Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Women Aren't the Only Ones Who Use "Fat" As an Insult

I seem to more and more disappointed with Jezebel. Spending a full weekend unplugged from my internet fix has exacerbated a lot of these feelings and when I read "Calling Me Fat Is Insulting, But Not Why You Think" I had to wonder why I even continue to visit the site. Yes it is a handy one-stop-shop of news and commentary, but lately the quality of posts seem to be on the decline. (Then again, the quality of my posts have been on the decline as well so maybe August is just a shitty month.) What bothered me the most about this particular post though, was the way it actually glossed over the bigger issues of fat-shaming. What could have been the perfect opportunity to have a genuine conversation about whether or not being called "fat" is an insult, turned into basically an empty public "f-you." (I always get a kick when people take the time to post about how much they don't care about something.)

From the post:
This week I've been told—via several internet platforms—that I'm fat. I'm not offended by the insult. I'm offended by the idea that it's is a surefire way to hurt a woman's feelings. Can't you be more creative, internet?
Agreed. It is kind of like being told you'll never find a man or get married. Instead of being hurt or sad, all I can think is "that's the best you can do?"
Being told that I'm fat by strangers on the internet is nothing new to me, and while I grappled with it initially, my skin eventually became thicker than whatever's on my upper arms. After awhile, I learned to ignore such comments, but there's been a recent influx of them via email, Twitter, and Facebook. I think it might be because I was in a video I posted for the first time in a while. Or maybe it's because I recently wrote about being annoyed by all the fat jokes that were made of Lisa Lampanelli at David Hasselhoff's roast. Whatever the reason, this new barrage of attacks on my appearance really irked me, but not in the way they were intended.

My biggest beef with these kind of lowest-common-denominator taunts is that they're completely lacking in any ingenuity or intelligence. Also, while mocking someone's weight is meant to be a personal dig, it's actually impersonal. The "fat chick" thing is so overused and tiresome that it's really not specific enough to any one person. It's basically the form letter of insults.

And look, maybe I'm fat and maybe I'm not. The point is: I don't care. It's actually taken me nearly my entire life to get to this point of comfort with my body. And, ironically, being told that I'm fat doesn't hold any weight for me, personally.

What's upsetting to me is that I can tell that most of the comments are coming from women. (Because what dude gives a shit about women's arms or would feign worry over the baby I look to be pregnant with?) And that really upsets me because how can we ever be strong if we're always just going to play on each others' perceived weaknesses? How are we ever gonna get up if that's the way we get down?
First of all, being called "fat" should not be an insult because it is basically just an adjective. I'm white. I have red hair. I'm fat. None of these descriptions mean I'm less of a person or lesser in any way. The idea that being fat is somehow akin to being inferior is really the problem here, not random douche bags on the internet.

Fat, originally uploaded by Christi Nielsen.

Second, maybe I'm just dense but isn't calling some "unintelligent" also pretty lazy and uncreative? Don't get me wrong, I do it kind of a lot myself. But what I don't do is bitch about how unoriginal the world is while patting myself on the back for my own ingenuity.

And that brings me to the part of this post that irritated me the most; the assumption that women are pettier than men (because they would never be concerned with something as trivial as upper arm fat) and that women are supposed to be this giant sisterhood that stands united. The idea that women are "catty" or "bitchy," more so than men, is something that really pisses me off. Women are no pettier than men and I'm pretty sure pettiness is hardwired into our species. It has nothing to do with the fact that some of us have vaginas. Trying to reinforce this idea is actually pretty sexist when you think about it because it relies on the notion that when men fight with each other they have the right and authority to do so, but when women fight with one another they are stepping out of line or behaving irrationally (because there's no way a women could be pissed for perfectly valid reasons that have nothing to do with being overly emotional/jealous/petty/irrational). Assuming these people are women based solely on some idea that only women would stoop so low is what I actually find insulting; not some vague idea that women will never be truly equal because some people called one woman on the internet "fat."

The questions we should really be asking are why being called fat is such a travesty and why we conflate petty behavior with being female. Not the future of feminism.


  1. This whole comment exchange makes this post even more ridiculous.

  2. I kind of consider fat an insult, but I'm in high school so at this point its really the worst thing you can be.

  3. Welcome to the world of Tracie Egan Morrissey. She likes to stick her middle finger up whenever she can. She doesn't take personal criticism well. She's immature. She makes ignorant statements and massive generalizations. She's changed her entire online persona for the dude she married, going from "Slut Machine" to "Mrs. Moz" seemingly overnight.

    I don't even read her posts anymore.

  4. Dannie: But that is kind of my point. If the word itself only signifies weight/size, then it must be the cultural stigma that surrounds the idea of being fat (like slovenliness and laziness) and pressure regarding how we should look/act that makes people so offended. I think we should be focusing more on why being called fat is considered so insulting instead of avoiding the word for the sake of sisterhood or whatever. It is like the word "queer" or calling someone "gay" as an insult. It doesn't make any sense.

    But I totally get the high school thing. As an adult I can't seem to give much of a shit though.

    Britni: I'm late to the game, but I agree with not reading her posts. Sometimes I think I like Jezebel more for what it can be and not for what it really is.

  5. The funy thing is, the person calling someone else fat is trying to use it as an insult.

    You're right. By not being offended by the word, we can take the air out of their silly sails.
    You know what I don't get? Why would I need some asshole telling me I am fat? I think I know my size.

  6. alana: I think it has more to do with the individual then society as a whole. Cultural influences may have started it up as an insult, but I think it definetly sticks AS an insult depending on whether or not someone sees it as an adjective, like you, or a horrible, gutwrenching critism that makes them want to hide in a dark corner and listen to emo music.

  7. Mac: lol that really is the rub though isn't it? Whether or not you are bothered by a particular insult doesn't negate the fact that person was trying to hurt your feelings. I just think it's interesting to consider why some insults hold more weight (pun intended) than others.

    Dannie: Actually, I completely disagree. Obviously it does ultimately come down to the individual (otherwise it wouldn't make sense that some people are more offended by the same insult than others), but I think the idea of what constitutes fat is very much a cultural thing. (Plus, there was a time when being called fat wasn't the insult it is today.) Even though I totally get what you are saying, I think the reason so many people think calling someone fat is so horrible is because of the way society fat-shames people. Another example is being tan. It used to be that wealthy people were the only ones who could afford to stay out of the sun and not tan. I have a hard time imagining that at that time those very people were ridiculed for being so pale. This very obviously isn't the case anymore. Dita Von Teese may look great with ghost white skin, but I get teased quite often for being super white. (See where I'm going?)

    So I pretty much agree with you but think society's standards are more influential than individual people's biases. (chicken and egg I guess.)


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