Stop me if you’ve heard this one

We had a brief douchehound visit yesterday from a fellow whose incisive commentary on the Obligatory Beauty post amounted to “hur hur, British people have bad teeth.” When called on the fact that this was a) stupid and b) kind of exactly what we were railing against, he took a familiar stance: “Oh, you just need to get a sense of humor.” Because feminists just can’t take a joke, right?

Here’s the thing. You know how, when you keep having the same bad relationship over and over, people will eventually encourage you to consider that maybe it’s you? How, in fact, you’re supposed to be really wary of people who seem to have nothing but Psycho Exes, because it’s far more likely that they’re the psycho? How you wouldn’t hire someone who talked shit about all their unfair bosses, because it probably wasn’t really the bosses that sucked?

If no women laugh at your hilarious jokes, it’s time to face up to the possibility that maybe you aren’t fucking funny.

Of course, different people laugh at different things. There exists a subsection of the population that thinks Larry the Cable Guy is a hoot, so that right there tells you that humor is not universal. Even among those of us with an ounce of sense, there’s a fair amount of variation. Some people find the Marx Brothers boring. I’ve met people who don’t like “Mr. Show.” I can’t stand “Seinfeld.” De gustibus non disputandum est, right?

But I think one thing that everyone can agree on is that there’s nothing less funny than a stale routine. There’s no single agreed-upon definition for humor, but most successful humor does incorporate some kind of surprise. Trying to elicit laughter with a tired old joke is like trying to tickle yourself — lacking the element of surprise, it’s just annoying. This is why thinking people are not generally amused by jokes about airline food not being very tasty, or women going to the bathroom in groups, or British teeth. Or, for that matter, humorless feminists. This is why you were ready to strangle that guy in college who wouldn’t stop saying “we are the knights who say ‘Ni’!” — even good material goes sour eventually. This is why, in fact, dusty old humor like this has become a source of humor in itself, as good comedians poke fun at the mediocre comedians who rely on dated gags.

When you were a kid, did you used to say “the last time I heard that one, I laughed so hard that I fell off my dinosaur and broke my wooden underwear”? That retort is now so old that IT’S not even funny anymore!

I’m not even going to talk about people who don’t understand why feminists refuse to laugh at the violent exploitation and rape of women. If you can’t understand that, please feel free to fuck yourself. I want to talk instead to the people who get miffed when we don’t guffaw at jokes about hairy-legged feminists, overly emotional women, women who just won’t shut up, women who are princesses, women who are fat and desperate, women who only like bad boys, women who are grasping gold-diggers, women who should know their place. Is it really that we have no sense of humor? Or is it just that you’re beating the same sad drum that has been entertaining and comforting misogynists since women started getting rights, and we’re waiting to hear where the humor comes in?

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. They’re tired. They’ve been done before, and we — whatever “we” the joke is aimed at — have heard them a million times. We’ve lived them. Heard the one about the busty blonde and how she’s dumb and only good for sex? Heard the one about the black guy who’s a criminal? Heard the one about the fat lady who can’t stop eating? Heard the one about the feminist who can’t take a joke? Fuck you, we didn’t even HAVE to hear them, we’ve been the butts of those jokes since birth. (But yes, since you ask, we’ve heard them too.)

I know it’s comforting and easy to blame your stony reception on our fundamental lack of humor. These bitches just can’t appreciate comedy gold, right? Wrong: what you’ve got is comedy turds that you didn’t even bother to gild. Put in some effort, people! Give me something worth laughing at, and I’ll laugh. But if the closest you get to wit is a recycled gag dredged up from some rotting stereotype, I’m sorry, but my opinion doesn’t even enter into it. You are objectively not funny. You are intellectually lazy. And you’re kind of an ass.

In other words, not only do I have  a sense of humor, but it’s a fuck of a lot better than yours.

Everyone’s an expert, and nobody’s right

In this week’s column, Dan Savage revealed that his infamous recent advice to a man who was turned off by his wife’s fat was totally not his fault, dude. It turns out he was throwing a passive-aggressive little hissy about readers criticizing his advice to a gay man in the same situation:

Readers—mostly female readers—were outraged: Before breaking up, before cheating, before drinking heavily, couldn’t SAS try being honest? Why didn’t I tell SAS to tell his boyfriend that the weight was a turnoff and that SAS was seriously thinking about ending the relationship if the boyfriend didn’t lose those extra pounds?… The advice you read in this space for HARD—all about being honest and open (including those now-infamous conversation starters like, “You have gotten fat and unattractive and my sex drive is nil, so can we do something about it before I bail on you?”)—was written by my female readers. All I did was change the pronouns from male to female.

