Keith Fournier, Man Who Pronounces

A charming Roman Catholic priest once said, to a female friend of mine preparing for ordained ministry, “Seeing a woman give a sermon is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs. You’re so amazed she’s doing it, you don’t really stop to think about whether she’s doing it well.”

Ho-HO, chaps! Amirite? It’s funny because WOMEN AREN’T REALLY PEOPLE AND ALSO THEY’RE KIND OF STUPID, geddit?

Well, in the same vein, I’d like to offer this observation: Seeing a man with an inflated sense of entitlement pronounce authoritatively as though he’s considered all the available evidence that the universe has to offer – when in fact it’s clear that he’s only considered the evidence proffered by other Men Who Pronounce — is like seeing dogs make friends with each other by sniffing butts. It’s so commonplace and unsurprising, you don’t stop to think, “Now, how does THAT convey pertinent information?”

Why do I mention this? No reason, really. Say! On a completely unrelated note: Here’s an essay by Deacon Keith Fournier. He thinks that people with “disordered appetites” shouldn’t get special “civil rights.” Or, well, he grudgingly acknowledges that they have rights because they’re humans with “dignity,: but still, he thinks it’s really important that they be made to know how disordered they are by, um… not having rights. That is to say, they shouldn’t be discriminated against, they just shouldn’t get to do the things that other, presumably more “well-ordered” people can do. Oh, also, he thinks that the Catholic Church will have its definition of marriage that’s essentially independent of what governments say about marriage… and this is why it’s really, really important for Catholics to oppose government-sanctioned marriage equality, even in instances where marriage equality is the majority will of the governed.

Confused yet? Well, your nose may not be as finely honed as Deacon Keith Fournier’s. There are many elements of this essay that offend me as a religious scholar and as a person who likes a good logical argument. I’m resisting the urge to get sidelined into a theological discussion of Natural Law, though, because I want to draw y’all’s attention to a point far more pertinent to the fatosphere: Deacon Keith Fournier knows that being gay is disordered, because being gay is a lot like being fat, and everyone totally knows that fatness is disordered:

Some maintain that same sex attraction is a genetic predisposition. This is disputed. Even if it were the case, that does not give homosexual activity any special status. Should we really give disordered appetites civil rights status under the law? Let’s consider an absurd example. I have struggled most of my life with fighting obesity. I am on the “winning end” lately, but just give me another Holiday! A very good argument can be made that obesity also has a genetic predisposition. However, I will fight it my whole life because it is unhealthy. It is a disordered appetite. Should we as a Nation decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat?

HA HA HA HA! What an absurd example! Fat people having the civil right to be fat! Ahhh… *wipes eye* … Deacon, you’re such a card.

Should those who insist that they resist that “genetic predisposition” to overeat be called Fata-phobic?

Um… with the exception of the adorably clueless capitalization and extra “a” in “Fata-phobic”… I’m going to go with yes?

Here, Deek, let me spot you a few clues:

First, yeah, about those “disordered appetites.” I don’t know how to tell you this. You know what other things have been counted as disordered appetites in the Christian tradition? The relentless pursuit of wealth at all costs. Seeking physical pleasure over spiritual union with God. Putting an exaggerated emphasis upon physical appearance. Now, assuming you think it’s worthile to talk about “orderedness” and “disorderedness” in this kind of detached and context-disregarding way (which I don’t) — come on, you don’t think those things frame a lot of our contemporary constructions of heterosexuality and/or thinness… oops sorry I mean “health”? So who else doesn’t get civil rights now that you, Keith Fournier, speaking for the Roman Catholic Church, find them disordered?

Second… dude, YES, the “Nation” should indeed decide “that fat people have a civil right to be fat[.]” People do indeed have a civil right to simply BE in ways that might make others feel icky-poo or scared or grumpy or oddly titillated or resigned or sad at no longer being in the majority. Even you grudgingly acknowledge that the people who give you that ookie feeling shouldn’t exactly be discriminated against:

Disordered appetites – and the actions engaged in by those who give into them – simply should not be called civil rights. Certainly, those who succumb to them should be treated with the human dignity that they deserve and not be discriminated against.

Great! Yes! You go right along thinking that gays and fatties are disordered, and LGBT folks and obeses will go right on enjoying equal protection under the law. Fine! Wonderful! You won’t get an invitation to Pride Week or the Fatosphere feed, and deathfats and gays won’t get an invitation to your Bible Study. Sounds like a fine plan that will work out well for all concerned.

What? Oh, you’re still not happy?

However, that is because they are human not because of their behavior! Homosexual sexual acts are simply homosexual sexual acts. Our bodies do not lie, they speak the language written within their constitution and confirmed in the Natural Law which binds us all.

Ahhhh, special rights. SPECIAL! Now I see. You’re not worried about gays and fatties having rights, you’re worried about them having special rights! You’re worried that they didn’t bring enough of their special gay and fat rights to share with the whole class!

Specifically, you seem very worried about that “special” right — which I’m sure you have never enjoyed yourself — NOT to have your identity judged legally and bindingly “disordered,” according to one particular religious account of “the language written within [its] constitution and confirmed in the Natural Law which binds us all.”

*sigh*

OKAY DEACON FOURNIER, I ADMIT IT. YOU ARE RIGHT. No “SPECIAL” rights! ALL PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO BE FAT AND GAY AND STILL ENJOY EQUAL PROTECTION BEFORE THE LAW! AND NOT ONLY ACTUAL FAT AND GAY PEOPLE!

Happy now?

But then, presumably — since you’re standing so bravely against “special” rights for one class of people — you’re totally cool with sharing your special perks and privileges of maleness with everyone else, right?

Because I have a friend who can preach one hell of a sermon. What Sunday works for you?

(Edited to add: Shapeling Sarah rightly takes issue with my characterizing Fournier as “speaking for the Catholic church.” Let me try to make a distinction that I should have made originally: I do think that in the essay he presents himself as offering what the Catholic Church has always taught. He also is a deacon, which is an officially-sanctioned position of leadership in a congregation. But he is NOT a spokesperson for the Vatican, the US Council of Catholic Bishops, or other official decision-making bodies of Roman Catholicism, and it is overstating it to say that he’s “speaking for the Catholic church.”)

