What’s up my ass today

Hi! I’m back from a whirlwind couple of weeks, during which I attended a conference here, then flew across the country to tag along while Al attended a different conference. Which means I’ve pretty much spent 2 straight weeks negotiating enormous crowds in not entirely familiar places, sitting still more than I like to, and doing a lot of squinting across rooms, going, “Is that someone I know, or just someone who looks like someone I know?” I’m tired.

And in the meantime, the internet has continued its job of documenting the mind-bogglingly assholic things people say. I have two “favorites” this week.

1) The BBC kids’ show CBeebies recently introduced two new presenters, one of whom, Cerrie Burnell, was born with only one fully formed arm. This has led to comments on their message board such as this gem:

I question the logic of hiring a girl with part of her arm missing (and so obviously placed on display for kids to see it) to present cbeebies. My child was immediately freaked out and didn’t want to watch. There’s a time and place for showing kids all the “differences” that people can have, but nine in the morning in front of 2 year olds is NOT the place!

Little overboard on the need for political correctness, perhaps?

Now, before your head explodes — as it certainly should — I want to say that I did follow links back to the message board, where I learned that the ratio of comments like that to comments like, “OMG, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU ABLEIST SHIT?” (I paraphrase) was roughly 1 to 200. I found that heartening, and I think it’s worth pointing out that the “controversy” seems to have originated with a Daily Fail article, sensitively titled, “One-armed presenter is scaring children, parents tell BBC.” Whipping up outrage is what that publication does best, so keep that in mind.

Of course, one comment like that is obviously one too many, and if anyone deserves a good pile-on, it’s a shit like that. What I find perhaps more troubling, though — because openly bigoted assholes are neither surprising nor necessarily the most formidable enemy — is the ableism coming through even in the messages of support. Such as:

  • People talking about how “brave” Cerrie is. Sigh.
  • People smugly announcing that they’re raising their children “not to see” differences among people’s bodies, and proudly declaring that their children “haven’t even noticed.” Oh, okay. Because your two-year-old hasn’t mentioned it so far, it’s clear that pretending physical differences don’t exist is a stellar way to combat discrimination. 
  • People smugly explaining that when their children asked about Cerrie’s disability, they simply said, “Not everyone grows properly in their mothers’ tummies.” I think there’s a slight cultural thing here, in that British people seem to throw around the word “properly” a lot more casually than Americans do, but I cringed every time I saw something along those lines — way to reinforce that there are “correct” bodies and “other” bodies when you’re ostensibly trying to give a lesson about human diversity. (Also, telling children that babies grow in “tummies” is an unrelated pet peeve of mine.) 
  • People referring to Cerrie as having only one arm, when she clearly has two, one of which is more developed than the other. I’ve only seen one picture of her and have no idea how she uses her smaller arm, but it’s amazing how many folks erase it completely. 

That’s off the top of my head, without going back to look at the comments again. I’m sure if you go look, you’ll find more. 

I’m as outraged as anyone by the “People with disabilities frighten children!” crowd, but at least in the context of this message board, it’s a crowd of 4 or 5, that I noticed — vs. dozens of comments in which folks pat themselves on the back for being fabulous, open-minded parents while slinging more subtly ableist language and sentiments. The vast majority of that, I assume, comes from privilege, not malice — and I can hardly cast the first stone. Ableism is probably one of my biggest blind spots, as I’ve only started to actively learn and think about it relatively recently. (Two or three years ago, I was still defending my right to say “retarded” because “I didn’t mean it like that.” I hate admitting that, but given how often I smack commenters down with Rule 10, I think it’s only fair.) And obviously, I still have major blind spots about stuff I’ve been learning and thinking about for years, because that’s the nature of privilege.

But that’s exactly why it troubles me that all the attention here is going to a few openly bigoted shits, rather than the entirety of the conversation, which involves many, many shades of privileged ignorance and discriminatory language. Granted, the shock value of seeing someone claim that disabilities are frightening to children (conveniently ignoring children with disabilities themselves) might shake up some people who’ve never thought at all about hatred and discrimination. That’s worth something. But it also provides one more opportunity for privileged people who aren’t openly hateful to congratulate ourselves for not being openly hateful — “I’m not bothered by it” was a common refrain among the comments, with no one noting how incredibly patronizing a statement that is — without examining our own prejudices. “As long as I’m not like that asshole, I’m clearly not ableist, and as long as most people on the board are condemning that asshole, we clearly don’t live in an ableist culture! Vive la difference!” Yeah, no.

