With advocates like this, who needs hate radio?

It will surprise few people who pay attention to American politics that Sarah Palin is a world-class hypocrite. But her recent foray into the politics of language and disability have proved that her hypocrisy is dyed in the wool, an amazing contradiction of terms: openly disingenuous, profoundly committed to shallowness. She’s taken one of the easiest to understand (if not to implement) tactics of social justice activism — avoid using slurs — and turned it into an operatic denial of her last ounce of intellectual integrity.

Here’s the background: according to the WSJ, last August, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called a group of liberal activists “fucking retarded” to their faces. He has since apologized to the head of the Special Olympics and disability activists (who, not incidentally, have rarely been even named in the articles about the apology — but that’s another post altogether). Sarah Palin comes into this because she publicly called out Emanuel on Facebook:

Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.

A patriot in North Andover, Massachusetts, notified me of Rahm’s “retarded” slam. I join this gentleman, who is the father of a beautiful child born with Down Syndrome, in asking why the Special Olympics, National Down Syndrome Society and other groups condemning Rahm’s degrading scolding have been completely ignored by the White House. No comment from his boss, the president?

As my friend in North Andover says, “This isn’t about politics; it’s about decency. I am not speaking as a political figure but as a parent and as an everyday American wanting my child to grow up in a country free from mindless prejudice and discrimination, free from gratuitous insults of people who are ostensibly smart enough to know better… Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Mr. President, you can do better, and our country deserves better.

Notice, however, that Palin is not actually mad at Emanuel; she’s mad at President Obama. Why? Because he has said nothing about an incident that occurred without him, half a year ago, for which a public apology has been issued. Don’t get me wrong — it would be amazing if the Obama White House takes this opportunity to make a serious, public effort to commit further to the needs of PWD. But Palin’s immediate redirect from Emanuel to Obama smacks of… well, something other than a desire to “stop the r-word,” as a recent campaign enjoins us.

Sady at Tiger Beatdown brilliantly analyzed Palin’s political performance a few days ago, in a post I cannot recommend enough. Here’s Sady’s conclusion, which comes after examining her own reasons for eliminating certain slurs from her diction [ed. note: I snipped some of this quote after posting because I didn’t realize how long it was till I hit “publish”]:

Because here is the thing: it is the ability to communicate concepts and define the reality of a situation from which the power of words is derived. When they become pure noise – divorced from reality, divorced from concepts, used at odds to the concepts and realities they should be defining – that’s when this all gets hairy. I can’t say “that’s so gay” because it makes me sick, because I know what it means. I started working to eliminate “retarded” from my vocabulary a while back, because I thought about it and now I know what it means. But it’s when someone like Sarah Palin can score points by saying that the word “retarded” is wrong, although her career is based on a politics that is measurably bad for a lot of disabled people (and, you know, everyone else) that I start to get worried.

[…]

There is no purpose, behind her Facebook post and her call-out of Emanuel, beyond continuing a program of obstructing a Democratic agenda and the current President. It’s precisely as duplicitous as the cries of “sexism” in the right during the primaries. Is there sexism in the Democratic Party, and in the treatment of Sarah Palin? Fuck yes, there is. Was Rahm’s use of the term ableist? Is there ableism in the left?  Was the response to the ableism handled poorly? Fuck yes, to every single one of those questions. But pointing that out when you know that your own party and/or political agenda isn’t going to prioritize social welfare programs which would help the disabled, when they’re trying to make universal access to healthcare impossible, when you don’t have a compassionate stance on the issues of unemployment and poverty to which disability is inexorably linked, when you are opposing abortion rights and charging victims for their rape kits, is just about the most disgusting corruption of these legitimate issues – these issues about which I care immensely – that I can imagine. Palin’s response isn’t about ableism, or about Rahm Emanuel; if it were, she would be talking about Rahm Emanuel and ableism, rather than sneakily using both subjects to get in a jab at Obama. Palin’s response is about Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

But – again – if she knows how to use the language, she wins. Because she is able to sound, for a moment, like the people who are genuinely engaged in talking about disability, and the structure that punishes and hurts people with disabilities. Which is where language debate gets scary. Because if we put forward, for one second, a language debate that isn’t irrevocably tied to structure – if we focus on language apart from the actual change that needs to happen – everything we care about gets stolen and re-purposed in the service of something else. Words have power. For example, they can be used to tell a pretty enormous lie.