108 thoughts on “Keith Fournier, Man Who Pronounces

  1. You’re worried that they didn’t bring enough of their special gay and fat rights to share with the whole class!

    Oh man! This must have been why those classmates bullied me about my body and sexuality all along!

  2. They just wanted to be special too, poor things. Won’t someone please think of the dominant culture?!

  3. Oh snap, that was an awesome takedown! I like the playing-dumb approach to ‘special rights’ because, seriously, I don’t get it. What are they? That never seems to be made clear. As a queer, fat chick I am obviously missing out on my special rights and privileges to lord over others, and I totally want in on that.

  4. Yay, this is awesome! A Sarah, I am so excited about having you on this blog. I happen to dabble in the Catholic feminism myself and am having this odd sense of worlds colliding.

  5. You know, I think he should include a definition page, just so we’re not confused about how it all works. And I think it would read like this:

    SPECIAL RIGHT: Having a reasonable expectation that you won’t be treated like garbage, based on a commonly-held understanding that you’re not actually garbage (even though you really are!)

    NONDISCRIMINATION: Having a reasonable expectation that you won’t be treated like garbage, based on a commonly-held understanding that you actually ARE garbage and that it’s only through the good will of the people in charge that you’re even tolerated.

    DISCRIMINATION: When the people in charge have to relax a little and treat you like the garbage you are.

    ORDER: The immutable law that divides people up into garbage and non-garbage. And it’s SO HARD for the non-garbage people, because they have to do all this WORK keeping everyone else in line, and they don’t get ANYTHING SPECIAL (see “special right”) for it! They just get to be the dominant agenda setters.

  6. “you’re totally cool with sharing your special perks and privileges of maleness with everyone else, right?”

    Or your Church’s (and Mormans, Southern Baptists, Methodists, Assembly of God etc) tax exempt status even though ya’ll blatantly partake in political rhetoric in the pulpit? Cause, political lobbying is an unnatural appetite for 501c3 groups.

    Nice job A Sarah.

  7. Great addition Valerie ;)

    A Sarah what a great meaty post to fully kicking into gear with!! I love this guy’s “Absurd” example here. Bwah! “Should we as a Nation decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat?”

    Yes…yes I do believe that is EXACTLY what we should be doing. Does that answer your odd little rhetorical question? *bats pretty little woman eyes*

  8. Can I just say that the addition of A Sarah is proving to be 100% awesome? Not that I’m surprised about that.

    I kind of love “Fata-phobic.” Especially when said in an exaggerated Italian accent.

  9. ALL PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO BE FAT AND GAY AND STILL ENJOY EQUAL PROTECTION BEFORE THE LAW! AND NOT ONLY ACTUAL FAT AND GAY PEOPLE!

    Hahaha! Awesome!

  10. I don’t have time to write a longer comment right now, but I must say that I am not surprised. I’m so glad you are tackling these topics, A Sarah. Religion and eating and body image are so intertwined for a lot of people. I’m sure that guy had internalized the hate and disgust he holds for fatties because he deals with it himself. Reminds me of the ole’ plank in your own eye message from Jesus.

  11. Just a general comment: excellent post! I’m in lurve with your writing style, A Sarah. And I love the icon.

    More specifically, the joke about the woman preaching made me want to scream just a little. Maybe when I’m fully establised in a pastoral position, I’ll invite that guy to my church, lol.

    As someone who has grown up in the church and is a practicing Christian, I’ve seen a little bit of the intertwining of fat hatred and religion. I try not to think about it too much though, because poor theology and using the Bible to guilt trip people into conforming to your personal standards makes my brain hurt.

    Again, excellent post Sarah.

  12. Oh dear God,

    Not entirely on-topic, I really think it’s easier to be a gay Protestant than it is to be a gay Catholic. The Protestant anti-gay lobby is loud and obnoxious, (and wrong, needless to say) but it’s relatively easy to ignore. The Catholic anti-gay thing – I don’t know – I have two gay Catholic friends, (I had three, but one killed himself) and the guilt thing just seems to be twistier and deeper altogether. It’s like they spent the last two-thousand-odd years sharpening up the guilt-hooks, and now they’re fishing for the biggest batch of sinners EVER.

    One thing – that post by the ‘charming’ Cahholic Priest – Samuel Johnson said it first – a couple of hundred years ago. It was probably funny back then – because Old White Guy humour ROCKED the 1700s!

  13. he’s absolutely ridiculous and an utterly hateful asshole, but I would quibble with your statement that he is “speaking for the Roman Catholic Church”.

  14. Sarah, yeah, you’re right, I ought to have drawn a distinction there. In the whole essay he does present himself as just saying What The Church Has Always Taught, and not offering his opinion on things. But that’s very different from being an official mouthpiece of the organization called the Roman Catholic Church. Definitely quibble-worthy, and your point is well taken. Will correct it, hang on.

  15. @ Kimberly O
    I wouldn’t say it’s easier for gay people to be one religion or another (though atheism has its perks). The difference largely depends on the cultural environment a person is in, including the tenor of a particular faith group. Intolerant religious folks of any stripe will happily persecute gay people, and tolerant ones will treat them more gently, or even positively.
    From my perspective, as a random lesbian on the street, lobbies and bigwigs don’t matter too much. The (mostly intolerant protestant) jerks I went to highschool with, and the more likeable sorts I went to college with, and people I interact with day to day have generally had more of an impact on me.

  16. Nice writing, great to read your stuff.

    As a disgruntled-non-bible-believing-Catholic-woman, I sit in our monthly “Family Faith” sessions with my husband and children in an effort to give my kids a base. A religious base, not to believe in, but to work off of. Thus far, its working, since inevitability each session provides the opportunity to explain that the bible is a book, written by men, for men, with multiple versions of interpretation.