So. If you want to use this thread to vent about those few outrageous comments, please do feel free, because they are fucking outrageous, and I know how hard it is to resist railing about how hateful and willfully ignorant some people are when you’re given a prime example like that. But I’d also love to see this discussion go beyond that.

And now I’m going to save the second asshole statement I was going to write about for another post, because I think this one deserves its own.

How many grams of fat in a gallinule?

This article with the oh so clever title of “‘Joy of Cooking’ or ‘Joy of Obesity’?” describes a study that hilariously mischaracterizes the evolution of everybody’s favorite cookbook. Researchers have found that some recipes now have higher calorie counts and that’s why Americans are OMG SO FAT:

Published as a letter Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the report examined 18 classic recipes found in seven editions of the book from 1936 to 2006. It found that calorie counts for 14 of the recipes have ballooned by an average of 928 calories, or 44%, per recipe. And serving sizes have grown as well.

When we talk about obesity, people like to plant the source of the issue on away-from-home dining,” said Brian Wansink, the study’s co-author and director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. “But that raised the thought in my mind: Is that really the source of things?. . . . What has happened in what we’ve been doing in our own homes over the years?”

I’m gonna state up front that the main reason I’m blogging this is that it’s an excuse share the pictures that are behind the cut, so I’ll try to cut to the chase. Still, about this study and that quote: gender is not mentioned in this article, but I can’t help but be suspicious of this study as contributing to the “blame the moms” aspect of our culture. I’m actually fairly impressed that no one in the article explicitly mentions women (perhaps “impressed” is not the right word), but the phrase “what we’ve been doing in our own homes” sets off alarm bells for me, as it’s used so often as a prelude to returning to the glory days of when women didn’t have pesky things like careers and hobbies that would interfere with cooking the most nutritiously correct meals ever seen on earth. And, as the book’s original cover shows, the intended audience was clearly women: holy women being attacked by monsters.


Now, about those recipes. They had to pick recipes that were present in each of the published editions, so they ended up being American classics: the article lists beef stroganoff, waffles, macaroni and cheese, goulash, Spanish rice, brownies, sugar cookies, and apple pie. I’m not trying to universalize my own eating habits here, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most of these, to quote Obesity Propaganda Cookie Monster, a sometimes food? I know the phrase is “American as apple pie,” but how often do you actually bake an apple pie? I just can’t work up much excitement that a list of foods that were basically already vehicles for enjoying some fat and/or sugar may now contain more fat or sugar. This is not to demonize fat and sugar–far from it!–but just to point out that these may be staple recipes, but that doesn’t mean they’re staple foods. And the idea that the serving sizes have embiggened, honestly, who uses the serving size guidelines who is not already on a diet? I mean, if that beef stroganoff is yummy but way richer than you remember Grandma making it, probably you won’t want quite as much of it as you did at Grandma’s house.

Happily, the book’s editor exhibits some sense about the whole thing: “It’s such a tiny number of recipes. It’s really a non-event,” she said. Anyone who has a copy of the Joy of Cooking knows that it is massive, so 14 recipes — especially 14 recipes that have been in circulation since 1931 — cannot possibly be representative. To wax nostalgic over how 1931 brownies used less butter (perhaps because of that little thing called the Great Depression, maybe?) is to construct a fantasy world where people were never fat but never went hungry, and when all food nourished all bodies the same way.

Now for the real meat (ha) of the post. I had the great fortune to inherit my parents’ old copy of the Joy of Cooking a few months ago. It’s in pretty good shape, considering it’s been in continuous use for at least 40 years, but sadly I don’t know exactly which edition it is, because it had to be rebound, and some of the front matter is missing. FJ and volcanista and I concluded that it’s either from the 40s or early 60s, but I’m not positive which. It seems to be the 1964 edition (thanks, Katia!) Whenever it was published, in the spirit of drawing wild conclusions from unrepresentative samples, I’d like to share with you some helpful tips from the glorious, pre-OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA, Joy of Cooking. (Warning: this post gets picture-heavy behind the cut.)

Continue reading

WTF of the day: Fling candy bars

Andy Wright at Mother Jones nails everything wrong with Mars’s new candy bars for the lady market so perfectly, I can’t even add anything. I can only quote:

Predictably, one of the hot selling points for the Fling bar is that “at under 85 calories per finger, it’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.” In other words, the candy perfectly straddles the contradictions of the angel/whore dilemma in a way its intended female consumers never will…. The PR packages that went out to media outlets contained sheer T-shirts that read “Try It In Public,” equating the act of women consuming sweets in front of other people with being as taboo as committing sex acts in front of them. 

