Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday with the Duke, meditations on fat...

I dunno why I watch reruns of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in McLintock! (1963)... because I am a glutton for punishment?

The movie amazes me in its "playful" but violent sexism; the way the music goes all cutesy flutes-and-piccolos-and-pipes when he is chasing her around and eventually forcibly carries her up the stairs, Rhett Butler-style. She is still issuing orders to her black servant as he carries her backwards to the second floor, to have his way with her. Now, I ask you: is that cute or what?

I have written here before of how uncomfortable I am with the old movies I am simultaneously addicted to. I have also written of how common it is, in these old films, to find something horrifyingly reactionary right next to something progressive. In McLintock, John Wayne takes up for the beleaguered Comanche Nation, who get thoroughly shit on in no uncertain terms. As a kid, I remember watching this movie; it was my first real education regarding Native American rights (or lack of them) and what had actually occurred in the Old West. Remember, we were all raised on "bad Indian" history lessons, and the whole truth was not presented to the masses until Dee Brown's landmark bestseller, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.(1970) [1] My mother read passages of the book out loud to us, with an incredulous tone in her voice. Most of us had no knowledge of the history of broken treaties and lies; our history books unambiguously portrayed the Indians as bloodthirsty killers that needed to be 1) wiped out or 2) converted. Ironically, the same movies that slandered the Indians, also reminded us that they were human beings, they had their own ways. The movies, then, were subversive.

And so, we get a movie that tells the kids: The Comanches got messed over. And then, the same movie joyously-endorses spanking grown women; it famously winds up with bitchy Maureen getting turned over John Wayne's knee for some good old-fashioned discipline, as the wild-west crowd (who hate these uppity red-headed broads from back East) cheer him on. (Stefanie Powers, the Duke's daughter, is also spanked by her boyfriend, while the cutesy flutes play on in the background and Dad chortles delightedly.) Lots of talk about manhood in this movie, and what it means to be a man. For George Washington McLintock, not surprisingly, manhood is some heavy patriotic assignment from God Almighty. (The Comanche, too, proclaim they will not take charity from whites, which is for the widows and orphans; they are MEN and will die like warriors.) This movie is a whole tutorial in manhood, and the proper place of MEN, even as it extends empathy to the indigenous people... but wait, not all of them. The MEN. The Comanche males are given a voice here, but their concerns are all about their vanquished manhood, not the fate of their tribe and nation. (And does anyone believe that? Sounds like more John Wayne, doesn't it?)

I watch this stuff to look for progress, since it sometimes appears that there is none. But watching this, I assure you, there is!

And another thing, common to old Hollywood westerns: The horses look sick and overworked. At the end credits, I didn't see any such, "No animals were harmed during the making of this picture," and highly doubt they could make that claim.



The Fat Wars in Feminist Blogdonia rage ever onward. The Feministe "Fat and Health" thread nearly blew up feminist Blogdonia. There is currently an "answer post" by Zuzu, titled "Fat and Health, A Response" with another accompanying endless thread. This time, no "fuck yous" and so on (as I wrote back on September 3). It's most decidedly a love-in, as everyone blows kisses to Zuzu for restoring order and assuring everyone that there is no connection between fat and... well, apparently anything.

But as I read the piece, a few things jumped right out at me.

I have been wondering why I don't understand what is being discussed, exactly, and I think the light is dawning. Once again: class and age.

Question: Is this how a lone black woman feels when they enter a room and all the white women are talking about how they fix their hair? Uncomfortable, disconnected?

And here it is: I don't know what lots of these fat women are talking about, and it's time I came right out and said so.

Example, Zuzu says weight and eating are not connected. Of course it is. For me, it certainly is, and for the hundreds (thousands?) of people I have talked to about fat on my job, it most assuredly is. I hear about bad food choices due to no time for preparation (the appearance of the home-microwave and the incidence of increasing obesity are a definite correlation!), no places to exercise, no time to walk anywhere (not even into a building from the lower parking lot), no opportunities for fitness at all. In the thread, folks assure us that changing this state of affairs is good, and yet at the same time, tell us that obesity is okay. But both realities can't be true; the first situation has in fact CAUSED the other.

Zuzu claims Monica's original post seemed to highlight the "moral failings" of fat people. Then I got it, at least some of it: If you admit that food makes people fat, then people are bad for eating too much food. Therefore, food doesn't make people fat, since we have to be nice to everyone, and that is regarded as a rude thing to say. (It's a lot like Chris Prentiss' approach to addiction at his classy Malibu treatment center: His first step is to NOT call you an addict and make you feel bad.)

