Parker writes..”

  90. LilaMorgan asked, “Do you really actually know someone who thinks they’re incredibly special and unique? Isn’t this whole blog about the ways in which women are systematically devalued and told they’re not?”

    I trust that you’ve never taught undergraduates? *g*

    You observed that this whole blog is about questioning conformity, and yeah, I’d agree, in that part of what this blog does is cultural criticism of things like advertising. But really, most places (and people) do not engage in that kind of thing.

    In fact, questioning it is so odd to people that you’re likely to encounter a lot of resistance (consider the resistance of people who insist that they’re not dieting because they’ve been socialized to yadda yadda, but instead are dieting for their own personal reasons which they’ve carefully thought out and come to OUTSIDE OF CULTURAL PRESSURES TO CONFORM!)

    Ahem. Anyway, to bring this around back to racism in the Fatosphere and why it’s so threatening when someone says that the Fatosphere may be racist, or that an individual person might have done something racist… people are often unwilling to accept that they may, in fact, be racist because racism (at least in the USA) is now defined as individual deviance rather than being defined as systemic and collective. So a racist is an OMG horrible evil person who is quite clearly wrong, and not simply a person who isn’t actively working to confront their own internalized racism (which is simply a reflection of the systemically racist culture in which they’ve been brought up and in which they continue to live).

  91. I have taught undergraduates, but only twice and I hear this so often from college instructors of various stripes that I think I must have gotten really lucky (I taught Environmental Law and Environmental Politics so there’s probably some self-selection or one sort or another). :-)

    I think my point isn’t so much that people don’t critique the values that are thrown at us; largely, we probably don’t (and those of us who do probably often barely scratch the surface). It’s that I think those of us who have started making those critiques often want to cast the people who haven’t in the light of either villains pushing things on people or victims who are subjected to the pushing. I think it tends to strip people of their rather complicated motivations and also lead to a lot of rhetoric that is rather unfair and exaggerated, and I think the unique and special snowflake rhetoric is part of it (“vanity sizing” is another term I hate for much the same reason, as if women who are told their entire lives to care about clothes sizes are just so vain when they actually, you know, do care).

  92. Ahem. Anyway, to bring this around back to racism in the Fatosphere and why it’s so threatening when someone says that the Fatosphere may be racist, or that an individual person might have done something racist… people are often unwilling to accept that they may, in fact, be racist because racism (at least in the USA) is now defined as individual deviance rather than being defined as systemic and collective. So a racist is an OMG horrible evil person who is quite clearly wrong, and not simply a person who isn’t actively working to confront their own internalized racism (which is simply a reflection of the systemically racist culture in which they’ve been brought up and in which they continue to live).

    I think for me there are at least three other reasons to become defensive when someone calls me racist.

    1.) Sometimes the person does use the label to hurt me.
    2.) There are still openly racist people around who are not working on confronting their internalized racism, and honestly, I don’t want to be associated with them.
    3.) Confronting my internalized racism is a task that is never fully done, I have to do it again, every day, and I will have to do so for the rest of my life. And that can be a daunting task. So yes, it’s kind of seductive to pretend I am already done.

  93. Was that really Sandy making the comment upthread?

    Because I found that more problematic, even, than the approving link to the stupid xenophobic, racist, AND non-FA newspaper column.

  94. This thread is inspiring fantasies in which fat-positive, anti-racist feminist rule with an iron fist. BWAHAHAHA!

    But alas, this is not the case, and Kathleen Parker is paid for writing hateful screeds by right-wing organizations. She doesn’t just hate Teh Godless Commies, folks. Her hatred extends to feminists, gender noncomformists of all kinds, people who look or sound like they might be gender noncomformists, atheists, agnostics, liberals… it would be easier to list people she doesn’t hate. And she’s a shit writer.

  95. Okay.

    Well, Sandy, I understand that you (or anyone else) might read an article quickly, notice some things in it with which you agreed wholeheartedly, and not notice other things in it that were problematic. I’m sure I’ve probably recommended books/articles/movies/whatever to people because of something I really liked about them and, quite often, didn’t notice other things that would offend or upset the people to whom I recommended it.

    Your response here, though, was quite disturbing and inappropriate in my opinion. Instead of saying “I made a mistake” or “I disagree with your characterization of the article” or “I took the wheat and left the chaff behind” you went on the attack. Not cool, in my book.

  96. Ooh and Mari, I’ve read your comment again and I think you’re making alot of assumptions about China that stem from some pretty racist stereotypes.

    Some of what you say is true (i.e. the treatment of political dissenters, for example) but is hardly something that happens only in China – it’s just a more public process there. It certainly happens elsewhere, and in more “Western” countries.

    The flat out comparisons between THIS happens in the mysterious other awful place that is the far east and whether is happens here – the answer is no! Is simplistic and centric at best, offensive and reductive at worst.

  97. My parents have been eating up the Olympics (I personally have been avoiding watching any of it because I’m sick of the hype, the sexism, the politics, etc.) and every day it seems they have some new horrible thing to say about China, and it makes me so sad, because there are good things and bad things about ALL countries, and China is supposed to be our ally (I thought… certainly we do enough business with them!), and I thought the Olympics was supposed to be about everybody putting aside their differences for a moment and being in peace. Guess I’m naive.

    I don’t know if everybody hears this stuff from the same source, but Mom and Dad are spitting back stuff they hear from the stupid news station Dad watches, and it is just hurtful, bigoted stuff that really bugs me. I don’t know what is wrong with the “news” nowadays. None of it surprises me anymore because it’s all the same in terms of being the most wretched or offensive thing I can think of… so, if I don’t even bat an eye I don’t understand how it’s “news.” News, by definition, is supposed to be new.

    Mom and Dad are always talking about how awesome all the US athletes are and hoping that the Americans get all the gold medals or whatever… meanwhile I’m thinking, “sheesh, if they made it to the freaking Olympics… aren’t they ALL awesome?! It’s the best of the best GEEZ.”

    Meh. The whole thing is so dumb. I don’t even like sports, so I don’t think I’m missing much by deciding I’ll never have anything to do with the Olympics again.

  98. @ Mari’s comment:

    There is a lot I find… upsetting about this comment. Nothing will be well-written or even documented. I know that I could spend more time and bring specific examples, but I am honestly exhausted. I think that they are important enough to touch on, however.

    1- I am unclear if you are responding to something that Kate wrote, or if you didn’t notice that this was a guest post?

    2- “Don’t forget, China is a country that dictates what Western imports are allowed inside the country.” Don’t we do the same thing? The only example I can think of off the top of my head is Cuba. It just seems, in my TOTAL lack of economic/trade issues, that we must do the same thing. ?

    3- “Also, China is racist against black people.” I guess I don’t follow this. China is racist against black people – the entire country is? Every person? Are they ‘racist against’ any other people? What is the point of mentioning this when some of us are trying to expose and eradicate racism against MANY groups of people on a global, daily basis? I am unclear as to whether this is supposed to paint China in a bad light or…?

    4- “…some like this is far less likely to happen here in America.” I’m sorry, but what? Things like that happen here all the time. Things far more overtly racist happen, too. Jena 6, making assumptions about people based on how “ethnic” their names sound, denying jobs/education/etc. to POC… the list goes on (far, far too long).

    5- “A world-renowned Olympic athlete was denied a passport to China because he was outspoken critic of the Darfur crisis.” Absolutely. Same thing happens here. Nelson Mandela was denied entry into the US until July of THIS YEAR because he was on a terrorist watch-list. I know that there are other examples (and I’m sure that many on the no-fly lists are there because of political ideals).

