Should “Assholes” Get a Column? (Even on the Internet?)

26 10 2010

I try to avoid internet drama. I find things that entertain me and write about them, because I like a good laugh and want to help my readers laugh as well. While I write about serious things in my life, by and large, I don’t address a lot of broad controversial topics.

Knowing that, you’ll understand just how angry I must be to write this post.

To understand my ire, you’ll need to read the blog post about overweight couples on television.

All caught up now? Excellent. I’m so sorry I made you read that.

We must note this all-important fact: “I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.” Thank goodness! I’d hate to think this article was written by a woman with only skinny friends. That would make it completely unacceptable. Knowing she has a few plump friends reassures me that she really understands the plight of overweight individuals.

Sadly, her insight doesn’t prevent her from spewing vitriol. “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.”

Because I’m in a giving mood, I’ll overlook the use of “heroine” rather than “heroin.” (Although I must admit I’m entertained by the idea of someone being addicted to strong female characters.) I will not, however, overlook the fact that she’d be “grossed out if [she] had watch them doing anything.”

In what world is this an okay thing to say? Let’s do a few modifications and see how well it would go over with the general audience:

“I’d be grossed out if I had to watch black people doing anything.”

“I’d be grossed out if I had to watch anorexic people doing anything.”

“I’d be grossed out if I had to watch gay people doing anything.”

Of course, I can’t even bring myself to use pejorative terms in the examples I’ve given, unlike whomever chose the title for Maura Kelly’s article (Should “Fatties” Get a Room?).

Speaking as a woman who is, in fact, morbidly obese, I can’t begin to tell you how hurtful Ms. Kelly’s statements are. I live my life certain that others are judging me. On my good days, I can convince myself that thinking thus is the height of self-centeredness. After all, what stranger has the time to sit and judge me?

Oh. Never mind, then. Apparently my mere presence walking across a room is disgusting. Glad to know my paranoia wasn’t unwarranted.

Am I saying obesity is healthy? Of course not. I have osteoarthritis (though it’s not confined to weight-bearing joints). I have high blood pressure and a genetic predisposition to Type II Diabetes. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a healthy woman.

That’s not the point. Being unhealthy doesn’t make me disgusting. If the heroin addict weren’t slumping in a chair, would Ms. Kelly recognize him or her as unhealthy? Would she consider that person worthy of derision? Or is it only acceptable to mock those whose problems are clearly evident to the world at large?

Fortunately, Ms. Kelly has the solution! “I’m happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them — but long story short, eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, read labels and avoid foods with any kind of processed sweetener in them whether it’s cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, increase the amount of fiber you’re getting, get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week, and do everything you can to stand up more — even while using your computer — and walk more. I admit that there’s plenty that makes slimming down tough, but YOU CAN DO IT! Trust me. It will take some time, but you’ll also feel so good, physically and emotionally. A nutritionist or personal trainer will help — and if you can’t afford one, visit your local YMCA for some advice.”

This condescending statement is, perhaps, even more offensive to me than any others she makes—it plays to the thought that any person who becomes obese must be uneducated and unable to figure out how he or she can possibly begin to lose weight.

Hey, guess what? The large majority of obese people know exactly how to lose weight. (Hee. I said “large”! I’m just as funny as Maura Kelly! Quick, someone pay me money!) We aren’t stupid or uninformed, but it’s just not that easy.

Or is it? “I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.” So…I just have to really, really try this time. No more half-assing it! Fantastic! I can even apply this advice to other areas of my life. Say, for example, my crippling depression. I can control it if I just put my mind to it! And hey, if I can manage that, maybe simply getting out of bed in the morning won’t be a task of herculean proportions and going jogging will be a piece of cake! (Hee! Piece of cake!) Or hey, I’ll just reread The Secret, and simply direct all of my thoughts in a positive direction. That’ll do it, right? Right?!

The article by Ms. Kelly is more than insulting, it’s just plain damaging. No segment of the population should ever have to read something like that directed toward them, and I’m mortified that anyone would actually publish it. In their Media Kit, Marie Claire states, “We understand that our readers are more than any label or stereotype could place on them, and we celebrate that every reader is more than a pretty face.”

This post is a sad way to clearly demonstrate their lack of understanding.

Shame on you, Maura Kelly, for writing such a hurtful post.

But really? I believe the true burden of shame falls upon Marie Claire for publishing something so hateful that thousands of women and teenage girls will read.

The next time people ask where our children learn it’s okay to bully? I’ll just point them toward Ms. Kelly and Marie Claire.