Y’all, we are on fluffcation till further notice. We are posting nothing thought-provoking, drama-inducing, or troll-tempting for the immediate future. Anyone who says anything remotely controversial in comments will be thoroughly scolded.

Instead, we will all talk about lemurs:


That lemur look, by ucumari



Up close

Long-time Shapelings know that we are big fans of PostSecret. If you haven’t been there yet, check it out — it’s an amazing project. I loved one of the secrets posted today:

[A pointillist painting: Georges Seurat’s Esquisse d’ensemble [sketch for a larger work, presumably Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte], with these words handwritten over it: Up close, everyone looks less perfect. In that, though, they look human.]

Friday fluff: Take back the (diet) food

Shapeling BlueRain points out that in my last post I was unfair to okara, the main ingredient in the Magical Diet Cookies. She notes:

Okara (as well as Shirataki mentioned in someone’s comment upthread) is a traditional food item in Japanese cuisine, and having it appropriated as “low-fat/low-cal miracle diet food” is offensive enough, but having it mocked here somehow makes it worse. Yes, there are cookies/crackers/biscuits made of okara, and they are quite yummy. They are NOT sold as diet cookies, but just plain snack-food.

I apologize for my ignorance and my assumption that okara was not yummy in sweets. Now I am really curious to try an okara-based treat (one that’s not advertising its own magical weight-loss-and-water-absorption powers, that is). More to the point, it made me wonder what other perfectly wonderful foods have been hijacked by diet industry hype (and how that relates to cultural appropriation: the “French,” the “Mediterranean,” the “Okinawa” lifestyles…). Let’s do an exercise in food positivity: what supposedly “diet” foods out there do you actually enjoy even — especially — when you’re not on a diet? What foods have we been taught are “good” as in moral are actually just “good” as in “I like it put this in my mouth”?

Monstrous cookies for cookie monsters

From the NYT comes this story about the Cookie Diet, a diet plan in which you survive on “six prepackaged cookies a day, plus one ‘real’ meal — say, skinless chicken and steamed vegetables.” The idea here seems to be that you will be so entranced by the idea of eating the sinful “cookies” that you will forget that you are, you know, starving yourself, and that these aren’t exactly your grandma’s snickerdoodles. (Ahem: “The main ingredient in the Soypal cookie is okara, or soy pulp, which absorbs any liquids you drink with the cookies.” Delicious!)

Surprisingly, the NYT actually acknowledges the cultural clusterfuck that the Cookie Diet symbolizes:

The popularity of cookie diets is hardly surprising in this culture of quick fixes. Who wouldn’t want to exert the minimal effort to get long-lasting results? Who wouldn’t want to lose weight by consuming something verboten on most diets?

“The Cookie Diet is very appealing, because it legalizes a food — the cookie — that is banned from most weight-loss programs,” said Jenni Schaefer, author of “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover From Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life” (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

“The diet gives people a false sense of control, simplifying balanced nutrition into one food: the cookie,” she added.

The same cultural forces that tell you you must always be on a diet, Fatty McFatterpants, tells you that some foods are “good” and some are “bad.” Cookies, along with cake, pie, baby donuts, and other sweet things usually made with oil and butter, are the sine qua non of bad food. They are the snack of the robot devil himself. The Cookie Diet brilliantly exploits the false morality of fat: you diet by doing what would count as “cheating” on any other diet. You can’t just eat cookies without a plan, after all. And heaven forbid that you make your own cookies rather than spend $56 a week for someone’s soy pulp with secret spices.

Look, here’s the thing: you’re allowed to eat cookies. This is true if you’re fat or not fat. You’re allowed to eat six cookies a day if you feel like it. You’re also allowed to eat a cookie today and a salad tomorrow, or a cookie for dessert and a smoothie for breakfast. You’re allowed to eat whatever you want.

Cookies are not evil. Some things are evil. Cookies are just cookies.

Getting to 101

A Shapeling (who wishes to remain anonymous for the purpose of this thread) has some questions she’s been mulling after some of our recent discussions about gender and feminism. What do you do when the men in your life are only partway to feminism — when they agree that, say, women should have equal pay for equal work, and that rape is bad, but they think the rest of it is silly or overreacting? Or when they don’t accept that some of their own behavior — whether it’s as “minor” as flirting in the street or as major as thinking their sexual needs are more urgent and non-negotiable than their female partners’ — contributes to the culture of sexism?