Being fat is no moral failing. Being an addict or alcoholic is ALSO not a moral failing (yes, I just compared them).[2] Oppressive, harried, breakneck-paced modern capitalist American life works on us all in different ways; I don't know anyone who emerges totally unscathed. Some of us smoke pot to relieve stress, some of us exercise or do yoga to relieve stress, some of us eat to relieve stress, some of us drink vodka to relieve stress, some go to BigPharm to relieve stress, some come to me and ask for herbs to relieve stress.

The common element? The stress. Where is all the STRESS coming from? Hm. Let me guess.

In my case, I can easily eat a lot, and I love food. In my prime, I could have been in one of those bizarre eating contests on TV; I have the capacity to pack it in as fast as any of those guys. I can take in amazing amounts of food. [3] Everyone in my family could also eat amazing amounts, and did. And we were all fat. If anything, we should have been lots bigger.

And you know, I will not shut up about that fact, simply because the Fat Acceptance Police have decided that truth, my truth, is the enemy. It is true. And you know what? I also know that my family ate MORE because they were fucking exhausted all the time, and that is the truth, too. But I read precious little about the relationship between hard work and appetite in that thread. I think most of those women are (like Zuzu) well-educated, elite professionals (which is why I found the chorus of "fuck yous" in the first thread, so surprising).


And the term "fat shaming" keeps annoying me. What is all this "fat shaming" I keep hearing about? What exactly is "fat shaming"? Why is anyone ashamed? Seriously, I'm asking. Why are self-defined feminists complaining about being ashamed of their size? How can you be ashamed without your consent? The task is to NOT BE ASHAMED--not to rearrange reality so fat is actually a good thing, so there is nothing to be "ashamed" of.

In addition, all the fuss about doctors blew my mind. Maybe because I have worked for so many (and listened to them and transcribed their meandering, solipsistic, often silly nonsense), they don't automatically command my respect or impress me much. (M.D. = Medical Deity, but not to me.) All this fear of going to doctors to avoid some arrogant bullshit? (My experience has shown me that many actually specialize in arrogant bullshit, so I am usually impressed when they don't act like that.) But AVOIDING the doctor for this reason? You gotta be kidding me. It's YOUR money; if you are in the USA, you are paying for this shit! They work for you. Why are you putting up with this stuff?

Examples, for your edification:

:: When one doctor said to me, lose weight, I gave him my standard reply: I didn't come here for that, thanks. "Well, that's my opinion," he said, and I said, "Duly noted." He didn't press the issue.

:: Another time: The good doctor kept pressing the issue: lose weight, lose weight, "blah blah blah would be better if you lost weight, blah blah blah," I stopped him, carefully looked him right in the eye and said, "About the weight? I. Have. Heard. You." and made it very clear, any more weight-blather would be VERY UNWELCOME. He stopped.

:: Another time, when asked by a doctor in the first five seconds (the health matter was totally unrelated): "Don't you think you should lose weight?" I asked him, "Don't you think you should want me to pay for this visit?" That always strikes right to the heart of the matter, I've discovered, for just about everyone (in the USA, anyway).

In another words: BE A BIG GIRL, Jesus H. Christ, what the hell happened to feminists? It used to mean you were a PROUD BITCH who didn't TAKE NO SHIT.

When I read "fat shaming" I think of little orphan-waifs weeping and blowing their noses after someone calls them fatty. That was me as an 11-year-old, but I grew out of it. By the time I was 13, whenever these asshole boys would scream "Fat Ass!" at me out the windows of cars, I gave them the finger and told em what I thought of their manners in no uncertain terms, which is even more unprintable than my usual rants. As a young feminist, just discovering the Second Wave, I loved cussing them out and actually regarded it as my FEMINIST DUTY, since I didn't know any other feminists besides my mother. (I decided they needed to hear it!) And my mother had given me permission to use the nastiest words of all, for the boys who yelled at me. My joy over my newly-expanded vocabulary easily eclipsed any upset I may have had over being called "Fat Ass!" (Sometimes, I would even come home disappointed no boys had yelled anything, so eager was I to try out the Forbidden Vocabulary.) Mostly what I noticed was how I would get wolf-whistles AND "Fat Ass!" --sometimes in the very same day. I realized, this was proof of men's inferior, confused sensibilities, they can't even decide if I am supposed to be attractive or not, poor saps. Tsk tsk. My feminism got stronger and stronger.

"Fat Ass!" used to piss me off a lot, but never made me ashamed. [4]

Moral of MY story: Good God, girls, show some gumption!

I am very tired of the whole VICTIM CHIC, and yes, I am aware of how damnably libertarian that sounds. The libertarians in my readership (quite a few) are likely chuckling in delight.


Another thing I thought of was the Bernard conference, wherein the Second Wave officially imploded. And it imploded over orthodoxy/dogma, the particular dogma being SEX:

Perhaps the most famous confrontation in the lesbian sex wars occurred in 1982 at a conference at Barnard College in New York City. Organized under the title "The Feminist and the Scholar IX," the conference brought together a diverse group of feminist thinkers and activists to consider the complex relationship between pleasure and danger.