Bra-fucking-va, Sady. Sarah Palin has a personal stake in fighting ableist language. So do I. If Emanuel hadn’t apologized for calling people “fucking retarded,” you can bet I would be writing an angry post about it. But Sady is right: oppressive language is irrevocably tied to oppressive social structures. That’s why the language is oppressive in the first place. It’s awful to say something is “retarded” because the punch of the word is based on the equation of “disability” and “bad.” If people with disabilities weren’t systematically devalued in our culture, told that they’re less than human, that their bodies are grotesque and their minds pathetic, that they are a burden to able-bodied people and that having access to basic rights is an outrageous affront to hard-working small-business owners — to pick just a few of the abelist messages that are commonplace — then no one would say “retarded” anyway. Because it wouldn’t have any impact as an insult. Which is why Sarah Palin’s call for President Obama to fire Emanuel rather than, say, hold a summit with disability advocates, is clearly about political one-up-man-ship: it lets Palin look like she cares about PWD, in a broad sense (just like voting for Palin allowed certain right-winger to look like they cared about women in politics), without doing a goddamn thing with her political power and her cultural capital to make our culture less oppressive of them.

So clearly, Palin was already showing her ass and joining the race for Miss Hypocrite USA 2010. But it took a little help from professional evil man Rush Limbaugh to expose how miraculously mercenary she is. Rush Limbaugh, as I’m sure you all know, makes a living by being hateful. So when he got the chance, he upped the “retard” ante:

Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards. I mean these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are looney tunes. And I’m not going to apologize for it, I’m just quoting Emanuel. It’s in the news. I think their big news is he’s out there calling Obama’s number one supporters f’ing retards. So now there’s going to be a meeting. There’s going to be a retard summit at the White House. Much like the beer summit between Obama and Gates and that cop in Cambridge.

So. No surprises here, just the usual hate. Limbaugh defends Emanuel because he’s bashing liberals via ableist language, and he goes the extra mile, calling an upcoming meeting with PWD a “retard summit.” If Rahm Emanuel should be personally fired by the President, Limbaugh should at least retract what he said, right? Or apologize to Palin herself, since she’s been a guest on his show? Surely if something is hurtful when it was reported in the WSJ six months after Rahm Emanuel said it, something more vicious is hurtful when Rush Limbaugh broadcasts it instantly to millions of listeners, right?

Sarah Palin, this morning on Fox News Sunday:

“They are kooks, so I agree with Rush Limbaugh,” she said, when read a quote of Limbaugh calling liberal groups “retards.” “Rush Limbaugh was using satire … . I didn’t hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with ‘f-ing retards,’ and we did know that Rahm Emanuel, as has been reported, did say that. There is a big difference there.”

I’ll give you a moment.

Sarah Palin, who posted this on her Facebook page: Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking, thinks it’s fine when Rush Limbaugh did it because he was talking about “kooks” and did not say “fuck.” Sarah Palin, who claims to want her son Trig to grow up free from gratuitous insults of people who are ostensibly smart enough to know better, thinks it’s somehow not unacceptable or heartbreaking to call someone a “retard” if you don’t actually do it to their face.

Sarah Palin is the worst kind of “ally,” the kind who uses her own status as Super Special Ally to Oppressed Peoples to make herself look good and her enemies look bad without even pretending to care about the actual effect on the people who are actually oppressed. Sarah Palin, like the proverbial white person who has some friends who are black, is the able-bodied person who has some son with a cognitive disability. She’s not advocating for PWD; she’s not advocating for anyone but her own damn self and her right to be on TV every goddamn second.

Sarah Palin, basically, has become Michael Scott, except even more self-congratulatory and less kind.

And less fictional, god help us all.

Links!

Miriam: I want you to stop stalking overweight women

First of all, this guy is like a stalker, following her around, monitoring her. He’s creepy beyond belief. Secondly, this once again, for the millionth time perpetuates the myth that everyone who is overweight is secretly and guilty sneaking ice cream sundaes. We should know by now that weight is much more complex than that. Thirdly, this shit is just sensationalist. I want to save your life? This woman does not look like she is at risk of dying because of a few extra pounds.

Also, why is it always skinny white guys who have discovered the secret of weight loss and are going to teach it to women?

ETA: I haven’t looked myself, but I’m hearing that the Feministing comments are best avoided. Which is, sadly, not that surprising.