Seriously, read the whole thing. Then come back here and scream.

No words

Robert Blue was arrested for chaining his 15-year-old daughter to a bed, because he thought she was fat and wanted to stop her from eating. 

On and off for two days, Blue’s 15-year-old daughter was chained to her bed. She was found beaten and in tears — all because Blue thought she was overweight, according to a police report. 

Blue, 53, was also arrested for beating his daughter with a wooden stick and kicking her, police said…

Blue said he was upset because his daughter weighs around 165 pounds, and Blue wanted her to weigh between 140 and 145 pounds, explaining that was her fighting weight in mixed martial arts.

Heart not broken yet? Here you go.

Police said Blue had been chaining his daughter to the bed with a padlock and chain since Jan. 12, when he said he found pea and corn containers in her room. He said she had found a way around the chains on the pantry and refrigerator over the past month.

Now, clearly Robert Blue is an abusive, controlling fuck who likely would have found other “reasons” to act like an abusive, controlling fuck even if his daughter had literally maintained her fighting weight. But you can’t really escape the fact that if we didn’t live in a fat-hating culture, an asshole like this could not tell police with a straight face that he thought he was acting in his daughter’s best interest.*

Beyond that, I have no words. 


*Shapeling Ailbhe rightly corrected me on this point in comments. I’ll quote her here:

Yes, he could. Abusive parents tell police – seriously, believing it – that they burn their kids to save their souls, beat them to instill a respect for authority, and leave them in baths of ice-water to keep them chaste…

The part that wouldn’t happen with burning and freezing (though it apprently does with beating, up to a point) is the police (and later general public) thinking they can see his point for a second there.


Stuffing yourself with baby donuts is true patriotism

Several of you have sent us this link or dropped it in comments, but just in case you missed it: the oh so rational right-wingers in the American Life League accuse Krispy Kreme of making the official snack of Shapely Prose, the baby donut! This is because Krispy Kreme is offering a free “donut of choice” on Inauguration Day, and also because the American Life League is staffed solely by robots who do not understand the human ideas of “idioms” and “context.”

Enjoy a babylicious donut this week — FOR OBAMA. Bonus points for anyone who wears a baby donut t-shirt to an inaugural ball.

Dear spammers: Are you fucking stupid?

Today we got emails from two different real, English-speaking humans asking us to use the blog to shill for 1) a weight loss challenge and 2) a calorie-counting website. I’ve worked in marketing (though thank god I was marketing something a little less reprehensible than a fucking calorie-counting tool), and I know that sometimes the pressure to bother as many people as possible is pretty overwhelming. It’s certainly quantity over quality where marketing is concerned. But seriously, how many words of this blog do you think someone has to read before they figure out that we could not be any less fucking interested? Three in a row? How absolutely shit-dumb do you have to be to be unable to figure out that our “customers” (seriously) will not be interested? How obvious could it be that you’re wasting your time?

Even more hilariously, I wrote back to one of them saying she should be fired if this is her idea of targeted advertising. Her response? SHE CALLED ME FAT. (She also called herself a spammer. Her mom must be so proud.) People are seriously this inept! It’s hilarious, and yet at the same time, do I really want to live in a world where people’s reading comprehension skills are so nonexistent? I blame the schools. (I really want to link to the page as a name-and-shame, but come on, like you guys are in any danger of unknowingly using the product.) (ETA: Okay, I finally looked at the site and it’s a total riot so I have to share: New Calorie Counter. You’ll have to google it because that link currently redirects to a less hilarious blog — or you could just riff off people in the comments, no real need to see the original source. Obviously, if you’re gonna use a calorie-counting site, which you weren’t going to anyway, don’t use this one, blah blah — but more importantly, enjoy the hilarity!)

So, because it’s apparently not clear enough (depending on what’s on the front page, sometimes you have to scroll down a page and/or click something before you figure out that THIS IS A FAT ACCEPTANCE BLOG): Dear marketing interns, spammers, potential spammers, and people who want us to spam our readers on your behalf, THIS IS A FAT ACCEPTANCE BLOG. WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR NEW DIET OR OTHER WEIGHT-LOSS RELATED PRODUCT. PLEASE FUCKING TAKE STOCK OF YOUR LIFE.

