Friday, November 12, 2010

Of Course, Maura Wasn't the First

There's been a lot of discussion regarding fat people In TV shows of late. Specifically Marie Claire, Maura Kelly, fat people in public displays of affection, and how those PDA's offend her esthetic sensibilities. Or, more accurately how many people find Mrs. Kelly's publicly stated disgust, with the PDA's of said fat people, offensive. While it is throughly gratifying to see people outside the realms of Fat Acceptance acknowledging that fat people are, indeed, worthy of Human affection, the messages have still been rather mixed. Apparently some have come to the conclusion that while overweight people deserve love, 'Obese' people are 'Unhealthy' and, well. . . . Something Has to Be Done About Them. Oddly enough, though they acknowledge that fat people might be human, there is still this attitude that we are a problem that needs to be solved. The point of view that fat people as things which need to be dealt with rather than people who are distinctly different persists. Especially amongst those who continue to view fatness as a disease (that we allow ourselves to be infected with like an STD and refuse to get treatment for) or an addiction (That we are to weak to resist or to stupid to realize is doing us harm). Now, WHAT should be done? Despite the abundance of 'experts' with every kind of theory imaginable, NONE of them really knows. I mean, if one has the sanity points to slog through the comments on most of these responses, it doesn't even seem like they can accurately define where the 'problem' starts

Who IS or ISN'T obese is often so nebulously vague and varies so widely from one POV to the next as to make most distinctions ludicrous. I've seen obesity defined by body shape, as BMI's of 28, 35, and over 40, without regard to muscle density or even height. I've seen it defined as body weights from 200 pounds to 600. People who appear to fall, well, over the official threshold for obesity (30 BMI= X >209Lbs @ 5ft-9in) according to the almighty Body Mass Index, have been deemed 'Not that fat' (Note: MORBID Obesity = BMI > 40 or 278Lbs @ 5ft-9in). It's like people. . . . Well, REALLY don't know what, the fuck, their talking about. And I'm not being even remotely sarcastic. It almost seems as if people have so many varying pictures and definitions in their heads, of what obesity really looks like / really is, that no one can even describe it accurately. Or perhaps, simplest explanations often being the correct ones, the official means by which we define obesity and maybe even peoples own perceptions of what it is or isn't, are totally FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair). As for Maura's little faux pas? Well, as I am perhaps overly fond of saying, 'Folks, this ain't new.'       

In early May of 2008 there was an incident that could easily be descried as worse than Maura Kelly's apparent capacity for conveying insult. Oddly enough the incident was perpetrated by another young lady who later tried to blame her actions on a history of eating disorder and also produced a completely disingenuous, faux-appology when the heat of mass disapproval came down on her head. The Rachel Moss / WisCon Incident grew out of one woman's act of depraved indifference for the dignity of her fellow human beings (Unfortunately many links concerning the original post and the OP itself are long dead. Primarily, I believe, because the OP was so classless and distasteful. But also, I believe a lot of it faded away because the backlash against Mrs. Moss went way too far into Mob [and I don't mean Mafia] Justice territory). 

Mrs. Moss decided to post several pictures she'd taken at a Feminist/SciFi convention that was/is inclusive of transgender folk, POC, and fat people, with passions for writing, science fiction, social justice, and politics. The problem? Mrs. Moss posted those pics to the fortresses of troll masturbatory solitude, Something Awful and 4Chan. Along with droll, snark filled, commentary that tore down individual participants at the con for their gender status, race, and appearance. Then, in an apparent afterthought, she decided to photoshop in hand-drawn happy faces over those people (generally fat people) she deemed objectionable. Most probably in a half-assed nod toward preserving anonymity. I'll grant that this might be more consideration than current, cell phone, photo snipers are wont to display for their victims/targets of scorn. The, oh-so-classy, fucknecks at People of Walmart come immediately to mind, but there is a distinction here. One that might be irrelevant to the level of violation, arrogance and pure spitefulness that ANY act of photo sniping requires, but a distinction that should not be overlooked. That is; at WisCon as at any other convention of like-minded people, there is supposed to be a certain amount of solidarity. People who attend most conventions are there because they have an interest or enjoyment of the subject the convention is centered around. Thus, one would expect to be safe form ridicule by, at least, ones fellow attendees. People who are subjected to overt scrutiny in their daily lives often go to conventions for this very thing and come to view such settings as safe spaces where they can, not only meet like minded people, but get away from all the negative scrutiny. I mean, attendees at a Clown convention, people who sometimes make a living with humor at their own expense, would not expect their fellow conventioneers to walk around taking pictures and making comments like, 'Look at all the, big shoed, losers in here!'. Yet this is pretty much, exactly what Mrs. Moss did.       