Renee: It’s All Because You Are Fat

Not everything that is wrong with someone has to do with fat.  I do have three chronic illnesses that maybe, just maybe, might be making me feel under the weather.  These doctors may have the medical expertise to diagnose an illness but they have no idea what it is to live with one on a daily basis.  The fact that they could even suggest that a lack of will stops patients from participating in behaviour that might have the potential to improve health only proves how disconnected they are from how the pain truly affects the body.

Michelle: All women are real

It pissed me off. And because this is my blog, I’m about to tell you why.

First, because it’s fucking patronizing.

Second, because it’s a sneaky little divide-and-conquer strategy, of the type commonly used to pit women against other women.

Third, because we’re ALL real women, you fuckwad.

Michelle’s awesomeness notwithstanding, a new study of dietetic students (with a small sample size, so take it with a grain of salt, but still) shows:

  • More than 40 percent of students reported that they believe obese individuals are lazy, lacking in willpower and are self-indulgent.
  • The majority of students surveyed also agreed that obese individuals have poor self-control, overeat, are insecure and have low self-esteem.
  • Students rated obese patients as being significantly less likely to comply with treatment recommendations and as having worse diet quality and health status compared with thinner patients, despite the fact that all patients were described as healthy adults.
  • Only 2 percent of students demonstrated positive or neutral attitudes toward obese individuals.

In happier news, HAES UK is launching on May 9!

HAES UK is a UK-based organisation whose membership is open to all who support its mission. HAES UK supports the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach as an effective, ethical and evidence-based approach to healthcare policy, practice and research. HAES UK is committed to challenging weight-based discrimination which is considered to be disrespectful and harmful to individual and community well-being.

Via Fat Chic via Fatshionista on Twitter, designer Rachel Roy has Tweeted:

“RT @rachel_roy: @MarieDenee I would love to do a plus size line. I just need the requests so please keep them coming. -RR Team”

Send those requests via Roy’s site.

And finally, the book is out in Australia and New Zealand! I heard from a reader in Melbourne this morning:

Have started reading it and love it already.  I bought it from a Dymocks (chain of independent book stores…if that makes sense!) in Melbourne city, and they had a lot of them on face-out display.

FACE-OUT DISPLAY, Y’ALL! I can cross that off the list of all-time fantasies, even if I never get to see it.  (Hey, if you do see the book face-out somewhere, either edition, would you send us a pic?) One more sleep until it’s out here!

Oh, and hey, our book site — which can be reached via fatosphere.com, screwinnerbeauty.com, and kateandmarianne.com — is live, though there’s not much there you don’t already know. You can also follow fatospherebook on Twitter for updates on upcoming events and media appearances, and/or join our Facebook group.

Read ‘Em

There are about a gazillion things we’ve missed in the last week, so it’s round-up time.

First, though, I have a favor to ask of anyone who can swing it. Al’s friend Peter lost his job last July. He and his partner of 20+ years, Ericka, are now in danger of losing their house — foreclosure proceedings have begun, and a sheriff’s sale has been set for May 8. Making matters more difficult, in this case, saving the house isn’t just a matter of keeping a roof over their heads. Quoting Peter:

Ericka has multiple, chronic, life-altering diseases and Peter is her primary caregiver. We have modified our home to handle her medical equipment and power wheelchair, etc. Things like the added and increased voltage electrical system, the ramp, the bathroom, the enlarged doors and added bedroom door (so the wheelchair and ambulance gurneys can get through) are just some of the things that have been adapted so that Ericka can continue to live in our home.

Peter recently got a temporary job, and they’ve received some donations already, but they’re still going to need more to keep the house. I know everyone is struggling right now, but if any Shapelings have a bit of cash to spare, please go here and use the donate button or bid on one of the items other friends are auctioning off. A bunch of small donations could make a huge difference. Also, if you’re in the Twin Cities area and know of anyone looking to hire a webmaster/information architect/business analyst (I don’t even know what two out of three of those things mean), Peter’s resume can be found here.

Now, on to the round-up.

The Meghan McCain thing
Backstory here. FJ e-mailed about it this morning and all she said was, “Just in case you needed another reason never to pull that “last acceptable prejudice” shit…” No kidding.

