Me, Elsewhere

Just a quick hit to let you all know I weighed in on former UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s bulimia over at Broadsheet yesterday (thanks to all who sent me that tip), and I officially announced my retirement from Ask the Blondes today. (Unofficially, I’ve been blowing it off and letting Laurie do all the work for months.)

I’m curious to hear what Shapelings think of the Prescott piece. I’ve got a word limit over at Broadsheet, and as you might have noticed, I’m not naturally inclined to keep my thoughts brief (ahem), so I’m still learning how to deal with that. I had 3 basic points in the Prescott piece: 1) Much of the coverage of this story has been vicious and demeaning; 2) I’m glad Prescott’s put an old, fat, male face on eating disorders, which might cause people to question their stereotypical ideas about ED sufferers; and yet 3) I’m irritated that as usual, a terrible thing that mostly affects women becomes major news as soon as it affects a man. I thought I made those points all right, given the lack of space for me to elaborate on them.

But somehow, the Broadsheet commenters read that as me mocking Prescott, showing a total lack of sympathy for people with EDs, and of course being a man-hating feminist. The last part is to be expected, but I’m confused by the first two. Are they crazy, or did I totally fail to get my points across?

Also, if you’ve got other stuff you want to talk about, feel free to use this as an open thread.

77 thoughts on “Me, Elsewhere”

  1. They’re crazy. You made your point quite well, I think. I didn’t feel you were mocking Prescott or lacking sympathy for people with EDs, only mocking people who dismiss eating disorders because the most common victim is young and female.

  2. Yeah, most of those readers are idiots. Or they just can’t read. You absolutely came across as sympathetic. I don’t think you necessarily made point 3, but you certainly didn’t do anything to inspire the bizarre reactions you got.

  3. Yeah, the comments at Salon are just a whole bag of crazy. The only thing I could thing of is that people were just going of the title, and we all know that “fat” and “old” are total insults, rather than natural descriptions of natural states of being, right?

  4. I think It has it… (awkward phrasing, sorry) most people not in the fatosphere see ‘fat’ as an insult. ‘Old’ too, maybe. So they think you’re insulting him just but using those words in your peice. And to the average Salon reader, you’re not OMG KATE HARDING. You’re some chick. Kate Harding gets to use ‘fat’ as a word, not an insult. Some Chick doesn’t. Oh, and word counts suck.

  5. It’s only 9:19 in the morning here, and I’ve burned off all my Sanity Watchers points for the day already by reading the comments after that article. Guess I have to stick with Ravelry and I Can Has Cheezburger for the rest of the day!

  6. Never use Salon commenters as a barometer of anything. They live in a whole different world of crazy.

  7. They’re crazy. Usually I’ve read enough crazy Internet comments that I can predict the way in which they’ll be crazy, but this time I was completely blindsided. How weird.

  8. Are they crazy

    It’s broadsheet. That’s a given.

    I didn’t think your post was unsympathetic. But then, I know your writing style. I think the readers saw all the snark, and misunderstood its target.

  9. Wow, those commenters are … not very good at reading (she said, while thinking several far meaner things).

    Kate, I thought you made your points quite well considering the limited space, and I think Rebelleink hit the nail on the head that the readers over there think “old and fat” is an insult.

    I also noticed you had a concern troll over there. (“Fat is the #1killer! Booga booga!”) I think, in the spirit of sweet machine’s troll logic post, that you should tell him/her that the reason most people hate concern trolls is because, with no exceptions, concern trolls are completely fucking hateworthy. This flawless argument will stump the troll, and then everyone else can live in peace and harmony.

  10. It’s the title — ‘old’ and ‘fat’ both have such negative connotations in our youth/thin obsessed society that readers automatically thought you were slamming Prescott simply by describing him as he actually is.

  11. Okay, I have no idea why my end parentheses turned into a winking smiley, because concern trolls don’t actually make me wink and smile so much as weep for humanity. I have yet to find, however, a weeping for humanity smiley, which is too bad, because I would use that fucker every day.

  12. I agree with what everyone’s said about non-fat-pol folks not knowing that fat’s not an insult, but I’d also add that your haters over there can be divided into three groups:

    1. The sexist troll and followers
    2. The concern troll
    3. The person who reread, recanted, and apologized

  13. I have yet to find, however, a weeping for humanity smiley

    Oh dear god, if it can be invented, I will put it in every post I ever write.

