Short Cuts: Narcissism edition

By | March 25, 2011

Marilyn Monroe applies lipstick while looking in a hand mirror.
I have this Tumblr account, and I rarely use it, mostly because the interface on the site gives me a particular pain in the thinking part of my head. It is terrible. And yet I find myself wandering over there periodically when The Shit Is Going Down, because I like to be tuned in to The Shit’s progress.

Of late there has been some productive (and not-so-productive) conversation about space, and safe space, and space where marginalized folks are the focus, and space that is sort of confusing in its purpose. At any rate, I posted original content over there, and I invite you to go read it. The post is called Four Deathfat Realities (Out of uncountable variant possibilities) and it is about listening. Of course, it being Tumblr, I have already been instructed to lose weight, and, alternatively, that I can’t possibly be that fat. But I can! I have decided that my fatness is not unlike an iceberg, in that the majesty of its size cannot be appreciated in a mere photograph, and must be experienced first-hand in order to be fully understood.

A reader has pointed me at some recent quotes from Gwen Stefani on her body-maintenence routine. Shirley Manson (known best as the lead singer of Garbage, because no one but me remembers the excellent Angelfish, her prior band) interviewed Gwen Stefani for Elle UK, and the Daily Mail has a couple of excerpts about Gwen’s “grueling” five-days-a-week workout schedule and her description of keeping her figure as “a daily struggle”. This is hardly news—most female celebrities expend a huge amount of effort on keeping a certain size—but what caught me up was this quote:

‘‘I’d like to have no rules and eat what I want, but I’ve learned over the years that I’m so disappointed when I can’t wear the clothes I want to wear.

And if I let myself down, appear on stage when I’m not looking my best, it’s not fun for me. I just beat myself up about it.”

This is one of those things that I can’t even get outraged about, it is so fucking depressing.

I want to be sympathetic to the pressure Gwen is under, I do. But that’s awfully difficult when SHE HAS HER OWN CLOTHING LINE. She can MAKE the clothes she wants to wear. As a big-deal style-icon fashionlady, she can contribute to changing fashion culture, in however small a way, by choosing to produce clothing in a wide range of sizes and displaying them on a wide range of bodies. This makes it very difficult for me to feel sad for Gwen Stefani. That and the giant piles of money she can swim in, Scrooge-McDuck-style. When I say I can’t wear certain clothing, it’s because it doesn’t exist. When Gwen says it, it’s because she just wants to wear it in a particular size.

Gwen, of course, is entitled to feel her feelings, but the woe-is-me angle on this irritates me nonetheless, as she is the very picture of a woman with almost-limitless options. Case in point: she also mentions that her wedding dress (designed by the since-ruined John Galliano) is going into the Victoria & Albert Museum. What is this, I don’t even.

I know that my weird love/hate thing with Kirstie Alley has long confounded many of my readers, but it persists in spite of your collective disdain! Alley is competing on the new season of Dancing With the Stars, a show I have never watched, and I don’t plan to start now, as my only interest is in seeing Alley shake her fat ass. Luckily, we have YouTube for that. You can check out her cha cha below.

Oh, she is hilarious and bizarre. And in spite of her constant wah-wah-waaaaah-I-wanna-be-thin whinging, there’s something strangely radical about her willingness to be so physical in a body she supposedly hates. Also, in her ability to kick ass when everyone expects her to fall on her face. Also, yes, girlfriend is fucking 60 years old. Reagan over at Dances With Fat has a solid analysis of the post-episode commentary on Kirstie’s weight.

OH SHIT straight men are totally being oppressed by Dragon Age 2, the big Bioware epic just released this month. Y’see, in DA2 you can flirt with other in-game characters regardless of gender, and some grumpy straight guy who is probably a terrible lay complained about this in Bioware’s forums. He doesn’t like having to put up with the dude characters hitting on him, you understand! And he thinks Bioware is alienating his important straight-dude demographic!

Happily, a Bioware staff member shortly weighed in and essentially told Oppressed Straight Man to GTFO.

…[I]f there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

DROPPING THE P-BOMB, Y’ALL. You can read the whole epic response here.