Nevertheless, I replied that I was reasonably pleased with McCain’s response, overall — although yeah, the “last acceptable prejudice” thing NEEDS TO FUCKING DIE, and it also seemed like there was a little too much, “But I’m not fat!” going on, even though she had the decency to acknowledge that the criticism would be bullshit even if she were. I also admitted that a small part of me quite likes what I’ve seen of Meghan McCain (which is not that much, I hasten to note) — that is, the part of me that thinks deep down she’s a Democrat who’s just a little too green to get why her youthful energy and optimism almost certainly won’t make the Republican party any less hateful in the next few generations — so I might be giving her too much benefit of the doubt. FJ is not similarly impressed. What say you, Shapelings? Is her message refreshing to see, or undermined by the way she articulates it? Or both?  

Attack of the fat babies
There are reports out today about a new program  designed to keep pregnant women from gaining too much weight. Once again, the reporting suggests that fat moms have fat babies because their fat uteruses are fucking obesogenic environments, not because fat is hereditary. As I’ve said before, I don’t think genetics are the only reason why some people are fat, and I don’t entirely discount the possibility that a woman’s fat cells themselves could potentially affect her eggs or fetus(es). I do, however, think that when we’re talking about fat moms having fat babies, and no one ever says, “Hey, you think maybe that’s because fat is hereditary?” William of Ockham starts spinning in his goddamned grave.   

Also, check out Lauredhel on how the supposed upward trend in babies’ birthweights is horseshit. 

Brain surgery to cure teh fatz
Today, BFD  got around to highlighting Withoutscene’s fabulous rant on the brain surgery for obesity story we still haven’t gotten around to discussing. Discuss.

A good old fashioned blood-boiler
(via Shapeling Judith) Please enjoy this essay, in which Mindy Laube compares fatness to crime AND admits straight up that health is beside the point: Her whole argument is that fat people should rightly hate ourselves on aesthetic grounds alone. Money quote:

When teenage girls are willing to flaunt their oversize bellies in bikinis only one conclusion can be drawn: human nature is in flux. At some point during the last couple of decades, we seem to have misplaced one of the healthiest of human traits: vanity.

Yes, folks, once again, fat is fashionable and thin people are being persecuted by the millions and millions of fat-accepting folks, who are drowning out the noble few still fighting for a thin beauty standard.

The louder crowd insists that slender women are bizarre anomalies who ought to be force-fed into obese conformity because the rotund figure of the average Australian woman is “normal” and thus ideal.

Wow. I know American public schools don’t do such a great job of teaching geography, but I am 34 years old, and until this moment did not even realize that Australia IS ON ANOTHER FUCKING PLANET.

If you’re fat, you should be standing up to burn calories anyway. (If you can’t stand up, fuck you.)
A fitness club in The Netherlands has installed these high-tech bus shelter ads with a scale in the bench that produces a digital readout of your weight up in the usual ad space, where everyone can see it. As Liss says, “Not only fat-hating/shaming, but deeply hostile to the physically disabled, who have to exchange their privacy and dignity for their basic comfort just to wait for a bus.”

Leave more in comments, y’all. Self-linking encouraged.

What’s up my ass today

Hi! I’m back from a whirlwind couple of weeks, during which I attended a conference here, then flew across the country to tag along while Al attended a different conference. Which means I’ve pretty much spent 2 straight weeks negotiating enormous crowds in not entirely familiar places, sitting still more than I like to, and doing a lot of squinting across rooms, going, “Is that someone I know, or just someone who looks like someone I know?” I’m tired.

And in the meantime, the internet has continued its job of documenting the mind-bogglingly assholic things people say. I have two “favorites” this week.

1) The BBC kids’ show CBeebies recently introduced two new presenters, one of whom, Cerrie Burnell, was born with only one fully formed arm. This has led to comments on their message board such as this gem:

I question the logic of hiring a girl with part of her arm missing (and so obviously placed on display for kids to see it) to present cbeebies. My child was immediately freaked out and didn’t want to watch. There’s a time and place for showing kids all the “differences” that people can have, but nine in the morning in front of 2 year olds is NOT the place!

Little overboard on the need for political correctness, perhaps?

Now, before your head explodes — as it certainly should — I want to say that I did follow links back to the message board, where I learned that the ratio of comments like that to comments like, “OMG, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU ABLEIST SHIT?” (I paraphrase) was roughly 1 to 200. I found that heartening, and I think it’s worth pointing out that the “controversy” seems to have originated with a Daily Fail article, sensitively titled, “One-armed presenter is scaring children, parents tell BBC.” Whipping up outrage is what that publication does best, so keep that in mind.