  14. Reading the comments it is apparent that some of them can in fact read.

    As for the people who lack reading comprehension skills, well I certainly have no sympathy for them.

  15. Oh. Immediate responders are all male. If a guy has gotten “normal” socialization, yes, that piece is going to read as very offensive. The very first response is someone who doesn’t even know what bulimia is, so he “corrects” you… and it goes downhill from there.

    Guys do not have a clear idea of what an eating disorder is like unless they’ve had one. Things like drug induced anorexia aren’t real eating disorders… they can help a man understand a *little* of what a real eating disorder is like, but it’s not real. Thank god. The food crazy that they run into is (mostly) easy to shrug off, or pushes them towards more muscle. And well, you don’t get muscle without eating.

    The guys who are most likely to be familiar with eating disorders are high school and college wrestlers. There’s a lot of *really* weird weight obsession involved, so a former wrestler might make a good guide to the food messages a guy gets.

  16. I’m skipping the comments as I’m saving my sanity watchers points up for this afternoon’s staff meeting.

    However – the article is very short, and it comes across as a bit breezy. This is, as you say, a victim of the word-limit. As others have said, Salon commentators aren’t really the best barometer of your success at getting a point across.

    I don’t think you get across the idea that “I’m irritated that as usual, a terrible thing that mostly affects women becomes major news as soon as it affects a man.” I think the title comes against you here, since it ends in a “?” which makes it sound like you’re doubting that he’s *actually* bulemic. Now, obviously you make it clear in the body that you believe he is – but with the number of people who leave hateful comments on my LJ that indicate that they’ve read the first paragraph of a post and nothing else, I will have to believe that there are people responding to your title as opposed to what you’ve actually written.

    Long story short – make them give you more words next time. (In, you know, the world where you are a diva and can make those demands. Maybe you should threaten to take Piggy Moo’s endorsements away? As a member of the band, I’d totally support that. *nodnod*)

  17. I found absolutely nothing in the Broadsheet piece that could be construed as being insulting or offensive. I didn’t read the comments because I like my brain today.

  18. torrilin said-“The guys who are most likely to be familiar with eating disorders are high school and college wrestlers. There’s a lot of *really* weird weight obsession involved, so a former wrestler might make a good guide to the food messages a guy gets.”

    and jockeys. Jockeys have it worst among male atheletes, I think.

  19. I think you made your points. I think It is right about “old” and “fat” setting a tone that many may have taken as nasty (which is society’s fault, not really yours) but Becky may be right about readers not really knowing which way the snark was directed. I’ve been trying to tone down my own sarcasm lately in writing for larger audiences — I think, unless every one of your readers has a long background with you (as with Shapely Prose), and sometimes even then, sarcasm is often just confusing online, and leads to more defensiveness and weirdness and incomprehension than it deserves.

    I wonder sometimes if I find that true mainly because I’m female, that the reaction is some sort of “That woman is being shirty! I don’t care what’s she saying, she must be put in her place immediately!”, or if it’s just that something about reading words online makes people take them more literally than they would even in a print publication, but…. man. Sarcasm is such the “voice” online, and I think that’s what encourages the trolls. It’s easy to grab things out of context or blow things out of proportion when the writers are doing the same thing to make their points.

  20. Wrestlers! Man, I remember wrestlers in my high school spitting in cups in class in an attempt to completely dehydrate themselves to make weight. That’s totally disordered, yeah, but also indicative of the kind of rampant jockocrasy that encouraged teachers to allow (athletic male) students to SPIT in CUPS during CLASS. Grrrrrrrrrrrooooooooossssss.

    Also, Kate, I have been LOVING your writing lately (I meant to tell you that about six times before now). I do a lot of “OMG YEAH RIGHT F’N ON KATE!” type cheering at my computer. But still… there’s no way I’m reading any Salon comments.

  21. It looked to me like some of the comments were based on two things:

    1. commenters there are not familiar with your blog and writing-stgyhle, so that makes misreadings and mis-interpretations more likely.
    2. The words ‘fat’ and ‘old’ are totally seen as insults. And so is ‘mental illness’. To some people, mental illness means that the person suffering from it is bad. …So you were triply insulting and yet wishing to be read as sympathetic. I can see how that would be annoying, to those commenters.