Last but not least: this past Friday I posted a big ol’ rant about Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity campaign. I assumed a certain level of background on this issue, but many folks lacked context. That was my bad. So today, I am delivering a Childhood Obesity Breakdown that outlines my exact problems with Let’s Move and Ms. Obama’s many words on the subject, in handy bite-size form.

Problem #1: The campaign features a gratuitous and even harmful focus on fat kids exclusively. This sends a message that poor nutrition and lack of access to physical activity is only a public health problem for children who are also fat, and the effect of this is that thinner children who may be living on snack cakes and McDonald’s are presumed to be “healthy” simply because they’re not fat. This is ridiculous. Fact is, these issues threaten the long-term well-being of all children. But Let’s Move has no time for worrying about any other children’s health—indeed, putting aside the rhetoric and looking at the action, Let’s Move does not seem to be invested in overall health at all, but is squarely interested in making fat children thin. This paradox undercuts any value the effort might otherwise have.

Problem #2: This campaign focuses on “little changes” and individual efforts, and while this approach is not conceptually bad, it ignores the systemic and institutional issues for which no “little change” can compensate. The influence of things like corn subsidies, the development of agribusiness, and other government-controlled aspects of food production on the availability of good nutrition to the broader population cannot be overstated. It’s all well and good to tell poor families to buy more produce, but what if they live in a food desert? It’s likewise a swell thing to encourage urban-dwelling communities to create shared gardens, but doing so requires a substantial financial outlay at the start, and gardening requires a considerable amount of time (which many working poor people do not have) and effort (which many working poor people cannot afford) for a surprisingly small degree of edible return. But hey, it makes a pretty picture.

Problem #3: The campaign silently refuses to acknowledge that that one cannot discuss “childhood obesity” without invoking fat kids (they are connected concepts, you know), and that this has a cultural effect on those kids, making them even greater targets for bullying than they already are, and singling them out as the root cause of social ills a la my scapegoating discussion of last week. The popular objection to this criticism seems to be that Michelle Obama must do something “innocuous” as First Lady, something that everyone can get behind, and of course everyone hates childhood obesity. But this argument does not hold water unless folks truly believe that the public would be outraged if her program were intended to better the health of all children, without singling out just the fat (i.e., broken) ones. The truth is, Michelle Obama’s campaign does reinforce the bullying and social ostracization of fat children, but that’s not the only bullying it supports. It also exploits our ugly urge to judge other people’s parenting, by holding the parents of fat kids responsible for having destroyed their children’s future lives by “allowing” them to get fat.

These are the main reasons why I believe that Michelle Obama’s crusade will never succeed in improving children’s health.

Got any links I missed? Drop ’em in comments.


Shaunta on March 25, 2011 at 11:15 am.

I have the same love/hate relationship with Kirstie Alley. I want to shake her and tell her to just stop with the weight loss nonsense. I blog a lot about athleticism at every size, and seeing this fat, 60-year-old woman shake it is awesome. But there is something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth about a woman who has all the multiple privileges that comes with being 1) very conventionally beautiful, 2) very wealthy, 3) famous, etc. who won’t stop feeling sorry for herself because she’s not super slender.


Irfon-Kim Ahmad on March 25, 2011 at 11:43 am.

I think there’s a whole fascinating discussion to be had about people’s perceptions of weights. I started really paying attention to it after the Simpsons episode where Homer gets a job where he can work from home and he figures out that he can set one of those “sipping bird” birds to do his job for him while he sits on the couch and eats donuts and gains weight like a Katamari.

The thing that completely blew my mind in that episode to it is that he reaches a point where he takes up the whole couch and he can’t even move. He’s couch-bound. And then they put a number to it — his weight has ballooned up to THREE HUNDRED POUNDS.

Seriously, folks, you can’t tell me that ordinary everyday Homer doesn’t weigh three hundred points or more. He’s not a short guy, and he’s pretty much spherical around the middle. And yet people have this hugely distorted view of it. I mean, I watched that and I was ranting about how unrealistic it was, and people seemed skeptical, because OMG 300 POUNDS, right? At that point you’d stick to the couch just by gravitation alone! And then I’d tell them that I weigh just under 350 pounds (and I get up off the couch just fine, thanks) and they didn’t even know what to say.