ETA: Hey, The Rotund got one too! Alison is not the one who got abusive, it was Christina at New Calorie Counter.

Your Daily Giggle, Plus a Lesson in How Not to Appeal to Your Core Customer

Shapeling H. forwarded me an e-mail from JMS this morning, with the following graphic:


Seriously, y’all, the fat girl store is having a TENT SALE. Once again, we find a marketing department for a plus-size store sorely in need of a common sense consultant. I could not make this shit up if I tried. 

(Having said that, they do have some good deals on bras.)

The thinking man’s circle jerk

The year is ending, which means that every website on earth is coming up with a Top 10 or Best of 2008 feature of some kind. I am reluctantly drawn to these lists — I feel utterly obligated to read them, even though they usually could be summarized as “Hey, look at my [intellect/hipster taste/class status] I ASSURE YOU IT’S ALMOST AS LARGE AS MY GIANT COCK.” So when Samhita at Feministing linked to this list of Touré’s “Thinking Man Sex Symbols,” despite the warning that it was a train wreck (Samhita: “Every line is like a work of art”), I had to look.

Samhita already highlighted this gem from the intro:

A man has two minds. The lower mind is a brainless whore excited by any woman with breasts, curves, and a thong. The upper mind, which works with actual grey matter, is more persnickety. The upper mind, when employed, is moved by intelligence, success, power, self-confidence, a smart sense of humor, and, of course, not having a castrating nature.

Unthinking heteronormativity? Check. Dismissal of men as hormone-driven walking penises? Check. Reference to castration? Check! Clearly, what we have ourselves here is a Thinking Man.

I’m not against talking about (or even listing) sexxxy people, and I don’t think any of the women featured here are anything less than gorgeous. (I mean, M.I.A.? She kicks 20 kinds of ass.) But this list embodies a certain kind of self-congratulatory false feminism that we’ve seen a lot of in this Palin-tastic year. Men falling all over themselves to proclaim how hot they think Tina Fey’s glasses are do not constitute the revolution in beauty standards that some seem to think. I’m reminded of the line in The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep’s character says (of Anne Hathaway’s character), “I decided to take a chance on the smart fat girl.”

by marttj
photo by marttj

The faults of this list are probably too dumb and too obvious to spend this many words on, but it just smells so strongly of eau de douchebag that it’s hard to resist. Congratulations, Thinking Men! You’ve taken a list of highly accomplished women and rebranded it as a list of hotties, and then you’ve given yourself a cookie for it. When the most complex thing you have to say about Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide and team Obama member, is “Sam’s a ride-or-die chick, willing to slay anyone [i.e., Hillary Clinton] for her man,” you fail at geopolitics, feminism, sexiness, thinking, and metaphor all at once. No wonder hot chicks never go for nice thinking guys!

On the “Obesity Tax”

So, New York Governor David Paterson is proposing a tax on sugared soft drinks (among other things), and apparently calling it an “obesity tax.” (The NYT doesn’t call it that or imply that Paterson does, but the Daily News does; make of that what you will.)

I admit I’m not that fussed about the tax itself — just the name, if anyone but the Daily News is indeed calling it that — though Rachel over at Women’s Health News, who first sent me the link, makes a good case for the tax itself being bullshit.  Rachel can’t drink diet soda without getting sick, and she says:

Yes, I know, well if I were in New York, I could choose a beverage other than soda if the tax on non-diet soda is not acceptable to me. I just don’t really like the idea of punitive taxing for behavior control, especially when I perceive it as inconsistent and/or arbitrary. I can sort of understand it with something like cigarettes, where there is pretty strong evidence of inherent badness and there aren’t 800 other smokable tobacco products to choose from that are not being preferentially less taxed. However, will the Governor also be adding taxes to sweetened or just very naturally sweet fruit juices? Is there any evidence that the move would actually improve health, given the apparent endorsement of a particular choice?

That implied endorsement of a single alternative definitely bugs me, given that diet soda is loaded with sodium*, the carbonation can cause heartburn (I know from sad experience), and artificial sweeteners — while not necessarily as evil as your average e-mail forward would have you believe — can have nasty effects on people like Rachel and might not be especially good for any of us. If you want to tax pop, go ahead and tax pop — my wee libertarian streak is nowhere near wide enough to accommodate outrage over that. Nobody needs to drink pop, regular or otherwise, and as far as I know, there are exactly zero proven benefits of drinking it (other than helping people who work for big beverage corporations keep their jobs). If they were just slapping a tax on fizzy drinks, and calling it a tax on fizzy drinks, I’d shrug. But taxing only the kind that’s thought to make people fat — thereby implying that the kind not thought to make people fat is markedly healthier — and calling it a fucking “obesity tax”? I’ve got a problem with that. 