Of course, one comment like that is obviously one too many, and if anyone deserves a good pile-on, it’s a shit like that. What I find perhaps more troubling, though — because openly bigoted assholes are neither surprising nor necessarily the most formidable enemy — is the ableism coming through even in the messages of support. Such as:

  • People talking about how “brave” Cerrie is. Sigh.
  • People smugly announcing that they’re raising their children “not to see” differences among people’s bodies, and proudly declaring that their children “haven’t even noticed.” Oh, okay. Because your two-year-old hasn’t mentioned it so far, it’s clear that pretending physical differences don’t exist is a stellar way to combat discrimination. 
  • People smugly explaining that when their children asked about Cerrie’s disability, they simply said, “Not everyone grows properly in their mothers’ tummies.” I think there’s a slight cultural thing here, in that British people seem to throw around the word “properly” a lot more casually than Americans do, but I cringed every time I saw something along those lines — way to reinforce that there are “correct” bodies and “other” bodies when you’re ostensibly trying to give a lesson about human diversity. (Also, telling children that babies grow in “tummies” is an unrelated pet peeve of mine.) 
  • People referring to Cerrie as having only one arm, when she clearly has two, one of which is more developed than the other. I’ve only seen one picture of her and have no idea how she uses her smaller arm, but it’s amazing how many folks erase it completely. 

That’s off the top of my head, without going back to look at the comments again. I’m sure if you go look, you’ll find more. 

I’m as outraged as anyone by the “People with disabilities frighten children!” crowd, but at least in the context of this message board, it’s a crowd of 4 or 5, that I noticed — vs. dozens of comments in which folks pat themselves on the back for being fabulous, open-minded parents while slinging more subtly ableist language and sentiments. The vast majority of that, I assume, comes from privilege, not malice — and I can hardly cast the first stone. Ableism is probably one of my biggest blind spots, as I’ve only started to actively learn and think about it relatively recently. (Two or three years ago, I was still defending my right to say “retarded” because “I didn’t mean it like that.” I hate admitting that, but given how often I smack commenters down with Rule 10, I think it’s only fair.) And obviously, I still have major blind spots about stuff I’ve been learning and thinking about for years, because that’s the nature of privilege.

But that’s exactly why it troubles me that all the attention here is going to a few openly bigoted shits, rather than the entirety of the conversation, which involves many, many shades of privileged ignorance and discriminatory language. Granted, the shock value of seeing someone claim that disabilities are frightening to children (conveniently ignoring children with disabilities themselves) might shake up some people who’ve never thought at all about hatred and discrimination. That’s worth something. But it also provides one more opportunity for privileged people who aren’t openly hateful to congratulate ourselves for not being openly hateful — “I’m not bothered by it” was a common refrain among the comments, with no one noting how incredibly patronizing a statement that is — without examining our own prejudices. “As long as I’m not like that asshole, I’m clearly not ableist, and as long as most people on the board are condemning that asshole, we clearly don’t live in an ableist culture! Vive la difference!” Yeah, no.

So. If you want to use this thread to vent about those few outrageous comments, please do feel free, because they are fucking outrageous, and I know how hard it is to resist railing about how hateful and willfully ignorant some people are when you’re given a prime example like that. But I’d also love to see this discussion go beyond that.

And now I’m going to save the second asshole statement I was going to write about for another post, because I think this one deserves its own.

Guest Blogger Lauredhel: “The Obese”

The awesome Lauredhel of Hoyden about Town wrote to us the other day and asked if we’d take on one of her pet peeves: using the phrase “the obese” to describe the entirety of fatkind. We explained that we are A) huge fans of hers, and B) a bunch of slackass losers, so if she wanted to see this topic on Shapely Prose, she’d just have to guest post. Fortunately for all of us, she obliged — and made some hilarious graphics, to boot. Thanks, Lauredhel! — Kate

By Lauredhel

People with disabilities have for quite a while been promoting “people-first” language to reinforce the simple, yet radical, notion that people with disabilities are people first, PWD second. “Diabetics” are people with diabetes; “disabled people” are people with disabilities; “wheelchair bound people” are people who use a wheelchair.

But before activists and advocates could move from this adjective-“people” format to “People with such-and-such-an-attribute”, there was an earlier step. Getting rid of the monolithic mass noun. People with disabilities were typically labelled as a homogenised, Othered mass:

“The Blind”, “The Retarded”, “The Crippled”, “The Wheelchair-Bound”, “The Autistic”, “The Handicapped”.