It comes up at work, too, when I’m requesting a special chair and I point out that such and such a chair is only rated to 250lbs and they look at me like, “Yeah, so?” and I’m all, “I weigh a hundred pounds more than that,” and they pretty much just flat-out don’t believe me. I’ll get the same, “But you don’t look like you weigh…” response, and I’m all, “No, actually, this is what 350 pounds looks like.” (I get that different people carry weight differently and I’m simplifying a bit there, but still.)

I think that that’s one of the things that was great about the BMI project — that I could put up a photo and say, “Yeah, when you say ‘morbidly obese’ and picture that one photo you saw in the Enquirer with the person who couldn’t get out of bed and then died, and you say how horrible it must be for those people, this is what it looks like, and I’m as happy and active and mobile as anyone.” I think it’d be interesting to do something similar for numbers, especially because I think there are a lot of people out there who live like their weight is a shameful, private horror and someone’s going to find out someday, without realizing that our perception of weights is so whacked out that probably half their friends weigh the same or more and they don’t know it.


S on March 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm.

This, so much.

In my undergrad at art school I did an illustration featuring a fat burlesque dancer gleefully ripping up a women’s magazine…and I drew a woman who looked a lot like me (I’m 5’4″, somewhere around 200lbs). I was told during my critique that for my message to be properly read, the dancer needed to be “a LOT fatter…you know, like, 200LBS or something.” I was also told that she wasn’t really fat because she didn’t carry her weight…well, like a Katamari, to use your fantastic analogy. “She has a big belly but her arms are too skinny and so’s her face. She’s not REALISTIC,” they said. And I’m sitting there in front of them, looking pretty much exactly like that, weighing at least 200LBS OH MY GOD and thinking where on earth do you people live?

Art school was a pretty sick place, in general. I sat through another critique where a girl described how much she loved to “go to the mall to draw fat people”…in their natural habitat, or something. Like a fucking safari.


Kat on March 27, 2011 at 4:24 am.

Oh god, art school nearly killed me creatively, almost to the point where after knowing someone for 3 years they just found out today that I do art at all. That environment just was not healthy for me…


Liza on March 27, 2011 at 10:17 am.

I remember many moons ago I was reading an interview with Camryn Manheim where she told a story about going to an audition that specifically asked for a fat woman. The people told her she wasn’t fat enough, that they wanted someone who was at least 200 lbs. And she responded with something like “yeah, I weigh like 220.” I’m probably butchering the details on that because I read it a long time ago but the sentiment is the same. Ugh, people!


kbryna on March 28, 2011 at 11:34 am.

YES! Loving this thread!!!! There’s a song I quite like by Fats Domino called (of course) “Fat Man.” And the main lyric is: “They call me the fat man/cause I weigh 200 pounds.” Every time I actually *listen* to that, my brain hurts – because 200 pounds for a man is hardly fat. hardly. Unless the man is like 5’2″. And even then…

I also recently recalled a moment in high school, when I admitted to a co-worker that I weighed 120lbs (guiltily, fattily – ha!). Her response: “Well, you hide it well.”

our sense of numbers and size is so f*cked up. there’s no other way of putting it – it’s just fucked. up.


Liza on March 27, 2011 at 10:20 am.

Also! In the “realistic body” world, I had this friend in college who was very thin but had really big boobs. She told me about this time she was looking through a magazine with someone who was going on about how this model was so fake because no one that thin could have those breasts. And my friend was like, really, I’m sitting right here with my DD chest and size 2 body, dumb-ass.

So, basically, there’s no scope on what’s “realistic” because every single body is so different.


LadyWhoKnows on March 25, 2011 at 10:08 pm.

This is so true. I used to have a hard time admitting that I weigh 150 lbs. That just sounds like sooo much when a girl is only *allowed* to weigh 125. The people that I have told don’t believe me. “But you’re not fat!” they say. “You must only be a size 8 or a 10.” Yeah, I am, and I weigh 150. This is reality.