Local radical feminists deemed some of the topics offensive and attempted to shut the conference down, claiming it promoted anti-feminist values. Protesters handed out leaflets describing individual speakers as sexual "deviants." Clearly, sexuality had become a deeply divisive issue, even as the focus on such issues as s/m, pornography, and censorship obscured other feminist and lesbian issues related to sexuality.
I remember when Samois, the lesbian SM group, was kicked out of the San Francisco Women's Building, simply for existing.

According to Second Wave dogma, rape fantasies were an invention of male porn, women didn't really have them. No woman actually enjoyed BDSM, more male fantasies, more lies about women. "Porn tells lies about women!" was a picket-sign often held by WAP in various late-70s/early-80s demonstrations against movies (including one of my favorites, the extremely politically-incorrect DRESSED TO KILL). If it was in porn? Then you can count on it NOT being true. No women enjoy stripping, sex work, fetishes, blow jobs, anal sex, or any of that stuff. [5] Butch/femme lesbians are reactionary, and they need to wise up. Etc. The Barnard conference laid all of this bare, as some women stepped up and said, "Well, I, ummmm, kinda like some of that stuff and think we could even have some feminist versions," and the Second Wave just freaking blew up. KABOOM.

My friend asked me, "Are garter belts going to destroy feminism?" and I laughed my ass off. I never dreamed it would be true.

And now, we come to Third Wave dogma: Fat Acceptance, or Else.

It is amusing that the Third Wave even HAS dogma... mostly they have defined themselves in direct opposition to the Vicious Nun Vibe of the Second Wave: Hey, come on in! We love everybody!

Wow, I guess it turns out that they DO have some dogma, lurking in the rafters, huh? (LOL-gotcha!) And now, they are imploding from the nuclear reaction of people questioning THEIR dogma. Deja Vu all over again. (And as I wrote previously, the disintegration of the coalition, right on schedule.)

It is fascinating to me that BOTH of these dogmas are about a denial of women's appetites:

Second Wave: WOMEN DON'T LIKE BDSM, WE ARE LADIES! We aren't bad girls with bad fantasies and sexual desires! Sex is dirty!

Third Wave: FAT WOMEN DON'T GET FAT FROM EATING, WE ARE LADIES! We aren't bad girls who eat more than our share and have cravings! Food is gross!

Note the similarity.

As I said during the first Feminist Inquisition: I like the Sex Pistols, I like DRESSED TO KILL, I secretly-think all manner of politically-incorrect sexual thoughts. I am not nice. I like sex.

And now I will reprise: I like ice cream, I like cake, I secretly-wish I could eat enormous amounts of cheese with no gastronomic or caloric consequences. I am not nice. I like food.

And the house comes down!

It makes you wonder: How strong was the house to begin with?


[1] I can't imagine a history book of this kind making the bestseller lists now.

[2] And as regular readers of my blog know, I don't consider addiction a moral issue AT BASE, but a health/psychological issue.

[3] It takes an average of 8 minutes for your brain to get the "satiety" message, that you are "full". One of the secrets of eating contests, is to pack as much food in before you get that message, when you simply can't eat anymore. One interesting theory is that some folks get that satiety message "late"; most of the people in the eating contests can go up to 12-15 minutes before they feel the "stop" impulse. Maybe this is key to obesity, too: if you only get X amount of minutes to eat at work or school and you pile it all in at once, you are probably eating far more than you really need, but your brain doesn't get the chance to tell you. One of the major things I have learned is to STOP PERIODICALLY and WAIT for the damn message. For me, takes about 15 minutes, almost twice the length of a 'normal' (haha) person. I am convinced this is a huge part of how increased weight happens in our time-is-money culture.

Also, stress while eating creates indigestion problems, and is a large contributor to acid reflux. Acid reflux medications slow digestion WAY DOWN (causing weight gain, water retention and constipation) and make the problem worse. DIGESTIVE ENZYMES ARE SUPERIOR TO NEXIUM, ET AL., please try some instead of the deadly BigPharm concoctions, I guarantee you won't be sorry (speaking from experience now).

[4] I also loved the look of surprise on their faces: Sweet, blond, innocent 13-year-old Hayley Mills look-alike (only bigger), suddenly erupts into obscene invective... they just looked slack-jawed and stunned.

I loved it and felt very powerful.

[5] I can actually recall in one feminist newspaper (probably OFF OUR BACKS, but I won't swear to it), they brought in a battered-women's advocate/activist, to "refute" an SM practitioner. (?!?!?) Do you believe?!?