    As a result, my daughter performed a lesbian-barbie wedding ceremony with her Mega-Catholic best friend, and the two went to war over it.

    Gotta love it,
    mamaVISION

  17. I am rendered speechless. Almost.

    I’d say he speaks for the RC church the way Rush Limbaugh speaks for America.

    I’m confused about just when generic, run-of-the-mill civil rights graduate to “special” rights. Oh, yeah… when they are enjoyed by fat people or gay people. Or (crosses self reflexively) fat gay people.

  18. “Should we as a Nation decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat?”

    On the one hand, it’s perfectly legal to avoid hiring obese people in most of the country.

    On the other hand, exactly how would they make it illegal to be fat? Or short, for that matter?

  19. excellent post — this:

    “…..evidence proffered by other Men Who Pronounce — is like seeing dogs make friends with each other by sniffing butts. It’s so commonplace and unsurprising, you don’t stop to think, “Now, how does THAT convey pertinent information?” ”

    …LOL

  20. Puffalo,
    Of course the difference largely depends on the cultural environment a person is in – I’m just talking about my own group of friends, not about the total experience of gays-as-demographic-groups. It’s probably just a coincidence (not sarcasm) that my gay Catholic friends (and again, MY friends, not across-the-board-generalization) tend to be really conflicted about their sexuality because they belong to a church that is very good at conveying the idea that gay is wrong. The one factor that I was able to distinguish between my shame-filled Catholic friends and my openly-gay-and-proud Protestant friends (not counting the gay-and-don’t-go-to-church crowd) is the church’s influence on their self-image.
    So, I didn’t put the posting up here as a polemic, you know? It’s more my personal thing where I have these good friends who have been really damaged by the anti-gay message from that particular church, and it kills me, because I want them to be happy – just happy, and free from self-hate, and their church won’t let them be that way.

  21. Oh – and-

    They can’t let go of their church. That’s an important detail – not being able to walk away from the constant message that what you are, in your very being, is wrong.

  22. Interestingly, I have made the same comparison as this wacko guy, but to make the point that fat people like me deserve civil rights too! In particular, when I have done training for therapists who are LGBT-friendly (or LGBT themselves), I have pointed out that just like they wouldn’t support a lesbian in trying to become straight, they shouldn’t support a fat person in trying to become thin. The “success” rate is about the same — pretty much zero.

    Also, since Fournier is “battling obesity” himself, his internalized fatphobia warps his viewpoint just like people’s internalized homophobia (biphobia, transphobia) warps their viewpoints about LGBT people. He feels he needs to hate his body unless his body is thin and in order to sustain himself he needs to hate other fat people as well. Sad. And aggravating.

  23. Yeah, being Protestant and gay sucks just as bad. The Protestant anti-gays may seem to be obnoxious and far fetched unless that’s your community and family. The Catholic Church doesn’t defrock their gay priests as the Methodists defrocked a lesbian minister a few years ago. All of the major anti-gay activists are protestant including Rev. Phelps. Some of the best known gay personalities are Catholic.
    Gay repairative therapy orgs are predominately protestant.
    Protestants also pay a lot more attention to literal interpretations of Revelation which produces a type of fear that I still have a hard time discrediting as an educated adult. When people tie the recogniton of your loving relationship to the arrival of the anti-christ and your saved loved ones being raptured away leaving you behind, its particularly damaging to LGBT persons.
    If you haven’t seen ‘Saved’ already I highly recommend it because it is spot on about the experience of growing up in a protestant evangelical church community.
    My point isn’t really a comparison of the two experiences but to show that those fundamentalists that you see on TV and dismiss as crazy are real people in the lives of protestants.Sometimes they’re our family members.

  24. The “success” rate is about the same — pretty much zero.

    Yeah, comparing oppressed populations can be a minefield just as often as it’s a useful rhetorical move, but I’ve always found it rather striking that the claimed success rate for remaining ex-fat and remaining ex-gay is about the same. In both cases, it actually doesn’t matter a goddamn bit if it’s a genetic destiny or a choice — it’s how you are, and if someone doesn’t like it, or if you don’t like it, there’s not a lot to be done about it besides learning to like it after all.

  25. Oh and MamaVision that is so refreshing: the Bible is man written and subject to many interpretations.
    You will rarely hear that suggested in evangelical churches- maybe in very,very liberal Lutheran, UCC, or Presbyterian groups- but its rare. Suggest that Sodom and Gamorra’s destruction was really about rape and fathers pimping out their daughters and you’re told that a) you’re in denial b) you’re questioninmg the infallable word of god c) you’ve been brainwashed by liberals

  26. I get what you’re saying, and I don’t intend to minimize your experiences, or those of your friends, or put you on the defensive. I just grew up in protestant Texas, and couldn’t let the “maybe protestant gays have it easier” statement go without comment. I hope your friends can make peace with who they are.

  27. “Should we as a Nation decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat?”

    I just… what is he smoking? Why is he even ASKING this question? I mean, doesn’t he understand civil rights? I just… I can’t even see a NEED for this question to even be asked in the mind of any rational person.

  28. I’m queer, fat, and Latina. Y’all can hand over my special rights already, I’ve been waiting thirty years for them.

    I’m also Episcopalian. We’re having a little inter-family drama lately, because some of us are a little more HELLFIREBRIMSTONECONFORMCONFORM* than the others. You should have HEARD the bullshit from the liberals in my church aimed at one of the bishops who defected. He’s fat. They decided that meant they could ridicule him about it, even though the gentleman** in question was quite capable of making his own self look like a fool with every word out of his fool mouth.

    *I haven’t found the verse yet that says “Thou Shalt Not Use The Brain And The Good Sense Thy God Hast Given Thou”, but these folks insist it does exist.
    **term used loosely

  29. Wow. I hadn’t heard the dog walking on his hind legs analogy related to some activity performed by women/gays/fill in the oppressed group here for almost a month.

    Okay, I exaggerate a tidge, but not nearly as much as I would like. It seems to be the first line of defense for a lot of people trying to cast human rights as ‘special’ rights.

