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.
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