[6] One commenter very big on Fat Acceptance was BStu. I checked out this person's blog and the first thing I see is a Notes from the Fat-o-sphere Feed informing me that Judy Freespirit has died. I met her in San Francisco decades ago, one of those very charismatic feminists you simply never forget, and I am saddened.

RIP, dear Judy.


Jon said...

Wow, I just left a long and, I thought, pretty good comment. It seems to have disappeared, although blogger mailed me a copy of it. Technology is hell.
A fine post from you. Thanks.

DaisyDeadhead said...

You can repeat it here, break it into two parts. I'd love to read it!

Blogger isn't allowing "long" (not sure of their definition of "long") comments anymore, and has decided (I guess) to forcibly apply the rule by disappearing the longest posts, maybe "as a lesson"? You aren't the first person who has lost a long reply! (I lost one on the Sept 3 thread.)

For future commenters, if its long: please break it up into two parts first, and I think it will accept those.

Jon said...

OK Daisy, Here's part 1- Another fine post. On a different note, I spent most of my life driving for a living. Obesity and obesity related health problems are endemic in the transportation industry. I've been fighting my bosses, our union (at times) and doctors trying to get across the point that obesity along with diabetes and sleep apnea are WORK RELATED INJURIES. The latest campaign by the DOT and occupational medical industry is to pull commercial licenses from drivers "suspected" of having sleep apnea. I had a doctor tell me that he knew I had sleep apnea because he could see that I was overtired and that was all the evidence he needed. I pointed out to him that I was overtired because I was working 14 hours a day and had barely gotten four hours sleep the night before. If he was really concerned about health and safety he would be challenging federal laws concerning legal hours of service. He shrugged his shoulders and told me that wasn't his problem. Fat is being used as an excuse to grind fifteen or twenty years out of people and then throw them out without any way or earning a living because it's "their own fault" that they spent fifteen or twenty years sleep deprived, over stressed, alienated, without time or the means to exercise and without access to decent food.
The argument is that not everyone who works in the industry is overweight so it must be a matter of personal responsibility. Not every underground miner has black lung either and that was used by the mining industry for years.

Jon said...

And here's part 2-Meanwhile the DOT has announced that soon they will no longer allow drivers with blood pressure above 125 over 60. Most estimates are that 60 to 70 percent of all bus and truck drivers will be forced out of work by that change.
Meanwhile, the industry remains deregulated. Hours of service laws continue to encourage 70 or 80 hour workweeks. Eight hours in a cramped sleeper in a parking lot is still considered adequate off duty time. Trucks and buses get bigger and heavier with fewer and fewer restrictions and drivers get fatter and fatter and sicker and sicker, but, you know, it's a matter of personal responsibility.
Not trying to change the topic. Just offering my own, male and work based experience with the politics of fat. Not entirely male either as, for women of color, bus driving has been a fast dirty and dangerous path into the middle class.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jon, great post! I talk to truck drivers every day with lots of health problems; it's as rigorous as law enforcement. People were simply not designed to sit in vehicles for, you know, YEARS. :P The loading and unloading are equally rough (for a short period every day, I unpack products on a loading dock myself). What I know, too, is that extra weight helps you withstand hard work, my mother even instructed me that it did. (Nobody looks for skinny farmhands.) What I think also happens is that weight becomes a buffer and actually begins to function as a sort of immune system for an overworked person. The problem is then not a systemic thing but the simple impact of the added poundage on that person's joints and feet, as I described (about myself) in my comments on the Sept 3 post.

Interesting, lots of security guards have also said sleep apnea is work related.

Jon: Fat is being used as an excuse to grind fifteen or twenty years out of people and then throw them out without any way or earning a living because it's "their own fault" that they spent fifteen or twenty years sleep deprived, over stressed, alienated, without time or the means to exercise and without access to decent food.

That is bloody fucking immoral.

Management also wants new kids on the job that they can get for pennies in this economy. Fat is just the excuse.

Thanks for posting the whole comment! :)

JoJo said...

I'd like to comment on the Wounded Knee bit. I was absolutely stunned and sickened when I read that book. Ashamed of how we were taught that Custer was a hero. Custer had it coming. The more books I read, the angrier I got. We started volunteering with AIM in 1992. While the rest of the country was celebrating 500 years since Columbus, we were working on 500 years of resistance, which culminated with our successfully stopping the reenactment of Columbus' landing, near Fisherman's Wharf. They turned around and sailed away. This little old Italian man turned to me and said, 'you should be ashamed of yourself!' and I snapped, 'no, YOU should be ashamed of YOURself.' Have you read "Lies My Teacher Told Me?"

Anonymous said...

/me wanders in from the clusterfuck that is the Post-Bourgie thread. Checks the pics and the songs, reading some posts and links...

yeppers, Kudzu is a force to be reckoned with in the ATL, only predator being Homo Sapiens var. Developicus.

