By Lesley | October 26, 2010
ETA: At their request, I’ve also submitted a “counterpoint” guestblog to Marie Claire, arguing in favor of more body diversity — including fat people! — on TV. You can read that here.
The gorgeous image to the left is borrowed from the Museum of Fat Love, which hasn’t been updated in forever but is still pretty swell as a static exhibit. I have plans to turn it into a Tumblr next weekend to expedite further updates.
Hello, my darlings: faux-brainy ladymag Marie Claire has shared with us a fresh horror, repellent even by the abysmal standards of ladymags. See, a lady named Maura Kelly blogs for Marie Claire, and she wants us all to know that she thinks fat people in love are ICKYYYYYY.
I wish I were making this up, I really do.
Kelly’s editor pointed her at a CNN article that discussed, in part, the new fatcentric (and shamelessly unfunny) sitcom Mike & Molly.* The fatphobia bingo in Kelly’s resulting post** is plentiful: all the greatest hits are represented here, such as “being a bit overweight is one thing, but these people are obese!”; “no one as fat as X can be healthy!”; “fat people are exactly the same as drug addicts!”; “fat people are using up all the healthcare!” and so forth. I ain’t even trying to deconstruct that shit because — my many bloggings to the contrary — I do get so weary of repeating myself all the damn time. Indeed, the first time I read Kelly’s post through, after receiving the link thanks to sharp-eyed reader Marieke (and many other sharp-eyed readers via email and Twitter subsequently!), I thought it was a hoax. A bit o’ satire. Well done, too! It just seemed impossible that such a perfect compilation of the standard “ew, fatties!” fare could be real. But I’m pretty sure it is straight up. I’d be happy to be wrong; oh my dears, if I am wrong, I will laugh and nod and wag my fat finger at Maura Kelly and say, aw man, you really had me going! But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
After a million bingos, Kelly finally gets down to brass tacks and says:
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 addict slumping in a chair.
There’s something weirdly refreshing about this garbage, as it is “brutally honest” and doesn’t attempt to couch itself in “but I just care about your health, dear!” nonsense. Nobody really cares about the fat stranger’s health; that’s just a story we tell ourselves so we feel less shallow and cruel for thinking they’re disgusting. Maura Kelly finds fat people “aesthetically displeasing” to look at, in any context. Even a fatty just walking across a room is gross-out central for Maura Kelly. Maura Kelly certainly doesn’t want to see people with “rolls and rolls of fat” (dudes, how I LOLed) making out like horny teenagers. EWW!
But wait! It gets better! This is the part where I began to suspect shenanigans, because, well, the very next paragraph begins:
Now, don’t go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.
………GUYS GUYS I KNOW.
This right here is a textbook example of one of those moments as an activist where I have to laugh uproariously, lest I cry big fat oily tears of obese sadness, or alternatively, arrange to have a dump truck filled with Criso unload its lardy cargo on Maura Kelly’s lawn.***
My question: If candidly thinking that fat people should not be visible in public does not qualify as “size-ist”, then what in the name of Delta Burke DOES qualify?
The inanity continues in the post, with Kelly helpfully doling out such sage and heretofore unknown advice as “eat right and exercise!” whilst assuring the poor stupid fatties that “YOU CAN DO IT!” in what is one of the most insipid and clueless bits of diet-cheerleading I’ve seen in print in a long-ass time. She then gives the fatties of Mike & Molly “points for trying” since they’re in Overeaters Anonymous; I guess they just get points for daring to have jobs and stuff when they should be sequestering themselves in the Fat Monastery until they achieve thinness and earn the right to be seen in public like “normal” people.
In Kelly’s weak defense, her final sentence is a question: “Do you think I’m being an insensitive jerk?” Yes. Yes you are.
For a little perspective, it’s true that this is a throwaway article on a silly dating blog on a ladymag site. I will admit I find it a little odd that the same blogger has an article less than a week old that attempts to address anti-gay prejudice; feeling grossed out by gay folks kissing is bad! Feeling grossed out by fat people kissing is okay! Thanks, Maura Kelly!
My rage at this sort of brainless blogging is that despite the lack of critical thinking involved, it has the power to totally ruin someone’s day. It is difficult enough for many fats to just get out the door in the morning knowing that Maura Kellys exist out there; posts like hers are the equivalent of being told, totally unbidden, that they’re right to be nervous and afraid because yeah, everyone really is grossed out by them. “Hey there fatty! Just in case you dared to forget for an instant that you are disgusting and worthy only of disdain and revulsion from a sizeable portion of the people upon whom you foist your fatness every day you dare to step out of your house, here’s a stark reminder! You’re not actually a human being! You’re a gruesome pile of hideously malformed flesh, undeserving of love or affection or even just basic human dignity! No kissing! No walking! Hide your shame! Oh, and by no circumstances should you even consider having any kind of a life until you are thin — by whatever means necessary. Have a nice fucking day!”
Nobody really needs to hear that, because fat people are people, for heaven’s sake, and we have jobs and friends and hobbies and relationships and families and the right to go out and do all of that without being told we’re offending the delicate eyeballs of people like Maura Kelly. Once all is said and done, this isn’t really about Maura Kelly, though it’s easy to use her as a punching bag since it’s her name on the post. Fact is, Kelly is hardly the only person to cop to this attitude, and though I’m using her name a lot in this post for comedic effect, Maura Kelly really represents the mindset of lots of people who are not named Maura Kelly.
To be clear: you’re not required to find all fat people attractive, certainly, but Kelly’s comments above are dehumanizing and offensive and really have no place associated with a widely-read publication such as Marie Claire. This is not simply because their candor subverts the standard feel-good ladymag message of “Love yourself! (But not too much!)” but because sentiments like those expressed in Kelly’s post are bad for everyone: they make fat people feel terrible about themselves, and they make thin people terrified of becoming one of those disgusting fatties they so revile. Everyone’s humanity is lost in the equation. We are reduced to being just bodies, not individuals.
As a personal note to Maura Kelly, on the off chance she reads this far: I was in New York last week with my husband, and we did a whole lot of walking around, and we probably kissed in public a few times, like we often do, rolls of fat and all. If you saw me out walking in the city, or receiving affection from someone who loves me, and that grossed you out, I sure am sorry!
Oh wait, that’s not what I meant to say. What I meant to say was: if you saw me out walking in the city, or receiving affection from someone who loves me, and that grossed you out, then fuck you. I worked hard for the confidence and strength to go out in public wearing what I want and doing what I want even in the face of anonymous abuse and insults from helpful strangers; your delicate sensibilities are not my problem — not anymore.
And that goes for anyone with the same ideas. Have a nice fucking day!
* Full disclosure: I just realized I was quoted in this particular article, though Kelly does not directly take issue with anything I said.
** I’ve only skimmed the comments, and did so after writing most of the above, so I am aware that Kelly reveals some pertinent information (like being in recovery for an eating disorder, which maaaay be influencing things) there. However, most folk won’t read the comments, and so I am treating the original post as the standalone piece it will be for the majority of its readers.
*** This is not actually something I would do, for the record. It would be cruel to the Crisco, which should fulfill its delicious destiny in a pie, or encasing fried chicken.
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