    It’s not clever, it’s not pertinent, and it’s not actually accurate – particularly in a world where women preach from so many pulpits (or equivalents thereof) in so many different religions/denominations. After all, the original idea was that a woman preaching was such an oddity that it would be as astonishing as a dog that walks on its hind legs. This is by far no longer the case. It’s only weird still in a religious tradition that does not allow women to preach.

    On the other hand, the fact that something is unusual is in no way proof in and of itself that said thing is wrong or bad.

    Nor is it automatic proof that said unusual thing should never under any circumstances become normalized.

    Phooey on Keith Fournier! He has earned my utter contempt.

  30. Funny, as a Catholic, I feel the same way about a priest or deacon giving a good homily at this point. The dog on hind legs analogy is unfortunately apt. They are so busy in their own echo chamber that they are unable to minister effectively to people in the pews. In general, of course. There are some good ones out there but they are few and far between.

  31. Let me guess, this is one of those guys who’s always smugly declaiming that gay people already have the right to get married–AHA–AHAHAHA–as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex.

  32. Fournier says, “Disordered appetites… simply should not be called civil rights. Certainly, those who succumb to them should be treated with the human dignity that they deserve and not be discriminated against.”

    Just what the heck does he think “civil rights” are? I looked it up in two different dictionaries just to make sure I wasn’t crazy — and sure enough, I’m not crazy. According to one dictionary, civil rights are “The individual rights of personal liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and by the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments, as well as by legislation such as the Voting Rights Act”. That was a legal dictionary, so I went to a regular desk dictionary to find a less technical definition. It says that civil rights are “the rights of each citizen to liberty, equality, etc.; e.g., in the U.S., the rights of Black people as citizens”. And though this definition may be less technical, it gets, pretty much, at the same idea — when people talk about “civil rights”, they are talking about the rights of people to enjoy both the responsibilities and benefits afforded to them under the law.

    Which begs the question: which laws, exactly, does Fournier think that fatties should not be protected by? Should we not be able to vote? Own property? Go to school? Serve on juries? Pray enunciate, Deacon Fournier — which laws are we not good enough to be protected by? How is the desire to be treated equally under the law a “special right” (for anyone)? And how, exactly, do you square this with the idea of us deserving “dignity”? Moreover, how do you square this with your religion? I’m not a biblical scholar, but I seem to recall that when Jesus said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, he didn’t qualify it with “except for people you think are icky”.

  33. Very reasoned response to something so utterly unreasonable. But it did spark a thought I’ve been having for a while. I, like Fournier, have been working on articulating a connection between homosexuality and fatness, but not in a death-by-fatty-fag kind of way. I’m wondering about the definition of queerness. It seems to me that fatness-for the purpose of subverting the acceptable norm–could find some resonanace within queer disourse. Has anyone made this argument ? As someone who identitfies as straight and fat am I co-opting this term? I mean, no matter what I weigh it’s still legal for me to get married in my home state. But I have often found a lot of meaning in queer discourse that challenges the status quo especially in regard to acceptable/unacceptable bodies and am wondering if anyone else has thought about this.

  34. Truth is not up for grabs, no matter what the growing “dictatorship of relativism” throws our way.
    or
    It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good.

    I’m confused. Is sexual morality relative, or isn’t it?

    Great post, ASarah, I’m looking forward to more from you- especially at the intersection of fat and faith.

    Also? I’m a damn fine preacher, If I do say so myself.

  35. I’m queer, fat, and Latina. Y’all can hand over my special rights already, I’ve been waiting thirty years for them.

    Dammit, you’re right. From now on, Mary Sue gets to cut in line at the movie theatre, is allowed to go 5 miles above the speed limit, and doesn’t have to pay taxes on any printed material.

    Oh, wait. I don’ t have any power. Just as well, I suppose. You can see what things would be like if I ran the place.

    Okay, seriously, what do they mean by special rights? It makes no sense.

  36. *clap clap* i also don’t want special rights as a gay woman ,or a fat woman. i just want the rights others have. pft.

  37. If that’s what’s passing as theology in the US Catholic Church right now, I’m quite glad I’m not going to Mass hearing that dreck from the pews. I really wish I had a Jesuit-grade Clue Smiting Stick at hand.

  38. His use of the ‘ridiculous’ notion of fat people having rights to dismiss other rights reminded me of my favorite scene in Milk, of actual footage of Anita Bryant saying, ‘if gay people have rights, someone could come out and say that prostitutes have rights!”

    Umm, yes. Yes they do. That’s why we call them rights.

  39. I’d like to know since when was asking to be treated with dignity and not to be judged by our size considered a special right.

    I’d also like to think God is sitting up there right now, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at the number of stupid people claiming to be his messengers. The numbers are increasing by the second.

  40. “I kind of love “Fata-phobic.” Especially when said in an exaggerated Italian accent.”

    Lol@ Megan. Now I’ve got Father Guido Sarducci in my brain.

    This post…another reason I’m no longer Roman Catholic.

  41. But he’s so creative! His absurd example is fresh and new! Whereas the other gay rights opponents say that if we allow same-sex marriage, we’re just a few slippery steps away from allowing people to marry animals… he’s found something even MORE absurd! My god, imagine a world where fat people are ALLOWED to be fat! Even bestiality is less shocking than that!

  42. Oh dear . . . that man has the same name as my uncle. Who is not a deacon in Virginia or a raging homophobe (I think just a run-of-the-mill homophobe — do what you want but don’t tell me!), but he is definitely a Man Who Pronounces.

    Awesome post, but I’m really freaked out by the title.

  43. Valerie–how did the Methodists get lumped in with Mormons, Southern Baptists, and Assemblies of God? We don’t lobby politically they way they do, at least not that I’m aware of (I’m a Methodist seminarian).