Sending a wave of hey and goodbye and good wishes...

JoJo, I can strongly recommend Nugent's Habit of Empire for a broad overview of this sort of thing.


thene said...

Yes, yes, YES to this post!

(I noticed that it started and ended with sexual spanking; from compulsory, this-is-what-all-women-want/need, to forbidden by dogma, no-women-could-possibly-want-that. Never any way to negotiate with the received wisdom.)

The task of not being ashamed - that makes me think queer. I don't have to be ashamed of fancying women, and if anyone tries to make me be ashamed of it, fuck them - but other than through the powers of reason I've no way to stop them from thinking I should be ashamed.

Fat is not a moral issue, but it's a political and economic issue and I feel like that devil word acceptance is getting between us and it. Do we 'accept' overwork and stress, urban sprawl, the sacredness of corn subsidies, low pay, or the shitty medical system that means you have to pay through the nose to even get to the doctor to hear the unwanted advice in the first place? I don't. I don't accept America - I just live here.

thene said...

Maybe Monica hit a nerve by saying that BMI isn't an individual issue. As individuals we need to accept ourselves and each other, and are wont to be polite - but collectively? I don't think America even wants to take a good look at itself, collectively. Not at its healthcare system, not at its poverty wages, not at its foreign policies, not at its waistlines. Just keep being polite to everyone you meet and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and everything will be fine!

It's odd how American individualism seems to choke real autonomy. I notice this when feminists claim they HAVE to wear make-up but wish that they didn' makes no sense at all, unless you're so desperate to yank on those bootstraps that you'll sacrifice your own comfort, values and money for it. Rearranging reality so fat isn't bad for your knees seems similar - you HAVE to be able to get ahead, and you 'accept' stress and exhaustion, get weight gain, fail to get ahead because of size discrimination, then tell everyone they should just accept the weight gain.

thene said...

sorry, I'm ill and finding it hard to think in a straight line and do proper grammar and stuff, but however obvious this is I wanted to clarify that while fat (much like defence budgets and infant mortality) isn't uniquely American, America needs to talk about why it has way more of it than the rest of the first world. But if we all 'accept' it and just shrug and say it's fine then we don't need to compare America to other places and ask how we match up in terms of quality of life.

And no one else is going to talk about this. The non-fat-accepting mainstream want to sell us diets and girdles and liposuction, all that lovely individualist stuff that will make your life better than your fat neighbour's! If the left wants to embrace fat acceptance as dogma, then we have no space in which to talk about collective BMI, quality of life, or those darn corn subsidies. Shut the conversation down, and it will not happen elsewhere.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Thene, you are brilliant...not only your comments, but you caught how I started and ended the post. ;) (And I was going for the whole Big American John Wayne thing.) I loooove when ppl are on my basic wavelength!!!! :D

Your most brilliantist:

Fat is not a moral issue, but it's a political and economic issue and I feel like that devil word acceptance is getting between us and it.

I don't accept anything I feel has been FORCED ON me, AGAINST MY WILL and that is another point, isn't it?

Rearranging reality so fat isn't bad for your knees seems similar - you HAVE to be able to get ahead, and you 'accept' stress and exhaustion, get weight gain, fail to get ahead because of size discrimination, then tell everyone they should just accept the weight gain.

One gets this "Listen carefully Norman, I am LYING to you..." dazed Star Trek android-reaction when you flip this logic on its head, and reply that to keep your job, you MUST lose weight (me) or you won't be able to stand any more. It's a contradiction , and that is why I think it makes them kinda self-destruct, like Harry Mudd did to Norman and the androids...

I do that deliberately, too. Your job makes you fat, your job makes you thin... (see who and what is REALLY calling the shots here?)

America needs to talk about why it has way more of it than the rest of the first world

This is the dirty secret, and why we can't just say it HAPPENS. It happens the way the rest of our shit has just HAPPENED, and we don't want to take responsibility for it, the way we don't want to take responsibility for so much else. Exactly.

Thanks for understanding my posts about this subject Thene, I appreciate your comments so much.

chaos (aka ferret) said...


Wonderful observation!

"It is fascinating to me that BOTH of these dogmas are about a denial of women's appetites."

I am totally with you on this also!!

"I secretly-think all manner of politically-incorrect sexual thoughts. I am not nice. I like sex."

Finally, Lets bring this bad ass-ery back, PLEASE


love a bad ass mamma ferret aka chaos

wriggles said...

"Zuzu says weight and eating are not connected."

My weight is more within my control — when I eat better and exercise regularly, I tend to drop weight, and when I don’t, I either stay where I am or gain.

I feel best is when I’m eating right and exercising

Both quotes by zuzu.

You can read them in the post you linked to.

