What happened was, Maura Kelly over at Marie Claire wrote a blog post titled, "Should "Fatties" Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" I first heard about it because someone linked to a Fatshionista post that ably deconstructs the utter wrongheadedness of the whole thing. There are a lot of responses going around; I don't actually want to sit here and talk about what a terrible person Kelly is (although I am tempted to curse a lot), because I don't think that really gets to the root of the problem.
I think a lot of what Kelly says is what a lot people already think. It wouldn't have touched such a nerve if it didn't voice what a number of people already think--more to the point, what overweight people are afraid other people think. God knows I still feel like I ruined my college roommate's wedding pictures by being so much heavier than all the other bridesmaids. At the same time, she's the one who asked me to do it, you know? You hope that maybe your size doesn't matter to your friends, that they want you there anyway. You hope that if you're nice to people, if you never argue or disagree or put yourself forward too much, if you try to please people, they'll tolerate your presence. When people do things without you, you know it's because sometimes different combinations of people do different things together. But you wonder if it's because they'd rather have an outing where they don't have to worry about the Fat One, if she can keep up, if she'll be out of breath, if she'll get tired too soon, if she'll be shy and antisocial because her self-esteem is so low. Or maybe they'd just like to spend an evening out where they don't have to look at her, being all unappealing and different from them, for once. Maybe it is tiring, being friends with someone who grosses people like Maura Kelly out.
I still wonder if that weird incident at Five Guys was actually Mr. Hilarity letting my two attractive friends through and holding the "fattie" back. One time I was at a bar--my two roommates and I talking to three or four guys. I forget where the girls and two of the guys went--possibly back to the bar for fresh drinks--and the more-drunk-than-tactful guy left standing with me muttered, "Why do I always get stuck with the ugly one?" Because even I, with my self-esteem issues, can tell you that I have a relatively okay face, I'm going to assume he meant my weight.
So Kelly voices what those of us who are heavy fear everyone's already thinking. But then she goes one step further and says something I don't think even people who already think these things are willing to admit to:
So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair.Wow. Okay, so now I'm a shambling monster. Outstanding.
But ... I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It's something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.Well, except for the people who don't, because they have problems with diabetes, thyroid, weight gain from medications, or other medical complications.
...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.Wait, I thought you were grossed out by having to see someone overweight walk across a room? Because, you realize, if we walk for exercise, we have to walk somewhere, and then you might have to see us. Which is one of the reasons I'm really shy about power-walking around the neighborhood, because people might be out and about and see me, and think, "God, how disgusting," or "Well, good, she NEEDS IT."
I admit that there's plenty that makes slimming down tough, but YOU CAN DO IT!If you work really hard at it, you can eventually stop grossing me out! *CHEER*
It will take some time, but you'll also feel so good, physically and emotionally.Because obviously you care so much about how I feel!
Look, I'm not gonna lie to you. I'm going in for bloodwork (yeah, the bloodwork I was supposed to go in for a while ago. Things happen) to see if I do have any medical issues contributing to my weight. I've lost about twelve pounds due to stress over the last few weeks; I can lose weight. I need to, because my health is in danger. At least a hundred pounds' worth of danger. I'm trying. I've been trying for a long time. I don't think I have a whole lot of time left to "try." I don't like the way I look; I don't like the way I feel. It's often humiliating and uncomfortable and inconvenient (especially when you're trying to buy something nice or formal to wear in your size, which might as well be Size Unicorn for how often you find something cute in it. And then you can't go places and do things because you have nothing to wear). Blog posts like Kelly's are the reason I don't want to show you a picture of myself. One time I did show some internet friends an old picture, actually--of when I wasn't even this heavy, when I was in college--and later, there was one of those anonymous hate meme entries around the time my book came out.
Anon #1: "God, cleolinda's head has gotten so big since she published that book."
Anon #2: "Have you seen what she looks like? Let her have her book and her cheating internet boyfriend."
(This is also why I don't ever tell y'all about my personal life.)
However, not many people knew about either of those things. Too many people--a double handful, maybe--knew about those things for me to narrow down who it was. But it had to be someone I had trusted. And my looks--my weight--were the thing they chose to be catty about, the thing they used to betray me. Because Maura Kelly is not the only person who thinks like this.
Back to what I was saying:
What people either forget or don't realize is that weight--too much or too little or pretty much any size at all, really--usually involves intense emotional issues. Making people feel bad about it is generally not going to light a fire under their ass, massive or otherwise, to do something about it. It's usually not going to make them want to lose weight and ~show you, ha!~ Or rather, let me speak for myself here: telling me that people like me gross you out makes me afraid to leave the house and do anything about it. It makes me wonder why I should even bother to try, if there are people like you out there in the world. It makes me want to curl up and die.
@Ceilidhann: @cleolinda Don't worry though, she's just as disgusted by anorexics as she is by the overweight. Eating disorders are so effing hilarious!
@cleolinda: It's good to know she is equal opportunity in her disgust for people.