    6- “The U.S. gave apologies to the Japanese-Americans and very recently, they apologized for slavery.

    Has China ever apologized or given reparations to its citizens for committing abuses against them? Sorry, the answer is no”

    How long did it take to accomplish these things? How many people still think that we had nothing to apologize for? Just because we say sorry really pretty-like does not make our atrocities any better. We aren’t morally superior for having apologized. How on earth does one apologize for years of systematic abuse, torture, etc.?

    7- “YOU ARE ABOVE THIS BICKERING!” I don’t see bickering in this post. The word, bickering’ sounds all too often like a way to keep women down. Women bicker, they don’t argue/debate. Why is it that anytime a woman disagrees with someone (or, in this case, only calls attention to a specific post), it is ‘just a little spat’ or ‘being bitchy?’ Part of learning how to step outside of our own privilege is to be vigilant about seeing __x__isms (insert word here) and calling them out. If I were to say something race/sex/etc.-ist, I sure as hell would want someone to say something.

    I think that we are shut down too quickly, taught to play nice (I think this was discussed here recently). In fact, I have been debating for 2 days now whether or not to email someone who posted something at Fatshionista that raised my hackles. Why do I worry? Because people will say I’m being petty, looking for things to bitch about, being too sensitive, when, in reality, I am only trying to bring to light how a different group may feel alienated by what was said.

    I don’t mean for this to look like an out-right attack on you. I was just surprised and confused by some of the things you mentioned. I hope that people can either show me how I have misinterpreted your comments, or help me to define exactly what it is that bothered me (assuming anyone else gets my drift).

    And here I go, worrying that I’ve totally overstepped my bounds, gotten too sensitive, not wanting to start a confrontation… but we are living in a post-feminist society, where feminism is not longer needed, right?! [total sarcasm, obvs.]

  99. Thanks LilahCello, you have said everything I wanted to about Mari’s comment, but like you said, didn’t want to appear too combative (see also my concession about certain truths in her post).

    Well, here’s my belated props :D

  100. Joie, I took so long posting that I didn’t see yours until AFTER I hit submit, as is often the case. I am studying to be a philosopher/ethicist (in my 30s – better late then never, right?), and the things people say and the ways in which they say them are extremely important to me. I have been told, however, that I overreact to things, so I never know when I am acting out of line. I am glad that I did not, in fact, overreact this time, and that at least one other person felt the same way. Sometimes I get sick of being the only “rabble rouser!”

  101. Lilah, my rabble was so roused by Mari’s comment that I was unable to respond in any coherent way; you covered everything I would have wanted to say in a much more politic way than I could have managed.

  102. On another point though, being that I am Chinese it’s difficult for me to criticize implicit racism against China without looking too much like someone who has imagined a dog whistle. (I’m completely derailing the thread, I know)

    But to bring it back, it’s why it’s so important to have male voices in the feminist movement and skinny allies in the FA movement. Unfortunately you have so much more credibility when commenting from outside the group facing the immediate challenges.

  103. Sorry, but when right-wing bloggers take the voice-over incident as evident of “the totalitarian mindset,” I must LMAO. Hollywood did this for decades–it’s the reason that Audrey Hepburn starred as Eliza Dolittle instead of Julie Andrews, who had an awesome voice and created the role on Broadway. It’s the mindset of people who have to create a perfect front–either an emerging superpower with folks to impress, or a Hollywood movie producer with an audience to seduce. Only right-wingers and libertarians–who view every piece of entertainment through a tougher lens than Stalin–could draw a line between lip synching and totalitarian societies.

  104. occhiblu, thanks for that. And thank you for this post! It’s funny how I felt like I was being inarticulate and rushed, and you called it political. How often does this happen to us?! It’s odd how we worry so much about how we are portraying ourselves, often thinking that we have done a horrible job, but others find it to be much better than we could possibly imagine it to be. Guess I should worry less, while still striving to be more succinct and articulate. :-)

  105. LilahCello, I so agree with this:
    4- “…some like this is far less likely to happen here in America.” I’m sorry, but what? Things like that happen here all the time. Things far more overtly racist happen, too. Jena 6, making assumptions about people based on how “ethnic” their names sound, denying jobs/education/etc. to POC… the list goes on (far, far too long).
    I think that in the U.S., we are so cynical that we don’t truly allow people not considered attractive enough to even sing at all, whether behind the scenes or not. There would be no scandal, because the selection would automatically determine ahead of time that only the most “desirable looking” child would ever be in front of the camera. When I read about this initially, my thought wasn’t “isn’t China horrible” but “yeah, not surprised — could easily happen anywhere.”

    Also, I appreciate what Sandy does, but I am far from agreeing with her on many issues.

    I think this is an important post. I think that not everyone has to have a blog in order to voice opinions — guest posting is great.

  106. SugarLeigh, I’ve been noticing the same thing too, but it even extends to me only rooting for the Americans… because when I watch it on TV, here in the US, it’s often only the US athletes whose personal stories get shared. I wish they’d work on changing that.

  107. @ occhiblu: When I heard that one girl was singing while another one was lipsyncing because she was considered prettier, my first thought was that it sounded a lot like beauty pageants for little girls in the US :( I’m also not Chinese or well-versed in Chinese culture, so I can’t comment on how these seemingly similar situations for little girls play out differently between the two cultures, but I agree that it’s a good starting point in feminist and FA discussions to remember the humanity of the people involved.

    @Sandy: It sounds like you didn’t mean to endorse the questionable aspects of the article, but if you link to something uncritically, people will probably assume you fully endorse it, whether you do or don’t or haven’t decided either way. It’s hard to list all the caveats in the space of a two-paragraph blog post, and it’s also hard to know whether information is BS or not if you aren’t familiar with the culture in question already. And this sort of prevalent misinformation in the media is something that anyone who begins to look into FA runs up against sooner or later, come to think of it. This is just another instance of it. One article offers unscientific support of a fad diet, another article is a highly questionable analysis of another culture.

  108. Lilah, my rabble was so roused by Mari’s comment that I was unable to respond in any coherent way; you covered everything I would have wanted to say in a much more politic way than I could have managed.

    Ditto.

    On another point though, being that I am Chinese it’s difficult for me to criticize implicit racism against China without looking too much like someone who has imagined a dog whistle. (I’m completely derailing the thread, I know)

    You are so not derailing. And I don’t think most dog whistles are imagined.

  109. Thanks for this post.

    As a pinko-Canadian-medicare socialist, who still falls deep into the libertarian left on that political compass that went around, I tend to believe that most of Sandy’s examples of government abuse are in fact abuses. So I always sort of grimace and shrug at her political leanings. She does a lot of good statistical work, and I think she really believes in people’s ability to overcome economic structure. So, okay.

    That article, though, made me wince from beginning to end and I couldn’t figure out whether Sandy missed it or was saying something specific. (She’d also, a post or two before, done a civil rights/fat rights comparison right on the heels of our discussions here, and I wondered then…)

    I am so glad you wrote about it, Occhiblu, to call it out.

  110. [occhiblu]Lilah, my rabble was so roused by Mari’s comment that I was unable to respond in any coherent way; you covered everything I would have wanted to say in a much more politic way than I could have managed.

    [kateharding]Ditto.

    Tritto?

    I actually felt baited. I thank you guys for responding better than I ever could have. All I could come up with was feeble sarcasm. I must be tired.