Oh gosh, how fiendishly clever! You really showed us, Dan! You proved that sometimes people have opinions that contradict with other people’s opinions! For his next act, by the way, Dan goes on to quote various responses to his ghostwritten column, which — good lord! — also contradict one another. Wow, I’m really convinced: from now on I’ll read columns written by people who get paid to give advice, not columns collaged together from the opinions of a thousand amateurs. It turns out that a thousand amateurs don’t always agree.

Needless to say, I’m rolling my eyes so hard that I can see my dinner. But this column, smug as it is, is on balance a boon. Dan Savage gets a break from the intolerable drudgery of writing one freakin’ column a week by conscripting a bunch of schmos without their knowledge or consent. And I get to write about something I’ve been meaning to mention: the “everyone’s an expert” phenomenon of fat.

Foolish as it may be, I tend to read every blog that links here, at least every one that WordPress tells me about. Many posts are touching personal stories about discovering and coming to terms with fat acceptance. Some are sharp feminists directing other sharp feminists our way. Several are critical, either from an understandable “I’m not ready to let go of the FoBT” perspective or from a nonsensical “I can’t read sentences” one. But almost all of them have this in common: If they have any comments at all, they will have at least one comment saying “I just don’t think it’s okay to be fat, and here’s why.” These commenters go on to talk about their weight loss experience, or the surefire diet they know will work this time, or some dude they knew who lost 200 pounds eating Subway, or the terror of carbs or the horror of fats or the menace of corn syrup or the, I don’t know, delicate ennui of riboflavin. They cite ignorant parents, sedentary children, irresponsible school officials, some lady they saw buying chips at Giant Eagle, the generation gap, the degradation of society. They expound, from their presumably flawlessly skinny pulpits, on how simple the whole thing really is.

And of course, the same thing happens incessantly on this blog, though we usually spare you. Here’s a brand-new douchehound, straight out of the box, still with that new-douchehound smell:

There’s a backlash against being thin, but the reality is more people are overweight than underweight. Being overweight in the US is a much wider spread problem (no pun intended). Instead of finding ways to justify it, people should be taking better care of themselves. Everywhere I go in public I am shocked at how many overweight people there are, especially children, who seem to be getting fatter & fatter. It IS a REAL problem.

Seriously, could this be a lot snottier? Here’s what YOU SHOULD DO. Here’s what EVERYONE’S CHILDREN are like. Here’s what THE REALITY is. Here’s how YOU SHOULD take care of yourself. Here’s MY FEELINGS on the subject. It IS a REAL problem. I KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR EVERYBODY.

Of course, it’s easy to be an expert when you don’t know shit about dick. It helps enormously if NOBODY knows shit about dick — if you’re talking about what some guy you’ve never met should say to his boyfriend you’ve never met, just for example, or when you’re spewing facts and figures about something as complex and individual as human metabolism. I mean, who’s going to contradict you? Unless a fellow reader can conclusively prove that they’re the One True Nutrition Scientist and have been hiding out on top of a pillar until everyone comes off it about the calories in-calories out thing, then it’s pretty much just your word against everyone else’s. And everyone else totally knew someone, or totally tried this one thing, or totally read about it in Reader’s Digest. Everyone is pretty damn sure they know something you don’t.

What is it about, this conviction that eating food and occasionally reading nutritional information qualifies you to lecture about human physiology? I use gravity, and I could even tell you some figures and formulas about it, but I don’t pretend to be an expert on physics. I can do basic numerical calculations, but that doesn’t mean I have a valid position on Fermat’s Last Theorem. So why would participating in nutrition and exercise, or even reading a Cosmo article about them, possibly justify me in spouting off my views on such multivalent issues as food, fat, and fitness — issues on which even real experts don’t agree? It puts a whole new spin on “I’m entitled to my opinion” — people truly do feel that expertise on size, health, and nutritional and exercise habits is a veritable birthright.

I do think that some of it is the misogyny that’s so closely wrapped up with fat hatred. (Even fat hatred against men. That’s why fat men are often feminized when they’re attacked — you’re soft, you’ve got breasts, you can’t see your penis.) Women’s bodies are public property, subject to consensus views, so why wouldn’t fat bodies be the same? There’s a dehumanization aspect to both — it’s not a person, it’s a REAL PROBLEM. A public problem. Which, of course, it’s everybody’s right and moral duty to penetrate (symbolically, natch) and solve.

