“Why does it hurt you if I don’t hate myself?”

A nice response to the fat-haters. (One might see it as problematically involving an implicit acceptance that “strong” and “healthy” are good and that “ugly” is bad. But I don’t think it needs to be read this way, and anyway (a) it’s hard to totally shrug off culturally accepted norms; and (b) I think there may be room for lots of variation in how the meaning of these words. (Thanks, S!)

10 thoughts on ““Why does it hurt you if I don’t hate myself?”

  1. Good utube! And, ok, this is a hobbyhorse of mine, but what the hell is this current obsession about food-and-body all about? Look at this: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/fashion/rsvp-ps-no-gluten-fat-or-soy-please.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all Here are these trendy upper-crust people who manifest their social status by their food fetishes. What is going on?

    This is the new snobbery. ANYONE can learn what the right music and art to like is so that’s just so plebian: everyone knows you’re supposed to like Bach so there’s no prestige in that. So to show your REAL social stuff you have to fuss about food, because that hasn’t been proletarianized yet–because there are no publicly accessible rules about fashionable eating to which the proles can get easy access. And because slimness is the ultimate status symbol.

    So you can congratulate yourself, and affirm your status as a member of the urban-coastal upper middle class “knowledge-workers” elite by affirming that you don’t eat gluten, that you’re allergic to almost everything and have a bad back, that you’re SENSITIVE, that you’re a vegan or eat only grass-fed buffalo meat. Well let me tell you, I don’t care what I eat, and I do like Bach. T’hell with it.

  2. Yo, anonymous. People who have celiac disease aren’t “picky eaters”. They can’t eat gluten because, when they do, their immune system ATTACKS their digestive tract (it is an autoimmune disease). Left untreated, it leads to: abdominal pain, mouth ulcers, ulceration of the small bowel, adenocarcinoma, lymphoma of the small bowel. As the digestive tract degrades, malabsorption issues develop into fatigue, anemia, osteopenia and osteoporosis, and blood clotting problems. Celiac disease is also associated with increased risk of infection, dermatitis herpetiformitis, recurrent miscarriage and infertility, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroiditis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and microscopic colitis.

    The only way to treat celiac disease is to remove gluten completely from the diet.

    How do I know? I’m gluten-intolerant. I have to know because I navigate this every day.

    I don’t congratulate myself on having an autoimmune disease that went undiagnosed for decades, makes me afraid of food, and makes socializing, eating out, and travel difficult to impossible. Nor do I feel like a snob because food often makes me ill, and I probably won’t get to live as long as you do because of it.

    How interesting that you felt comfortable to put up an off-topic rant against people with medically restricted diets (illness-shaming) on post against fat-shaming. How interesting that some people feel safe in the privilege of their good health to ridicule others for their attempts to manage an incurable disease. How interesting that it has stood unchallenged for the better part of a day.

    Why does it hurt you if I take care of myself?

  3. Yikes. First commenter, your rant is indeed totally off-topic and offensive. I would have deleted it if I’d seen it in time. (It wasn’t the better part of the day– as the time stamps on posts reveal it was 36 minutes.)

    How about we get back to the topic now?

  4. I’m in a different time zone than the site server and only going by the date stamp on the comment, it looked like it had been up for a long time. No slight to the moderators intended (you do a great collective job of making this a safe and supportive community), and I apologize for my mistake about the time.

    Back on topic: the video is great. Brava to Rebecca Eisenberg. And she raises a great question: Why DOES it hurt people if she doesn’t hate herself? Where on earth does all the fat-shaming come from? And she asks it with great style, class and panache.

    Thank you for highlighting the excellent video, and more power to the awesome Ms. Eisenberg.

  5. Holy cow, what did I do wrong? I wasn’t attacking people who have to restrict their diets because of genuine medical conditions but those who take up food fetishes as identity statements. Read the article: “Consumers seem to be building self through sustenance, adjusting their appetites to reflect independence and moral character. In numerous interviews with restricted-diet adherents and those who study and feed them, control and identity were two common themes on everyone’s lips. It’s an alternative way of finding an identity in a place where identity is increasingly uncertain.”

    And this is NOT off topic. Food is the new sex–the focus of puritanism, moralism and hyper-fastidiousness. Eating approved foods–green, unprocessed, etc.–is a virtue and eating junk food is a vice. People who buy into this moral program believe fat people should hate themselves because fat is a sign of wicked eating. This anyway is my conjecture: they see unabashed fat people in the way our ancestors saw unrepentant sex workers. It’s bad enough to eat (or screw) promiscuously, but you should at least feel guilty about it, hate yourself and be repentant.

  6. Jender,

    Could you elaborate more on your parenthetical worry? Surely, “strong” and “healthy” are good at least practically – “abled”, too. These are probably extrinsic goods by definition. Though I get a lot of students who will claim that things like health are moral goods (at first blush), they soon give it up on reflection.

    I’m sure there are quite a large number of “fat-haters” out there (though I’m guessing that number drops exponentially the farther one gets away from middle school). Most of the anti-fat movement doesn’t appear to be motivated by moral concerns, but by practical ones that are geared towards helping the “fat” satisfy their long term interests (pain-free, mobility, access to a broad range of experiences, etc.).

  7. Ajkrieder, I second your query. Health does seem to be at least an extrinsic good. (Of course, some thinkers have suggested it is more than that.)

  8. It’s awful to see such fat-hatred and fat-awareness everywhere (and women are as bad as men). I think it’s essentially racist.

    In many developing countries still, and all over the place for most of human evolution, being fat was a sign of fertility and wealth. In biological terms it was a “costly signal” indicating genetic goodness (like the peacock’s tail).

    In first-world countries, food is cheaper than it has ever been throughout human evolution. So being fat isn’t a convincing “signal” in these places anymore — anyone can be fat, even the poor. A more convincing signal of genetic goodness — and such things have to be costly — is to be a living skeleton.

    This transition of signal “meaning” applies mostly to white people who have enjoyed wealth for many generations. To those who haven’t had such advantages, being fat remains a signal of fitness. White people despise these others, and dress up “looking down their noses” as “medical concern”. Medical concern, my ass!

    Let’s live and let live, and accept that different people have different tastes. Let those who enjoy thinness do so. Let people like me who prefer the alternative celebrate it.

  9. How well-supported is the claim that for most of humanity’s past, being fat has been a sign of fertility and “genetic goodness”? (Wealth is another matter.) On the one hand we have, for example, prehistoric statuettes depicting obese women – though it is difficult to know for sure exactly what cultural inferences to make from them. On the other hand, we have a number of contrary indications from antiquity There are numerous references (from physicians and non-physicians alike) from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt associating fatness with ill health, sexual dysfunction, early death, and other negatives. Granted, ideal BMI in pre-modern cultures might be quite a bit more than what we see promoted as ideal in contemporary industrial societies, but I expect that it was quite a bit lower than actual BMI of much of the population of the United States today, for example. If the ancients could see us, would they think – once they got over their shock at how tall we are – that a great many of us are unhealthily fat?

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