  111. This is slightly off-topic, but Shapely Prose was my introduction to the concept of white privilege. Through posts and links from SP to other blogs (and from those blogs to even more blogs) I began examining privilege and racism. I’m working on being an ally (and, you know, being less defensive when I’m called out for saying something racist).

    So thanks for keeping this discussion going. Not only is it engaging in a positive discourse that is (hopefully) more inviting to people of color, but it’s educating ignorant white people about racism and privilege. :-)

  112. Much as I love Sandy’s debunking of anti-fat “research,” I always feel I have to take her posts with a grain of salt, given her background in PR for the food industry. It sets her up with a bias toward downplaying the very real health problems some food additives can cause, for instance.

    (This is why I tend to follow Paul Campos more closely–he’s a lot more willing to harp on industry while also debunking bad research.)

    While the notion of the state trying to control our bodies (size, reproductive rights, sexual freedom, etc.) gives me chills, the idea of corporate control of these things bothers me, too.

    Whether the motivation is religious law, controlling citizens or making ridiculous amounts of profit, ANY large and powerful entity meddling in the personal lives of individuals is problematic.

    However, in a democracy (technically a republic, here in the U.S.) at least if the government’s trying to get in our laps, we have the power to control it by our votes. We don’t have that power over what corporations do.

    We may set up boycotts of companies who use fatphobic and sexist advertising, but do we really make any difference? Not really, no. There are too few of us out here working on this stuff to make a difference in their bottom line. If we’re not wealthy or shareholders, our voices don’t matter.

    Granted that there is also far too much money controlling government, too, but at least each of our votes carries the same power.

    I’d much rather live in a place controlled by voters than one controlled by industry.

  113. Just as a post-script example about government control vs. industry control:

    We’re freaking out (rightfully so) about Japan and Alabama instituting government sanctions against fat people.

    Yet we already have similar things taking effect HERE, in the form of what the health insurance industry is doing.

    I know some people are against the idea of universal health care, because they’re afraid that “the taxpayers” are going to be used as an excuse to discriminate against us for (supposedly) being a drain on public funds.

    But that sort of thing is happening already within the privately funded health care system we have now. And what’s far more frightening about that is that we have absolutely NO say in whether our insurance companies may suddenly decide to up our premiums or even cancel our policies entirely if we weigh “too much.”

    Alabama voters at least have the ability to go to their representatives and lobby against what’s happening to state employees. A lonely person being screwed out of proper health care by a profit-motivated company doesn’t have that option.

  114. I’m very skeptical as to the supposed beauty of collectivism, particularly when illustrated by the Chinese example. China has an ugly history of marginalizing minorities that long predates Chinese Communism. It’s also my impression that collectivist societies tend to be extremely conservative, and I don’t mean “conservative” in the contemporary sense. I mean the original definition: resistant to change. If the individual is expected to just stuff it if he or she doesn’t like the actions of the collective, it takes an inordinately long time to change anything, for better or worse.

  115. keshmeshi – I am not sure that is entirely true. I do believe that the current Chinese political system has some huge problems (and while I think that the US system also has some huge problems I would say that from an outsiders perspective the problems of the Chinese system are bigger).

    But as far as collectivism and resistance to change is concerned… tradition might play a bigger role in collectivist cultures (simply because the younger generation might be more accountable to the older generation than in individualistic cultures). However, I don’t really think that sticking with tradition is necessarily a bad thing – traditions need to be examined critically and if needed they need to be modified, but on the other hand they are a way to pass on cultural knowledge and they also offer people identity and security.

    On the other hand I was always stunned by the flexibility an individual has in his or her life in the examples of collectivist cultures I have seen. People are less expected to behave according to stable “traits” across situations than in individualist cultures – you can be one way with your parents and another way with your friends (a logical result if you define yourself more by your relationships with others and less by “stable” character traits). Also, I (who comes from a relatively individualistic culture) tend to assume that if I have an agreement with someone we both have to stick to it if ever possible, no matter how circumstances change. A good friend of mine from Hong Kong on the other hand expects renegotiation when the circumstances change. Both ways have their merits, but my way, not hers, is the one that is more resistant to change.

  116. Kate,

    You were monumentally important in my journey toward loving myself as I am. I’m sad to day that I haven’t felt welcome here in a while, and this last post drove the message home loud and clear. I haven’t left any comments lately because I know that I will be labeled a troll, as anyone with a dissenting opinions seems to be labeled. I can’t stand idly by, and watch someone like Sandy get crucified.

    I know that the readership of one lowly person, like me means nothing to you, as you seem to be telling me to go elsewhere, and that is your right. However, you’re doing damage to the movement, when people seeking out information on FA, who may also happen to be conservative/republican/middle of the road/libertarian or anything other than extreme left wing “progressives”, see the “stay out” signs everywhere.

    I’m not going to address Sandy’s blurb, or the article she links to, except to say that how anyone can read racism into it is beyond me. As for some of the comments; you can criticize something even if you’re not perfect, collectivism is exactly the devaluing of the individual over the group, and socialized medicine is the legislative result of collectivist thinking and has proven itself to suck balls for fat people.

    In any society that values “the group” over the individual, any difference is seen as a problem, because everything is done “for the common good.” Therein lies the problem. There is no such thing as “the common good”, only what’s good for individuals. If we actually respect and fight for our individual rights, we can celebrate our differences, because in an individualistic society EVERYONE is different. It’s when we see people as part of a group, that they lose their humanity, and can lose our respect.

    Go ahead, ridicule me, my writing, my grammar. Label me a concern troll, or simply delete this.

  117. Eema-le, no one is being “crucified” here. People are expressing mixed admiration and skepticism of Sandy — in other words, there are several different opinions being peacefully discussed in this thread. Describing criticism with hyperbolic rhetoric of violence is a silencing tactic. Please read this post for a discussion of why that’s the case.

    I simply do not understand how anyone can read a thread like this, with over 100 comments that engage in debate at many different levels, and come away with the conclusion that anyone with a “dissenting opinion” will be labeled a troll. Also, there is no “official” opinion here — this is a freaking guest post. It’s not SP doctrine, as if there were such a thing.

    As I said up above, you’re “allowed” here as long as you abide by the comments policy and you don’t give us stabby pains behind our eyes. Quickest way to give us stabby pains? Complain preemptively about how we are going to censor you and how you’re a martyr for your daring in disagreeing with us.

  118. I have not read the entire article, but from the snippets I’ve seen, she’s just another writer who wants to bash a certain country in order to prop up the US.

    For every good thing the US has done, our government (with the help of narrow-minded special interest groups and pharamcists) also has some boneheaded and disturbing thinking when it comes to our human rights, and what’s even more horrifying is that for many, it’s all done in the name of God. Specifically, trying to keep women from getting birth control and the morning after pill because they think preventing pregnancy is morally wrong. They try to influence others to block gays and lesbians from getting married or getting civil unions because they think God thinks it’s wrong. And I won’t even get started on the whole Terri Schiavo fiasco, because that really made me angry.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but the US. But if we want to criticize China’s record and their government, we should also be able to do the same to ours as well.

  119. Quickest way to give us stabby pains? Complain preemptively about how we are going to censor you and how you’re a martyr for your daring in disagreeing with us.

    No kidding. See also: “You’re damaging the movement by being clear about your own political beliefs and maintaining certain standards for discourse.” Also: “There is no racism if I don’t see it.”

    As I’ve said about a million billion times, when I say, “If you don’t like it, feel free to go elsewhere,” that does not mean, “I HATE YOU GET LOST YOU DON’T BELONG.” It means, “This is how things work around here, and if our basic beliefs and standards make you uncomfortable, well, why would you want to keep coming to a place where you’re uncomfortable?”