    Also, yes the church officially defrocked a lesbian pastor, but not for BEING lesbian. I know a lot of other lesbian and gay Methodist pastors who people generally know are lesbian but they are not openly living in a same-sex relationship. Karen Damann was partnered, and her church knew about it, but she was tired of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing going on and self-reported to the Bishop. She knew what would happen and did it as a political statement. Many of us within the denomination are actively lobbying to change these policies within our church. Our church doesn’t even come close to the destructive political activities of the other three you mentioned.

    -Katie

  44. I’m with Tobermory. My fat, queer, disordered ass is gettin” in line to worship at the shrine of SP contributors.

  45. “The reason that marriage and the family founded upon it has become the foundation of civil societies across ethnic, geographical, religious and racial communities is because it is an institution revealed by the Natural Law. It is not some social construct which can be discarded, redefined or ever replaced.”

    This quote is the photo caption. Correct me if I’m wrong, but marriage and family groups as narrowly defined in this article ARE a social construct, yes? That prior eras and other cultures have had other constructions of “family”? And lots of people *now* have different ideas and practices of “family”? So this statement would be wrongedy, wrong, wrong?

    And as a long ago fallen away Catholic, could I request a brief discussion of what the hell Natural Law is?

  46. Keith Fournier with a public platform is like a mule with a spinning wheel: no one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it!

    (RIP Phil Hartman.)

  47. Along with MeMe Roth, he appears to want to take away the rights of fat people to marry and/or have children. His issue is with “disordered appetites” — and I think his next targets may involve people who breathe more than absolutely necessary, sleep more than 7.5 hours per night, consume more liquid than essential for existence, etc.

    Celebrate unruly appetites, I say!

  48. Anyone who claims something Is This Way due to Natural Law is usually full of shit and trying to justify the way they think things should be (usually the status quo) as some sort of preordained destiny rather than the culture we have constructed for ourselves. (See: Republican shrieking that Sotormayor may not think like the normal i.e. a middle aged rich white guy.)

    but I’ve always found it rather striking that the claimed success rate for remaining ex-fat and remaining ex-gay is about the same. In both cases, it actually doesn’t matter a goddamn bit if it’s a genetic destiny or a choice — it’s how you are, and if someone doesn’t like it, or if you don’t like it, there’s not a lot to be done about it besides learning to like it after all

    dang, FJ I hadn’t ever made that connection before but that’s awesome.

    ASara I also think portions of queer theory and the idea of a constructed performance of gender can be brought to bear on the issue of fat. It’s come up in a bunch of blogs piecemeal. I’m not familiar with the academic writing on the subject (I really need to correct that) but I’m sure it’s out there.

    DRST

  49. I just ¤love¤ these references to the Natural Law(s) which govern us, and dictate our existence – as if being a human being wasn’t 90 percent social construct, and 10 percent chaos.

  50. Fournier is one of these so-obvious idiots, I’m actually having a hard time finding the energy to add to the condemnation. He’ll go away someday and few people will care about his civil rights “Fata-phobic” babbling.

    Although, A Sarah, you have my endless gratitude for showcasing his stupidity in a public forum, because somebody had to do it. Thank you and rock on.

  51. Which begs the question: which laws, exactly, does Fournier think that fatties should not be protected by? Should we not be able to vote? Own property? Go to school? Serve on juries? Pray enunciate, Deacon Fournier — which laws are we not good enough to be protected by? How is the desire to be treated equally under the law a “special right” (for anyone)? And how, exactly, do you square this with the idea of us deserving “dignity”?

    This.

    Hey, Keith Fournier? Rights. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  52. I’m not a biblical scholar, but I seem to recall that when Jesus said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, he didn’t qualify it with “except for people you think are icky”.

    AMEN!

    A Sarah – Thank you for a fabulous post! I look forward to many more!!

  53. thegirlfrommarz, Men Who Explain Things or MWETs is my preferred locution for that type of guy. I love that piece so much I want to cuddle it like a teddy bear.

  54. “Should we as a Nation decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat?”

    Well, no – that fat people have a civil right to exist should be SO BLOODY FREAKING OBVIOUS that we shouldn’t have to “decide” it at all.

    But, since it is clearly not, yes – we should decide that fat people have a civil right to be fat. And tall people have a civil right to be tall. And so forth.

  55. Great post! I adore your icon!

    As a former Christian/current atheist I am looking forward to more of your perspective on weight and religion.. (and also on weight tied into childbirth/parenting! Loved your posts on Homebirth Debate!).

  56. The Bald Soprano – there’s a longer version? *goes off to read it immediately*

    FJ – I had to bookmark the article a few months ago because I kept having to google it to post the link while having feminist arguments with men (who wanted to explain things to me, naturally).

  57. I always thought that denying a person their civil rights was a form of discrimination. Am I wrong?

    Ergo, not discriminating against people of “disordered apetites” would mean acknowledging their inherent civil rights.

    I think what he is trying to do is to make an arbitrary duality…somehow we can separate the gayness and the fatness from the human being. I think it’s a duality that we see used in diet ads for “uncovering the real you,” as well.

    Bah!

  58. FJ – I had to bookmark the article a few months ago because I kept having to google it to post the link while having feminist arguments with men (who wanted to explain things to me, naturally).

    Yeah, I google it up regularly… I haven’t yet had the courage to send it to an MWET though! All “here is what I think of you.” Instead I send it to people who might not know what I mean… which is NEVER NECESSARY, because when you say “Men Who Explain Things” to a woman they don’t need context to get it.

  59. I haven’t yet had the courage to send it to an MWET though! All “here is what I think of you.”

    I’m not as brave as I sounded there – I tend to send it to MWETs while being all “other men (not you, of course!) sometimes behave like this and it really annoys women”.

    As you so rightly say, women know what you mean immediately.

  60. This is all a bit trippy, I had to read the Fournier article more than once to even grasp what he was getting at.

    What he shows yet again, is that fat phobia should only really make sense in a conservative context, yet progressives are equally welded to that part of his, ahem, analysis . For ‘natural law’ read (pseudo) science.

    It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

    Wow.

    Sums up the ‘crisis’ and it’s paraphernalia for me, a lot of the time it’s not just not our world, but even our own bodies or selves. I just find it sad that so many feminists are on board with that too.