As for childhood obesity, California has been testing children’s bmi and “fitness level” for ages. I remember that in the 7th grade the qualifications for a girl were that you could run a mile in under 12 minutes, do 75 crunches, and do 16 push-ups. I passed easily with a mile in 10, 100 crunches, and 25 push-ups. So, imagine my surprise when the P.E. teacher took my height and weight and told me. “You’re bmi is too high.” I asked what that meant and he continued. “You’re overweight. A girl your age at your height shouldn’t weigh this much. If you were an adult, you’re bmi would be in the healthy category, but since you’re a child you weigh too much. A child isn’t as developed as an adult.”

Umm… Okay. So, let me just take a moment to shrink down to a a proper child’s heighth (I was full grown at the time), and slow down my hormones so that I can not have a period anymore, make those DD’s disappear, and shrink myself down to an appropriatley nubile state for California. Just ugh!! Thinking back on it makes me angry, but oh well, I’m an adult now so I’m acceptable to my soveriegn state and Michelle Obama, right? BMI is stupid and humiliating child is irresponsible.


Robyn on March 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm.

I will be speaking to my children’s school and telling them that they are NOT allowed to weigh my children under any circumstances. They have a pediatrician. Their health information is confidential. They have rights too. Also, they will be exempted from the fitness testing. Any parent in California has the right to exempt their child from these tests simply by signing a waiver. I wish more parents knew that.


Amy on March 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm.

I agree with this part so much.

I am about 5′ 3″ and weigh about 230# and wear a size 18/20 jeans. I have to ask about weight limits. People are always underestimating my weight.

I remember reading in Camryn Manheim’s autobiography (and I’m paraphrasing poorly here) that she showed up for a casting call once for a “200 pound woman” and she was told she must be mistaken, they were looking for someone who was “really fat” like 200 pounds. I think she weighed like 212 at the time. Professional dieters have such distorted thinking about what the numbers on a scale correspond to.


Liza on March 27, 2011 at 10:23 am.

Ha! I just commented above with this same Manheim anecdote. I’m pretty sure that story was the first time I ever considered the idea that weight/number perception could be totally screwed up.


Grace on March 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm. has a photo chart of individuals by height and weight – I’ve had the same experience when people don’t believe what I weigh – our images of bodies are so distorted, we don’t really know what some one may weigh based upon how they look.


JupiterPluvius on March 31, 2011 at 3:23 pm.

Nero Wolfe, who is depicted as being so obese he has trouble leaving his home, is also described as being 5’10” and under 300 pounds (Archie Goodwin frequently refers to Wolfe’s “seventh of a ton”).

Bertha Cool, Erle Stanley Gardner’s female equivalent to Nero Wolfe, is depicted as super-obese at IIRC 180 pounds.

Now, in real life, the most famous US stage beauty of the late 19th century, Lillian Russell, was 5’3″ and weighed 200 pounds.


hannah byun on March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm.

That DA2 kerfuffle is interesting, because no one’s discussing the dude’s other odious opinion, which is that the women available for the romance needs of the “straight male gamer” are too “exotic.” Here’s what he says:

The romance options, Isabella and Merrill, were clearly designed for the straight male gamers in mind. Unfortunately, those choices are what one would call “exotic” choices. They appeal to a subset of male gamers and while its true you can’t make a romance option everyone will love, with Isabella and Merrill it seems like they weren’t even going for an option most males will like.


Lesley on March 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm.

Crap, I didn’t even hear about that! Preposterous! Exclamation points!


Amy on March 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm.

Should we assume ‘exotic’=’non-white’? I haven’t seen the game.


Opifex on March 26, 2011 at 11:44 am.

I haven’t played DA2 yet but Isabella shows up in the first game and is sort of Hispanic looking. So yes, I’m pretty sure ‘exotic’ = ‘non-white’ here…


Holls on March 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm.

I’m just primarily confused and distracted by the fact the Daily Mail apparently thinks the definition of ‘demure’ is the opposite of what it actually is?
I mean, I know they aren’t Granta, but isn’t that a little too illiterate, even for their online branch?


metermouse on March 25, 2011 at 2:59 pm.

ummm just wanted to say that despite all the problem/fail with Kirstie, it made me SOOOO HAPPPY, just made my freaking day, to see a fat woman tearing shit up on national television. I didn’t even watch it with the sound on….

also I love the way her partner grabs her butt as they go backstage, like they’re bff’s, too cute.


bloomie on March 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm.

