William Saletan: Slightly Less of a Gigantic Tool. Sort of.

So, people rightly let William Saletan have it for his piece last week suggesting that people should trade their fat friends for thin ones, so as to avoid catching teh fat — while retaining the health benefits of multiple friendships! Win-win!

Today, he’s published a “clarification” of that piece, which is about two parts “Um, you’re getting warmer, I guess” to one part “OMFG, when in hole, STOP DIGGING.”

First, he says he probably shouldn’t have ended the piece by saying:

And realistically, to add normal or underweight friends to your circle, you have to relegate others who are overweight. That may be bad for your fat ex-friends, who will lose your friendship as well as your thinness. But it’s fine for you, since you’ll have just as many friends as before.

Maybe it’s not nice to speak these truths. But maybe being nice, when you should be speaking the truth—especially to your friends—is the problem.

‘Cause what he really meant was, of course you shouldn’t ditch your fat friends! And of course friends aren’t just interchangable like that! And of course you should stand by your friends!

He just forgot to say any of that. Honest mistake, y’all!

Then he admits he goofed in suggesting that eating too much and not exercising are the only things that make you fat. And to make amends, he busts out the Fat Bingo chestnut (actually, I’m not sure if it’s on one of the cards, but it should be), “Some people can’t help being fat, but most of us can get fat just by slacking off!” (“Slacking off” is his phrase, btw.)

Never mind that there’s absolutely no proof that naturally thin people could get fat just by “slacking off,” or that most fat people have “slacked off.” He admitted he shouldn’t have used an absolute! What else do you want from him?

An apology for saying we should stigmatize fat people more, perhaps?

Well, okay. It turns out he thinks you shouldn’t stigmatize the good fat people, but you should still stigmatize the bad ones. And since you can’t tell by looking if you’re dealing with a Good Fat Person or a Bad Fat Person, maybe you shouldn’t go ahead and act like a complete asshole.

But he really does believe there’s not enough stigma directed at fat people. The proof? FAT PEOPLE AREN’T GETTING THIN. If we stigmatized them sufficiently, they would!

It’s scientific, y’all.

But wait, that’s not enough proof for you? Well, let’s whip out that study showing that most overweight and obese people DON’T KNOW they’re overweight or obese!

And let’s not talk about the fact that all that study really showed is that people don’t know which BMI category they fall into, not that they don’t fucking know if they’re fat.

Let’s definitely not talk about the fact that this is an obese person:

Or that when the very same currently obese person was a size 6 she was in the “overweight” BMI category.

(Also, let’s not talk about her roots.)

Because those trifles clearly have no bearing on the study in question. FATTIES DON’T KNOW THEY’RE FAT! Someone must tell them!

Finally, his ace in the hole? A study that shows fewer people now agree with the statement “[a] person who is not overweight is a lot more attractive” than in 1985. Clearly, SOMETHING’S NOT WORKING!

Or, you know, people factor things other than looks into their perceptions of “attractiveness” Or they just don’t think thin people are a LOT more attractive than “overweight” people, though they might think they’re moderately more attractive. Or they just read that stupidly written question wrong and thought they were being asked to agree with “A person who is overweight is a lot more attractive.”

Or this group actually was defining “overweight” according to BMI, and were therefore saying no, a woman who wears a size 6 is not a LOT less attractive than one who wears a size 2.

But ZOMG, what if it really does mean fewer people think fatties are nasty? What would we ever do? IT’S CONTAGIOUS, PEOPLE!

Stop digging, Saletan. For Christ’s sake.

34 thoughts on “William Saletan: Slightly Less of a Gigantic Tool. Sort of.

  1. Ah, so its all FA’s faults for admitting we’re hot for fatties more in the last 20 years. Darn us.

    Indeed, that’s not in Bingo, but I think it clearly will make it into Fat Hate Bingo 3 and is a major oversight. The faux concession/ massive power grab is a favored tactic.

    Someone take the shovel out of his hands already.

  2. Actually, although he is still a tool, apparently he got walloped in a big way over this story and it was somewhat entertaining, at least, to see him stammer over it. I’m sure when he filed his story he thought telling people to shun the fatties was a little like telling them to shun cattle infested with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; you know, the mad cows are too dumb to read anyway, so they’ll never know the reason they’re being avoided. Surprise — some of us not only have an IQ in the plus column but aren’t afraid to use it!

  3. Heh, BStu, I thought about factoring in FAs, but actually, I have a LOT of trouble believing only 24% of Americans think thin people are significantly hotter than fat people, so I decided to go with wondering how the survey was fucked up.