  61. “People do indeed have a civil right to simply BE in ways that might make others feel icky-poo or scared or grumpy or oddly titillated or resigned or sad at no longer being in the majority.”

    “You’re not worried about gays and fatties having rights, you’re worried about them having special rights! You’re worried that they didn’t bring enough of their special gay and fat rights to share with the whole class!”

    SO MUCH WIN.

    Yes, a ‘civil right’ is defined as ‘right to be’ – no matter what you qualify ‘be’ with – to ‘be fat’, to ‘be female’, to ‘be black’, to ‘be disabled’ – anything! Pretty much anything fits under that umbrella! YOU’VE GOT IT NOW, DEACON, BY GEORGE!

    A ‘special right’ would actually be properly defined as the ‘right to act’ or the ‘right to do [something other groups aren't allowed to do]‘. Such as, I don’t know, the right to DISCRIMINATE AGAINST OTHERS FOR JUST ‘BEING’.

    Holy hell, dude. Can we pound that home any harder? YES, the right to BE is a civil right! It really is! No matter what form of ‘being’ you present! Lord have mercy.

    (Christ have mercy!)
    Lord have mercy.

    @cynthia
    “I really wish I had a Jesuit-grade Clue Smiting Stick at hand.”

    bwahahahah!

    on a related note, i wonder what happens if we just ‘don’t allow people to be fat’. will that stop the fatness? because that’s something the OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA folks might try next. if all the loud pronouncing about it doesn’t work.

  62. That’s an important detail – not being able to walk away from the constant message that what you are, in your very being, is wrong.

    This, right here, is exactly why I need FA and Shapely Prose. Because every damn day I get beat over the head with messages, implicit and explicit, that I should not exist. And there’s nowhere to walk away to.

  63. Re: “Men Who Explain Things” – women may know exactly what this is, but I still think it can be important and validating to have the experience so vividly described. Besides, you get to hear the MWE compared to anacondas and giant turds – it’s like the joys of reading SP!

    And if you haven’t read Solnit’s other work, it’s all that good.

  64. And if you haven’t read Solnit’s other work, it’s all that good.

    I will have to read more of it!

  65. women may know exactly what this is, but I still think it can be important and validating to have the experience so vividly described.

    Oh, totally. I may even have choked up the first time I read it — I’ve dealt with and often dated a lot of these guys, and if you’re doing it without the knowledge that the problem is not you, it can be really devastating. Solnit’s piece not only articulates the phenomenon beautifully but lets people who encounter MWETs — which is all of us — know that we’re not alone and hey, not actually stupid.

  66. Urgh. My father is a Man Who Explains Things. He is also a man who never even tried to further his education after finishing school, but despite that he is so, SO much more qualified than me to tell me about everything. Like, where I was going wrong on my Biology course – never mind that it’s a subject he’d never even studied.

    He went as far as to make up some total BS about what the spleen does, when I asked him in the vague hope it would make him shut up.

  67. thegirlfrommarz –

    Lest I sound like a MWET, I haven’t read all her books, but she has stuff in TomDispatch, Harper’s and other places all the time that are really stunning for combining political insight with powerful storytelling. Part of what made me love this piece is that her own writing is so smart, empathic and human – the exact opposite of what she’s describing.

  68. I was wondering which of you brilliant chicas were going to cover this story and I have to say, A Sarah – FTW!!!

    Also, as a queer, fat Jewess, special rights – I’d like them right here next to my LaZBoy, my manual for recruitment of children and my pile of baby donuts.

  69. I’m not sure what this has post to do with fat acceptance, but your off-topic, anti-Catholic tirade has cost this blog a reader. Doubt you’ll miss me, but thought you should know.

  70. It – WWET (or Shapelings Who Explain Things) are always welcome, especially if it leads to me reading more Rebecca Solnit!

  71. your off-topic, anti-Catholic tirade has cost this blog a reader.

    If you think this post was anti-Catholic and can’t see what it has to do with fat acceptance, I don’t think you can really characterize yourself as a “reader.”

  72. ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself… unless the neighbour is one of Teh Fatz… then you gotta LYNCH that fat ass!!!’

    If the Catholic church can deny the Holocaust, are any of us even fractionally surprised that they can dehumanise fat people so sweepingly? My experience of Catholocism has been that we are all God’s ickle baby lambs… unless we’re ugly. Or fat. Or female. Or black/ brown/ Chinese/ Jewish etc. Or poor (or at least poorer than the rest of the congregation). If you come under that heading then you’re not Washed In The Blood Of The Lamb, you are the equivalent of the Poor Black Babies In Africa; pitiful, pitiable, desolate, hopeless…

    This is what my church taught me.

  73. @J: Anti-Catholic? I’m genuinely surprised, because nothing the guy said was anything but the most confused, cartoonish version of actual Catholic teaching.

    Now, as it happens I do disagree with elements of actual Catholic teaching, and agree with others. Is that enough to make a blog “anti-Catholic” enough that you can’t read it? Well, then, yeah, I guess we’re at an impasse. Should I not voice my opinion on matters on which I have an opinion? You’re free to do so as well, right? If I’m wrong about the fact of the matter, or even careless in what I say — which I was about the spokesperson matter, which I corrected — then I’d love to know.

    Off-topic? Don’t see how; he was comparing homosexuality and obesity inasmuch as both are alleged to be disordered.

    About not missing you… Well, I’m mostly missing the part where you make your case… why was it anti-Catholic? And off-topic? Right not it seems like you’re saying, “If it weren’t anti-Catholic and off-topic, I wouldn’t be leaving, but look, here I go!” Which is your right – ha! – but I don’t really know what to do with it, you know?

  74. @ Katie

    You’re absolutely right that in general Methodists aren’t as politically active as the Mormons et al. That inclusion, in some aspects, was about my own irritation with my particular region in the Methodist conference. The majority of our ministers are educated at Asbury College which is politically active. Probably the most notable figures from our conference would be Dr David Hager, who voted to not make Plan B available over the counter during his brief stint on the FDA. The other is Dr James Holsinger who Bush appointed to Surgeon General. His nomination was basically stalled because of questions that arose from a paper for a subcommittee in the Methodist conference that he wrote in 1991. The gist of the paper was that gay sex is unnatural. Both of these figures are also connected with Focus on the Family and the like.

