Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Big, Fat Deal

You already know about it.

Yesterday, Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly posted a haphazard, poorly written piece for the magazine's website titled "Should 'Fatties' Get a Room? Even on TV?" Its premise is Kelly's feelings about the new show "Mike & Molly," which tells the story of a fat couple in love, though the writer admits she's never watched it. Instead, she just wants us to know how she feels about fat people in general, using the show as a thin veil of cover for her fat-bashing. In her column, she rails against obesity & the people living with/suffering from it, going so far as to say that she finds it "aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room." She goes on to condescendingly provide fat readers a few creative, never-before-heard-or-tried weight loss suggestions (sarcasm intended) & to compare fat people to drunk people, among other things.

Plenty of bloggers more eloquent than I - the wise-&-ranty Shine, for one, & the always-honest Lemmonex, for another - have written about the piece & their reactions to it, & I doubt I can say it any better. To be clear, these responses & others like them are not a defense of obesity - believe it or not, there are very few people out there, if any, lauding the benefits of being big. Rather, they write about the cruel sentiments behind Kelly's piece & the societal norm it belies: It's OK to hate on fat people, because they can help being fat.

I'm a bit overweight myself, so of course I'm hurt to see in print - in a popular magazine, no less - what I'm secretly confident others see when they look at me. But I'm a big girl (uh, no pun intended), & I can handle my insecurities on my own. What really grinds my gears about this Marie Claire piece is the utter lack of compassion it displays, the complete disgust of others - & the absolute unwillingness to see people as anything more than the bodies they live in.

Kelly's piece was crudely written & cruelly worded, & her apology, which claims the column was hastily penned, is no apology at all; if anything, it indicates that the words she wrote are, in fact, indicative of her true, uncensored feelings. The Washington Post's recap of the debacle is a shamefully incomplete representation of the conversation surrounding Kelly's piece - not that "fat" has become a four-letter word that we should ban & PC-ize, as the Post suggests, but rather that fat-bashing & fat-shaming & fat-bullying have become societally acceptable, all in the name of caring about one another's health.

Shockingly - or maybe not - Marie Claire hasn't done much in the way of making nice following the outrage Kelly's piece inspired. In fact, Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles calls her a "provocative blogger," as though bullying & body-bashing is sexy & cutting-edge. As others have noted, had the piece focused on any other kind of people - let's say, lesbians or Asians or Jews - it wouldn't have passed editorial scrutiny (if Marie Claire has any of that, which I'm doubting), & Kelly likely would've been fired on the spot for being racist or homophobic or just generally hateful - you know, "provocative" in a bad way, not in a hot "Gossip Girl" kinda way. What if the piece had told alcoholics to stop being such losers & put down the damn drink? Had told anorexics to stop being so vain & pick up a damn sandwich? Had told diabetics to stop being so picky, or told coke addicts to stop being so needy? Yeah, those condemnations of others' lifestyles & health problems probably wouldn't have flown. And, of course, those analogies completely overlook the fact that not everyone who's overweight is, in fact, unhealthy, which is another kettle of fish altogether. (Is that a phrase? Or did I make that up? Weird.)  But because fat people have the power to "fix" themselves of their problem, as Kelly explains to us, they are perfectly acceptable targets of ridicule & belittling.

When you get down to it, the real subject of the piece is this: Do fat people deserve to be happy, despite their fat? Kelly's piece & too many of the responses in support of it would indicate that no, they don't. That fat people, even just by walking across the damn room, burn society's eyes & offend their senses. That fat people's very existence is shameful, disgusting & offensive to the rest of the world.

I wish I could tell Maura Kelly the same thing.

19 comments:

San said...

You know what got me about the article?

That Kelly says that she "find[s] it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room", and then goes on to give some very superficial advice to "get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week, and do everything you can to stand up more — even while using your computer — and walk more".

How exactly is a fat person to do that if she can't even stand watch a fat person walk across the room?

This was indeed a very honest - and absolutely disgusting - raw piece of shit writing.

Lexa said...

I am with San....a point I missed. So, looking at really fat people makes you sick, eh? Well I guess you don't want "them" at your gym, huh?

Disgruntled Julie said...

I agree that the article was just an excuse for fat-hating. Had the article taken the approach that no, she doesn't want to watch obese individuals on TV because they are bad role models, or because children shouldn't watch it and think that they want to grow up and be like that (those are not MY views, but I can understand if someone else thought along those lines), it would have been one thing.