Our Shapeling asks:

So I guess my question is, how do you navigate this type of territory?  How do you educate a loved one about their own sexist behavior when they don’t believe they are being sexist?  Without any back story, the easy response is that I should just dump him if he can’t learn to respect me and take me seriously…  But what do you do about men you can’t dump?  What do you do if it’s like, your uncle, or your dad, or your brother?  You can’t just dump your family.  So what are you supposed to do when you’re dealing with someone who, for the most part, is on board with your feminism, but still has certain sexist expectations about you, and is unwilling to admit or acknowledge that certain behaviors are sexist?

I’m sure we all have some experience with negotiating our own feminism (and other commitments to social justice) with reluctant people in our lives. What do you do when people you care about convinced they’re not sexist — and are wrong?

No more “fat talk”

We’ve been deep into Advanced Feminism and Fat Acceptance the last few weeks, but sometimes it’s good to get a reminder of the basics and why we have to start there. The most important step of FA — and the one that often hardest to do — is to stop talking shit about yourself. This is Tri Delta’s Fat Talk Free Week:

(The video soundtrack is just music, for those of you watching without sound.)

What I really appreciate about this campaign is the focus on how fat talk isn’t just about you — every time you put yourself down, even if you really, truly are thinking only about yourself, you are also adding to the toxic environment that your loved ones live in, too. Self-shaming behavior implicitly shames others.

The Fat Talk Free Week campaign says “Friends don’t let friends fat talk” — what are your tried and true ways of resisting fat-shaming conversations?

This one’s for the masochists

You all know that we get a lot of trolls here; usually they are discouraged by our despotic comments policy and give up after one or two bits of low-grade trolling. Of course, when Dude Nation descended upon us to wave their liberty sticks, the frequency and stupidity of the trolling went sky-high.

Here’s the thing about getting really stupid trolls: they suck and we don’t want them here, but sometimes the things they say are hilarious. I mean, we’re talking perhaps-you-are-speaking-moon-language territory. We can’t douchehound them all, but we often have the impulse to let you know just how inane the people who want to fuck with us (with all of us) are.

To that end, I’ve started a side project: the Helpful Comments blog. I’ve anonymized the comments so as not to feed the trolls’ little egos while still providing maximum amusement for you. I intend to keep this updated as often as men feel the need to come here and tell us how wrong we are because we’re ladies and shit. Think of it as a safe way to use up your leftover Sanity Watchers points on any given day. Enjoy!

Quick hit: Fat Barbie

No, not that fat Barbie, sadly. According to WWD, shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who recently designed some high fashion Barbies, had to “reshape” the dolls because “He found her ankles were too fat” (according to a spokesperson).

Cankles? (photo by melloveschallah)
Cankles? (photo by melloveschallah)

I’ll let you sit with that one a minute.

*wanders off, pours some booze, comes back*

Barbie’s ankles are too fat for fashion. Barbie, the fashion doll. Barbie, the legendarily disproportionate model of femininity, whose feet are permanently molded for high heels, has cankles.

(Hat tip Broadsheet.)

SP Round Table: Fat baby denied health insurance

Kate started us off by pointing to this horrifying story about a 4-month-old baby in Colorado who was denied health insurance for being too fat. Super fun quote from the article:

By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don’t take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise.

We began this roundtable with general email screaming. Once we calmed down, here’s what we had to say.

Tall Chairs Round Table (by moriza)
Tall Chairs Round Table (by moriza)

A) The kid is at the 99th percentile for height AND weight, so WTF? B) This is exactly why we need universal health insurance. Because, setting the height thing aside, let’s say the kid really is bizarrely fat at 4 months. There’s virtually no chance that this is the parents’ fault in any way. (Not that it would be the parents’ fault if the kid were old enough to eat solid food and exercise, mind you, but go with me here.) Which means that if this kid IS much fatter than one could reasonably expect him to be, it’s almost certainly because of * the possibility that it’s a genetic disorder — of the sort that gets older kids stolen from their parents because authorities are convinced it’s all calories in/calories out — becomes increasingly likely. And I would not be one fucking bit surprised if that’s part of the insurance company’s calculation here — not that fatness will make the baby expensively sick down the line, but that fatness suggests the baby might ALREADY be expensively sick. And of course, the important thing is making sure we don’t spend money on sick children.

