GitM 4: Express Lane
Muddy Monday is a feature in which we “get in the mud” with fat haters by accepting their arguments (even the ones we disagree with) and still find holes in their logic.
This weekend we went to my in-laws and I saw a show called “What Would You Do?” with John Quinones. The preview said this episode would be about people who make rude comments about the contents of other peoples’ shopping carts. And what I saw was surprising. But we’ll come back to that.
This is a personal pet peeve of mine, especially when it is used by fat haters to justify their fat hatred. Typically, the argument goes like this: “I know fat people are gluttonous because I look in their carts at the grocery store and they’re always filled with junk.”
It pisses me off for multiple reasons.
First of all, mind your own fucking business. That you would admit to doing this says more about you and your fucked up need to monitor the lifestyles of strangers than about the lifestyle of that stranger or about the lifestyle of an entire segment of the population.
Second, do you look in the carts of thin people too? Do thin people buy junk food? Do you feel this reflects poorly upon their character and personal choices in the same way that you judge fat people?
Third, I don’t know about your grocery store, but mine is organized so that fresh fruits and vegetables are the first place we go and frozen food (including ice cream). So, unless you have X-ray vision, then you are simply viewing the surface of my cart and possibly some of the items wedged along the side.
Finally, unless you are willing to give me a free pass to audit your life and make you a list of all the unhealthy lifestyle choices that you are making, then I don’t need you to critique my life, thank you very much.
Health is not simply another word for what you eat, but some people seem to think that the contents of our carts are the end all, be all of health. If you want to judge the lifestyles of other people, then you’re going to have to get more information than that.
Just because you see a thin person with nothing but melba toast and tofu doesn’t mean they are healthy. That person could jump in his car and drive like a maniac all the way home before making himself a bean sprout souffle. The difference is that he is endangering the lives of other people with his lifestyle choice, while the assumed unhealthy fatty’s dietary choices bears zero impact on your life.
Now, all of these reasons are enough to render cart nazis powerless, but, of course, they don’t see it that way. They are concerned for your health, after all, because if you get sick, then they have to pay for you, right?
So, let’s get in the mud.
Here’s what I’m willing to concede: what you see in a person’s grocery cart is a reflection of his or her health and lifestyle choices; the fact that a single fatty loads up with Mooncakes means that all fatties are gluttonous; and the shopping habits of complete strangers are somehow your business.
So, I have to ask this: have you ever been to the grocery store and seen a college-aged kid load up a cart full of alcohol? What did you think? Did you think he was an alcoholic in need of intervention? Did you assume it was for a party? Did you assume that party was a kegger full of minors or maybe a family event and he was merely the gopher? Did you later have discussions with your friends about the problem of binge drinking among college students and cite that grocery cart as evidence that college students are slobbering alcoholics?
And what if you saw that same cart, but the driver was a mother with a little girl? Would you assume she was a bad mother? Would you assume that she was getting drunk around her child? Would it matter how much alcohol or what kind of alcohol you saw her purchase? Would you feel compelled to publicly intervene on behalf of that child’s safety, health and welfare?
That’s it. That’s what this is about. It’s as simple as that.
You cannot look at a single shopping cart and determine whether someone is an alcoholic. And you cannot look at a single shopping cart and determine whether someone has unhealthy eating habits.
And even if you could, it’s none of your fucking business.
Now, as for the show that inspired this post, I found it rather uplifting. I wish I could embed it (stupid free WordPress), but if you want to see something inspiring.
Both the cart nazi and the fat woman and daughter are actresses. The experiment is to see how real people around the incident will respond. And although non-action is powerfully present, it is the ways in which people intervene on behalf of the woman and child that give me some hope.
Along the same lines, there is another episode of WWYD that looks at fat hatred at a Jersey Shore beach. And although the statistics are sad (most of the 60 people who pass by and hear the insults say nothing), the people who do intervene are powerful reminders that publicly speaking up in defense of the maligned and abused is something we must all do.