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Intersectionality Story Time

Hey kids, gather round, it’s time for Auntie Shinobi’s intersectionality story time.  Frankly I’m not totally sure what the moral of this story is, but it happened to me this morning, and it was a really interesting coming together of a number of different issues that are important to me.  (Eating, Racial Privilege, Women’s body issues, and yelling on trains.)   So I thought I would share it.

I was attempting to nap on the southbound purple line this morning.  I was sitting next to a young girl.  She was quiet and well behaved and I don’t know if she had a parent with her as I was trying to nap.  When all of the sudden the yelling started.  A woman near the entrance of the train began yelling about “Watching a young girl eat” and how the perpetrator should be ashamed of themselves.

At first I was confused I thought perhaps does she was concerned about some kind of pedo-feeder-fetish thing.  But then I realized through the very high volume discourse she was conducting that she was concerned about the emotional effects on this young girl who was just eating her breakfast.  (Which I think was a bagel sandwich from Dunkin Donuts.  Yum.)

Apparently our speaker (who I will henceforth refer to as the Duchess of Decibels because she was both impressively loud and very concerned that everyone know a lot about how important and upper class her ancestry was) felt that the woman was judging this little girl for eating her breakfast.

Further complicating this dynamic was the fact that the staring woman was white, and the girl was black.  (As is the Duchess of Decibels) The Duchess continued to upbraid this woman for several minutes.  She touched on a lot of major issues about race and the fucked up standards that white women apply to eating and how that little girl did not need to be given those issues at such a young age.  Her rant culminated in some major put downs that made the part of me that appreciates a well formed insult want to get up and hug her.  I wish I could quote it verbatim, oh to have had an audio recording going  but it was pretty much “You sit there in your business casual attire and act all upper class but really you are trash.”   I want someone to give this woman a TV show.

Of course another white woman joined in the fray, attempting to get the Duchess of Decibels to stop yelling.  I am not sure what she said at first, but she said something about language, which is interesting because I don’t remember hearing The Duchess curse until AFTER she was called on her language.   She said she had a 10 year old too, but pretty much didn’t get very far before the Duchess told her that she DID NOT CARE.  IF you were wondering what the Duchess things of what white women on trains think, let me tell you, she does not care, I know this because she told us repeatedly.

And y’know what?  I don’t blame her, I don’t expect her to care what a woman who was trying to shut her up has to say, nor do I expect her to care what I think.  But you’re reading my blog, so you obviously care what I think.  (Either that or you have been tragically misled as to what the content of this blog is going to be.)

So here is what I think:

I wish that this conversation could have been had in a different way.  I saw the Duchess of Decibels being spoken to by a CTA employee as I transferred cars, so I know this ultimately did not go well for her.  And I think she had a good point.   Unfortunately the way she went about expressing it made one question whether or not she was on drugs.  Some of her behaviors were very similar to what I’ve seen people on drugs do, but she was also very clear on some of her points and her speech was clear and not at all slurred.  So I don’t know, she could have just been someone who had had it up to heaven with other people’s BS and so she snapped.

And just like I don’t know what was going on with the Duchess of Decibles to make her so loud and repetitive, I don’t know what was actually going on with the staring women.  Maybe she was judging the girl, but she might have just been hungry too.  I did see her on the other train and I think she also might just be one of those people who constantly looks disgusted.  (This is a weird phenomenon, I had friend of a friend with this problem, I thought she hated me because whenever I saw her she looked like she smelled something unpleasant.  But it turns out that is just what her face looked like.)

But I did really enjoyed hearing all the pretentious people on our train car getting called out.  Because you know what, pretentious suburbanites are annoying, I’m tired of rude people and judgmental attitudes.

And I was really glad to see someone stand up for a little girl’s right to eat in a public place.  This girl was not fat, maybe a little chubby, but it was perfectly reasonable for her to be eating a breakfast sandwich on her way to school.  She had a right to eat and not be judged.