    Then again, it could have been plain old privilege – you were not coddling the healhy men enough, you were trying to point out sick young women are as important as men — and that’s just Crazy Talk.

  22. Pff. The Sun (really crap newspaper, pretty right wing, still has Page Three Girls aka young women in very very small knickers and a bra if they’re lucky) had a headline about ‘Prezza’s Big Mac Binges’ – I think that you would have to work extremely hard to match that level of crass.

    (ie, what everyone else said, innit?)

  23. sarcasm is often just confusing online

    When the sarcastic half para is clearly marked with an eyeroll, I think the confusion is very much in the eye of the beholder. Or in the ear of the reader, or something.

    Sarcasm is such the “voice” online, and I think that’s what encourages the trolls. It’s easy to grab things out of context or blow things out of proportion when the writers are doing the same thing to make their points.

    What did Kate grab out of context of blow out of proportion?

  24. What did Kate grab out of context of blow out of proportion?

    Sorry, I switched to a more general point and didn’t make that clear. I didn’t mean that Kate had done so in this particular case, or even that she often does so. I’ve just been finding with my *own* online interactions, that making my point tends to become a hell of a lot easier, and meet with much less resistance, when I drop the sarcasm, and I think there’s a larger point to be made that the prevalence of sarcasm online in general is partly why (in my opinion) online reading comprehension sucks — personally I’ve been in a number of conversations where I can’t even tell who’s being sarcastic and who’s being sincere, and when I am sincere it’s assumed I’m being sarcastic, and I think the whole thing just puts up a layer of automatic defensiveness in anyone who’s reading anything online. Add that to “stupid to begin with” and bingo! Trolls.

  25. I think Rebelleink hit the nail on the head that the readers over there think “old and fat” is an insult.

    Yeah, very true, and I addressed that in comments, which I hope helped. It does pose a thorny issue for me, though: do I use “overweight” over there so as not to be misunderstood, even though I find the word more offensive? Sigh.

    Have you tried diet and exercise?


  26. Wow, the comments over there came completely out of nowhere. I think you did a fine job. I wish they would have given you more space to elaborate, but I have no idea where all those comments came from.

  27. ksfeminist (and others who have wondered), as Sweet Machine said way upthread, everything most Broadsheet commenters say needs to be taken with a grain–nay, a block–of salt. Literally every single post there gets loads of barely comprehensible, antifeminist comments. But there were a few who sounded mostly sane and genuinely confused, so I thought I’d ask the Shapelings.

  28. On reading the article, I can understand why some may have seen it in a negative light. If I did not know otherwise, I might assume you were mad that a man got an eating disorder, because it takes the “power” of victimization away from women. It seemed as though compassion didn’t enter the picture until the last several sentences, and by that point anyone who’s sufficiently upset has already stopped reading and started forming an angry reply. *shrug*

  29. I thought it was a lovely article, and yikes! wordcount!

    I have not read the comments because I’m not sure how much crazy I can handle right now. I would echo the point made that maybe people who aren’t familiar with your writing might think it’s a bit harsh, but I still think if they re-read and used their thinking caps they could figure out what you meant because it wasn’t exactly a hidden message, but wev.

  30. Guys do not have a clear idea of what an eating disorder is like unless they’ve had one.

    Yeah, I find it funny that most of the dissenting opinions to my posts on the severity of eating disorders are made by men. I just deleted a couple comments by one male troll who seems to think anorexia isn’t all that serious.

  31. I am just adding my voice to the chorus, but, Salon commenters are the WHACK, the most MRA craziest woman-hatin’ crowd on the Tubes, IMHO. (Salon is SUPPOSED to be a Progressive magazine, which makes me REALLY not Get It, but there you are.) Salon actually EMPLOYS the occcasional female writer, and usually the poor gal gets 98% hate comments no matter what she writes, be it about food or movies or politics.

  32. Guys do not have a clear idea of what an eating disorder is like unless they’ve had one.

    I would extend that to just about anyone. I think the difference may be that women understand the pressures that might lead to that kind of behavior? I don’t know.

    I always thought I understood eating disorders, but last night I watched an episode of Intervention where they focused on a woman with Anorexia/bullemia.. And early on I was all oh yeah, anorexia, bullemia, gotcha, that really sucks.