I'm also surprised that people like you who make these sort of points do not focus your anger at all on slimming and obesity industries that have singularly failed to deliver viable weight adjustment for people like you who want it.

I'm just mystified at why you're laying this at the door of fat acceptance.

Maybe because you know they are so useless that you expect us to do better?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Wriggles: I'm also surprised that people like you who make these sort of points do not focus your anger at all on slimming and obesity industries that have singularly failed to deliver viable weight adjustment for people like you who want it.

You talkin to me? Well, I'm the only one here.

I trash BigPharm endlessly. Are you kidding? You talking about MY blog? How many of my posts under the label "fat" have you read? You've read my post about my mother's amphetamine addiction, of course? And you have read all about MY amphetamine addiction?

Don't come here ONE TIME, totally unfamiliar with my writing, and then claim I don't address XYZ, okay?

I'm just mystified at why you're laying this at the door of fat acceptance.

Did you read the post? Did you read Thene's post? We do not want to accept that which has been forced on us by shitty capitalism. Why do you?

In addition (did you read the post?), I think dogma sucks, and that is obviously what we are dealing with, not an actual debate about health and fat.

What do you think of my observation about 2nd and 3rd wave dogmas?

Jim said...

"How can you be ashamed without your consent? "
This goes to a recurring thing with these people, no sense of an intermal locus of control.

It's like they all glory in being fragile and easily hurt. Comment after commnet about insesnitive, hurtful things doctors said, even just questions. Oh, the brutality!

Such dainty damsels. I'd like tosee just one post over there about "toxic femininity" and just what it entails - all the lack of control, all the lack of boundaries, all the need for protection, all the recriminations....

DaisyDeadhead said...

But Jim, that's exactly it.

This whole psychological tic has already been addressed: Shulamith Firestone, Simone de Beauvoir, Karen Horney... ALL addressed what you call "toxic femininity"--Horney named it FEMALE NARCISSISM, which she blamed on our lack of boundaries w/family, husbands, parents, siblings, children, houses, clothes, who our friends are ... Women have been conditioned to see all of these things as somehow reflective of who WE are as people. THIS is one reason why shopping for clothes often takes on apocalyptic significance in the female psyche... its about a deadly-important presentation of the self, not simply finding something to wear to work. And being fat is seen as some awful, fundamental denial of this basic human right to SHOP...note all the diet-commercials, at the end, the woman who loses weight rewards herself with SHOPPING! HALLELUYAH, the PROMISED LAND!

And why can't she shop for clothes as a fat woman? Well, of course she can, but it is understood that this self-presentation has been somehow thwarted because ALL of the clothes she wants have been "denied" to her. And she deserves to wear them ALL--no boundaries, remember, see above. Karen Horney, call your office.

MALE narcissism, OTOH, is about salaries/money, achievements/promotions, cars, sports teams, "trophy" wives and girlfriends, nationalism, etc. It is interesting that most people could easily define male narcissism, in our (supposedly) post-feminist era, yet can only define famale narcissism as being about our appearance. Horney believed that was the LEAST of it, but our projection of egos onto our kids, shopping and acquiring more STUFF, etc was what created familial neurosis... i.e. on MAD MEN a couple of weeks ago, when Sally is caught masturbating at the slumber party, Betty Draper says "What will everyone say? I'm so embarrassed!"--something like that. No mention of what actually has occurred, it is all about Sally being a reflection of Betty's self. (Great example!)

Likewise, all the carrying on about the doctors (from professional women?! With GOOD MEDICAL INSURANCE and CREDIT RATINGS?!) -- its all about their feelings, not whether the doctor is right or wrong. The doctor visit, again, becomes an extension of self and as such, a big cataclysmic event.

As I wrote, if the doctor is being obnoxious, then tell them they are, it's something THEY SHOULD LEARN. (In my examples, I felt the doctors were out of line; I honestly do not mind if a doctor is polite and brings up weight in the course of a detailed exam or health-related conversation. That IS their job, but not to berate me like a kid.) But to simply collapse in an emotional heap over something a doctor says? Or avoid crucial health care because this MIGHT OCCUR? Say what? (Again, are these feminists we are talking about?)

FEMINIST (thanks Chaos!) used to mean something, and it was fierce... it WASN'T that you might cry over something a doctor says.

Jesus H Christ.

southcarolinaboy said...

"And my mother had given me permission to use the nastiest words of all, for the boys who yelled at me."


Jim said...

Oh well, Daisy, now you're moving the goalposts - you're talking about grown-ups and evolved people and what they have written. That's quite different. Thank God.

You know, there are comparatively young people coming to this understanding. Check out April at ethecofem sometime. She could use some company from a mature feminist. She feels like she is trying to hold back the sea sometimes.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Loved most of this post, I think by now my comments have suggested I have a strong agreement with much of your position!