    For the most part, I agree with you about Karen Demann’s reasons for openly admitting her LTR with a woman. I kept track of the issue in the NY TImes. While she knew what the consequences COULD be, there was still a hope that the Methodist conference would realize she was beloved by her congregation and allow her to remain in the pulpit. My own family pointed to the total hypocrisy of our denomination allowing divorced ministers to serve while barring people in same sex relationships from serving.
    As a woman in an LTR with a woman, I don’t see any purpose in distinguishing between someone who’s known to be gay and someone who is in an openly gay relationship. At that point, you’re asking that person to live a life of celibacy and deny something fundamental about themselves.

  75. (more @J)

    …Which isn’t to say that you owe it to me to tell me what to do with your reaction or anything. I mean, if I’m being anti-anything then it’s not up to the anythings to teach me how not to be anti. I just…

    Ergh, I guess I’m just saying that my subjective, immediate reaction to your comment is confusion and bewilderment. Partly because I’ve actually *been* the one who’s had to take time off from reading a blog before because it was too anti-religious or anti-Christian. (One person on another blog I read said that it’s a shame that the persecutions of early Christians weren’t more successful. That pissed me off.) So it’s rattling to hear that now I’m the anti-religious one. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it’s always rattling to have to rethink how you see yourself.

    And also because I actually did find Catholicism attractive at one point in my life, so much so that I became Catholic. At some personal cost. I thought it was the system that would Explain It All For You, but I also thought it was compassionate and had room for me. Later experiences caused me to think that it was indeed a system, but not a compassionate one, and not one with room for me. So when I’m angry, it’s to some degree the anger of idealism proven wrong… I thought it promised so much, and I wanted it to be what it promised. Yet time and again I found people using The System, cruelly, for their own gain. My life and mental health took a big hit because of my attempt to abide by Catholic teachings on sexual morality… but did anyone from church help me out when I had PPD following that unintended pregnancy? No. Not a one. Well, they “helped” by making all kinds of assumptions of what my identity was now that I was a mother, and it bore no relation to the person I thought I’d been. And now I was supposed to be this new, beatific, mom-person, and I just didn’t look or feel the part.

    So I guess I *imagine* myself — rightly or wrongly — criticizing Catholicism in the mode of a disgruntled insider who tried really hard to get it right. Which to me, feels different than those who are like, “Stupid Catholics with their Mary worship and their Jesus cracker. It’s obviously a CRACKER, y’all!” but really haven’t ever seen what the life’s about and what it all means. But maybe it’s not that different.

    Anyway, sorry for writing a book.

  76. For what it’s worth, I didn’t read your post as anti-Catholic at all and, though I’m not Catholic, I’m usually fairly sensitive to anti-Christian sentiment in general. (The person who said it was a shame that the persecutions of early Christians weren’t more successful would’ve pissed me right off too.)

    I think that any discussion of religion is tricky, and I really applaud you for taking it on. I always feel like the weird one in a lot of feminist and liberal spaces because it seems like it is cool to mock Christianity in those circles. (I’m okay with mocking stupidity said and done in the name of Christianity, as long as people show a modicum of respect to the actual beliefs.) So it’s awesome for me to hear a thoughtful discussion of religion in a feminist context. And I think it’s really worthwhile to talk about how various kinds of discrimination interrelate with religious beliefs.

  77. “I *imagine* myself — — criticizing Catholicism in the mode of a disgruntled insider who tried really hard to get it right.”

    That’s exactly how it came across.

  78. A Sarah – I did not see this post as anti-Catholic. You corrected the implication that this MWET represents the Church, which was the only thing that made me raise an eyebrow. Aside from that, you took his words and responded to them.

    however, chickfactor’s comment is very close to Catholic bashing. I’m sorry your personal experience of the Church is so negative, but making sweeping generalizations that try to make those of us who are Catholic feel ashamed of our religion is Not Cool. This isn’t a place for blind attacks, it’s a place for rational (and funny) debate. You’re not debating, you’re bashing and I don’t appreciate it.

    DRST
    (Who did not use to be this Catholic until she moved to a little rural Protestant town that has some cult-like qualities due to the isolation.)

  79. Chickfactor did start with “my experience of Catholicism” which mitigates it somewhat, but I agree… let’s be clear that any organized religion has its leadership, its history, its most vocal proponents, its more silent proponents, etc. — all of whom can be espousing very different views at any given time. (Makes you wonder where the “organized” part comes in, but whatever.) My experience of Catholicism, for instance, has been extremely positive — my mother-in-law is a socially progressive Catholic who takes “love your neighbor” very seriously. That’s not to negate chickfactor’s experience, but it’s one experience — one that many people have had, I’m sure, with the representatives of Catholicism that they’ve encountered, but that many others undoubtedly have not, given as how there are over 60 million professed Catholics in America.

    We can make more sweeping statements about a religion if we’re talking about what its leadership has gone on record saying (remembering, of course, that there have been backtracks and erasures in the past and will be again) — but when it comes to a religion’s adherents or a religion as a whole, we should be treading carefully.

  80. The thread would have been better served, though, if J had explained what in particular bothered her rather than painting everybody as anti-Catholic loonies. There were a couple of things said on here that I thought were unintentionally but still anti- protestant. So I said my piece. And Katie corrected me on a couple of points about Methodism. You can’t correct a bias if you don’t tell somone why you perceived it to biased. Maybe J wasn’t in a place where she felt able to elaborate but I don’t think that Chick is the only one who said stuff that might have been seen as hurtful to the faithful. Plus, this is A Sarah’S first time out of the barn And she’s having to prove she’s not an anti-papist agent.