Please don’t get me wrong, here – even this basic linguistic change is nowhere near ubiquitous. Mass-noun terms for “The Disabled” continue their powerful hold over both everyday speech and formal labelling. And this is not the Oppression Olympics – I’m not comparatively evaluating the oppressions of PWD and fat people. (Coming from the intersection of both, I hope I have a touch of extra cred when I say this.)

But it’s this deliberate language change process that springs to mind, for me, every time I see or hear The Obese.

There’s a resonance, here – and it’s with horror-movie terminology. When I read “The Obese”, I think “The Slitheen”. The image of the Absorbaloff forces its way into my mind (why, Rusty, why?!). The Blob. Children of the Carbs. The Doughnutyville Horror, perhaps.


The Obese are constructed as a big ol’ shuffling mob of zombies, out to accelerate global warming and eat babies and spread contagious fat to poor innocent citizens.

“Zombies”, you say. “Isn’t that just a little – hyperbolic, Lauredhel, hon?”

No. The actual term “walking dead” abounds for people of a certain size.

In the book Obesity, By Alexander G. Schauss, Schauss quotes a clinic director evaluating NFL players:

“The players who are at greatest risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke are the offensive and defensive linemen – they are the walking dead; they just don’t know it.”

Susan Powter’s “The Politics of Stupid: The Cure for Obesity“, pushing her diet-that-is-not-a-diet cure, talks about

“resurrection from the walking dead millions are “waking up” in daily”.

People advocate calling fat children “the walking dead” to scare them into dieting.

The zombification and dehumanisation is internalised, too; repeated social messages are powerful things. A diet blog is dubbed “Dead Man Walking“. A commenter on fat fu even called hirself “walking dead morbidly obese” – while mentioning that sie has been that way for thirty years.

And there’s this, and this, and this.

The usage and context of the term “The Obese” bring home to us the fact that society thinks of fat people as a mob. A sinister, homogenised, shuffling, soulless mob. People who are fat are Othered, defined as something apart from normal. Our fatness is considered our key and defining characteristic; something that sets us apart from “regular people”. Our bodies are foreign, and undesirable, and frightening. This attitude is dehumanising, deindividuating, and what’s more, it gets on my wick.

I hope we as a people can start to take a leaf out of the book of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, when they say:

What Do You Call People with Disabilities? [or fat people, or any other “kind” of people ~Lauredhel]

Men, women, boys, girls, students, mom, Sue’s brother, Mr. Smith, Rosita, a neighbor, employer, coworker, customer, chef, teacher, scientist, athlete, adults, children tourists, retirees, actors, comedians, musicians, blondes, brunettes, SCUBA divers, computer operators, individuals, members, leaders, people, voters, Texans, friends or any other word you would use for a person.

(Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.)

You Know, You Really Are an Asshole

So, I guess I can add Denis Leary to the ever-growing list of comics I once loved who have gotten both more hateful and less funny over the years, finally reaching a point where I can’t fucking stand them. See also: Bill Maher, Dennis Miller. (Young’uns, it’s true: Miller was funny and not such a blatant loon once, a loooooong time ago, before you were born.) Chris Rock is on notice.

An excerpt from Leary’s new book:

There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.

Oh, stop. My sides hurt. 

And another: 

Hillary Clinton - “If she had changed her campaign motto from ‘Blah Blah Something Change’ to ‘Vote for Me or Your Wife Won’t [Bleep] You,’ she would have had the election wrapped up at sunset on Super Tuesday. As Tip O’Neill once said – all politics is local. And for men, it doesn’t get much more local than your crotch.”

HA! OMG IT’S SO TRUE! Jesus fucking Christ. You forgot to mention she has cankles and might be a lesbian, and also, men enjoy beer and sports. 

Cherry on top? The title of the book is Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, so I think it’s safe to assume his insights into fat people’s behavior are equally fresh and hilarious.

I don’t know, maybe Leary’s always sucked this much, and I’ve just gotten older and a whole lot more “humorless” about the kind of “jokes” that could be written by 8-year-old bullies if they wouldn’t get in trouble for swearing. But whether he’s changed or I have, Fillyjonk nailed the basic problem back in December:

It’s not that misogynist jokes — and racist jokes and gay jokes and nationality jokes and jokes about the mentally disabled — are unfunny because we’re just soooo politically correct. It’s not even just that they’re mean and offensive; mean offensive humor can be done well. It’s the fact that, though you as a privileged person may not realize the extent of it, these jokes are just SO FUCKING OLD. 

