Dear Dan Savage…
Hey folks. I was listening to the “SavageLoveCast” today. I know, He is persona non gratta in the fatosphere, but I appreciate his bluntness. I’m sick of niceness this week. (I mean really, how dare I not unquestionably support my friend’s quest to starve herself.)
Anyway, he had a caller call in and talk about her lesbian parents and the lesbians who she knew through them and how they were all fat. And Dan sortof went along and then Concern trolled fat lesbians, saying how worried he was about their health because they were obviously just eat eat eat eating. I think the word used was gluttony.
So I wrote him the below e-mail. It really shares absolutely nothing that hasn’t been shared a BA ZILLION times before.
I just listened to your podcast. I promise I wont yell at you about your fat lesbian’s question answer. You have every right to your opinions, and to say whatever you want in your column and in your podcast. (Thats why I listen, obviously!) I just thought I would pass along some information that gives a different perspective on the issue in case you are interested.
The first, as a statistician I want to point out the adage, the plural of anecdote is not data. The fact that several people believe they only know overweight lesbians is not actually proof that all or most lesbians are fat. (The same way that people claiming only to know flaming gay men is not proof that most gay men are effeminate.) Now it may very well be true, but because of the way the human mind works our perceptions are not accurate gauges of this kind of information.
Confirmation bias tends to ensure that any evidence we see as confirmation of a belief is remembered while conflicting evidence is ignored, overlooked or cited as an “exception.” So even though someone may have met only a few more fat lesbians than thin lesbians, they will remember the fat lesbians as confirmation of their fat lesbian theory and ignore the thin ones as irrelevant. Therefore without some kind of statistically valid study one cannot simply conclude that most lesbians are fat because some people believe that this is true. (Ditto all stereotypes about any group ever obviously.)
Secondly, I would also like to encourage you to read this article from the International Herald Times. It discusses several interesting studies about weight including one that attempted to make thin people fat that failed. Another key conclusion from the third page:
The researchers concluded that 70 percent of the variation in peoples’ weights might be accounted for by inheritance, a figure that means that weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other condition, including mental illness, breast cancer or heart disease.
So there is some evidence that being overweight is not just a result of diet and exercise. There are other interesting articles here at Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose (ETA: Sorry to our Shapely Leaders! I hope this doesn’t create extra trouble.) if you are interested in reading more about studies that conflict with the dominant media narrative of Fat as pure evil. While I don’t think you’ll find anyone there who would disagree with the idea that eating healthy and getting exercise are important things for health, the key disagreement is that doing these things does not necessarily lead to being thin for those of us predisposed to be fat.
And this is the last thing only tangentially related, and then I will go away and not bother you anymore. Have you read “MIstakes Were Made (But Not By Me)”? It’s a really great book that I think might come in handy during your advice giving life. It has a really interesting chapter on romantic relationships. Anyway, Can’t recommend enough if you haven’t read it, it has come in really handy in dealing with my Uber Republican Rush Limbaugh Loving relations.
Good luck catching up on sleep!
“That seems to be considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance”
-Lady Bracknall, The Importance of Being Earnest