Liss says a lot of what I would have said if I’d gotten to this earlier, notably:

Resultingly, fat people are demonized, thin-but-unhealthy people are discouraged from thinking about whether regular soda is something they should cut out of their diets for any reason other than it now costs too much thanks to those damn fatties, and the simplistic associations between fat/unhealthy and thin/healthy are reinforced yet again.

The only thing I’d add is that calling this an “obesity” tax, as opposed to yet another “vice” tax, makes it quite literally about the punishment of fat bodies, rather than of “bad” habits that could be held by anyone. Not only are they once again conflating “fat” with “unhealthy,” they’re conflating “fat” with “vice” — reinforcing the message that fatness automatically equals a conscious decision to engage in (arguably) self-destructive behavior.

I mean, it’s basically the same thing, but I think the hair is worth splitting. Half the time, the “fat = unhealthy” camp promotes the idea that fat people are merely ignorant about proper nutrition, which is annoying enough. But the other half of the time, they’re promoting the idea that fat people bring fatness on ourselves because of emotional issues and/or addiction, which to my mind is even worse.

Fatness is not a behavioral issue. Choosing to drink soda is behavioral. Choosing regular soda over diet soda is behavioral. Overeating, among those who actually do it, is behavioral. (It should go without saying, but in case it doesn’t, labeling those things “behavioral” does not imply any judgment; I’m merely distinguishing between things people do and things people are.) Being fat is not behavioral; it’s existential. 

So saying you’re taxing “obesity” when you’re actually taxing a decision to purchase one kind of beverage over another is just so fucking wrong-headed, I don’t know where to begin. Apart from the behavioral/existential issue and the fat = unhealthy issue, here’s another one: A hell of a lot of fat people already drink diet soda, because we prefer the taste or, you know, because we’ve been told that regular soda is what’s making us fat. (I am constantly baffled by how people manage to reconcile the notion that fatties never restrict their calories or avoid sugar with the existence of a gazillion-dollar diet industry.) Personally, I haven’t had a sugared pop on purpose since about 1994; I find it way, way too sweet. I threw a party a couple of years ago and bought regular Coke in case anyone wanted any, and it sat in our kitchen for a year until we finally decided just to throw it out. (After, I might add, attempting to unload it on various friends, all of whom said, “Yuck, I don’t drink sugared pop.” ) Oddly enough, my obesity — you know, that attribute they’re proposing to tax? — did not actually make me forget that I hate regular pop and drink the whole case in one sitting. Nor did Al’s obesity make him forget he can’t handle caffeine, which is why he didn’t want it. Can you believe it?!?

In closing, allow me to quote myself, not for the first time: 

Free fruits and veggies for everyone! Local, organic produce for all my friends! While you’re at it, bring back gym class and train future phys ed instructors to focus on encouraging the joy of movement instead of forcing everyone to move their bodies in exactly the same way, regardless of any pain (physical and/or emotional) it causes! Subsidize exercise facilities until they’re affordable for everyone! Create more bike paths! Clean up local bodies of water so everyone can swim for free! Build cities on the scale of human bodies instead of cars, and keep the streets safe enough for everyone to walk around! Ban high fructose corn syrup! Keep fast food and soda and junk food corporations out of the schools! Raise the minimum wage and shorten working hours so people have more time to cook and be active! KNOCK YOURSELVES RIGHT THE FUCK OUT creating an environment that makes it easier for everyone to eat a variety of fresh foods and get plenty of exercise!

But don’t tell me that’s going to make everyone thin — and really, really don’t tell me that making people thinner should be the main point of such a plan.

*I’ve been busted on this repeatedly in the comments, and rightly so. That was one of those old food myths I’ve been carrying around in my head for years, and I, of all people, should have known to fact check it.


Jessica Alba, before and after airbrushing. I see a thinner waist, thinner thighs, more rounded hips, bigger boobs, more make-up, inexplicably windblown hair, a deeper tan, bigger eyes looking right at you instead of off to the side, and something really weird going on with her left armpit (easier to see if you click over to the bigger pics). 

That’s just off the top of my head. Play along, Shapelings! What else is incredibly wrong with this picture?


(H/T Shannoncc.)