I wish Michelle Obama had been a fly on the wall during this encounter, so maybe she could understand why her obesity initiative might actually be hurting children.  This girl was just trying to get some breakfast on her way to school.  But (assuming the Duchess’s interpretation was correct) she was being judged for it.  And I’m sure that will not be the last time that happens to her or any other kid who eats something other than apple or carrot slices in public.  While kids do need access to healthy foods we need to not shame people for their eating choices, especially kids at such a young age.

B.S. A load that lasts… oh, just a load

So a study, the title of the write up: The biggest loser: Maternal obesity is a load that lasts a lifetime.

Here’s what they did:

  • Put presumably normal Mice on a high fat (Saturated fat or trans fat) diet until they were fat
  • Kept them on said high fat diet while they knocked them up and they had babies
  • Discovered that the pups of the now fat mice had all kinds of problems
  • Blamed it on the mommy  mice being fat

Quotes:

“If there ever was a maternal hex, obesity might be it,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, “and as it turns out, even after the weight comes off, the biggest loser isn’t a mother, but her child.”

BRAIN ESPLODE!
Fortunately an earlier expert almost gets to the fat of the issue:

“Our hope is also that these data will lead people to consider the consequences of their dietary intakes not only for their own health, but also for their children’s health, and potentially even their grandchildren’s health.”

This study just really underlines the importance of challenging the idea that all weight gain is based on dietary intake.  The only way that the conclusions these researchers are making about the effects of “obesity” on baby mice holds true is if all “obesity” is achieved by eating a diet high in saturated fat or trans fat.  That is the assumption they are making here.

And it is bullshit.

This research DOES give us valuable information about the effects of high fat diets.  It doesn’t tell us anything about what being fat does to a baby.  Being fat and eating a high fat diet are not the same.

(2 blog posts in a week, I get a nap now.)

Living in an Alternate Reality

Today in articles that make you want to throw things (via skepchick) we have this article .  Warning the contents of the linked article have been shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure among fat acceptance advocates.

To begin the article starts off with a quote, a quote about the most offensive sounding diet book I have ever fucking heard of:

“If you’re fat, it’s your fault. Stop blaming food companies and diets and look in the mirror. You’re the problem. You’re the solution. Grow up, get tough and fix it.” –Steve Siebold, author of “Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People.”

That’s right people, we’re fat because we aren’t tough enough or something. Since I thought it would be great if I got NO work done this morning I looked up more about this ridiculous book, an article here gives us this info:

As one of the top-ranked motivational speakers presenting to fortune 500 companies on the topic of mental toughness, he decided to “get tough” himself. In just 12 weeks, Siebold shed 40 pounds and his waist shrunk to a size 32. Today he’s in the best shape of his life and so eager to share his success with anyone struggling to lose weight – he wrote a book about it.

Some chapters from Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People include:

Fat people see themselves as failures.
Fat people are mentally unorganized.
Fat people quit easily.
Fat people see themselves as victims.

· Fat people lack hope

It seems pretty clear to me that Seibold is confusing his own experience with self loathing and fat, for a universal experience.  Just because he was a giant loser who hated himself and was lazy and unhealth and then got fat doesn’t actually mean that that is how it works for all fat people.  Some of us were always fat.  Some of us like working out.  All of us think you are an idiot.

From the first article:

So Siebold applied his tough love approach to obesity and wrote what he called the “Fat Loser” workout. He lost the weight and says if he can do it, so can you.

From the book’s webpage:

this book pulls no punches. If you’re emotionally sensitive or easily offended, this book is NOT for you!
If you’re FAT, this book is going to rattle your cage and make your blood boil!
And it should. Get ready for a 2,000 volt cattle prod to your consciousness. If the feel good, easy way to weight loss was working, you wouldn’t be FAT!

OH I get it, I can MAGICALLY WHISK MY FAT AWAY by HATING MYSELF. This guy is obviously unaware of the fact that many fat people already hate themselves. If self hatred and abuse caused weight loss there would be no fat people.  (And lucky for us it seems like you can get both self hatred and fat from your parents!  It’s nurture AND nature!)

Btw, he’s so persecuted he must be right, he got death threats after he was on TV.  I want to be very clear, I am not threatening to kill this man, I am saying that he is wrong.  Deeply, horribly, unshakably wrong.