I haven’t read any of the associated links so it might be terrible, but here’s a kids book on being bullied about being fat.


cindy on March 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm.

I wish Michelle Obama would read this blog entry. Just the other day I read another infuriating “news” story about how IMPORTANT she thinks the BMIs of children are:

“I certainly didn’t know that even a small increase in BMI can have serious consequences for a child’s health,” she added, recommending that all parents inform themselves about the vital weight statistic.

This disinformation does so much harm when, as you point out, she could be doing so much good.


Julia on March 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm.

Another aspect of Michelle Obama’s anti childhood obesity campaign I think is also racialized. I see it in part as an aspect of concern for the ways in which poverty and racism has negatively affected the health of children of color. Of course the problem is that this isn’t a “more veggies yum!” campaign or “lets get rid of food deserts” but rather “lose weight fattie!” campaign which is super frustrating.

It’s like how when Queen Latifah lost weight she also did a bunch of education/outreach things about diabetes and such.

Which of course is still problematic since if you want to focus on people eating healthier, controlling their blood sugar, the blood pressure etc, you don’t need to talk about weight.


A on March 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm.

I wanted to post a thank you for the link to the “food desert” article. I haven’t until today had a term to describe what food availability is like in the poorer neighborhood where I live. The closest major supermarket (bakery, big fresh produce section) is 3 miles away and on a major highway. Because my boyfriend and I own a car, this isn’t a problem for us, but I routinely see my neighbors walking back from the neighborhood overpriced bodega/big line of 3 major fast food chains to their houses with food for their families.

Two of the walkable small groceries in the neighborhood have closed within the last 6 months. Their buildings stand empty. When the car was in the shop for a couple weeks, buying food was extremely difficult. Biking home with a weeks worth of groceries is uncomfortable at best and probably not possible for most of my older neighbors.

I moved here from a more affluent neighborhood “on the other side of the highway” (in the same city) where I could walk to a gigantic well stocked grocery within five minutes. The scarcity of places to buy bread or jam here without any HFCS in blows my mind. I was never really aware of the enormity of this issue in poorer neighborhoods. Thank you for giving me a term to help explain.


Liza on March 27, 2011 at 10:31 am.

And this problem is one that people often don’t even realize exists. They’re all “just buy vegetables/fruit/lentils!” but don’t realize that bodegas often don’t even HAVE those things, or they stuff they have is old and gross or more expensive than the processed crap. And not everyone has the resources or time to travel to a better-stocked store and home AND THEN cook what they bought. It makes me ragey when people don’t get it.


Sonia on March 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm.

Your pointed critique to Michelle Obama’s campaign is spot on, thank you for that. Switch gears now to hear this little story about bullying. I generally live in my own little deathfat world in my own little deathfat head, but was jarred out of it just an hour ago as I slowed down for a stoplight with my window down. I heard someone scream “MANATEE” out their window as they flew past the red light in the opposite direction. Of course I thought they were screaming at me. Imagine my surprise when I saw a woman who looks just like me walking across the street in front of my car. So the bully car killed two birds with one stone. The problem with kids who bully other kids is they grow up to be adults who bully other adults. I take that back….clearly they DON’T grow up. Myself, I couldn’t give a shit whether he thinks I’m a manatee or any other living creature. I just felt bad for her because I could tell it stung.


Melissa on March 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm.

Oh lordy, Lesley, I linked to your post about Michelle Obama’s speech on Facebook and got into a nearly all-day-long argument with one of my friends who could not fathom why this was offensive and bad for the psyches of overweight children, and instead kept saying that it’s a shame that MY experience as a fat child (that drove me into suicidal thoughts and an eating disorder) has so colored my thought process, as though my experience was invalid and somehow no other fat child would be subjected to torment.


Liza on March 27, 2011 at 10:35 am.

I didn’t link to this one, but I did link to the one Paul Campos wrote on Daily Beast and had a similar argument. It was all “Lay off Michelle Obama! I’m skinny and I was bullied too! They should just buy rice and beans!” It was a childhood friend who has always been skinny and I pointed out that she and I are perfect examples of why weight is a terrible indicator, since we could have the exact same diet/exercise regime and she would stay skinny and I would stay fat. Hell, when we were kids I probably had healthier eating habits than she did and still – shocking! – she was skinny and I was fat.