  4. Oh, granted. I mean, its a horribly written question. I had to think for a second about what it was asking, and that’s not a good thing. And indeed, its implausible to think 24% of Americans actively prefer thin people. At best, I’d still not interpret it beyond 24% of people being willing to admit that they prefer thin people, but even then it just doesn’t make sense. FA’s may be more open, but this survey doesn’t really test for that anyway. It is the insinuation that Saletan was drawing, though. I’ve seen people crack jokes that we’ll change our beauty standards out of laziness, but I don’t think Saletan was cracking dumb jokes even if that was what he accomplished.

  5. Does backpedaling burn a lot of calories? I bet that’s how he stays so fit and trim!

    OOOHHH! I’m funny today.

    That’s a hot pic of you.

  6. I’m sure I’m just interpreting it in light of William Saletan’s asshatted comments and subsequent backpedaling, but in that picture, your expression says, “Namaste, motherfucker!”

  7. I am a naturally skinny chica and, well now i exercise a lot with running and swimming and whatever, but i used to be a lazy bum who ate a full pint of Ben and Jerrys in two days, so obviously it ain’t just “slacking off.” I have become a bit more of a health nut now, but still-mostly genetics

  8. I wasn’t going to MENTION your roots, but, you know, there really just isn’t enough stigma associated with, you know, hair care. And I know you can’t just look at people and tell the good hair care people from the bad hair care people and I’d certainly never suggest that, you know, you just drop your friends with bad hair care because friends are not interchangeable!


  9. ROFL…I was just sharing this with my hubby who said and I quote, “You see, I don’t really think of myself as fat, I think of myself as an enabler.”

  10. Oh, Lethe, don’t look at those comments! Look at these! THE ROTUND CALLED MY HAIR FAT! This conversation is MUCH more important!

    Also, Namaste, motherfucker.

  11. Kate obviously just doesn’t know how bad roots are for you. Maybe if we shame her about them, she’ll go to the hairdresser.

    (Perhaps an imperfect analogy, since going to the hairdresser is easy. DAMN AND BLAST)

    I wish I had that hot of a picture to prove my obesity.

  12. Y’know, Kate, I started neglecting *my* roots about the same time I started reading your blog…

    Just saying.

    Of course, I’ve starting dressing better since I starting reading your blog too…

    Saletan will always be a tool.

  13. I wish they’d take “Science” off of Saletan’s header because, for a science journalist, he sure didn’t talk about the science at all, only about his love of self-discipline and desire to use stigmatization as an engine of social change. And, the “science” reporter failed to note even the most minor of points such as that the effect was only found in men.

    I’d be curious to know the context in which the attractiveness of “not overweight” people was being evaluated. What questions preceded it and were people interpreting it as “not overweight people are always more attractive.”

  14. Well, I do admit I’m something of a cry-whore; I’ll tear up over just about anything :P Although, since I started reading fat acceptance blogs, I now tend to get angry more often than sad. So I suppose instead of sniffling, I should have indulged in some good old-fashioned fist shaking. *sassafrassan idjits!*

  15. Lethe, fist shaking is very much encouraged around here. :)

    And you’re not alone. Dick Cavett made me cry. But Saletan’s just making me laugh today, and that’s refreshing.

  16. Is it bad that whenever I read Saletan’s name I am mentally thinking Satan. Note to writers, try not to be an ignorant f*ck while simultaneously having a name that is one syllable away from the devil’s, he doesn’t like that you’re making him look bad.

  17. Shinobi, I have a different response. I find it hard not to giggle at his last name because it sounds like the name 12-year old uses for his cleric in Dungeons and Dragons–Behold Saletan! And it seems like his scientific cred is roughly equivalent to that kid’s. But don’t get me started on his whole–pro-choice activists need to begin with the premise that abortion is eeeeeeevil argument. Sigh.

    And, not to get hung up on the expertise bit but it amazes me that he (and so many other science reporters) seem to gloss over the fact that one of the co-authors is a* Political Scientist.* And, I say this as a political “scientist,” how the hell is he qualified to do an epidemiological study? This was an elaborate fantasy model that PSers are so fond of and Saletan is blowing it up into actual social policy. Which he then backs away from.

    More yoga pictures, fewer jackasses!

  18. Namaste, motherfucker!

    I laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants. I needed that laugh too.

    I’m lovin’ reading blogs dealing with fat acceptance — I’m a 16/18 now, and feeling damn sexay! I get all kinds of warm fuzzies knowing you folks are fighting the “Size 2 == the one and only sexy!”

    And you ARE hawt, Kate. Woo hoo! ^^

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