    But the behaviors that she engaged in were really hard to watch, even harder than the girl who smoked meth all night. Her Thin-Spiriation journals were clear evidence of someone who was really suffering and needed help. Seeing her sit in front of her computer and chew and then spit out food for goodness knows how long really made the severity of her illness stand out to me. As well as her clever ruses to make herself look alright (Carrying a starbucks cup to an interview and never drinking out of it? Nice one.)

    I don’t know why but I feel like I have a better understanding than I did previously. Before I thought I understood eating disorders, and now I understand that I have no clue.

    Maybe that episode of Intervention should be mandatory viewing for know it alls.

  33. It does pose a thorny issue for me, though: do I use “overweight” over there so as not to be misunderstood, even though I find the word more offensive?

    Silly, isn’t it? While “fat” is the insulting word for everyone else, we find ourselves seeing “overweight” as an insult. I’ve had the same thought before: Should I use a word that I find insulting in order to not insult someone else?

    Fat Acceptance is confusing. ;)

  34. KMTberry, I’ve heard rumours that one MRA group gets its members to troll Broadsheet in shifts. It’s probably not true, but believable given how terrible the trolls are there. The trolls are even more vile about fat than women (who knew that was possible!) so I worry for Kate’s sanity if she gets the job. Especially since aside from the straight out vile trolls, she’ll have to deal with the myriads of oh so enlightened liberal concern trolls who talk about how obesity is an epidemic that is killing our nation. Yeah, I really fucking hate salon commenters. I stopped reading the site ages ago because of them.

  35. I think three points is too many to try to make in that wordcount. While I understood you, I think you need to linger a bit more on your point to make it generally understandable to the masses, and that means that you can’t stuff that many things into that short a piece.

  36. @shinobi42: I watched that episode of Intervention last night too. Both stories broke my heart, and the story of the girl with anorexia/bullemia really gave me a lot of insight into ED.

  37. First, to be clear – the haters are nuts and it’s a good piece.

    Also, I’m not an editor, although I’m learning.

    However – what’s interesting is that I read the piece twice before reading the comments, and I read you here all the time.

    The first time, I didn’t feel the sympathy for Prescott there, (I saw the intellectual argument.) Whereas the second time i read it through, the sympathy practically poured out between the spaces in the letters. Which is an interesting writerly tool if I could figure out how the effect was done; but sort of odd.

    I wonder if part of it is the question mark on the end of Bulimic?

    That’s a question out of the minds of the stereotypers. Whereas a more in your face ‘Old, fat, male, and bulimic.’ would certainly get a *rise* out of the commentariat, but would situate you as someone who can and does handle the reality of the situation. We would be expected to pull on our “dealing with reality” brains and sit down at the table, rather than our befuddled brains.

    I think headlines, these days, often serve as the way to find the thesis of a given article. Which is awful, since the headlines are usually written by editors misinterpret. But we’re a headline CNN-scroll society: headlines are the story, half the time.

    So, as a question, we are all primed to study how odd old male fat bulimia. Your main thesis is that it ISN’T odd, what’s odd is our stereotype – but you’re treating us like adults who can get there on our own. With a rhetorical question at the top like that, we-the-audience may need to be more gently lead from bewilderment into understanding.

    I think that’s where my dissonance came in. Amazing how it worked.

    As for where you ended the Geller quote, well. That’s the place to end the Geller quote. Damn.

  38. I worry for Kate’s sanity if she gets the job

    Heh. Thanks, but honestly, I just don’t read the comments there if I don’t have any SW points in reserve. I’d love to be able to engage with commenters the way I do here and at Shakesville, but the level of discourse is so different over there, it just ain’t worth it sometimes. So I’ll deal when I feel like it, and skip the comments when I don’t. :)

  39. I thought you did a great job, Kate, but as others pointed out a) I’m familiar with your writing style, b) the word limit makes it difficult for those unfamiliar to get acquainted with your style, and c) the automatic assumption among people not in the FA movement is that ‘fat’ is an insult. The question mark probably didn’t help matters. On top of all that, you’ve got a readership manfully donning their fashionable tin foil helmets to help them interpret your writings, and tin foil just doesn’t do you justice.

    But I thought it was great and made two out of three of your points remarkably succinctly. Number three, I’m sure, would have come across better had you had another fifty or a hundred words to work with.