One of the major differences between these two incidences? Rachel Moss got less media coverage. The WisCon Incident was virtually unknown and definitely unreported outside the spaces of Fat Acceptance, Transgender, and the of SciFi Convention community and Mrs. Moss's actions, arguably much worse than Mrs. Kelly's words, breed some pretty ugly reactions. She was subject to cyber-stalking, work place harassment, her home address was posted to the web, she was definitely threatened with violence, and she may even have received death threats. In Moss's case, some of that ugliness may have been initiated or encouraged by devotees of the two, so called, twisted humor websites she originally posted her pictures and hate-filled observations to. Both sites, in their perpetual anonymous mob solidarity, ended up turning on her and venting their bile not only on the convention / conventioneers she'd managed to draw their attention to, but on her as well.  But then, what about what Mia Freedman had to say?

Arguably, the question Mrs. Freedman posses in the title of her initial post on family weigh-in's could be seen as an innocent one. In the world outside of F/A, obsession with weight fluctuation, no matter how minute in some cases, is still seen as a good thing. However, when a few people from the growing F/A community in Oz (G'Day Austrailia!) postulated some reasonable alternatives in comments? Well, things went, generally, south from there
The problem here? Apparently Mrs. Freedman who, perhaps coincidentally perhaps not, has freelanced for Marie Clair, also holds a chair on the  National Advisory Group on Body Image to the Australian Ministry for Youth and she clearly, doesn't get it. Now, I don't mean that she doesn't get that the worlds current 'Obesity Epidemic'  (Scare quotes are and always will be appropriate with this moral panic, far as I'm concerned) is a complete crock of shite. The bullhorns and barking dobermans are still a bit too loud on that one to expect anything other than irrational fear. No, apparently what Mrs. Freedman doesn't get is the possibility that all this panic, this myopic focus on weight as a proxy for health, is doing more harm than good to both fat and nonfat kids everywhere. Well, that and the possibility that Mrs. Freedman might not be the best candidate for ANY health advisory panel. She does, after all, have some rather unusual views on what is, or isn't funny, where disability is concerned.      

That all of these incidents share common elements, outrageously offensive acts/statements followed by patronizing fauxpology before they, inevitably, fade into the mists of non-memory, hasn't been lost on me. I've seriously considered the possibility that Maura may have modeled her attention getting OP on one or both of the previous two. It's not entirely impossible that Marie Clair's editors had prior knowledge of them and decided to cash in on the media furor. Especially since Mia Freedmen has / had a working relationship with that publisher. I mean, Mia survived and look at all the publicity she got out of it. My Conspiracy Brain senses a disturbance in the Force. 

With the world, now concerned about the very real effects of bullying and it's probable roots in self-shame, the past act's of those who engage in shaming others as a coping / deflection / survival tactic, should not be glossed or passed over. And they should never be used as a means to garner attention or drum up publicity. In my experience the best way to prevent that sort of thing is to remember when, where, how it all happened before. As a wise, old, magician from one of my favorite movies, Excalibur, quotes; "Fore it is the doom of men, that they forget."  

Muzak Therapy:
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble / Little Wing (instrumental)    

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