Just one thing I think doesn't quite sit well with me, which is the passage about the term "fat shaming". You've got a wonderful anecdote about how it was your feminist duty to cuss out the boys calling you "fat ass". But my understanding of the term is that it describes the way "fat" is used as an insult, as a parallel to the way that "gay" is used as an insult.

Yes, indeed, we should expect feminists to be able not to feel shamed by such language use, but the point of talking about, and criticising, "fat shaming", I always understood as being a way of giving other women and girls the tools that you were fortunate enough to have.

So the point of talking about "fat shaming", and criticising it where it occurs, is supposed to be "being a big girl" on behalf of those who haven't yet learned to do so, and to set an example for those others to follow.

However, in trying to counteract "fat shaming", I think the fat acceptance people go too far the other way and end up confusing "nothing morally wrong" and "no physical consequences". Thus, things are described as "fat shaming" that have nothing to do with shame, or morality, or anything. And that includes the fact that fat comes from eating food, for a lot of people. Which brings me back to the vast majority of your post, with which I agree.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Snowdrop Explodes: I think the fat acceptance people go too far the other way and end up confusing "nothing morally wrong" and "no physical consequences".

And you know, I really don't think there's anything morally wrong with smoking (anything) either, but its hell on the body! (The difference, I think, is that most smokers freely admit that!)

Thanks for your post, SDE!

Joan Kelly said...

Hey Daisy,

I wanted to give this a couple of days because I wasn't sure of anything except that I didn't want it to come out patronizing, which is sometimes how I probably do sound.

The thing I felt a different response to that you wrote, though, in this post, is about the idea that women are being sort of backbone-less and not-strong-feminists if/when they feel harmed by the treatment of doctors and so avoid them as a result.

I don't think this means that YOU should take on what anyone else feels, but to me it extends beyond fatness as well. I'm glad that you told your doctors off. But I can tell you, as a person with a sometimes hair trigger fuck-you button, the take-no-shit-ness that I possess in most circumstances does not translate always, everywhere. And one place it sometimes hasn't, has been with doctors.

For me, I think it's because the abusive/violating things that I've experienced at the hands of physicians first occurred when I was still a very young person. And I did experience doctors as authority figures. Plus, if I'm there, it often means I want or need their help. So I don't want to piss them off and have them not-help me, because I have also had THAT experience.

I am no fan of most of what goes on at Feministe, or of the way people attacked you at your blog for just wanting to talk about your own struggle with health and weight a while ago. That was straight up bullshit. And I would not attempt to speak for or even necessarily to the experiences of fat women dealing with it in their own ways. I just wondered if there's room for it to be true that no one has the right to tell you what your truth is about fat and health, or to proclaim it for anyone but themselves actually, while it still being true that fear of doctors and humiliation/abuse by doctors are not necessarily a result of spinelessness on fat women's, or any women's, parts?

Thanks for hearing me out regardless. And I do know what it's like to have had it to fucking HERE with goose-steppers on any front.

DaisyDeadhead said...


Believe it or not, this can be equally true for me about certain OTHER authority figures, so yes, I do know what you mean. I have never cussed out a priest, probably never will. Nun either. It just isn't happening. I DID get nasty with a couple of priests via email, but NO cussing. LOL. (And they deserve it as much as the doctor!) But I have cussed out virtually every other authority figure I can think of, starting with my own father. (As I said, I think working for so many doctors, actually transcribing their words for thousands of hours and hearing how totally clueless some/lots of them really are, took the mysterioso out of the Medical Deity for me.)

I do think that confronting doctors is central as a feminist, and there is only one time I let something go that I should not have (very young, feet in the stirrups)... if it happened again, would likely have the doctor for dinner, but then again, it wouldn't happen to an older woman, would it? And I have gone over that incident in my mind many, many times. (I honestly don't think it would happen now, it was so bad, and I think most ob/gyns have gotten the memo by now.) I think feminists have to confront power, and just like your boss (you could lose your job), it can be pretty scary. The thing that took me aback at Feministe was the veritable CHORUS of actually IGNORING doctors in FEAR; s/he has not had a chance to say anything to you YET if you are chronically AVOIDING them. Also, the new term-of-choice "fat shaming" (I actually prefer the tried and true FATOPHOBIA to that)--as I said, gets on my nerves. We need a working definition of what "fat shaming" is--simply saying "Whooa! Doncha need to lose weight?"--is that it? Worse than that? How much does the doctor need to say before it qualifies as a "fat shaming" episode? Do my examples qualify, or does it have to be more extreme than that? Zuzu's example of a doctor immediately ordering bloodwork--well, they ALL find some reason to order bloodwork on you if you are over 30, lab fees and such, that's where the money is. (The probability that they can peddle Lipitor or some other cholesterol meds, IS there, if you are overweight. NOTE: my bloodwork qualifies me for Lipitor, etc, but I CATEGORICALLY REFUSE to take it. Now, try that one on for size!) Doesn't Zuzu know this is a racket? Why doesn't she? She is a highly-educated professional woman of some importance, right? And she doesn't know how the medical professional operates? The same way every other damn thing does, ON PROFIT. FIRST AND FOREMOST. They see a fat person, OR a disabled person, they see money walking in the door, and scaring you is a way to shake you down.