  120. I’m not going to address Sandy’s blurb, or the article she links to, except to say that how anyone can read racism into it is beyond me.

    I know that for the most part I’m preaching to the choir here, but when someone identified as part of the minority lets you know that there is something wrong with a piece, perhaps you should trust them to know? I mean really, they’ve only been the target of it all their life. You may not perceive it by dint of your privilege, and sure, I have mine too that make me blind (take the recent Vogue cover with LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen) but I like to think that I listen and consider the viewpoints before dismissing it out of hand.

    Imagined dog whistles indeed.

  121. I’m not going to address Sandy’s blurb, or the article she links to, except to say that how anyone can read racism into it is beyond me. As for some of the comments; you can criticize something even if you’re not perfect, collectivism is exactly the devaluing of the individual over the group, and socialized medicine is the legislative result of collectivist thinking and has proven itself to suck balls for fat people.

    I come from a country with a health care system that you probably would think of as “socialized”, and I currently live in a country for which the same could be said (although currently to a somewhat lesser degree). I am also fat. You are free to disagree, but I have made better experiences with both systems than with the US health care/ health insurance system. Every system can be misused – but honestly, I find a statement that criticizes the health care systems of a large number of countries without differentiating between them at all somewhat questionable.

    In any society that values “the group” over the individual, any difference is seen as a problem, because everything is done “for the common good.” Therein lies the problem. There is no such thing as “the common good”, only what’s good for individuals. If we actually respect and fight for our individual rights, we can celebrate our differences, because in an individualistic society EVERYONE is different. It’s when we see people as part of a group, that they lose their humanity, and can lose our respect.

    Honestly, this statement is ignorant. I have heard people from collectivist cultures argue that all individualists are selfish etc., which is equally ignorant. Both, collectivism and individualism have advantages and disadvantages – saying that one is inherently diregarding human rights is simply wrong. I would encourage you to talk to people from more collectivist cultures – I think you might be surprised about what they criticize about individualist American culture.

  122. As for some of the comments; you can criticize something even if you’re not perfect, collectivism is exactly the devaluing of the individual over the group, and socialized medicine is the legislative result of collectivist thinking and has proven itself to suck balls for fat people.

    This is complete and utter bullshit. “Socialzed” medicine (and that’s an inulting misnomer, by the way) varies from place to place. Having experienced both, I can attest that the Canadian system is light years ahead of the American in terms of service, compassion, and equality. There are problems, but those have more to do with serving a small population over a large area than anything else. You know what “sucks balls”? The idea that health care is a service, not a right. Honestly, you live in a country where many states charge rape victims for their exams. Give your head a shake.

  123. But seriously, y’all. Do you really actually know someone who thinks they’re incredibly special and unique?

    I do. Lots of ‘em. They’re rampant in the Pagan community, at least around here. That’s one reason I’m much less involved than I used to be. Also, Mensa. Many afflicted with SSS there. (speshul snowflake syndrome) Again, much less involved than I used to be.

    Moving to the “socialist” as an insult tactic that the right wing and libertarians use, if this country had a viable socialist party I’d be in it. Or a viable Green party. A green socialist party that had a chance at anything would be a total wet dream for me, but since it doesn’t exist, I’m a registered democrat.

    I’m really learning a lot from this thread. As happens a lot on SP. My only complaint is that there are not enough hours in a day to learn everything I need to learn, to read everything I need to read, to share everything I find. I love having light bulbs come on for me. So thanks, Y’all.

  124. It’s also my impression that collectivist societies tend to be extremely conservative, and I don’t mean “conservative” in the contemporary sense. I mean the original definition: resistant to change. If the individual is expected to just stuff it if he or she doesn’t like the actions of the collective, it takes an inordinately long time to change anything, for better or worse.

    And yet, in the United States, social change is held back by people yammering about “personal responsibility” rather than being willing to see how the system as a whole works. America frames fat as an individual problem, racism as an individual problem, sexism as an individual problem, etc.; the conversation is almost always framed as, “Why can’t “those people” just get their lives together and stop eating / stop caring / stop complaining?” The refusal to look at these oppressions as a system that we’re collectively a part of is probably the number-one thing holding back progress on any of these fronts.

    And I’m not trying to be all “Rah rah collectivism is the only good way!” here. As with everything, balance is key. When you prize the individual over the group to an extreme degree, problems result. When you prize the group over the individual to an extreme degree, problems result. Claiming that one way is somehow inherently better than the other way, and denigrating everything else, is engaging in really limited black-and-white thinking and cutting ourselves off from (a) acknowledging (and therefore being able to address) the problems that come from “our” way and (b) acknowledging people who do things differently as being as human, intelligent, and capable as we are.

  125. Also, on a historical note, it’s worth pointing out that the most individualistic societies tend to be the newest, hence less bound by tradition and more open to change. I don’t think it’s really a coincidence that the older a society gets, the more it gels together, if that makes sense. It’s true in individual lifespan development — the older people get, the more concerned with “giving back” they tend to become — and I think that’s true of cultures, as well.

    Or, as an Italian once told me, “You Americans, you’re always running around trying to do new things. You send a man to the moon! Why? We Italians, we don’t have to send a man to the moon. We made Rome. That’s enough.”

    So I don’t think collectivism results in resistance to change; I think societies and cultures that have been through centuries and millennia of change tend to find stability and see more big-picture, long-term consequences to each individual action, because there’s a longer institutional memory to draw on. Younger societies and cultures are still bashing their way around, doing the teenage rebellion thing, which is an important and exciting developmental stage, but has its own problems, too.

  126. Moving to the “socialist” as an insult tactic that the right wing and libertarians use, if this country had a viable socialist party I’d be in it. Or a viable Green party. A green socialist party that had a chance at anything would be a total wet dream for me, but since it doesn’t exist, I’m a registered democrat.

    Something that I find strange in American culture is that some people seem to reject everything that could possibly labelled a “socialist” way of dealing with things. Here is the thing: Just because you allow a “socialist” policy in one area (say, for example, having schools and libraries run by the state – something that is done even in the States) doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing in every other area. I grew up in Germany, which has a social market economy (although it looks less and less “social”… but that’s another topic). If you cannot provide for yourself you get enough money to live on, everyone is health insured at an affordable price etc. Some of these elements are socialist so that the otherwise capitalist system is somewhat controlled and people don’t fall through the cracks. I think it’s a good system – you have personal freedoms, but you also have the responsibility to take care of other people in your society – but then I grew up in that system so I am probably biased. What’s interesting, though, is that the same thing is actually done in the US, but to a much, much lesser degree (and for my European taste, to a degree that is not sufficient).

    The thing is – purely individualist (and as an extension of that, capitalist) and purely collectivist (and as an extension of the, socialist) societies/ systems don’t exist, and they wouldn’t be viable. As occhiblu said, there has to be a balance between contributing as a part of the community (and in return having the community take care of you in case you need it) and doing your own thing. Where exactly that balance lies in a society depends on many factors – there is a huge area of different distributions that can work. But as far as individual rights are concerned: If there truly was a society that was only build on individual rights than basically only the strong/ smart/ rich people would be able to actually do anything with those rights. In order to experience personal freedom in the first place you have to have some security – and collectivism does provide that security.

    (I actually don’t know much about political systems/ theories/ etc… so if someone knowledgeable around here thinks something I wrote is utter bullshit or even just too simplified I would appreciate it if you could tell me.)

