The “gnomes” story reproduced below was just written this past February, but is much beloved, both by me and evidently by many of you, if the emails I get about it — three in the past week alone! — are any indication. It began with a question on my now-practically-abandoned Formspring page (I do want to get back to it, it just became overwhelming!), and here I must use the word “question” as a vague shadow of its fuller meaning, since the inquirer is clearly less interested in my thoughtful response than in trying to provoke an emotional reaction simply by the asking. Lately, we’ve had the misfortune to witness this sort of fat-baiting writ large, and I never cease to be fascinated by the way in which so many of these attacks — if you can call them attacks — rely not on acerbic wit or creative insults, but instead nearly all of their intended cruelty depends upon an assumed negative reaction to the word “fat”. It is enough, in most respectable quarters, for this word to be spat upon someone like a disease; fat is such a powerful word, in fact, that many believe it needs no further context in order to efficiently destroy and silence a person. How else can we explain “insults” such as commenter drst describes, following a skirmish with Anti-Fat Extremists:
I got two messages in my inbox overnight calling me fat. I mean that’s all the messages said. One went something like “You are a fattie fat fat fat fat…” but there was nothing else in the messages.
I hadn’t encountered a situation like this since before I found FA, because most people you encounter face to face don’t throw the f-word around casually. I’m rather relieved my only response to these messages was derisive laughter. I mean, really? That’s it? That’s all you’ve got? I posted a FA message to some haters and the only response they can throw at me is to call me fat? How sad.
This, my loves, is why the process of reclamation — as much as I loathe the term — is so important, and so healing. Preventing people from saying a word is impossible; the more taboo it is, the more folks want to say it, and thus the more power it develops to do real damage when it is finally, inevitably spoken aloud. But as we have recently seen in the news regarding Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s “n-word”-strewn racism joyride, the solution is not simply to say our forbidden words because we can, damning the consequences. The solution is to recontextualize those words, and for that process to be led by the individuals against whom the word has been used. Fat is not a bad word, nor does it need to be a hateful word. Unlike most racial epithets, it is not a word that has a long and violent history of oppression, human misery, and pain — its use as a negative is a relatively recent development, and as such it is a much easier word to reframe as a value-free descriptor, or even as a positive assessment.
And so, to bring this overlong intro to a close: back in February I was asked this question. And the blandness of it — the obviousness of it — was so utterly absurd that I was delighted. Of all the things to ask. I responded thusly:
A. I’ve only written about 100,000 words on this subject just in the past year alone, but since you’ve asked so thoughtfully, I’ll sum up: It was gnomes. Magical invisible fat-making gnomes.
My fatness was first hewn out of flesh from one of the gnomes’ sacred pigs (a majestic animal that was, alas, ritually sacrificed for this purpose), and then, after an arduous process of transubstantiation, I was given life and sent forth into the world for some mysterious as-yet-undisclosed reason, though my suspicions are that bacon is somehow involved. This is where all fat people come from, and having revealed these facts to you and the world at large by answering this question, I will very shortly be spirited away to the gnomes’ reeducation camp, if I am not hanged for treason. That is the truth.
So farewell, my fat-disgusted friend, I hope you appreciate my heavy sacrifice, as I appreciate the heavy burden you must bear in being forced to witness the fatness of all who waddle forth from the gnomes’ secret pig-sacrificing fat-person-building bacon-worshipping kingdom.
Even now I hear them at my door. My time is short. Farewell, farewe—!
You mustn’t ask me what happened when I was interrupted, nor how I managed my escape, to return to this blog and my mission to expose the fatmakers’ plans for pudgy world domination. Suffice to say that Fat Satan owed me a favor. And I’m still here, right? And we’re all happy about that.
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