Seriously. Except, even massive amounts of privilege don’t explain why someone who’s been working as a comic for 30 fucking years doesn’t realize or care that jokes about men thinking with their dicks and shrinks coddling people who really just need a swift kick in the ass are TIRED. I mean, like 15, 20 years ago, there was that guy who did the whole “Shut the fuck up — it’s a revolutionary new form of therapy!” bit. OH WAIT THAT WAS YOU. You recycle that with a shot at parents of kids with developmental disabilities, and that’s your fucking leap into the 21st century? Way to keep it edgy, dude. 

I am just so fucking sick of smart, creative people playing to the lowest common denominator. It almost doesn’t matter to me if guys like Leary and Maher are really misogynistic, ableist, whateverist. I’m offended most by the laziness and cynicism of their schtick — why bother actually being funny when you can get just as many laughs/dollars tweaking lines you wrote in your fucking sleep 20 years ago? There’s a crucial difference between these guys and the douchehounds FJ was writing about: The douchehounds really do think hateful, played-out bullshit is still funny. (The douchehounds are, no doubt, Leary and Maher’s core audience.) But I’d bet everything I have that Leary and Maher are way too smart to be entertained by their own weak-ass jokes. They’re putting out a crap product they’re obviously not invested in and really shouldn’t be proud of, even if they are. That offends me as a goddamned consumer.

And also, you know, as a human being. There’s that.

Shapelings, who do you think is actually funny these days?

Quote of the day: Control

Idealizing the body and wanting to control it go hand-in-hand; it is impossible to say whether one causes the other. A physical ideal gives us the goal of our efforts to control the body, and the myth that total control is possible deceives us into striving for the ideal… In a culture which loves the idea that the body can be controlled, those who cannot control their bodies are seen (and may see themselves) as failures.
–Susan Wendell, “Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability” (emphasis added)

My brain’s been whirring too fast to say much about this one, but as soon as I read it I knew I had to share it with y’all.

Read ‘em up

From Julia of Fatshionista (also a frequent commenter here), a wonderful post about racism and the politics of beauty.

Presenting oneself well, in the best suit, was an important aspect of being the stereotype breakers. In order to have a chance of being taken seriously, you had to look clean and put together from head to foot. Your hair had to be neat (and for women carefully straightened) because frizzy hair made you look like a “bush person.” The best way to describe the look is “controlled.” If negative stereotypes about black people were about them being savage, flighty, ruled by emotion and lacking reasoning, then the way to counter that was to look modern, tailored, and never have a hair out of place.

Julia’s post is an important rebuttal to and complication of the stereotype that black communities are more fat accepting than white communities.

Over at Feministe, guest blogger Amandaw writes a PSA for well-meaning people who just have to tell people with disabilities about the latest health trend their grandma’s hairdresser tried one time (familiar to many fat people as “Have you ever tried diet and exercise?”):

On behalf of all those persons, let me say: Stop.

Think.

That person has had that condition for months, years, or even their entire lifetime. You, on the other hand, have possibly heard of that condition — and possibly not! — and certainly have no experience living with it. Maybe you know someone else who has it, and maybe that’s a person you actually know fairly well (but that is a very small minority out of those who make these comments).

Which of these two people, do you think, knows a broader range of treatment options for said condition?

Alas, the thread gets derailed for a while by someone insisting that people are just trying to help and you little ladies shouldn’t get so hysterical about people who just want you to be healthy, but otherwise it’s an illuminating conversation.

Ask Aunt Fattie: Can I ask my school to provide bigger chairs?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

I am starting law school in August. I am excited about school and my career plans. I did notice a problem when I was touring the school, however. All of the classroom seats are at long tables with chairs attached to the table supports. The chairs have no legs of their own, they just swing out from the tables. I’m a large woman and I could barely wedge myself into a seat during the school tour. By the time the tour’s mock class was finished, I thought I was going to faint.

I don’t know how I am going to survive day after day in class with those chairs. I am sure that the school would provide an alternative to a student in a wheelchair. Can I ask for something similar, and how would I ask without embarrassing myself and the school?

Sincerely,
Squished 1L

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