  127. I know Parker because I’m a blog addict and I read a ton of progressive blogs daily, so I know her name and her rep as a mindless shrieking harpy of the extreme right in the US and as someone who regurgitates right wing talking points ad nausea. I was a bit dubious when Sandy linked to anything she wrote (and more so at suggesting Parker understands the history of eugenics in the US; I suspect Parker might think eugenics wasn’t carried far enough here), and the article itself made me want to hurl for all the reasons Occhiblu pointed out.

    Every blogger – every writer- out there has their own quirks and faults. Nobody’s perfect and every blogger, including Kate as she just recently posted, has written something they later wish the could erase from memory.

    I have no problem with tearing down Parker and her horrible worldview, or with bringing up yet again the inherent racism most of us live with daily without knowing it or really thinking about it as much as we should. But imputing a racist intention or message or bias to Sandy solely for linking to this article is shaky reasoning at best, to my mind.

    When Sandy said “this is where we’re being led in the name of perfect health and bodies, and in the war on obesity” what I got out of that was Sandy pointing to the myriad of ways both our culture, our economy and our government are increasingly putting pressure on people to conform to a beauty standard Sandy and her regular readers know to be impossible to both meet and enforce. Conformity for the sake of appearance regardless of the true health of it, backed by the power of not just the society but also the state, which can have terrible, dangerous consequences.

    I did *not* get any impression that Sandy was endorsing the ignorance or racism of the article. I hope she was aware of it, and if not that she is now, because there are so very many things wrong with Parker in general and that article in particular, but the parallel of state-mandated conformity being imposed on a population *is* there.

    Basically I thought I got the point Sandy was trying to make, even if she was making it somewhat ineptly. I also believe that she didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this. That doesn’t mean Parker’s article shouldn’t be dissected or that the racial issues not-very-buried in the article shouldn’t be discussed, but I’d caution people against imputing motives or beliefs to Sandy on the basis of this.

    For the record, I never have thought of Sandy’s blog as being a FA blog. She’s a science blogger who focuses on nutrition and health issues, not a fat acceptance blogger. Maybe that’s part of the problem? People are assuming or imputing concerns or motives to her that they want her to have but she doesn’t?

  128. Here is the thing: Just because you allow a “socialist” policy in one area (say, for example, having schools and libraries run by the state – something that is done even in the States) doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing in every other area.

    Yep.

    I’m also annoyed by the idea that there are only two options: Collectivist and individualist.

    One could argue that pure democracy is collectivist, after all, because it leads to mob rule. This is one of the reasons we have a republic in the U.S., and not a democracy.

    The principle of a republic is that policy is created to serve the largest number of people while also protecting the rights of the individual.

    Individuals all have basic human rights that must be protected regardless of the will of the majority. However, outside of those basic human rights, there is a reasonable interest for the will and benefit of the majority to rule. For instance, there’s no such thing as a basic human right to pollute groundwater that an entire community shares, just because some of that groundwater flows through private property.

    Where this applies to FA politics is that it’s impossible to prove that a given fat person’s mere existence has any negative effect whatsoever on her fellow citizens. Thus the basic human right to bodily integrity applies. Regardless of why that person is fat, how fat she is, or whether she’s healthy or unhealthy, it’s simply not possible for one fat individual to cause serious trouble for the community at large.

    And even the idea of increased health care costs don’t matter, either, regardless of whether that health care is provided by private or public funding. As we (here, at least) know, health care costs don’t necessarily rise just from being fat, and certainly not out of proportion with many other types of people, including people such as athletes who have a hugely disproportionate amount of injuries, or people who carry a gene for a serious illness and whose children therefore may require more care than average.

    It’s a very, very simple question: Does a given person’s behavior or state of being harm others? If so, then it’s within the rights of the group to restrict that behavior. If not, then the group has no jurisdiction.

    Smoking? Can cause serious health problems in non-smoking bystanders, so therefore it’s restricted.

    Being fat? Affects no one else, so therefore there’s no reason to restrict it.

    There’s simply no reason to go to extreme individualism in order to protect basic human rights.

  129. I have no problem with tearing down Parker and her horrible worldview, or with bringing up yet again the inherent racism most of us live with daily without knowing it or really thinking about it as much as we should. But imputing a racist intention or message or bias to Sandy solely for linking to this article is shaky reasoning at best, to my mind.

    Lesley’s piece at Fatshionista! does a good job of explaining why ignoring racism is not OK.

    I’m not saying that Sandy said, “Chinese people suck!” But she did stand next to someone saying “Chinese people suck!” and she pretended not to hear them.

    Well-intentioned people ignoring racism is what lets racism flourish.

    And being able to pretend racism is ignorable is part of white privilege.

  130. Having experienced both, I can attest that the Canadian system is light years ahead of the American in terms of service, compassion, and equality. There are problems, but those have more to do with serving a small population over a large area than anything else. You know what “sucks balls”? The idea that health care is a service, not a right.

    Again, ditto.

  131. I’m gonna de-lurk for a second just to add my two cents on the whole “dissent” thing. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, SP is one of very few places on the internet where I am willing to read discussions among people whose opinions I don’t always agree with, and that is exactly because the comments are so carefully moderated. There are few places left where I can read dissenting viewpoints without giving up precious Sanity Watchers points. Usually I avoid forums and comment threads like the plague and hide in my own little bubble just to avoid anxiety. Here, though, I’ve rarely felt like anyone – either posters or commenters – was mercilessly attacking my beliefs. The comments here are generally kept thoughtful and constructive. Because of that I am much more willing and able, here, to broaden my horizons and consider the viewpoints of people I might be inclined to disagree with, and I learn an awful lot of stuff I might have closed my ears to otherwise. So, thanks for that.

  132. But imputing a racist intention or message or bias to Sandy solely for linking to this article is shaky reasoning at best, to my mind.

    Occhiblu very carefully did not do this, in my reading of her post. What I get from her post is “Sandy linked approvingly to this article. That troubled me, because when I read this article, I had a strong sense that it was absolutely not OK because of its racism and xenophobia.”

    Calling someone out on linking to racism is not the same as calling them “a racist.” Heck, calling someone out on a specific incident of racism is not, in my mind, the same as calling them “a racist.”

    I find that responding to “Hey, what X said sounds racist to me for these reasons” with “X IS NOT A RACIST!” misses the point of having discussions about racism entirely.

  133. You know what “sucks balls”? The idea that health care is a service, not a right. Honestly, you live in a country where many states charge rape victims for their exams. Give your head a shake.

    OMFSM. I never thought about that. That’s so disgusting and inhumane. (The rape thing, although the idea that health care is a service is also pretty ridiculous.)

  134. The rape exam is a pretty extreme example, and to be fair, not every state is as bad as, say, North Carolina. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why this is even an issue or why states have their own (often baffling) rules and regulations despite VAWA. I don’t think I will ever really understand Americn culture, despite living here and growing up next door.

    Here’s an example of what I find so confusing:

    http://new.vawnet.org/Assoc_Files_VAWnet/ForensicExams.pdf

    And here’s another thing I will never understand:

    http://www.topix.com/health/health-insurance/2008/08/new-york-times-examines-how-health-benefits-can-influence-marriage-divorce-decisions

    And, um…. Kathleen Parker is a dumber, meaner version of Maureen Dowd!

  135. You know, this is what an overprivileged cheesebrain *I* am. As soon as I saw the name “Kathleen Parker,” I just simply refused to click on the story. I was well familiar with Parker’s cryptofascist rep and didn’t want to give her any page hits. I find Sandy an invaluable resource for breaking down studies in a way that no paid-media source does, but sometimes I have to detach from her political views because I’m way the hell more of a crunchy Dirty Fucking Hippie than she is, and I figured this was just one of those times, oh well.