But essentially, she is stating that your entire value comes down to the number on the sale. I'm sorry, but I (and everyone I know) is MUCH more than their appearance. In fact, unless you are on TV or a model, your appearance is just a very teeny, tiny part of who you are. I feel fortunate that I've always been extremely self-confident no matter my weight, and I can read things like this, squint my eyes in disgust, and move on without beating myself up (after all, I'd rather be plump and intelligent and successful than skinny, dumb, and noncontributing to society)... but it's still always saddening to read about people who are so shallow, they can only see people for their outward appearance.

Stephanie M said...

Kate? Nicely done. <3

Stephany said...

I really wish losing my weight was as easy as Maura Kelly wrote. But it's not. Most overweight and obese people are on a neverending journey of health. I know I am. This article made me feel like I was less than a person, just because I have 40 extra pounds on my body.

Shape magazine's editor actually wrote a response piece to it, stating that this type of "writing" would have never been put on her website, and the writer would've been fired.

I don't know why Marie Claire would let her put this article on their site. Yes, it gives them publicity but this is never the type of publicity a magazine should want.

Elissa Froman said...

SING IT

misdan said...

Here is my problem with the article. Yes, I am a bit over weight. I am not an unhealthy person by any means either. I eat in moderation, try to pick healthier things, and exercise at couple times a week. I just cannot shake the weight. I am not going to give up my life to exercising and eating only Total cereal to be thin! I enjoy food, life, and living! This "journalist" needs to eat a cookie!

Keri Kae said...

The editorial staff at Marie Claire have made a couple of the screw ups lately.... First is was an assault on healthy-living bloggers (http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/news/articles/health-blogger-controversy), now on overweight folks? Come on Marie Claire, call it what you want and hide behind the position that you're an advocate for health, but most of us aren't blind to the mean-spirited (and I suspect unhelpful) judgment.

That said, the author's updated content reveals a lot about her bias. (Friends get ready for your favorite phrase:) Bless her heart.

grace said...

I'm reminded of this blogger for Bitch magazine who wrote about fat acceptance: http://bitchmagazine.org/profile/tasha-fierce. This post in particular was written more than a month ago but totally works as a response to marie claire:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/size-matters-breaking-it-down-to-basics

Good Girl Gone Blog said...

Beautifully written, Kate. Thanks for sharing. Marie Claire hasn't been doing very well lately with this article, plus "The Hunger Diaries," which bashes health bloggers. It seems like they're saying people are either too fat or too skinny. Not cool, MC, not cool.

Alicewonderland0 said...

god, that article was astonishing in its tone. those perky, "helpful" suggestions about how all fat people could easily slim down if they just "tried"? the statement that no one should have to witness fat people's "rolls" smushing together while they try to make out - probably while disgusted with each other, anyway, because who could EVER be attracted to someone if you can't see their bones?? JESUS.

Traci @herdingsquirrels.com said...

On the one hand, we're not supposed to be affected by the constant barrage of television, web and magazine ads urging the perfect method of weight loss; youthful countenance; and well, the ever present reminder that if one is to be acceptable in our society, anything above a size 6 is VERBOTEN. And then comes the drippy, saucy, sloppy burger commercials, the BOGO offers at pizza places, the one for the all new ever larger enchaluparito. I'm done, media. So, I must be skinny, but I must eat crap. Huh.

health supplements said...

We deserve to be happy just like any other fit people. We have the same feeling and needs. They can close their eyes or get out of our way if they can't stand us seeing kissing someone we love.

Piper Jacquelyn said...

It's pretty ridiculous that this woman is basically hating on overweight people, but seems to think that underweight, starving women are totally a-ok. What a troll.

terra said...

I absolutely could not believe that article ever made it to the internet. And the apology? I would rather she have said nothing rather than just blaming her prejudice on a tight deadline. She's so misinformed and ignorant and really, she shouldn't still have a job.

steph anne said...

I read it the other day and I was shocked and hurt (but more like pissed off) at what she had to say. Amen to everything you wrote about her disgusting article.

MissShona said...

Great post! I can't STAND it when people hide behind the guise of being a writer to dispell out their own ignorant cruelty! Anyway, this post made me think of this photostream which shows real people and their BMI's.
The only thing that bugs me about being overweight is that when you are in the dating scene...men act repulsed by you....even though they aren't exactly lean & trim themselves!

Jaclyn Y said...

I think you mean "can of worms"?

Saw this. Repulsive. Good response.

shineoutloud said...

I love this. I can't believe I'm just now managing to read it, but work has been...crazy. For two months.

I'm still in shock that this got published. Ms. Kelly certainly has a right to her own feelings, but Marie Claire is completely at fault for hitting the publish button on such filth. It feels like they did it to boost traffic, and that disgusts me.

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