Alyson on April 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm.

Yeah, skinny people are bullied. Sometimes, we’re even bullied for being skinny. But there’s a huge difference between being made fun of for one’s weight when said weight corresponds to that of actresses and fashion models, and one sees people who look like oneself represented in the media all the time, and being bullied for one’s weight when the only representation one sees of people with similar bodies in the media are pictures of “headless fatties” in articles about the “obesity epidemic.”


Alyson on April 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm.

And I know I don’t have to tell this to any of you, but it’s something that’s been in my head for a while.


Violet on March 26, 2011 at 4:05 am.

The Michelle Obama stuff is interesting to me to read and kind of sad, because I do love her, but this seems like such an empty gesture (and of course potentially damaging as you so thoughtfully explain). Once upon a time the government here and in Europe sponsored camps for undernourished children in order to get them the healthy food they so desperately needed. Despite the fact that we still have many many children who are malnourished, we have the first lady going around encouraging people to eat vegetables, grow a garden at school and not to be fat. Imagine what benefit could be reaped if that time was instead spent taking ACTION, such as getting farmer’s markets sponsored in “food desert” areas and getting them to accept food stamps (something that’s been done in Los Angeles along with other cool measures to try to bring healthy food to low income families rather than preach at them to somehow try to obtain it) and other means of getting nourishing healthy food to children, rather than worrying about how many pounds they weigh.


Liza on March 27, 2011 at 10:38 am.

Yes! Similar things have been implemented in NYC, too, but we still have the obnoxious “stop obesity!” stuff as well. My thought is, putting farm stands outside the projects, having farm stands and CSAs accept WIC and food stamps, and things like that are good. Banning school bake sales and putting ads in the subway with globs of fat pouring out of soda cans are not.


Judy on March 26, 2011 at 9:29 am.

I have been following the blog for a few months but this is my first comment. I wanted to say how very impressed I was by Kirstie Alley. I never liked her, not even as a slim Vulcan, but as someone who is 60 and probably weighs about the same, I loved seeing her dance (on Youtube also…). Indeed, people carry their weight differently, and she carries it fabulously. (I can’t even imagine putting those shoes on my feet.)
But I also want to congratulate Lesley on her analysis of the First Lady’s misguided comments on the “obesity epidemic.” Thanks to this mania, I can’t look at any health magazine or article without being told that obesity either causes or results from every ill in the body or the body politic, or if possible both. Your first article was good, and this is better because dead clear about what is going on. One upper-class mother’s neurosis about her kids’ weight is being projected on the whole country. I like Michelle Obama but I think she should take up redecorating the White House.


thirtiesgirl on March 26, 2011 at 11:19 am.

I completely agree about Gwen Stefani. And I remember Angelfish. I was totally jealous of Manson’s perfect bangs back then.


Staci on March 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm.

Lesley, all this was fabulous, as usual. I always like your reasonable, well-thought-out analysis of these sorts of things.

Back in her early days, I always thought of Gwen Stefani as this cool, kick-ass, strong girl. She had muscles, she got sweaty and it was great for me to see someone who wasn’t itty-bitty on stage. It was disheartening to read in later interviews about how much she didn’t like that body and then watch her turn herself into “the ideal” thin, blonde girl I guess she always wanted to be. I can only imagine the pressure at that level of celebrity, but yeah, I’m still disappointed. (I won’t even get into how I felt when she started hauling around 4 Japanese girls as her pets/props).

I get the love/hate thing with Kirstie Alley because I have it too! Like Gwen, I’m sure the pressure is enormous. She’s made a lot of mistakes publicly, but they are many of the same mistakes I’ve made, so maybe that’s why I’m somewhat sympathetic. But I LOVE her in this dance. She is elegant, has fun and shakes it hard. Go, Kirstie!


kara a on March 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm.

After nearly 2 years of reading your work, I’ve finally worked up the courage to comment. And if I am derailing in ANY way, please delete this!