    And look what I missed. Yeah, we’d never DREAM of having prettier people lip-synch for the less-preposessing in the good old U.S.! Marni Nixon never had any kind of career at all and Milli Vanilli’s records only sold a measly 10 million copies here! And of course record companies today don’t EVER refuse to sign a brilliantly talented female singer who wears bigger than size 4, oh no no noooo. There’s NO pressure on young American girls to look like skinny airbrushed celebrities, they don’t get that shit burned into their brains to the point where by the time they’re 4 years old, they’re already turning down cookies because they’re scared to frigging death they’ll get fat and that’s way way worse than having your head spontaneously combust during Gymboree. Nope, that was all just a dream, just a terrible dream.

    If you want to say that the Olympics incident proves that the state can be just as much of an oppressive influence as the controlling influence other, more ostensibly “free” countries hand over blithely to corporations, fine. I can go along with that. I may be a DFH, but I have my issues with communism, too; I have no desire to be a sheep no matter who the shepherd may be. Unlike plastic American cheesefood slices like Parker, though, I can tell the difference between democratic socialism and communism, and also unlike Parker, I see people’s xenophobia — the fear of anything that “looks” different or strange — as a fundamentally human flaw present in more or less all cultures, one that virtually all people have to consciously work to overcome, as it represents one of the last vestiges of what’s bad about lizard brain instinct.

  136. Delurking to say thanks for this discussion and for the well-moderated discussions here on SP. For me it’s been life-changing stuff.

    Also, thanks very much, LilahCello, (for your response to Mari) don’t doubt yourself, you are kicking arse and you saved my head from exploding. Weh heh.

  137. @ Meowser:

    I feel the same way about JS – I, too, am a DFH and her stance on alt med really makes me insane. I am a believer that we can’t empirically measure everything out there, but that that doesn’t make it any less real (hence my idealism as opposed to materialism). However, I find her site very informative. Again, as people have said, we can disagree with aspects of someone/thing but still find value in other parts.

    Dirty Fucking Hippies UNITE! :-)

  138. I mentioned this on my site, but while I feel that your points are generally fair, I’d be very careful in creating this false spectrum wherein Nazis are the ultimate evil and communism and democracy…pretty much the same. Just on the pure numbers, Tiananmen Square and the communism it represents ARE worse than the Holocaust. 20 million+ dead versus 6 million dead. Both horrible numbers but as a refugee from communism, I bristle at the US and China being lumped together as “pretty much equally evil”.

  139. Sniper, I’m wondering what you find confusing in the VAWA link? Reading it over, that seems intended to force states to PAY for rape kits and to avoid situations where victims are supposed to do it. Or am I missing something?

  140. Ethical Slut – I understand your concern, however, I don’t think this was what people here were doing. As I said before I am German. Germany has seen both last century, first a facist dictatorial regime, than a socialist dictatorial regime. Admittedly, I have lived under neither of them in person – one I know from grandparents stories and from history lessons, the other one because while I was born in West Germany I visited family friends in East Germany several times a year with my parents before 1990. From what I have heard and seen the facist regime in my country was a lot worse than the socialist one – but that is my country, and from what little I know for example about Soviet history, particularly the years under Stalin must have been horrible.

    Still even in East Germany before 1990 it could be dangerous to express a dissenting opinion. There were people put in jail for it, and if you tried to flee the country you risked death. I think the system had advantages for people who were willing to play along – they had less freedom, but more material security, for example. But if you somehow did not “fit” things could be problematic.

    For me, the lesson is that dictatorial regimes tend to turn bad, no matter on which ideology they operate. Also, just because you are doing well under a certain system and feel treated fairly, this does not have to be true for everyone else. (Our friends in East Germany had some trouble because they had West German friends and because they were religious among other things.)

    I believe that communism is nice in theory. I don’t think it can truly work in practice. I also believe that facism is wrong in theory and in practice. And capitalism seems to need some socialism to be stable (and also to give people a fair chance). What is often called “socialist” in the US is good to organize some areas of life in a society. It is good in my eyes if the state assures schooling for all it’s citizens, if in cases when you cannot provide financially for yourself the state takes care of you and if healthcare is a right assured by society rather than a service as has been noted above. I don’t think having those things means a country is on a slippery slope to communism.

    Also, what I found problematic about the article occhiblu criticized was not that the author criticized Chinese communism (which is in many ways rather capitalist anyways, but that’s a different issue) but that the author criticized collectivism, the dominant cognitive orientation of a large number of people in the world. Not every collectivist society has a political system that calls itself communist. And some of those societies work quite well. Plus, the author criticized something that is going on the US just as much as in China – the obsession with physical perfection. This is particularly hypocritical since she stated that something like having the more physically “perfect” little girl mouth to the voice of the better singing girl in public could never happen in the US while similar things actually have happened.

    Finally, while it is fine (and often actually the morally right thing to do in my eyes) to criticize another culture, political system, or country you can either do this because you genuinely desire change for the better for a group of people that are hurt or you can do it to show off how great your own culture, system or country is. The author did the second in my eyes – she only used China to show off how great her country is and why change that could be in any way interpreted in getting closer to collectivism should be avoided. That does not only hurt Chinese people (because it supports negative stereotypes) it also hurts American people in the long run in my eyes because it is a great way to stop a productive discussion about how things could be done better.

  141. Okay, that was rather long… anyways, bottom line is, I agree with you that every political system that suppresses some or all of its citizens is highly, highly problematic – no matter if it calls itself communist or not.

  142. I have mixed feelings about the issue of racism in the original article, although it did smack of the ultra-conservative reactionism towards communism that has been less evident since the fall of the USSR.

    But here’s the point I took from Sandy’s link to it and comments: that the erosion of personal freedoms that one sees in totalitarian governments (which China has regardless of their cultural values) is a fair warning to us in the US. Our government has systematically eroded our personal freedoms since 9/11 and continues to do so. The idea of penalizing fat state employees as they are in AR is one way in which this is going to start to creep in.

    It is a bit strange for me to write that since I tend to fall more on the social-democrat side of things, but what I’ve been seeing more and more, especially as a result of this administration is a stronger executive branch which has loyalties primarily to corporate citizens, and not private citizens.

  143. Or am I missing something?

    The part that says despite systems that are supposed to prevent it, rape victims are being charged for exams. Keep in mind that a sexual assault exam kit costs a few dollars, but the exam itself might cost thousands.

  144. Just on the pure numbers, Tiananmen Square and the communism it represents ARE worse than the Holocaust. 20 million+ dead versus 6 million dead.

    6 million is the estimated number of Jews who perished in concentration camps.

    The total number of all people in concentration camps is much higher–some suggest another 4 to 6 million people perished in concentration camps, having been confined there because of homosexuality, Rom and Sinti descent, opposition to the Nazi regime, and other reasons.

    And, of course, the numbers of people summarily executed by the Nazi regime, no concentration camp necessary, have been estimated from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands.

    I don’t mean to diminish the horror of Stalinist purges, but if you’re going to compare death counts, you can’t cherry-pick the highest number from one historical horror and the lowest number from another.

  145. Yeah, I’m not disagreeing that it’s a huge problem whenever it happens, Sniper – just confused because the link seemed to be a governmental link aimed at addressing the problem. You’re right, though, that it’s terrible if it even happens to a few women. I’m glad it seems like someone is taking the problem seriously, though.