  40. Last night, I was at a talk given by the Asst. Op-Ed Editor of the NY Daily News and she said that if you’re going to write an opinion piece, then people are going to disagree with you in troll-like ways. A newspaper would never print the uninformed comments. (The editor herself has received letter commenting on her weight when someone disagreed with her opinion.)

    And if you get comments/letters/start a fight–that’s good. You got people’s attention. She suggested developing a thick skin. She also said that she doesn’t get enough op-ed submissions from women, probably because women are afraid to start a fight. And that’s exactly what an opinion piece is supposed to do. So congrats.

  41. Kate-
    You made your point well. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, people take your tone as frustration and contempt being directed at this man, rather than a talk back to a system that doesn’t have ways to really understand or talk about this complicated problem. You obviously were critiquing the messed up and counter productive ways that we do talk about these issues; but people don’t like women telling them things they don’t know, or being anything but sweet and demure about it.

  42. I want to bludgeon the commenter who’s telling rachel that most people with EDs would be referred to therapists from their GP.

    No, no and no.

    I am in recovery for BED. I am fat. My GP would have done nothing to help me. He would have PRESCRIBED A DIET.

    I called my employee assistance program (which is awesome) when my disorder got so bad that I was vomiting to keep my stomach from rupturing. I never purged. My body induced vomiting out of primal wisdom.

    My doctor would have put me on a diet. I promise you, he would have.

  43. That was a fabulous article. I’ve not read the comments because I might start bleeding from my eyes.

    And since you made this an open thread, I’m wondering if anyone saw the 60 Minutes piece on Sunday about WLS. I’ve been causing a concussion with the number of times I’ve had to beat my head against the wall. The whole piece was incredibly biased toward ‘WLS will cure cancer & diabetes & make you all better.’ They barely acknowledged the problems and completely glossed over the risk of suicide post-surgery. And many people out in blogland are eating it up, especially diabetics who see this as a possible cure.

  44. No, Kate, you did a great job. Really. They let trolls — the nastiest, most judgmental, most narrow-minded neo-Victorians you can imagine — just run absolutely rampant over there in order to drive up page hits. I can’t even bring myself to read the comments there, I just know they’re going to be made of stupid.

  45. Those commenters fail at reading comprehension. And I was always in the 99%ile there, so I totally get to say that. Standardized tests tell me so.

  46. Good article. I think the commentators were picking up on your use of the word “fat” (which is still a pejorative, to most people) and “professional weirdo” (to describe Uri Geller, which made me laugh out loud). Oh and also the fact that some of the commentators on Salon are crazy and stupid. Remember, A LOT of people who read the internet (I am not yet cynical enough to say MOST…but I’m getting there) have absolutely no filter for understanding nuances of meaning, humor, subtleties in tone or a thousand other style quirks in a piece of writing. And I’m not blowing smoke when I say that this blog and its commentators are an exception. Truly. Nice work.

  47. I want to bludgeon the commenter who’s telling rachel that most people with EDs would be referred to therapists from their GP.

    No, no and no.

    Yeah, my psychiatrist just recommended Thursday I go on Weight Watchers.

    I think a lot of people are just ignorant and uneducated on the nature of eating disorders and the obstacles that people who seek help for them inevitably encounter.

  48. Rachel,
    Has your psychiatrist met you? Or read your file?

    People give doctor’s way, way too much authority. A GP spends most of his day looking at a range of physical evidence and treating it. Continuing medical education is completed according to a doctor’s interest.

    This is why I keep screaming about the Mike & Juliet ob/gyn trying to give credible information about obesity. She (and probably a huge percentage of GPs and specialists) are not specialists or PhD researchers. They haven’t even studied much of the “science” all this “common knowledge” about obesity and EDs is based on. Reading an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about obesity does not make a GP sympathetic to or a specialist in anything.

    Makes. Me. Crazy.

  49. I was SO confused reading the letters–I have no idea where they got those ideas from. I read it before I read your post here (summarizing what you were trying to say), and yes, it came across very well! People and their pre-conceived notions, I guess. I don’t know where they got their crazy ideas from.

  50. I have actually signed a contract that I will not read comments at Salon (and especially Broadsheet) because of their rage inducing properties.

    I wasn’t confused by the piece. But I could see how someone who believes that old and fat (and male whenever in the mouth of a feminist–them man-hatin’ sorts) are automatically pejorative might be confused. I think people just read too fast. Sometimes I do and then I have to get all contrite.