  81. I actually did find this offensive: ” If the Catholic church can deny the Holocaust, are any of us even fractionally surprised that they can dehumanise fat people so sweepingly?” That’s not true and never has been. The Church has never denied the Holocaust, and during the War the Pope not only frequently condemned anti-semitism and murder, but repeatedly directed priests and religious to protect the Jewish people by sheltering them. Probably the most famous of these was St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died at Auschwitz when he chose to replace another man at a selection for torture, but there were many other religious who did similar acts. You can criticize the Church for having been less vocal than you might want, but that’s neither here nor there.

  82. FWIW, I’m pretty sensitive to anti-Christian sentiments, and I didn’t have any problem with this post. But I would be interested to hear why someone would.

    Also, oh man, I can’t wait to show my boyfriend that article about Men Who Explain Things. He’s not quite as bad as the men mentioned in that particular piece, but he has a pretty strong tendency to speak in a “quiet little lady, grownups are talking here” manner when he’s on a subject he feels strongly about.

  83. Annie,

    I’m pretty sensitive to anti-Christian sentiments, and I didn’t have any problem with this post. But I would be interested to hear why someone would.

    I think it’s the inference that fatphobia somehow belongs to the right or to conservatives, merely because it uses their language and characterisation of morality.

    It is true that the language used to moralize about fatness is usually the kind used by conservatives i.e. exercise self-control, take responsibility etc,. But that hasn’t stopped those diametrically opposed not only to his brand of theology, but also his politics.

    To describe fat people as having ‘disordered appetites’ is indivisible from mainstream fat hating, it’s supposed to be the cause of obesity.

    It is right to compare it to Fournier’s homophobia thereby show up both the extreme nature of his hatred of both gayness, and fatness.

    But, like it or not, that is to be expected from someone who represents what he does. The people who have to answer questions are those that claim to be progressive, liberal, scientific and in light of the Solnit piece, feminist.

    For instance I’ve never understood how a humanist can go along with the idea that the human body cannot regulate it’s weight and that we cannot possibly understand what does and doesn’t work.

    The question is, which human beings is it that they believe in?

    The anti nature of it, is not to state that it belongs to people like Fournier and they should answer for it, it’s the fact that he blends in with those who know better with his fat phobia (?), they have to answer how that works, at least he is consistent in his bigotry.

  84. Thanks FJ.

    wriggles, I’d like to respond to your comment but I honestly can’t figure out what you’re saying. Not joking, I really can’t figure out what this means:

    But, like it or not, that is to be expected from someone who represents what he does. The people who have to answer questions are those that claim to be progressive, liberal, scientific and in light of the Solnit piece, feminist.

    For instance I’ve never understood how a humanist can go along with the idea that the human body cannot regulate it’s weight and that we cannot possibly understand what does and doesn’t work.

    The question is, which human beings is it that they believe in?

    Could you maybe clarify a little?

    DRST

  85. “A very good argument can be made that obesity also has a genetic predisposition. However, I will fight it my whole life because it is unhealthy.”

    Fat, being a genetic trait, IS unhealthy. Just like all other genetic traits, i.e. hair colour and texture, eye colour and shape, skin pigment, predisposition to acne, height, having a big or small nose, mouth or ears, being able to roll your tongue, or being double-jointed are unhealthy.

    …Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

  86. I actually did find this offensive: ” If the Catholic church can deny the Holocaust, are any of us even fractionally surprised that they can dehumanise fat people so sweepingly?” That’s not true and never has been.

    A simple Google search would prove that statement wrong. Even the Chancellor of Germany (Angela Merkel) has criticized the Church for not speaking out against Holocaust denial.

    The Church also had a large role in promoting the Holocaust. In fact, Hitler defended his abuse on the Jews by stating he was only reflecting the treatment they have received at the hands of the Church for thousands of years. Sadly, he was right.

  87. …Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

    Well, genetic traits are strongly correlated with eventual death.

  88. The Church also had a large role in promoting the Holocaust. In fact, Hitler defended his abuse on the Jews by stating he was only reflecting the treatment they have received at the hands of the Church for thousands of years. Sadly, he was right.

    Sarah, Hitler saying he was using the same rationale as the Catholic Church does not equal the Church itself promoting the Holocaust. The response of the Church during the war was deeply wrong in many ways, but the Vatican was hardly alone in failing to speak out enough against the Nazis to satisfy those of us with the clarity of hindsight.

    A multitude of books have been written on the subject of the Church and the Holocaust, largely without any concrete conclusions. Given that, I’m not sure this thread is a good place to debate such a potentially explosive topic.

    DRST

  89. Hitler saying he was using the same rationale as the Catholic Church does not equal the Church itself promoting the Holocaust.

    Right, that’s like saying that the Beatles promoted the Manson murders. Denying the Holocaust and not speaking out against it sufficiently are also very different; whether the Catholic church is guilty of the latter is a matter of some debate, but it’s actually dismissive of the gravity of real Holocaust denial to call that Holocaust denial.

  90. Are the right to be thin, and the right for the Hetero people to marry consitered “special rights” now. I am so confused…what are normal rights? The right to breath? Is that still a normal right?

    Why are these rights consitered special or unusual when people besides you want them?

  91. FillyJonk: I like “MWET”, because it calls to mind the old colloquialism “all wet”.

    The Bald Soprano: The link to the longer version of the article is much appreciated!

    Sunflower

  92. Regarding “Men Who Explain Things.” I actually found that brilliant article after becoming so frustrated with a male roommate at the time that I googled “men who explain things (without knowing what they’re talking about) to see if this phenomenon was just in my experience.

    And I found Solnit’s brilliance. Still amuses me up to this day how I found it.

  93. And another Greta Christina link. (I’m a massive fan of Greta Christina.)

    KellyK:I’m okay with mocking stupidity said and done in the name of Christianity, as long as people show a modicum of respect to the actual beliefs.

    No.

    No. No. No. No. No.

    And, while looking for that, I found her essay “Is it okay to mock religion?“, which is even more apt.

    (Have I mentioned that I’m a massive fan of Greta Christina?)

    TRiG.

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