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.


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