Links of Interest, and More to Love Meta (…in which I defend Kristian)

By | August 27, 2009

Over at Newsweek, there is a fantastic and thorough article on fat hatred, quoting Glenn Gaesser, Linda Bacon, and even Peter Stearns (whose book Fat History was a frequent reference for me as a grad student many years ago). I am virtually overcome with excitement, let me tell you.

It’s a fallacy to conflate the unhealthy action—overeating and not exercising—with the unhealthy appearance, says [Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University]: some overweight people run marathons; eat only organic, vegetarian fare; and have clean bills of health. Even so, yelling at the overweight to put down the doughnut is far from productive. “People are less likely to seek out healthy behaviors when they’re criticized by friends, family, doctors, and others,” says Schwartz. “If people tell you that you’re disgusting or a slob enough times, you soon start to believe it.” In fact, fat outrage might actually make health-care costs higher. In a study published in the 2005 issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law,Abigail Saguy and Brian Riley found that many overweight people decide not to get help for medical conditions that are more treatable and more risky than obesity because they don’t want to deal with their doctor’s harassment about their weight. (For instance, a study from the University of North Carolina found that obese women are less likely to receive cervical exams than their thinner counterparts, in part because they worry about being embarrassed or belittled by the doctor because of their weight.)

If this article was a person, I’d probably try to give it a hug. Read the whole extravaganza here: America’s War on the Overweight: Anti-fat rhetoric is getting nastier than ever. Why our overweight nation hates overweight people.

There’s also an interesting post on the Women’s Issues blog on today, taking More to Love and other Fat TV to task for everything they’re doing wrong.

I have a good friend I’ll call Kate who has always struck me as the most beautiful woman I know. She is overweight but incredibly fit and has no health issues. She’s warm and caring, funny and outgoing, a gifted ‘people person’ who demonstrates astounding creativity and boundless enthusiasm for whatever work she’s involved in. And she has a knack for organization and team-building.

A reality show fan, Kate has talked about auditioning for a couple of show over the years until finally she went to a Biggest Loser casting call. …As she described it, the production staff did their initial screening in groups. When she was called, she sat in a room with other overweight women and men. Each briefly told a little bit about themselves. Other questions followed.

She thought she was doing fairly well in the interview process until the participants were asked to describe how they felt about their size and weight. One by one, each person spoke of insecurity, inadequacy, self-hatred and low self-esteem. When it was Kate’s turn, she refused to go down that road. She said she was happy with her life and with herself, and that although she wanted to lose weight it it wouldn’t change how she felt about herself.

Kate didn’t make it on the show. She had the looks, the intelligence, the spirit, and the personality. What she didn’t have was the self-hatred — the only ‘fat person’ narrative that television seems willing to tell.

There’s not much new there, but it’s nice to see this sentiment being shared on a blog that isn’t fat-specific. You can read the whole post here: Why More to Love Promotes Fat Self-Hatred, and Why TV Needs a Real Fat Acceptance Show

It should come as a surprise to no one that I have done far more of my share of pondering on More to Love and what it’s saying to and about fat people, fat women in particular. While I have many thoughts to eventually assemble into a final assessment of the show, right now I am compelled to say something on the subject on the alleged craziness of recently-evicted cast member Kristian.

I’ve read in numerous forums where people call Kristian out as a crazy person, and/or a straight-up stalker, and it’s really been troubling me, since I’ve not seen anyone defending her. It should go without saying, but I have no personal or real-life connection to Kristian — I’ve never met her and I doubt I ever will unless I run into her in an AJ Wright in north Jersey someday — so rather I am limited to discussing her as a character on reality television, a character that may or may not be an accurate representation of the person she is in real life. Truly, we will never know. So I am only speaking to her portrayal on the TV show in question.

Playing devil’s advocate for the moment, I am concerned that Kristian comes across to some as crazy because she is depicted as honestly, truly believing that she has forged the euphemistic “connection” with Luke, and that he could love her back. In fact, Kristian is so emotionally invested it’s almost unthinkable to her that her relationship with Luke would not result in a fairytale ending. She likes him. She really, really, really likes him. This is actually true of everyone still living at Fatass Manor. Malissa, whom I have not seen disparaged as “crazy”, has also said she’s in love with Luke. Mandy, likewise, has said she’s falling for Luke, though she has yet to use the L word, so far as I know. Kristian, ostensibly being less experienced in having her heart shattered and hopes dashed, skips the euphemistic language and goes straight for the throat: she loves him.

Why is Kristian’s hopefulness something to disparage and mock? Do we really want to argue that Kristian is “crazy” for having feelings and expressing them frankly, and for innocently believing that they might be returned? Is Kristian crazy for not knowing better than to wear her heart on her sleeve? Is Kristian crazy for being excited about puppy love or new relationship euphoria or whatever you’d call that happy-wobbly giddiness one gets from meeting someone new, and for daring to express it to other women in the house as she might to her friends? If that makes her crazy, then 90% of all the women I’ve known in my whole damn life were, at times, totally off their kits.

I ask all of the above as a person who absolutely does not engage in this sort of heart-on-my-sleeve sentimentality myself; I am potentially one of the least outwardly-emotional people you will ever meet. By all rights, Kristian and her wildly extroverted !!!looove loooove LOOOOVE!!! exuberance should drive me up a wall. But she doesn’t, because her openness is honest and real. She’s not holding back. She’s not manipulating anyone. She’s sharing how she feels without making it a euphemism or a game.

I admit that it’s unusual to meet someone so forthright, so guileless, but is that really crazy?

The unspoken extension of the “crazy” talk, is, chillingly, the suggestion that Kristian is crazy for believing Luke could love her back with the same glee and openness she herself has embodied. If you just don’t like Kristian as a character, then fine, but let’s not call her crazy for being inexperienced and earnest and not knowing any better. If believing that she’s worthy of love and that a guy, even a dullard like Luke, could return those feelings makes Kristian crazy, then I say crazy on, girlfriend. I hope you’re that crazy forever.

Comments are closed.