  51. Yeah, sadly, Salon was my first introduction to the world of crazy hatefulness that online commenting can be. It’s too bad, because I really enjoy some of the writers (like Heather Haverilsky) and the articles are usually really interesting. But since I seemed unable to stop myself from clicking the letters button after reading something, I had to unsubscribe from “Today in Salon” because it was all too awful. Usually some gems, but you have to wade through so much ugliness and garbage. And not exclusively from MRAs either.
    I fill the space I used to spend there on SP & Co. and some nice econ and personal finance/lifehacking blogs. And online me is much happier for it.
    Kate being there is nearly enough to make me read Broadsheet again, but if what’s over there gets talked about over here I might just stick with it that way.

  52. Kate, it was a wonderful piece, but it would have done better here. It’s not quite the right tone or quite the right… oh, I don’t know… voice? For that publication, that word limit, and that audience. It sucks having to think about pussyfooting around saying “overweight” and “elderly” or whatever, but that’s sometimes what you’ve got to do to move into a new publishing arena.

    I mean… I, personally, love the article. I’ve also been reading SP and Fatshionista and whatnot for well over six months, so I already get the cut and thrust of your intentions, you know? Unfortunately, Salon readers don’t. And I say they’re poorer for it. ;)

  53. I understood what you were saying, Kate, but that’s because I’m used to reading this blog. I’m familiar with your tone. The problem is exposing someone else to your natural, righteous snark gets people thinking that you’re aiming the snark in the wrong direction, or at least, not giving the man enough “dignity”. When in fact, *I* could tell you were lambasting the people who were getting all “OOO MAN WITH EATING DISORDER!!” who really WEREN’T giving the man his dignity.

    That, and, a lot of people see “Old” and “Fat” as insults. As everyone else has said.

  54. I kind of hate people who don’t think.

    What worries me is that seems to be a grand and steadily burgeoning percentage of the majority.

  55. So do you really think more fat people would rather be described as “overweight” than “fat”? I mean, it’s one thing if thin people think “fat” is an insult; they kind of don’t get a vote on that, you know? My thinking about it is that “overweight” is a built-in slag-off, whereas “fat” has derogatory meaning only in context (even body-fat-haters would consider “fat pipes” or a “fat wallet” to be positive descriptors, yes?).

    OTOH, I know “fat” is a loaded word for a lot of people, and I’m careful about calling someone else “fat” to their face unless I know for sure they don’t have a problem with it. If a compromise word ever does need to be chosen, I’d go with “big” or “larger” or “plus-sized,” even if I think those words are kind of mealy-mouthed in general. “Overweight” just sucks all the way around, IMHO.

  56. So do you really think more fat people would rather be described as “overweight” than “fat”?

    Well yes, because most fat people still believe there’s something wrong with being fat. If you don’t believe that, it follows that “fat” as a descriptor is neutral/good and “overweight” is offensive because it implies that there is a weight that is better to be.

  57. I automatically hate overweight as a descriptor, because i’ve seen and heard it being used as an insult, its just more subtle and insidious than fat. Its almost as though theyre saying ‘you’re fat but im going to pretend to be polite about it’.

    Also, im meeting buffpuff in 20 minutes. She’s doing a talk at my university (not on FA, but oh wells)


  58. Yeah, Kate, I really got nothing for ya. “Male, overweight, senior citizen” would have just sounded stupid, but people still fear being called “old” and “fat.” Old is now associated with senility rather than wisdom, and fat is now associated with wastefulness rather than prosperity. To many minds, you called him out for being stupid and indulgent then associated that with male, and, whatever you feminist leaning are, if I say “lacking in logical thought and frivolous” . . .

    Another part of your problem is that too many people still. read. one. word. at. a. time. like my six year old types. If you combine poor comprehension with snark you find that people associate the snark with the most obvious subject in the article.

    Fortunately, none of these people will likely read “A modest Proposal.”

  59. “whatever you feminist leaning are”

    Oookay, I need more coffee before I post.