2b continued

DaisyDeadhead said...

Reply to Joan Continued:

I could easily engage in this shakedown on my job, if I wanted to, and that's how I know. People are TERRIFIED when it comes to their health. This is why feminists came up with self-help collectives and guides like OUR BODIES OUR SELVES. And I can still remember NEWSWEEK chortling over the re-issue of OBOS some years ago, their review made fun of Second-Wavers trying to get women in touch w/their bodies and educate women about health and medicine. HAHA, those dumb old 70s feminists, how charming OUR BODIES OUR SELVES is, from another time period!

Now, how many of those women who chuckled over that review, are the same women afraid of the fucking doctor and afraid of "fat shaming"? Do they understand "doctor confrontation" is COVERED in OUR BODIES OUR SELVES? The Zuzus and Newsweek gals are too busy chuckling at us Second Wavers and being superior to learn anything about how to deal with their problems, which we ALREADY COVERED. (I admit, I disliked Zuzu's constant trashing of baby-boomers, when she was a regular FEMINISTE blogger... which I considered ageist. And you know, maybe if she would put away her ageism for two seconds and pick up a baby-boomer guide like OUR BODIES OUR SELVES, she could tell that doctor where to get off, huh?)

And thanks for hearing ME out too, Joan! Love ya.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Shah8- do you have a blog or tumblr or LJ or something? Send me the link, if you do.

I have not yet figured out why these other things (tumblr, LJ) exist and what the protocol is for which things you are supposed to post where. (I'm old, it's even my birthday!)

STILL ANOTHER new post up about fat acceptance and how great it is, at Feministe (they will probably be posting them FROM NOW ON, see reference to Third Wave Dogma, in post). It memorably ends with: Sometimes fat acceptance is just choosing to cut the snark and show some respect to the human body in its diverse awesomeness. A little kindness – just kindness – is one of the most powerful forms of feminist activism available to us. We should use it.

Yeah? One might ask why this doesn't apply to OLD women, but that's a silly question, now isn't it? I'll simply note that older women are very rarely linked or ask to guest blog, and as a result, we are very rarely represented in comments ... (and for simply asking about our absence, you can be banned, as I was from both Feministe and FWD).

They seem to be zealously winnowing out the old readers, with their constant emphasis on youthful concerns and pursuits, and they don't seem too worried about that.

So admittedly, when Zuzu, who openly and proudly jabs at baby boomers whenever possible, starts lecturing about ANY KIND OF "acceptance"? Well, that kinda sticks in my craw.

Obviously, some people are more equal than others.

DaisyDeadhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Kelly said...

Thanks for responding, Daisy.

I feel like I can see the FA stuff from others' sides as well as yours, and I also feel like I'm unsure how appropriate it is for me to speak specifically to the FA points you make, since I am not in the group of people that these conversations most affect (i.e. you and others).

I have to say that I already didn't like zuzu and plenty of others who blog or hang out at Feministe, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the passive aggressive condescension that seems to be the auto-setting towards anyone they disagree with. Point being though that when it comes to zuzu's assholery, I can't always tell where already-disliking-her starts and disliking-her-actions-on-some-particular-topic-all-on-its-own ends. Or something. Same goes for others over there.

In a more generalized way though, I feel like I do understand what you mean about confronting power/feminism, but I feel uncomfortable with the idea that there's no space for women to talk about the hopelessness that comes from being harmed sometimes. I don't know if that's what you're saying, I just find it all confusing. I know too many women who avoid doctors *because* they have had experiences like what you refer to and like what I've had, not because they're afraid of what may happen but hasn't happened yet. That's what I thought most people were saying, on the FA threads any/everywhere, is that they've already been treated horribly and have learned that it's what they can expect, period.

Anyway, happy birthday to you and thanks for discussing this.

April said...

It's quite odd, indeed, that many in the FA movement continue to assert that eating and fat are not related. 'Cause, see, when I eat a lot, especially when I eat a lot of garbage junk food, I gain weight. When I stop, I lose weight. Surely eating less is also always unconnected to being thin, then?

The denialism is astounding.

April said...

...that's not to say, of course, that eating and fat are ALWAYS related. I just find absurd the assertion that it apparently NEVER is.