But I can’t do that, because Seibold is sure we’re just all stupid about our fat, or we would already have thought ourselves thin, right.  The “best” part of the article follows:

But Siebold says overweight people are living in an alternate reality. When he asked those who were at least 50 pounds overweight and married whether their size affected their sex life, 90 percent said “no,” he said.

“That’s the level of delusion we found,” he said. “These people are smart and educated but delusional. Your husband doesn’t notice? Women would say ‘he loves me.’ I’d say, ‘Of course he loves you but do you think he’s just as attracted to you as when you were thinner?’ The delusions run so thick with this topic it’s unbelievable.”

His bottom line? The thinking is the cause. “Go to your doctor, get on a good diet and then do the work and get the result. The only variable is you,” Siebold said.

All those orgasms you’re having fat people, they are all in your head.  And by fat PEOPLE I mean fat WOMEN, because everyone knows that only women are fat.  (Which is a correlary to the other thing that everyone knows, which is that no one wants to nail fat chicks. )

It is true though, to an extent, some of us are living in an alternate reality from Seibold.  An alternate reality based on science that shows that diets don’t work, and that fat is largely genetic.  Sadly, not very many people live here right now, and the entire main stream media lives in Seibold’s world.  But I like our reality better, here, we get to have orgasms.

I think this guy could be a serious contender to top Meme Roth as fatty enemy #1.

Ew, Math

If you  had told my 14 year old self I would grow up and have a career primairly based in math, I would probably have rolled my eyes at you.  (Which I might still do now, I never really lost the eyeroll.)  At the time, I for some reason believed that I was bad at math, or that it was too hard or something.

I actually used a chart in my math teacher’s classroom to figure out what career would allow me to take the least amount of college level math possible.  (Lawyer.) So I decided on this career early on in HS.  (Only to later discover that I HATED being forced to write.)

So I found the study my boss sent me this morning particularly interesting, from the LA Times write up:

First- and second-graders whose teachers were anxious about mathematics were more likely to believe that boys are hard-wired for math and that girls are better at reading, a new study has found. What’s more, the girls who bought into that notion scored significantly lower on math tests than their peers who didn’t.

So really it is all my teacher’s faults that I didn’t like math, or something.
From Scientific American:

Although there was no difference among the girls’ and boys’ math improvement, the researchers found that the girls, but not the boys, whose achievement did lag were also the students who acquired math gender biases during the school year. In the gender belief test, these girls drew a boy doing well at math and a girl at reading. Moreover, these changes in gender beliefs were found to correlate with the teacher’s degree of math anxiety (but not her math ability).

Of course the way the study is framed “Female teachers anxious about math make female students anxious about math” puts a lot of blame on teachers and ladyfolks in general for having math anxiety.   Some of the younger teachers may have been young enough for “Math is Hard” barbie, so should we really be surprised that they have anxiety about math?

Which brings me to my next point.  Math is a skill.  When I was young I remember having the impression that Math was something you got, or you didn’t, but that isn’t true.   Math is a skill the same way playing an instrument, knitting, writing drawing etc are skills.  You get better at it by practicing and by using it, by pushing yourself to try new things with it.  People who are anxious about math will be bad at math because they are avoiding it, not because they have some “bad at math” gene.

People who think they are bad at math need to do more, not less math. Just like someone who is bad at guitar needs to practice more, not less. Which is why I think making early ed teachers take more math classes is a great idea.  (I actually think EVERYONE should take more math classes.)

What I think is really key about this study, especially for feminists,  is that it clearly shows that some gender role based behaviors are learned.  The idea that girls are bad at math is picked up on by students and affects their performance fairly quickly.

If it only takes is 9  months for a girl to learn the idea that “girls are bad at math” and for that idea to affect her performance.  How exactly are they supposed to avoid learning all the other little messages out there for them?  “Girls like pink” is the first one that comes to mind.

Still Alive

Just busy, new job, totally distracted.  Will blog again eventually.

The Conventional Wisdom

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard people say something along the lines of “Everyone knows fat is bad.”  There was a breif time period where it was pissing me off a lot and so I started making notes intending to come back with a huge post about how dumb people who accept the conventional wisdom as fact are with lots of examples.  But then it happend so much that learned helplessness took over and I just cried silent invisible tears.