I’m wondering about your reference to food deserts. Though it is incredibly risky and ignorant to assume, I trust your intentions when mentioning food deserts were along the lines of highlighting the fundamental flaws in Let’s Move (as you mentioned, relying on small changes in every day life). However, I think the problem with using words like “food desert” is that we may be wading in policing territory. Some people prefer to live in food deserts. I know its a fine line between genuine care and concern for society and “butting in”. I struggle with this topic constantly–wanting to provide access, resources and education without infringing on the right to privacy and autonomy.

I grew up on the north side of St. Louis, surrounded by working class Midwestern folk. Our closest food options came from a Churches Chicken, White Castle, Del Taco and a whole host of bodegas. Chain grocery stores were available, but by car. Fast forward a couple years and I ended up becoming an ethical vegan, now living in Chicago; a member/owner of the local co-op (roughly 2 city blocks from my front door) with a little plot in the community garden behind my apartment. And when my mother comes to visit me do you know what she says? “There’s nothing to eat around here!”

Food deserts are in the eye of the beholder. To my family, my cute little gentrified neighborhood chalked full of bodegas, produce stands, smaller grocery stores. a co-ops and gardens would most definitely qualify as a food dessert: a place without “good” food. In my opinion, the term ‘food desert’ is so loaded and dripping with liberal guilt and classism, I can’t find situations where the dialogue around them doesn’t come off as I Know What’s Good For You, No Really I Do.

My mom likes McDonald’s for breakfast. I like tofu scramble. Neither one of us is wrong, even if McDonalds is the first type of food she has access to. Isn’t dictating what is and isn’t good (access to) food, even in the example of food deserts another form of body-policing?


Lesley on March 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm.

I see your point but I think you might be misunderstanding the broader application of the term: dealing with so-called “food deserts” is not about removing the existing options, but about expanding them. I’ve yet to hear it applied in a way that would require fast-food joints and bodegas to be abolished; it is more about making sure people who live in a certain area have choices, including McDonald’s and produce stands and everything in between.


alfred lives here on March 27, 2011 at 11:23 pm.

Great post, I totally agree with what you say. I have the same love/hate relationship with Kirstie Alley, mostly hate, that being said I did watch Dancing last week and she was awesome — she is 60, a real size woman, and out there moving it and moving it sexy. Then she talks and the crazy comes out, however.

Michelle Obama disappoints me, she has become another lame timid first lady, her biggest headlines are fashion, and yes her “issue” targets fat kids. What about healthy eating and movement for everyone?


ToeDipping on March 28, 2011 at 11:42 am.

One of the reasons I enjoy watching Dancing With the Stars is the way it can reverse and challenge stereotypes like with Kirstie Alley. (And the only dance that beat hers was performed by a 49-year-old, not one of the younguns.) Yeah, in general the younger, more athletic people have an edge (particularly ice skaters/dancers, it seems, however hard they insist it’s very different from dancing.) At the same time, many of the most stilted dances I can remember have come from the models and Playboy bunnies. There isn’t a fatter celebrity in every season, but there have been several and often they have often done well not just with the physical component, but with the acting and charming the crowds aspect.

Not only am I saddened that the direction Michelle Obama’s campaign has taken is far from ideal, but also that the issues related to this have ended up being First Lady busywork instead of serious presidential work, which is what tackling the entrenched crop subsidy system and other related issues would require. That’s among the kind of change I personally was hoping for a few years ago. :-<


Robyn on March 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm.

Holy shit! Fat people can DANCE?!

Agree wholeheartedly re: your rant against Obama’s “war on childhood obesity.” It *pisses* me off.


kbryna on April 3, 2011 at 8:42 pm.

Lesley, ever since I read this, I have had a voice (the one that passes for yours, I guess, in my head) saying ” people telling me that I can’t possibly be that fat. But I can!”

It is a good voice and it makes me laugh. Sometimes very inappropriately, in public, while flicking through racks of ugly clothes for tall skinny people. There’s something so totally, wonderfully liberating about your response to people’s moronic comments – “But I can!” – it’s the exclamation point that does it.
“But I can!” is like the anti-bodyshame. i love it – and you, and this blog.


Whir on April 5, 2011 at 4:54 pm.

While we’re on the subject of Kirstie Alley – any chance of those recaps? 😉


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