  146. And, of course, the numbers of people summarily executed by the Nazi regime, no concentration camp necessary, have been estimated from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands.

    I don’t mean to diminish the horror of Stalinist purges, but if you’re going to compare death counts, you can’t cherry-pick the highest number from one historical horror and the lowest number from another.

    Also, the large number of people that died in the war either because they were soldiers, because their cities were bombed or because they starved to death. Since Nazi Germany started the war I would say that at least the majority death can be counted as directly attributable to the Nazi regime – even the death of many German civilians.

  147. (I was referring to the war in Europe – there were of cause also lots and lots of deaths in Asia, I must admit though, that I have very little knowledge of the exact events in Asia during WWII.)

  148. I’m glad it seems like someone is taking the problem seriously, though.

    Okay, derailing, but… my point wasn’t that Americans are assholes who make rape victims pay for exams, but that rape victims end up being forced to pay because the system is broken – fragmented, really. Such a thing just isn’t an issue in a single-payer system because health care is health care is health care.

    Except in Canada, dental and optical are extra.

    rolls eyes at Canada

  149. That makes sense, Sniper. Even where there’s theoretically a system in place, there’s a lot more space for error when the system is fragmented into so many parts. Reading that link cursorily, part of the issue also seems to be the interplay between the state and federal governments (which was what I thought you were getting at and which muddied the water for me), which is a whole different can of worms – personally, I ultimately think that the benefits of having strong state governments and a limited federal one tends to outweigh the disadvantages (and I hope the fact that there are a lot of wackos that agree with me on that doesn’t make me look too bad – but then things are changing; look at all the regional climate change accords!), but there’s no doubt it can screw things up too.

    I didn’t know dental and vision were extra in Canada. Boo. It seems like those are often a sticking point in a lot of countries (even people with jobs offering generally good benefits often have terrible benefits here, and isn’t there a problem with NHS dentists being waitlisted for months in Britain?).

  150. “I don’t mean to diminish the horror of Stalinist purges, but if you’re going to compare death counts, you can’t cherry-pick the highest number from one historical horror and the lowest number from another.”

    I hardly meant to do that. Anyone who throws out a number of fatalities in either case and claims it to be absolute fact should be called out on bullshit. Although, considering the highest number is though to be around 66 million, I hardly picked the highest number either…….

    The consensus on my site was democide, “the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder”, is bad. There’s no sense in saying one event is “better” or “worse” than another.

  151. There’s no sense in saying one event is “better” or “worse” than another.

    I agree. That’s why I was mystified by your comment:

    Just on the pure numbers, Tiananmen Square and the communism it represents ARE worse than the Holocaust. 20 million+ dead versus 6 million dead.

    especially because you went with the generally-accepted number for Stalinist purges on one hand and the generally-accepted number for Jewish concentration camp victims only on the other.

  152. I mean, yes, you can find even more extreme numbers on either side, but the fact that you didn’t say “Up to 66 million victims of Stalinism versus perhaps no victims of the Holocaust” doesn’t make the argument you did make any more convincing.

  153. Ethical Slut, I’m not really understanding your comments. If you’re saying that *I* am comparing Tiananmen Square to the Holocaust, I am not. Parker was implying they were both the inevitable result of collectivist world views, and Sandy, in linking weight-based discrimination to that argument, was creating a specter of a fat holocaust or fat massacre, with millions of people exterminated, if the US continues its current policies.

    Hence, my comment that Sandy was making “a very large claim.”

    My problem with Sandy’s link is that she’s blithely creating a false equivalency between extreme examples of oppression — the Holocaust, Tiananmen Square — and weight-based discrimination. Such exaggerated claims ignore the reality of what actual victims of Fascism and Communism suffered.

    Having to pay an extra $100 a month for health insurance because of one’s weight, for example, is a social justice issue, and I think it’s a big one that we should fight against, but it’s not the same as millions of innocent people being run over by tanks or gassed. It’s just not. Cheapening other people’s tragedies or oppressions in order to make our own look worse is just not ok.

  154. “Cheapening other people’s tragedies or oppressions in order to make our own look worse is just not ok.”

    But looking at the possibilities of what can happen under a totalitarian rule is important. We have had in the past 7 years and gradual (and often unacknowledged) encroachment on our civil rights. Yes, we are not at the point in which we are being jailed or hospitalized because of our weight, but in the case of AR what they are saying is that your employer (in this case a state government) may measure health metrics which do not currently have any impact on your job performance, and penalize you for this. There is a slippery slope with all of this.

    We don’t want to wait until things get to the point of no return to protest…and for some people being bopped over the head with an extreme example may be the best way to do it.

  155. My problem with Sandy’s link is that she’s blithely creating a false equivalency between extreme examples of oppression — the Holocaust, Tiananmen Square — and weight-based discrimination.

    You might think that comparison hysterical, but I don’t, and I’m Jewish. I can very easily draw parallels to media treatment of Jews 100 years ago — especially in Europe — and the way fat people are blamed for everything in sight in mass media today. I can very easily picture a time when we have universal health care and anyone with BMI > 35 with “comorbidities” will be required to have WLS to get care. (And depression is considered a comorbidity for “obesity” these days, folks, which is a really sick fucking joke if your BMI got pushed > 35 with the help of psych meds, and is really a sick fucking joke anyway, because it’s a hardy soul indeed who would never suffer from depression being told over and over again that not only are they ugly but all the world’s problems are their fault.) I can very easily picture fat kids being required to go into fat camps and not come out until they’re thin or dead, whichever comes first. Thirty million people with BMI > 35, 16% death rate from WLS after 8 years, tens of millions more with complications out the wazoo…hmmmm.

    Believe me, I would love to be wrong about that. I would love to be around in 50 years, a wizened 95 years old, and have people LAUGH at me about how stupid and irrational I was. But I know that people really can be that hysterical and drum up all kinds of phony “evidence” about how dangerous certain people are just because greater society doesn’t care for how they look.

  156. We don’t want to wait until things get to the point of no return to protest…

    I totally agree with this, but I also think we need to be circumspect when using worst-case scenarios to make the point. Verrry circumspect. Given that we already struggle, as a movement, with the perception that we falsely and simplistically equate fat oppression with other oppressions, it’s important to think very carefully about how we use analogies.

  157. We don’t want to wait until things get to the point of no return to protest…and for some people being bopped over the head with an extreme example may be the best way to do it.

    But not if you frame that example in racist ways. Saying, “Those Chinese people are awful horrible human beings because they believe in things like group harmony and because they are awful horrible human beings they massacre their own people and OMG we totally do not want to turn into those awful horrible inhuman Chinese people so we better do something now!!!” is racist.

    Meowser’s last comment takes the Holocaust and uses it as a comparison without ever saying “We must stop before we become like the awful horrible inhuman German people!!!” Obviously it’s just a quick example, but it shows that it’s totally possible to draw parallels without ignorantly insulting or erasing an entire people’s culture, race, or history.

  158. (But yeah, I also think that Chicken Little-ing too much is a strategy that might work well short-term, but tends to backfire long-term when people look around and say, “Well, there aren’t any gas ovens around, so it can’t be nearly as bad as you said! Must not be a problem!”)

  159. There is no such thing as “the common good”, only what’s good for individuals.

    Can I say this made me cry? This is the kind of thinking that makes people say that shouldn’t pay school taxes if they don’t have a child, shouldn’t allow gas taxes to go to public transit, and all the other ways that we chip in to help our nation.

    For heaven sake, maybe you’re conservative but not religious, but thinking only of yourself makes the baby Jesus cry.