Which I think this is what it really comes down to. When you talk about how the "fatties" disgust you, you are speaking of a theoretical group in your head. I really do not think there is a single person, overweight or underweight, that could walk up to Maura Kelly and ask her if they disgusted her, and Kelly would be able to say "Yes." Because then she'd have to say that to a real person. Would she be grossed out if Gabourey Sidibe had won the Oscar and walked up to the podium? Is she grossed out when one of her "plump" friends (because if they're her friends, of course, they're just "plump") approaches her? No? What's that, you say? Because people who have names and faces she knows are, you know, people to her? You don't say. And when those individuals say, "How dare you say something so callous and demeaning and self-centered," suddenly it's but I didn't mean you! I meant the really obese! Who are... also people. Like your "plump" friends and the "plus-size women" your magazine pays lip service to and the occasional Sassy Actress. But you know their names, so they don't gross you out. I mean, I'm assuming, out of generosity. Maybe you really think they're all revolting too and this entire point is moot.
This is all an excellent example of dehumanizing a group of people, in case you were wondering.
@maureenjohnson: UPDATE: @MarieClaire editor gives pointless, uncomprehending defense of post on overweight couples: http://tinyurl.com/28pogpy
“Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger,” Coles told us. “She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.” Coles said the mag has received over 28,000 email responses to the piece, and that Kelly was “excited and moved by their responses.”
(As Kelly herself says in her edit/apology: "A few commenters and one of my friends mentioned that my extreme reaction might have grown out of my own body issues, my history as an anorexic, and my life-long obsession with being thin. As I mentioned in the ongoing dialogue we’ve been carrying on in the comments section, I think that's an accurate insight.")
@cleolinda: I am glad that Maura Kelly is "excited and moved" by my new fear of leaving the house and disgusting people.
[Actually, it's not a new fear, but the article has definitely reinforced it.]
@cleolinda: I'm not willing to [say that she is "a disgusting human being"]. I think what she said was disgusting. I am not going to judge her as a whole person.
@cleolinda: I'm with @maureenjohnson on this--I would prefer to criticize @MarieClaire editors for letting that go through and calling it "provocative."
@maureenjohnson: @cleolinda They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.
@cleolinda: @maureenjohnson I think it means "People are paying attention to us! YAY!"
This is why I feel like it was incredibly irresponsible of Marie Claire to let this go through, if they had any oversight or preview of what Kelly was going to post. If commenters were able to point out the anorexia angle to Kelly, that means that she was open about her medical issues with her readers, and that, even if Fatties Gross Me Out somehow did not alarm the Marie Claire editors on general principle, it is possible or even likely that an editor should have had second thoughts about this sentiment coming from Kelly in particular.
@cleolinda: I'm still amazed that @MarieClaire thought it would be a good idea to have a post on "fatties" from a writer suffering from anorexia.
[That is to say, someone with a genuine medical problem whose issues, which would include body dysmorphia, would give her a skewed perception of the topic.]
@maureenjohnson: @cleolinda You'd think, right? Maybe that was the problem: lack of thinking.
@cleolinda: @maureenjohnson But no! They thought a lot about how "provocative" it was! *nods*
@ohyoda: @cleolinda That's what I'm saying. Didn't the article raise a red flag for ANYONE?
@cleolinda: @ohyoda Honestly, I suspect they clapped their hands and waited for the page hits to roll in.
Or, to put it another way,
@maureenjohnson: My problem with the @MarieClaire article is more with the editors than the writer. The writer states she is/was anorexic. The magazine...
@maureenjohnson: ...not only let a sloppy and strange article out that did damage to readers, they also fed the writer's own disease.
@maureenjohnson: Then they let her hang herself with that terrible apology. They were asleep on the job.
But they were publishing a provocative opinion, you guys! Bringing in page views is great, right? I don't see how this could possibly affect their sales!
@cleolinda: I mean, yes, Maura Kelly saying she is grossed out to watch a "fattie" walk across a room means that I will never buy a @MarieClaire again.
@cleolinda: I mean, if I gross you out by walking, I am thinking it would gross me out to watch a @MarieClaire go into my grocery cart.
@maureenjohnson: Have YOU suggested a counterpoint writer to @marieclaire yet? They have turned to Twitter for ideas. Let's not let them down.
@RonHogan: @maureenjohnson Well, let's start with @marieclaire "plus-size columnist" @Ashley_Falcon -- surely she has an opinion about that article.
@maureenjohnson: @RonHogan That would be a good start. I'd also like to see Beth Ditto, @cleolinda, and, just for good measure, Nicholas Sparks.
Well, here you are.
ETA: From @maureenjohnson: "UPDATE on @marieclaire: having combed Twitter for entries, they are now posting random things under the banner of 'Free speech is beautiful'." Yes, I suppose thoughtless, self-centered, demeaning speech is just as protected as any other.
ETA: Marie Claire pretty much set Maura Kelly up to fail on purpose.