The elevators in my building, like all elevators everywhere, have a little plaque saying “Capacity 2600 lbs.” The other day, I noticed that in the far lefthand elevator, someone had scratched this out and written “PIGGY MOO.”
I can’t really imagine what was going on here. Did they think 2600 pounds was the weight recommendation for a single person? Were they offended by the very idea that human cargo could have weight? Or did they just see “lbs” and go a little berserk? Maybe I’m naive, but it still staggers me that people have so much pent-up hostility about fat. I mean, being so inflamed about it that you have to insult an elevator sign? That’s damage.
Then yesterday, I got an email at the Shapely Prose account from a charmer named Rick, who is now the Douchehound of the Day:
“I spent yesterday covering a political rally, which meant sitting on my ass for four hours” An obese chick sitting on her ass for hours? Why doesn’t that surprise me cunt? I can’t wait til that magical day when Kate posts your obituary and tries her damndest to blame it on something else besides your obesity. I rule!
Oh my god, you guys, I’m fat because I sit down while I’m at work! It all becomes clear — thin people are thin because they never work as journalists, or for that matter accountants or editors or receptionists or novelists or CEOs. Honestly, have you ever seen a thin person sit down for FOUR HOURS? Certainly all the thin people waiting with me at the rally were doing jumping jacks the entire time.
Also, Rick, I don’t know exactly why that doesn’t surprise your cunt, but please stop talking like a pirate. P.S. punctuation is free.
Obviously it’s a little harsh for someone to tell you they can’t wait until you die, but I’m flattered that Rick hopes I’ll be blogging for the next 60 or 70 years (though a little suspicious that he thinks blogs will actually be around that long — rethink that one, Ricky). Since he knows so much about me, even giving me a magic 8-ball diagnosis of “fat because sat for four hours in a row while working,” he surely knows that my habits and family history indicate a pretty long lifespan. Unless I get hit by a truck, in which case I’m sure Kate will have a terrifically difficult time blaming it on something besides my obesity.
Things like this don’t really bother me, because these people are clearly very, very fucked up. Supposedly otherwise intelligent and perceptive progressives saying “body acceptance is all well and good but if you’re really fat you should diet,” or “I’d be okay with FA if it wasn’t all about dumping on skinny chicks all the time” — that bothers me, because those people could conceivably know better. Inveterate douchehounds aren’t really capable of being anything more than miserable fucks, so it’s not like my expectations have been dashed here. But I am curious and concerned about these vast reserves of hostility that people have built up.
So indulge me in a little speculation here. The message, especially the puerile “I rule!” coda, puts Ricky in a particular category for me, and that’s the category of unhappy straight white guys who are obsessed with scatology and complain about how they’re expected to be “PC” all the time. Complaints about “PC,” of course, being code for “what the fuck is the point of privilege if you don’t get to be blatantly bigoted and hateful.” These guys feel genuinely oppressed by the fact that they aren’t roundly applauded when they openly use racial slurs, demean women, or mock the disabled, unless of course they do it in a specially selected environment. They believe it’s their god-given right to be total shits to the rest of the universe. It’s not really about fat for them, or about sexism or racism or ableism, though it’s a little bit about all of those things. (Rick also helpfully attached a photo of what “all women should look like” — you can imagine — lest I fail to note his raging misogyny.) Rather, it’s about fear that the inability to hate, demean, and do violence will threaten their incredibly tenuous superiority. These guys know that they’re the ruling class through an accident of birth, not through merits that they know on some level they don’t have. And they’re terrified that they’re going to be knocked off that serendipitous pedestal the moment they stop shitting on those beneath them.
I’m not into the idea that fat is “the last socially acceptable prejudice” — though, as Meowser so powerfully put it, it may be the last form of prejudice whose victims believe they deserve it. But it’s hard to deny that fat-bashing is hot now, well-represented in both news and entertainment media. It is, basically, a fad. Not that there wasn’t anti-fat sentiment back in the day, but it was less virulent, because — and this is going to sound terrifically cynical — people had other outlets for their need to bolster themselves through hatred, judgment, and condemnation of others. Now that there are social penalties for being openly racist, and to a lesser extent for being openly misogynistic, ableist, or homophobic, more energy is funneled into body-related bigotry (except, of course, in those circles in which racism, misogyny, and homophobia are still A-okay). Certain people — not all people — have a basic need to discriminate and condemn, stemming from basic insecurity and fear. Push it down in one place, and it crops up in another.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Ricky doesn’t hate me — he hates himself, and he transfers that hate onto anyone he sees, and right now fat targets are de rigeur. Is this facile pop psych? Oh hell yes. But the archetypal “bully who hates to mask the pain” trope is actually a pretty decent window into the bully mindset. Nobody — well, nobody but a sociopath — harbors that much hostility for no reason besides righteous hatred. Focused anger, okay, maybe; I know anti-racist activists who can shock and dismay people with the purity of their rage, and certainly that rage is righteous. But an unfocused, seething disdain for everyone, expressed as ugly attempts at humor, and coupled with the idea that this ugliness is their birthright? Something’s usually rotten from the inside on that one.
So Rick, and anonymous elevator defacer: I’m sorry, and I hope you find out what’s wrong with you, and I hope you can fix it. Possibly it would help your self-respect if you stopped acting like pathetic poisonous little shitbags. Just an idea.