Today I was reading a really interesting article by Matt Taibbi on a completely unrelated topic. It is talking about Sarah Palin and her relationship to the media.  ( If you find non fat politics interesting it is well worth a read if only to read the phrase “eternal asshole of white resentment.”  Though there is some sexist language, pussies, really matt? You couldn’t come up with a two syllable word for your haiku that didn’t also insult my body?)

The essential gist is that Sarah Palin is getting piled on now because she has lost the support of the establishment.   It’s not the individual journalists opinions who matter, but the opinions of the higher ups int he publishing and media companies.  The Conventional wisdom is no longer behind her, so the media is piling on.

I think this is pretty much exactly what has been happening to us fatties for about 2 decades now.   It is better for ratings if fat is bad, and it is better for the diet and cosmetic industry if fat is bad.  Therefore it is better for the owners of companies that sell advertisements and rely on ratings if fat is bad.  Therefore the conventional wisdom is that fat is bad.

Obviously, like every issue it is more complicated than just the not totally altruisting motivations of journalists and their bosses.  But I think that thinking about how the conventional wisdom evolves and where it comes from is really important.

The next question to ask for fat acceptance is how can we make HAES the conventional wisdom?  My own pessimism says it can’t be done because no one profits from people trying to be healthy regardless of weight.  But maybe I’m wrong.

Tired

A month or so ago I was driving home from rehearsal for a show I was in and I was hit with a sudden wave of fatigue.

Not physical fatigue, but emotional fatigue.  I was tired of being the fat girl.

I was just suddenly so tired of being different, for once I wanted to be one of the cute girls with the bubbly personality who gets cast in some kind of romantic part in a show.  I wanted to wear a pretty costume, I wanted to go to Anne Taylor and buy clothes after rehearsal.  I wanted to fly on an airplane and not worry they were going to ask me to buy another seat.  I wanted to talk to people about why I think The Biggest Loser sucks without them thinking I should really be on it.  I just wanted to feel normal.

Of course, no one really feel’s normal. Normalcy is an illusion, an illusion from the media that “most” people are a certain way (white, thin, average height, able bodied, 2 parents 2.5 kids, etc).

In the end I’m lucky that the only things that make me different from that ridiculous concept of “normalcy” are my height and my weight.  And as tired as I am sometimes of having to work a little bit harder to feel good about myself I know in the end that it is worth it.

Sometimes I just wish I could take a little vacation?  Y’know?

 

Fat Actress brings out the Fat Hate

Shorter Alicia Villarosa at this website I’ve never heard of before:

Sure Gabourey Sidibe is a great actress, but could she please stop being FAT at me?

Really, that’s pretty much what she says. And the whole post is loaded down with the usual everyone knows fat people die b.s. She even uses the phrases “GAG!” and “SUPER Fat” (sic) to make sure everyone knows just how really really fat Gabourney Sidibe is. (And how totally NOT okay with it the writer is.)
I think my favorite bit has to be this:

As well adjusted as Sidibe purports to be, there’s got to be an emotional disconnect between the mind and body.

So, even though she SAYS she has no issues with her body, she obviously DOES. Don’t you know that we know everything about someone just by seeing how fat or too thin they are?
She follows this up with :

Finding comfort eating one’s way to morbid obesity is not healthy, nor is it self-affirming.

I THINK she’s trying to say that not only does Miss Sidibe have to be miserable about being fat that she also MUST be a comfort eater because how else would she get to be so fat?

Her ridiculous rant about Sidibe’s weight and anyone who would try to say that maybe obese people are I don’t know, people,  is inexplicably followed up with something along the lines of …But we’re also pressured to be really thin too and that sux too OMG.  As though by pointing out that being pressured to be super thin is also bad too, yeah, totally, it’s bad too and stuff, she can balance out the giant plate of steaming hot fat hate that was served up as the first half of the article.