  160. Just re-read my post and thought it might sound like I was saying me=baby Jesus. Sorry about that, it’s me AND baby Jesus that cry when people are selfish, self-centered and proud of it. I truly can’t understand a philosophy that says that considering the welfare of others doesn’t or shouldn’t exist.

  161. occhiblu – I respect your opinion of the idea of looking critically at the racism that underlies critiques of a country…and I respectfully disagree with your analysis.

    I did not get a sense (and I’m a staunch liberal) of the original author being racist, so much as caught up in her idea of communism as a totalitarian skewed political system. If we were back in the ’80s having this discussion and USSR was swapped with China, there would have been no discussion that this article was racist.

    I do agree that the author doesn’t address Asian cultural ideals, but I don’t think this was a racist omission.

    There is a big difference between group harmony and collectivist ideals, and the completely regimented enforcement of uniformity which exists in a totalitarian society. This is the slippery slope that we want to use present and past examples to avoid.

  162. I do agree that the author doesn’t address Asian cultural ideals, but I don’t think this was a racist omission.

    But she *does* address Asian cultural ideals; she just writes them off as totalitarian and inhumane. Which is where the racism comes in. Which is what often happens when one criticizes a culture that one does not understand.

  163. Chiming in late but I wanted to reiterate the point about how nice the discussion is here. I never fear the lame shouting matches/points scoring debacles that plague so many other sites.

    I guess the takeaway point for me is that no matter how valid your point is, it is never acceptable to make it on the backs of or at the expense of others. Also, I never say “it couldn’t happen here.” Because that’s what I would have said about torture, too. Sigh.

  164. I don’t have the energy to read this whole thread, but I will say that criticizing a Chinese political system as crushingly collectivist and insular is exactly the same critique as the ones Westerners have been making of Chinese/East Asian culture for centuries. They’re mysterious, hard to read (those eyes, you know), so family-oriented that individuals and merit-based business disappear (what?! Not Free-Market Capitalism?! The Horror!), and they’re mean to people who disagree with them. These (racist) stereotypes have been around an awfully long time, and just because Communism gets subbed for Chineseness or empire, or the current regime gets subbed for Communism, does not change the fact that it’s the same ideas about the same Othered people. I also hate how completely erased the huge variety of the people encompassed in China gets in American discourse–China is often presented as a prime example of huge homogeneity (that’s what those collectivist values get you, dontcha know.)

    All this balderdash about Oppressive Regimes re: the little girls singing at the opening ceremony did not even come close to occurring to me. I think the entirety of my thought process was “Oh my god, that’s so sad! When they both grow up and realize…” And one of my friends said she’d rather be the pretty one than the one who could sing, and I thought about sexism and shook my head. Seriously, you have to work hard to come up with “analysis” like that.

  165. I also hate how completely erased the huge variety of the people encompassed in China gets in American discourse–China is often presented as a prime example of huge homogeneity

    Which becomes even more ridiculous when you remember that China contains one-sixth of the population of the entire world. Collectivism or not, there is no way one billion people are going to think the same way about anything. And there’s the fact that not everyone in China even speaks the same language. The idea that the Chinese are all the same is bizarrely mind-boggling and you wonder if the people who think this way have spent even five minutes learning anything about China that didn’t involve gunpowder and fireworks. (Which was pretty much the only thing my public school education covered, so it would not surprise me if they didn’t.)

  166. “The idea that the Chinese are all the same is bizarrely mind-boggling and you wonder if the people who think this way have spent even five minutes learning anything about China that didn’t involve gunpowder and fireworks. (Which was pretty much the only thing my public school education covered, so it would not surprise me if they didn’t.)”

    The idea that the Chinese are presented as homogenous is not surprising, it’s an unfortunate but expected effect of stereotyping known as the “outgroup homogeneity effect”, whereby perceivers assume that there is a greater similarity among members of outgroups than among members of one’s own group. In other words, there may be fine and subtle differences among “us” but “they” are all alike. Outgroup homogeneity effects are common and evident around the world. (This does not, of course, justify their use.)

    Of course, motivational factors can affect this homogenous perception, such as when one’s own group is under threat (or a perceived threat) one would become more likely to see their ingroup as relatively homogenous – particularly when they see that their group’s *status* is under threat.

    I’m no social analyst (in fact, I’m quoting from a textbook that I got from the dump, LOL) but I see that effect occurring here in this discussion, no?

    Since I’m plagiarising, might as well carry on, – there are two reasons (and finding the reasons is the critical factor here to me as Jazzy said, it is bizarre that this homogenous idea is formulated.)

    First, we often do not notice subtle differences among outgroups because we have little personal contact with them. (hence, the gunpowder and fireworks comments which was true for me too, BTW)

    Secondly, is that people often do not encounter a representative sample of outgroup members.

    Now I can’t remember what conclusion I was going to draw…perhaps it’s self-evident or I will remember once I post, argh. Anyway, the knowledge of these effects often helps me deactivate my own misconceptions and probe that little bit further. (is that blowing wind up my own arse? I don’t mean it that way but I don’t know how to say it with a little more humility.)

  167. Beth B.–You might be interested in Edward Said’s Orientalism. Not as much about social psychology but discuss the ways that we have projected homogeneity onto other cultures (in rather self-serving ways). Miwome’s comment gets to this as well.

    I think much of the original article makes an annoying mistake of conflating democracy and capitalism and them opposing them to authoritarian communism (and socialism). Democracy is not inherently individualist, or is it necessarily capitalist. As as queendom noted, all of these things are historically intermingled–here in the U.S. we have “socialist” policies like Medicare! Minimum Wage! Environmental protection laws! There’s all sorts of interrelationships between the ideas that motivate different political and economic systems, and between the systems themselves.

    But in this case I definitely think all sorts of complexities were glossed over with stereotypes about the Chinese being projected in the Parker piece, and ones that have been reiterated a lot in the past few months.

  168. Yes, we all (as in “all” = human beings) tend to perceive an outgroup as more homogeneous as our own ingroup. We all also tend to describe the actions of the outgroup members more by using words that imply stable character traits than actions of of the ingroup members such as “he is violent/aggressive” instead of “he hit someone” – for positive actions it’s reversed. (I would have to reread the article to see if there were examples of this effect in it, though.) Those effects are to a degree subconscious and they are not only applying to group memberships such as ethnicity or nationality – they also apply to soccer team fans or peoplestudying at different universities (though to a lesser degree).
    These effects are problematic, particularly in a globalized world, and I think it’s worthile to fight against them as good as possible although we will never truly erase them. However, I think the author went a step further with what she said about Chinese people.

  169. Good God, if this blog had to pay dues to the mainstream frame of conversation at all times, worshipping at the altar of false equivalence, there would BE no conversation about fat and fat politics. It is necessarily limiting to always make the space open for any disagreement anyone can have.

    If this blog were to make it a point to cater to conservative pov’s it would draw very narrow boundaries around the conversation, silencing the voices of those who are already silenced in the mainstream conversation, keeping the conversation from building and growing where it should, in the name of justice, go, in favor of conforming to the pre-determined shape dictated by that mainstream.

    Thank God this place exists and puts a concerted effort into building an unapologetically progressive space, giving voice to people and ideas that are only ever brought into the mainstream as butts of a joke. I wouldn’t be here if it were any other way.

  170. occhiblu, I just want to say thanks so much for writing this article. I’m not going to contribute anything insightful to the discussion unfortunately (I’m late coming into this thread and it seems like people have covered a lot already), but I will say that you really opened my eyes here. :)

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