If you’ve been reading Lesley’s More to Love recaps over at Fatshionista, you already know that the show is allllllll about Fat Pain. (If you haven’t, be assured they’re worth your while. I’m not sure anything could make me glad that this show is on the air, but Lesley’s writeups come close.) Sample paragraph:
Luke wants to hear more about the laydeez’ Fat Pain, though seriously y’all, can we hear something about what they do for a living or what sort of music they like or even their favorite fucking colors? ANYTHING but more Fat Pain. But Luke demands it! Desperation Vampire that Luke is, he wants them to “open up” their Fat Pain to him such that he can gobble it down and taste every sweet drop of their despairing tears and heartache. YESSSSSS.
SO WHAT I’M GETTING HERE IS THERE’S LOTS OF FAT PAIN. Fat Pain about prom. Fat Pain about dating. Fat Pain about, importantly, not dating. Fat Pain about wearing a bathing suit. Fat Pain about wearing other clothes besides a bathing suit. The show hinges on two things: fat, and pain.
Now, I find the show exploitative and awful, like any reality dating show but calibrated to offend me specifically. But insofar as these women are real people — and I think more of them are than on a typical reality show, for the simple reason that their weight curbs the likelihood that they’re rushing to or from a Professional Reality Contestant career — I feel their fat pain, if you will. I generally don’t share it, but when I read in Lesley’s recap that someone cried or expressed worry that nobody would love her or was terrified to appear in a bathing suit or what have you, I believe there’s a grain of sincerity to those revelations.
Imagine my surprise, then, when Dodai at Jezebel devoted an entire post today to ignoring these women’s Fat Pain by confidently declaring them Not Fat. See, one of them’s a fitness instructor and another one’s a plus-size model, one of them’s pretty and another one seems to think she is. Also, they all seem to be mobile, they’re occasionally allowed to be seen on camera without food hanging out of their mouths, and pictures of them would probably be shuffled to the bottom of AP’s headless fatty file. By Dodai’s lights, they’re not fat at all! All of that excruciating air time spent on talking about how they grew up hating their bodies or learned to later, how they feel self-conscious when they should be having fun, how they worry about finding love, how they get more than their measure of shit from the people around them? Don’t worry, you guys, we TOTALLY think you’re pretty!
About one of the contestants, Dodai asks: “In which universe is this woman … fat, unattractive, or someone who finds it tough to meet a man?” Maybe… maybe the universe that put her on a dating reality show with all the other fatties to match them up with a fat man who only likes fatties? Because there’s no way she could a) otherwise get on TV (ha ha!) b) otherwise go on a dating show (ha! ha ha!) c) find a man who wasn’t fat (who’d stoop so low!) d) find a man who wasn’t exclusively into fat women (please, you slay me!) e) find a man if she wasn’t competing largely against people who are even fatter than her (as if!) or possibly f) find a man at all? MAYBE THAT FUCKING UNIVERSE? THE ONE THAT MADE THAT SHOW? (Malissa, by the way, seems by all accounts to be kind of a jackass, but even she has confessionalized about how people judge her for her weight. Ya think?)
It’s certainly the same universe Jezebel is in, or at least the same universe it was in a few posts later when Kate made the incredibly controversial claim that healthy behaviors are de facto valuable even if you unhitch them from population statistics. On that thread, the commentariat was falling over themselves to say how sick they were of the idea that obese people could ever be healthy. (I know, when can we EVER escape THAT concept, amirite?) A few choice quotes:
Obesity is dangerous and bad for your health, this isn’t about “chubby kids” or teenagers going through transition time this is about children who are not getting the proper nutrition and exercise they need which is making them unhealthy and setting them up for life-long health problems and complications. Weight is not purely a matter of looks weight has a HUGE affect on your health and overall well-being and to add that’s for both sides of the coin.
Can we all stop equating obese with “fat” or “overweight.” It’s like squares and rectangles: obese is a type of being fat or overweight, but fat/overweight does not equal obese.
Does everyone just feel there’s an implied angle that has to do with forcing people to be thin? Are we assuming that when they say obese they mean simply overweight? I don’t understand why it’s a problem to try to stop obesity. Why are we turning something into an issue about body image that doesn’t seem to be presented as an issue about body image??
As a medical professional I can state without equivocation that truly obese people are not healthy. Sorry but it’s true. But chubby, or ‘overweight’ people can absolutly be healthy.
Obese–to me–is not an objective and medically based assessment of health or wellness, it is more a subjective assessment of how you look to other people.
That last one really sums it up, huh? “Obese doesn’t really mean a weight — it means whether I think you’re gross.”
Taken together, the More to Love post and the comments on Kate’s post (minus, to be fair, a strong showing from the sensible contingent) send a clear message: the obese are unhealthy, obesity is unhealthy, we should fight obesity — but we don’t mean you. We mean, you know, The Obese. The unhealthy, lazy, indulgent, gluttonous, immoderate, sedentary, not at all pretty Obese.
Here’s how the four More to Love contestants mentioned in Dodai’s post would stack up in the BMI Project, according to the stats reported on Wikipedia (yeah, you heard me):
- “In which universe is this woman Malissa fat, unattractive, or someone who finds it tough to meet a man?” is five pounds off from “obese.” If she’s actually five or more pounds above her self-reported weight of 170, she’s part of the Epidemic.
- “Mandy, who is not fat and is, in fact, a fitness instructor” is overweight. You got us there — guess she’s the maybe-okay “chubby,” not the dreaded “obese.” SHE MUST BE THE PRETTIEST.
- “Anna, who is not fat, and makes her living as a plus-size model” is one pound from being obese. If she is, at any point, one pound heavier than her self-reported weight of 220, she’s an Epidemic Carrier. An Epidemician, if you will.
- “Tali, the simply gorgeous Israeli stylis/decorator who is not fat” is obese.
This so-called epidemic is not made up of theoretical fucking people who are just as fat as you can possibly imagine. It’s made up of people you see every day AND WHO YOU PROBABLY THINK ARE “NOT FAT.” That’s the point of the BMI Project. That’s the point of the good work that Jezebel has, for the most part, been doing, making it clear that fear of fat is an injustice visited on all of us, of any shape. Jezzies seem to be okay hearing that from their thin editors — since we all know they’re really talking about thin girls, right, and it’s not okay for thin girls to have to think they’re fat! They might start to eat too little, which when you’re thin is called an eating disorder!
In fact, though, the difference between body shame for thin women and fat women is only one of scale. There’s not a magical cutoff where shame becomes healthy. There’s not a magical cutoff where bodies become unacceptable. There’s not a magical cutoff where weight loss pressure suddenly breaks free of patriarchy and societal scapegoating and becomes pure and beneficent concern for health. There’s only an arbitrary demographic cutoff where someone who was okay one pound ago becomes a statistic to scare children with.
And a lot of the people you think are “not fat“? They’re already past it.