It’s funny because she kindof almost sort of gets to a point about accepting yourself the way you are:

So how do we reconcile the bizarre extremes; the pressure to be painfully thin and the backlash that glorifies obesity? Is there a middle ground? Hopefully and tentatively, yes. Real women can, and do, have curves; people do come in all different shapes and sizes. So the message is to be the healthiest you. That means not hauling around a mountain of excess of weight that limits activities and invites health problems. Nor does it mean starving yourself or over-exercising to the brink of cardiovascular failure.

Accept yourself, you’re a real woman, that is unless you’re “SUPER fat”, and then exercising yourself to the brink of cardiovascular failure is probably a good idea fatty, don’t you know that being fat is going to kill you, stop it already.

Villarosa employs everyone’s favorite line of logic. She must be mentally unhealthy and have a poor diet, because she’s fat. Since we’re drawing unfounded conclusions about people based on very little information today, I’m going to assume this writer is miserable about her body and has decided that everyone should be too (omg especially if they are SUPER fat.) Sorry lady, you’re out of luck here.

Late update from TheRoot247’s twitter feed:

DISCUSS—-> “Fat people: thin people :: domestic violence victims:non-victims” — A Colleague

Anyone who writes for this website is clearly an idiot.  I mean it.  It’s not like there aren’t resources out there for people who want to research obesity or domestic violence victims.  There are tons of articles and commentary which might provide some enlightening information.  (Y’know based on research and facts instead of what someone thought up over their after lunch smoke break.)  Instead they publish the uneducated ramblings of some obviously privileged morons with no exposure to social justice issues.   Way to really raise the bar for online content. So I clearly flew off the handle after reading this tweet.  They apparently attempted to clarify it and it wasn’t intended to be quite as bad as how it came off at first glance.  I still am not impressed, but that is no reason for me to malign a group of writers.

Drunk on a train

This weekend some friends and I were going out partying. (TRIGGER WARNING: This may be triggering if stories of harassment bother you.) On the Red Line there was one of your quintessential “Loud drunk crazy people.” This guy was walking up and down the cars yelling about God and Jesus and his message to everyone and blah and blah.

He got to our car and he was starting to sit down, to maybe chill out when these three dickheads in the front of the train provoked him. Now when these guys got on the train I thought “oh look, some math graduate students decided to leave their cells for a night.” In retrospect I realize that this was unfair to math graduate students, they were probably undergrad economists. (Jk…kindof)

Anyway these three Dickheads start spouting out about how there is no god. Now of course, I agree with them, but the crazy drunk guy on the train(CDGOTT) is not interested in a theological debate, so he walks past us over to these guys and starts yelling. He is now riled up, someone has responded, he has an audience, the volume is cranked. They argue with him a bit, and when he’s not getting anywhere he turns around and starts walking back.

Of course, CDGOTT has to stop in front of me. (I must have been wearing “random guy” attracting cologne, it was a very weird night.) Hilarious that he would turn to ME for help in his religious crusade, less hilarious once he started grabbing his crotch and talking about how he was going to fuck me. When my “Ignore him don’t make eye contact” technique did not waiver he actually grabbed one of the other girls who was with me. At which point I did make eye contact and started to get up, and he backed off. (My friend then slathered herself in purel. I wish I could slather my brain in purel.)

Eventually CDGOTT gets back to the three dickheads in the corner giving atheists everywhere a bad name. They are arguing and the guys are clearly desperate to get rid of him. Trying to get him to leave the car. When I get really pissed off is when another young woman gets on the train by herself and one of the dickheads start encouraging the CDGOTT to harass that woman instead of their perfect and lovely selves.

I actually got up and told them off, I don’t know how effective it was, but I told them it was ridiculous for them to rile up this guy and then sit there while he sexually harassed women, even going so far to encourage him to harass another woman. They didn’t exactly seem cowed by it, but I just couldn’t let that behavior stand without comment. I”m sure some angry fat chick yelling at them between the rantings of the CDGOTT was hardly effective. But I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t say something. (And the girl they had been trying to put in the line of fire actually thanked me, which made me feel like it was at least a little worthwhile.)

I don’t think that men are obligated to protect women. But the annoying theological bullshit the dickheads had to deal with (read, crazy rantings) was a far cry from the sexual harassment my friends and I were enduring. This guy was standing there threatening to rape me, and it wasn’t as important to those three dickheads as arguing with a crazy guy about God, and yet maintaining the comfort of their evening.