Sweet Machine:
I find it really sad that the parents in the article are joking about the diets they’ll have to put the baby on. Because of course that’s the kind of joke that I’d make, too, but it actually points to the problem so well: is this what the insurance people want? What exactly can you do to an infant to make them skinnier that does not constitute grievous harm? I’m no pediatrician, but really, what the hell?

That upset me primarily because I’m not sure how long it will remain a joke. It’s one of those bits of satire that’s so close to some people’s reality that it’s uncomfortable. I mean, people switch their babies to skim milk, and put them on diets while they’re still in diapers. Making a crack about weaning the kid to Slimfast is funny, especially with the jab at expensive weight-loss products, but it isn’t even far enough outside of the norm to function as satire. Some people hearing that joke are going to say “and well you should.”

If they’re in a position where they can either let the kid remain uninsured or put him on a diet, they’re going to put him on a diet. It’s all very well to recognize that feeding a baby Slimfast is absurd, but a) it’s not absurd for a lot of people and b) how long can they afford to acknowledge its absurdity?

A Sarah:
My first thought was of how incredibly, incredibly fragile the first year of life has been for most of human history.  Getting babies adequate nutrition and hydration to live on is a GODDAMN SERIOUS ISSUE for our species, seeing how human newborns come into the world VERY dependent relative to the young of other primates.  (Tradeoff for the bipedalism and the big brains.)  Plenty of healthy babies still are one infection, bout of diarrhea, or disruption in the food supply away from life-threatening malnutrition.  The arrogance of saying, “Well, the baby’s fat, and healthy… but FAT, and FAT babies might become FAT GROWNUPS, and I mean… EW! and anyway, all the other insurance companies are doing it.  I mean, there’s MONEY involved, y’see.”

FUCK.  I mean, FUCK. Have these people ever seen a sick infant?  A truly sick infant?  Or, hell, a WELL infant?  I’m so angry.

That is such a great point. I mean, there’s a reason that chubby babies have traditionally been seen as desirable, right? It’s really obscene.

And of course this points to, once again, the complete clusterfuck that is the US health system. Which will make me all rantypants if I say another word about it.

As infuriating as this is, denying obese adults health insurance might be even more infuriating. Babies who can’t get health insurance are the top 5 percent of heavy babies — the adults who can’t get health insurance are, as we hear over and over again, the top 30 percent.

Have y’all read amandaw’s post about pre-existing conditions and how ableist it is to be, like, extra-angry about only the more outrageous cases? It’s on my mind because she reposted it on the new FWD blog, and I’m wondering how this plays into it. I think basically it actually highlights the ableism involved in denial of care, because, as amandaw says, the underlying assumption of our ableist culture is that if someone’s sick, they did something wrong. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, they secretly brought it on themselves (though of course some patients are “more deserving” than others). But a 4-month-old, pretty much by definition, can’t have done anything wrong. It really points to the identity-versus-behaviors problem of the “obesity epidemic.” Here is someone who is innocent in every way we understand that word — but who is being treated as guilty by a system that assumes that if adults are fat or sick, it’s their fault.

Throwing this into the mix, not sure how it fits: I was astounded, when I had kids, to realize just how vulnerable even a very very very healthy young baby (like, 6 mos.) is. Up to some point (can’t remember how many months) a fever over 101 is a medical emergency and you don’t call the doctor, you call 911.  To have the misfortune of getting chicken pox and strep at the same time can be life-threatening.  Diarrhea is pretty serious.  Frequent well baby checkups if you’re going by the AAP recommendations.  Lots of things that are vaccinated against now routinely killed children before immunizations (and very rare vaccine reactions injure babies today.)  That’s not to be all OMG PARENTING MEANS MARINATING IN FEAR — because it also turned out that a bump on the head or an accidentally-burned finger or the TV being on or some store-bought baby food does not in fact teach babies NEVER TO LOVE OR LEARN — but since we’re talking about things that send babies into the healthcare system, it seems pertinent.

So we have these poor little innocent babies (and yeah, I mean, who doesn’t love babies?) but when one considers how great are the healthcare needs even of young babies with NO known medical conditions, it just seems so ridiculous and disingenuous.  So, okay, insurance company, you’re concerned that the baby might be eating too much breastmilk (omgwtf?!?) and, what, will be fat and expensive and selfish and lazy someday?  Right. Couldn’t be that babies are big consumers of healthcare, or that they’re one of the groups for whom there sometimes are public programs, or that you’re just looking for a way to save a buck without appearing like the hater of human life that you are.

*ETA: My original language there was problematic. –Kate