    It should be “whatever your feminist leanings are”

  60. So do you really think more fat people would rather be described as “overweight” than “fat”?

    Oh, definately. Before I discovered FA, I used the word overweight to run from the word fat. As in: “I’m not fat, I’m just a little overweight.” It didn’t occur to me to be offended by the built in insult in “overweight”, because the idea that there was a maximum weight for optimal attractiveness and social acceptability, and I was over that weight… well that just seemed like a given. But fat…. fat is so loaded. Overweight meant I wasn’t as pretty as a thin girl, but fat would have meant I was ugly. Fat would have meant that my boyfriend and friends were ashamed to be seen with me in public. Fat would have meant a lot of things that overweight just didn’t mean to me. It just doesn’t carry the same connotations. My mom also uses ‘overweight” when she’s talking about her weight in a more or less neutral way (“I’m overweight but I’m in really good shape”) and fat only when she’s bashing herself (“I’m so fat and disgusting”).

    One of the most liberating things about FA to me was not running away from the word fat anymore. To admit to myself, yes, I’m fat, and then watch as the world didn’t end… well, it’s been a huge relief.

  61. Becky, I’m right there with you. My sister, with whom I have a terrible relationship, tried to point out how awful both I and our mother was by whining about a time I had called her “fat” and mom just hadn’t done anything about it. It was, quite literally, the worst thing she could come up with for me to have said, so far as she was concerned. So far as she was concerned that epitomized Everything That Was Wrong With Karen(tm) and how it was All Her Fault whatever we were talking about. Because I had at one point, called her fat.

    The biggest problem with the comment I’m said to have made? Neither our mother nor I recall any such conversation and anyone who knows me knows that I don’t comment on other people’s bodies except in the gentlest way possible (for them, not me) and only when they ask.

  62. I tend to not read anything in Salon, being that it annoys me..

    but I think a lot of people aren’t able to simply read something and just process it. Anyone who identifies themselves as feminist and is a brillant writer is going to attract smucks that look for more than what’s there or read an entirely different “tone” than what you intended all so they can get the satisifaction of stomping all over a person because of what they perceive than what’s actually meant – in a lot of ways, the Internet has made people crueler because they can say what they want anonomyously and not be held accountable.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t perceive your tone as harsh or cruel, kate, but simply pointing out the fact that an older man having a disease that’s commonly thought of only being a woman’s ‘weakness’ shows that it’s not what society thinks it is, that it is a mental illness and that it should be spoken about openly, because speaking about it in hushed tones and not having all the facts only makes it worse for those suffering from it (and any mental illness).

    I find that when I’m open about my bi-polar disorder (or manic depression) that a lot of people are shocked – a lot of people accuse me of lying which I find funny and annoying.. why would I lie about having a mental illness.. but me being honest about it puts a face to the disease and breaks the stereotype of being mentally ill.

  63. Even if it was the headline that threw people off, I don’t understand how, if they actually read the article, they could think you were being cruel at all. Jeez, Kate, where is your sympathy? And didn’t you know that being an activitist isn’t “in” anymore?

    I am catching up on my SP reading, since I have been working non-stop for a few weeks. Since we were given open thread permission….

    AHHHH! I was just offered my first assistant professor position for this fall! (I just have to finish that pesky dissertation). Any Wisconsin Shapelings???

  64. I haven’t read the comments. I will say, though, that as someone who has suffered from ED-NOS for years, with pretty much straight-up bulimia for the past couple weeks, if I didn’t know you and your perspective better, I would most certainly have been offended, or at least sad. It was pretty much this chunk:

    makes the problem seem simple enough to solve. You just send a tough guy in to demand that she eat normally and quit barfing, already! But now John Prescott has gone and threatened to wreck that image and reveal something much more complex: that 10 percent of diagnosed bulimics and 20 percent of new cases are men; that a compulsion to throw up your food isn’t just about weight control, and most bulimics are not underweight; that these disorders aren’t restricted to kids who will eventually grow out of it; and that bulimia is not a personal weakness but a dangerous mental illness.

    I know that what you’re saying is that all this is true and most people don’t know that/get that. But it comes across to me that you actually think the solution is to yell at someone to stop barfing already, which on its own would be enough to send me on the warpath (if my brain weren’t completely fuzzed with germs). I know the word “seem” is key there, but it’s not necessarily clear if it “seems” that way to you, KH, or to the general public but not you, KH.

    In addition, the perception that bulimia, or EDs in general, are about weight control and nothing else is incredibly frustrating to me. I think a lot of people with similar or related experiences to mine might get set off by seeing that goddamn concept yet again and miss the framing.

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