I can come up with other explanations based on the usual components of bigotry, mostly fear. It makes sense that people might collect information and opinions as talismans against the fear of fat or the fear of mortality. Talk loud enough at death, after all, and it’ll leave you alone — that’s what the folklore says. But as Dan Savage’s column demonstrates, it’s not just nutrition and exercise and health — people also have opinions on how you should talk to fat people, how you should behave in relationships with fat people, how you should broach the subject of fat with fat people. Maybe each of those people is right about some fat person, somewhere. But we’re actually not a monolithic group, united by our waistlines. Believe it or not, honesty might be the right approach for Dan’s first correspondent’s boyfriend, but exactly the wrong one for the second writer’s wife. Not every fat person should eat the same thing — we have different metabolisms, different bodies with different abilities and different needs for exercise and different food tolerances and different nutritional requirements. We don’t all wear the same size or shape of clothes; we don’t all look good in black, or bad in horizontal stripes. And not every fat person needs the same thing from his or her friends, family, and loved ones. We don’t even all need the same things from strangers.

I don’t know exactly what people find so intoxicating about the smug superciliousness that comes from having an opinion on What We Should Do About Fat. But I know what really bothers me about it: the essentialism. I can look with pity on false bravado, people playing at being experts because they need to cultivate a sense of superiority. But when people tell you that they know how you should eat or how you should act or how you should discipline your children, or what you can wear and how much space you deserve, it’s genuinely ignorant and simplistic, just as much as when they serve up unbidden platitudes how you should talk to your wife. And it’s just as likely to be self-contradictory, stupid, and wrong — because people are intensely complicated, both psychologically and physiologically. They’ve got traumas and allergies and fetishes and hot buttons and genetic predispositions and gut microflora and defense mechanisms and antibodies all their own. Even House can’t figure out a medical mystery in under an hour, and you think you can tell me how to eat, work out, dress, and live, sight un-fucking-seen?

That’s the problem with snap judgments of an entire group of people: Chances are good that you’ll never ever be right, at least not for very long, no matter how much authority you speak with. It doesn’t matter how smugly you announce that fat people just need to ____, or being fat is bad because ____. You’ll be wrong as often as you’ll be right, if not much, much more — because there are no essential qualities that go along with fatness.

Maybe it’s comforting for people to have a simple answer for complicated problems, but in my opinion it’s a recipe for looking like an idiot. Does a glib answer have any value when it’s basically guaranteed to be wrong? If people were willing to educate themselves (or even just keep in mind that tricky principle about fat people being people first and foremost, merely a subset of an unutterably complex group), they might even achieve a kind of expertise. You’ll notice that the more someone really knows about a subject, the less likely she is to be able to give an “elevator pitch” — ask a scientist about the principle she’s studying, or a literary scholar about her favorite book, and you’re likely to encounter an awkward moment where she explains that it’s a bit complicated. Shit, ask a physicist about gravity and you’ll get the same. The people who can tell you what to eat, do, say, or wear in a single unequivocal livejournal comment are betraying their own ignorance. But what’s more admirable, really — a nuanced sense of the genuine complexity of human psychology and physiology and the wealth of research thereon, combined with a sense of discernment and perspective? Or the ability to reduce the world to a simplistic caricature where you look like the winner?

Douchehound of the Day

So, what with the recent influx of trolls, I turned on the feature that sends comments to moderation if the poster hasn’t had an approved comment before. Now, all the new trolls go straight to my inbox, where their words usually die an unremarkable death. (Pleasant newbies go there, too, so I apologize if it takes a while for your comments to show up, pleasant newbies.)

But sometimes, these comments are just too good to be lost to the ether. Sometimes, you just gotta crown a Douchehound of the Day.

Today’s Douchehound joins us from the University of Wisconsin campus, where he’s submitted comments under both the name “LAME” and the name “Troll.” Points for honesty in both cases (even if the former is arguably ableist).

As “LAME,” he writes:

I didn’t even read your whole post because it was too long and angry, but let me tell you this: Al’s friend is right.

Gosh, a troll who didn’t read the whole post, let alone the whole blog. There’s a new one. Ditto “You’re too angry.” Lord knows I’m the first female blogger who’s ever heard that. Thanks for the tip, dude.

Losing 1-2 pounds a week can be maintainable.

Oh, I see. My mistake was taking off 40 lbs. a week.

A four hundred pound dude could go down to a two hundred pound dude in 3-4 years…people have done it, and yes, they have maintained it. I’ve done it myself, and kept it off for 12 years now.

Oh, so do you work at UW, or are you a non-traditional student? Or did you weigh 400 lbs. when you were six?

I’ve had friends who have lost somewhat less than that and kept it off for years too. I’m not a freak, or one of the rare ones, I am just sane. I was never malnourished…never suicidal…and I’m actually a whole lot happier now than I was at 400 pounds (and have a wife! Yay!)