I know I was in no danger as there were a bunch of people on the train, and I could have taken this guy out. But having someone stand there and say disgusting and vile things to you while everyone else just tries to pretend its not happening is not exactly a warm fuzzy start to ones evening. (Nor does it make your plan to take the train home drunk at 2am seem like a particularly good idea. Three dickheads, if you read this, you owe me a $30.00 cab fare.)

It surprises me that men wonder why women don’t trust them. Not one of the many virile young men on that train could be bothered to take the heat off me and my friends. Not one of the other people said anything to those three dickheads in the corner encouraging a crazy man to harass a young woman.

I know I’ve said before that I hate chivalry, and maybe this is another reason why it bugs me so much. Holding a door for me is nothing but an empty fucking gesture. I can hold a fucking door, chances are I can hold a door better than most the tiny menfolk who hold doors for me. I can handle my chair, I can deal with it if you curse in front of me and I can buy my own fucking dinner and drinks.

What I can’t do is convince other men not to sexually harass or rape me. Where the fuck is the fucking chivalry then?

I do have to say that this incident made the CTA’s new anti harassment signs seem much more relevant. (It also made my friends and my earlier conversation about the creepy guys on the train seem all the more pertinent, fact, all three of us have had some guy on the red line jerk it in front of us. Ahh safety.) And a bystander did apparently call the new CTA anti harassment number and the CDGOTT was removed a few stops after we got off. Unfortunately the dickheads were allowed to go out among the people and continue being dickheads.

Ahh… Can you hear me? or Acknowledging Ignorance

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading lately. I have three Marketing Research textbooks on my desk along with piles of case studies and a few booklets about various software packages. I started a new job two weeks ago (hence my prolonged silence.)

The scariest part about starting this job (or I suppose any new job) is dealing with and acknowledging how much I don’t know. Not only do I have to learn a bunch of statistical methods I haven’t used before, I’m learning new jargon, new faces and names and a whole new business model. My technique for learning this stuff is basically what I use when confronted with most new things.

1. Shut Up
2. Listen
3. Read everything that I come across
4. Continue steps 1-3 until I have something new to add to what is going on.

I think this strategy is especially important in blogging and activist communities. I would never walk into a meeting with a bunch of professional graphic designers and hold forth on my thoughts about the color blue. Similarly I wouldn’t walk into any other community and start spouting my opinions without first really having a good understanding of what that community is about, what they stand for.

How could I think that I have something to add to that community, if I don’t even have an understanding of where they are at?

The land of Blog has a relatively low barrier to entry (compared to say, a career in journalism. People come to your site, they read what you say, they comment, some people tell you how great you are. (Seriously, you’re all welcome to tell me how great I am any time you want 😉 ) It is easy to believe that with just the right turn of phrase you too could be the next Queen of Blog.

But you can’t.

Some blogs in the fatosphere (also the feminist blogging community) have earned their place at the top of the hierarchy because they have been discussing and fighting and sharing and providing revolutionary and insightful commentary for years. They have defined key terms, brought more public awareness and just generally spent years talking about fat acceptance and feminism. Their insight, research, and excellent writing are what built this community.

You don’t just get to come in three years down the line and expect the same level of respect and acceptance. You don’t get to be an authoritative voice on a topic just because you showed up.

If it seems like the barriers to entry are high and your contributions aren’t appreciated it is because the barriers to entry ARE high, and your contributions aren’t exactly new. There has been a lot of material covered in the fatosphere over the years. There has also been a lot of going back, explaining, getting more contributions, losing voices, gaining new ones.

I guess the question every blogger has to ask themselves is “What am I adding to the conversation?” But how can you know what you are adding to the conversation if you weren’t even listening to the first half.

I don’t want to discourage people who are new to the community from blogging. Everyone has something to add be it your personal experiences or your unique take on social issues. But I would encourage you to read as much as you can first to make sure that this is really a community you want to be part of, and that you have something to bring to the buffet. (mmmmm buffet)