That? Is my very favorite part — the whole reason I bothered quoting this comment, in fact. HE HAS A WIFE NOW! Totally unlike Paul, The Rotund, Mo Pie and Weetabix, Lindsay, Vesta44, Good with Cheese, and numerous other fat bloggers — plus millions and millions of plain old, non-blogging fat people, even! — this dude is MARRIED! Which would have been impossible when he weighed 400 lbs. — back in the first grade — because everyone knows FAT PEOPLE CANNOT GET MARRIED! Unless they’re male stand-up comics with sitcom deals, in which case, they are automatically issued skinny fictional wives. But other than that? No one loves a fatty! Duh!

If I thought this guy had really lost 200 lbs., and really felt like he could never have been loved before that, he’d just make me sad. But, um, I don’t.

Seriously, IT’S NOT THAT HARD. Why do people think this is that hard? As long as you aren’t starving yourself trying to lose 100 pounds in a year, it can be really, really easy to do, and a positive thing for a lot of people.

Okay, that right there tells me this guy hasn’t lost as much weight in his life as I have, and I’ve only lost half what he claims he’s lost. Dieting is “really, really easy”??? People who are pro-dieting don’t believe that. In fact, the perception of dieting as HARD WORK is the whole reason people think it makes them morally superior to non-dieters. They are WORKING REALLY HARD while we are sitting on our fat asses cramming donuts into our faces. Get your facts straight, dipshit.

By the way, I liked dieting. The foods I discovered were great. :)

There were foods you didn’t know about before you dieted? Now, that really is sad.

Also, I don’t know if you realize this, but fat people actually are allowed to eat nutritious food. Some of us discover that broccoli tastes good all on our own, without even dieting. Win-win!

So okay, now you’ve got an idea of who this asshole is. And honestly, although “and I have a wife!” gave me the belly laughs, that alone would not have earned him Douchehound of the Day status. It’s his second comment — this one as “Troll,” made after he realized his first didn’t automatically show up — that is just so good I had to share. I present it after the cut, exactly as it was sent to me.

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And Now We’re a Threat to National Security

So, Al’s got this friend who reads the blog but doesn’t comment, because when he did comment here, I tended to yell at him a lot. I like him, and he’s ridiculously smart, but he’s one of those guys who enjoys arguing for the sake of it — or, more specifically, for the sake of reinforcing that he is ridiculously smart, whereas other people are not.

Since I am also ridiculously smart, I often find these arguments entertaining — except when they start off with a ludicrous nitpick “logical flaw” this dude and his towering intellect have spotted in someone else’s argument.* Particularly if, you know, it’s my argument. Then I just get tired and irritated, because he sounds like a goddamned troll, regardless of how good his personal and professional references are. Hence aforementioned yelling.

Last week, I was especially tired and irritated to begin with, because of actual trolls showing up here in greater numbers than ever before. So naturally, that’s exactly when Al’s friend decides to send me a lengthy screed on the subject of DEAR KATE, HERE’S WHY YOU’RE WRONG, with regard to my most recent post discussing that wackiest of concepts: we don’t know how to make fat people permanently thin.

The way to make fat people permanently thin is for those fat people to incorporate lifestyle changes such that they can take in fewer calories than their bodies need, such that they burn fat until they’ve lost weight to whatever the fuck ‘thin’ equates to, and then continue to maintain a diet and exercise regimen to maintain that weight, hopefully without making themselves so miserable that they freak out and kill themselves from the stress.

What this means, in practical terms, is that ANYONE CAN BECOME THIN and ANYONE CAN STAY THIN, it’s simply a matter of how miserable they’re willing to make themselves in the course of doing so… Let’s not confuse ‘impossible’ and ‘unrealistic’. It may be unrealistic for everyone to be thin, but it’s not impossible, it’s just a matter of suffering.

Do you see what I mean about both the ludicrous nitpicking and the resemblance to a troll? I don’t categorize him as an actual troll (even though he’d probably like it if I did) because, if you look closely, he’s not wrong — since what he’s arguing is that fat people could become thin if they would only take in “fewer calories than their bodies need.”

Indeed, malnutrition often makes people thin, though it sometimes causes bloated stomachs.

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Pardon the Interruption

I don’t mean to distract anyone from ripping Penelope Trunk a new one, but I just had to share a comment from our newest troll, “Wazza.”

Regarding my post about the 245-lb. woman who died because paramedics somehow couldn’t figure out how to move her over the course of two hours – and meanwhile stood around cracking jokes while she was dying and her husband who had called them to save her watched helplessly — Wazza has this to say:

hell IF THEYD COVERD HER IN BARBECUE SAUCE IM SURE ON OF YOU LARGE MOTHERS COULD HAVE EATEN THE POOR WOMEN IN TWO HOURS

Just in case any of you needed a reminder about how much basic human dignity fat people deserve.

Or a reminder about how trolls can never spell.

Douchehound(s) of the Day

Please enjoy this brilliant perspective from non-reader Oliver, who decided to add it to a (now deleted) comment on the thread about trolls making rape and death threats. After explaining to me why I’m a dumbass for getting “riled up” by comments like “hope you get aids while being raped by a homeless man in the alleyways of new york. you cunt. then again if any man would want to rape your gigantic ass, i’d be shocked,” he decides to throw this in:

Lastly, and this is a more general response to trend towards “fat is okay” that seems to be taking over feminism, fat is not a good thing. Fat people ARE demonstrably less healthy than fit people, they die younger and have significantly more health problems. The obesity situation in America is putting a huge strain on our health care that will only get worse. Fat people are lazy. There are a million ways to stay fit and eat right in America, even Macdonald’s has salads now. I’m sick and tired of feminists subtly implying that there is something wrong about me or any other guy having a preference for fit women. In nature, animals tend to seek out the strongest, fittest, fastest or brightest mates. Humans are not nearly as far removed from our roots are we like to think. Sure, the idea of attractiveness is manufactured by our media. It changes over time. Attractive women (in the judgement of both men and gay women) are going to recieve preferential treatment from those people, just as attractive men do from women and gay men. Most people who are in love (in my experience) are in love for reasons besides physical appearence, but they were attracted to each other because of physical appearence. There are hundreds of serious issues facing women today, surely feminists can find a more productive use of their time than informing women that it’s okay to eat doughnuts if it makes them happy. It’s counterproductive, it’s based on faulty information and it’s a waste of intelligence.

ZOMG, WE’RE TAKING OVER FEMINISM! Which is obviously a movement Oliver cares deeply about.

Also, bingo, bingo, and bingo.

I love that the people who want to come here and tell me this shit never, ever link to a source for their claims about fat and health, or fat and the economy. Why would they need to? EVERYBODY KNOWS!

Runner-up for Douchehound of the Day is Susan, who left a comment on the “Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?” thread informing us all that she lost 90 lbs. through “discipline and hard work,” and has kept it off for nearly five years, so I am “denigrating [her] hard work” by calling people who sustain a major weight loss for that long “freaks of nature.”

That one would have been baleeted without any further thought, but Susan then came back and said:

Gee, thanks for deleting my comment! I thought you were too broadminded to censor people who don’t subscribe to your own beliefs – but I guess not.

So now I have a few things to say to Susan here.

1) Where did you get the idea that I’m “too broadminded to censor people who don’t subscribe to [my] own beliefs”? It sure wasn’t from the Comments Policy.

2) The fact that you mentioned your “discipline and hard work” not once but twice in a very short comment tells me you don’t understand that the other 95% of dieters were not just lazy. They did not just give up and start stuffing themselves the way Oliver believes all fat people do. Seriously, let’s think about this for a minute. Almost 100% of people who were motivated enough to drastically reduce calories and increase exercise in the first place, because that is how much they didn’t want to be fat, just give up after they’ve lost the weight? They just say, “Fuck it, being thin isn’t worth it, pass the donuts”? I find that hard to believe. Especially since what most dieters do after they gain it back is diet again. And gain it back again. And diet again. And gain it back again. And diet again.

If anyone’s getting a dogged persistence award around here, it’s those poor slobs, not you.

3) I might be less inclined to “denigrate your hard work” if you told me about some hard work that benefited a single soul other than you. Discipline for its own sake doesn’t impress me. I used to date a guy with mild OCD who had to have his shirts folded in a very precise way, and no one could do it properly but him. He put a lot of effort into folding those shirts just so. I don’t especially admire that effort. You know what I admire? The discipline and hard work it takes to raise children. The discipline and hard work it takes to be a teacher or a doctor. The discipline and hard work it takes to write a book. The discipline and hard work it takes to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd. The discipline and hard work it takes to avoid becoming insecure and bitter in a culture that’s constantly telling you you’re not good enough.

The discipline and hard work required to lose weight, however? Meh. As BuffPuff (I think) once brilliantly said, “Been there, done that, grew out of the T-shirt.” These days, I eat when I’m hungry and put my energy into trying to help other people feel better about themselves. It’s far more satisfying work than weighing chicken breasts, let me tell you.