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One Step Forward For Mankind

June 9, 2011

An article in the New York Times by Henry Alford’s entitled “Does This Swimsuit Make Me Look Fat?” caught my attention for a number of reasons. The first, of course, was the resignation and disappointment that I always experience when I see a fat hating title prominently displayed. And my disgust is increased exponentially when the title is a socially-condoned cliché that so many people buy into that it is considered truth/fact and indisputable.  The assumption that everyone agrees that it is a societal affront to be fat in public in a bathing suit is so ingrained in our culture that few people outside of the size acceptance movement even question it.

The article also drew my attention because the photo accompanying the article was of a man looking in the mirror and not a woman. As I looked at the picture and read the article, I was thinking of Ragen Chastain’s wonderful blog about bathing suits and remi-wincing* about the torturous ritual of suit shopping in my past.  For years I would think of Janice Joplin singing, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” and imagine that she was singing about weight. I would change the words to the song and, on several occasions, it was, “Freedom’s just another word for not having to wear a bathing suit in public.”

One year I just bought my bathing suit online to avoid the agony of the try-on ritual… the result was disastrous.

So, when I finished reading the article, I did what I do countless times: I wrote a letter, not exceeding 150 words, to the editor. I write bunches of letters to bunches of editors. I don’t know what happens to my letters. One got printed in the Oakland Tribune once, but it was about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I have never had one of my fat activist letters printed** but here is the letter I sent.  At least this time I will know that someone has actually read it!

Dear Editor:

Re:  Henry Alford’s article, “Does This Swimsuit Make Me Look Fat?”

I read this article half relieved and half filled with despair.  Relieved that for once an article about being fat in a swimsuit was NOT about a woman and NOT accompanied by a picture of a model thin woman bemoaning her fatness or a headless fat woman.  On the other hand it saddened me that the title of the article reinforced the idea that being fat is repulsive and to be avoided at all costs.

I supposed it is a perverse and paradoxical step forward for feminists that men are scrutinizing themselves in the mirror now, feeling fat, and dreading the summer and the bathing suit try-on ritual that women have suffered with for decades; equal rights etc.

Welcome to our world?

Dr. Deah Schwartz
Author: Tasty Morsels: The Blog

*remi-wincing:  reminiscing about something that makes you wince.

**Hmm, maybe it’s my acerbic tongue in cheek tone that keeps me out of the papers?  I’m just saying!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    June 9, 2011 9:56 pm

    I wondered how long it was going to take before the media started in on men the way they’ve been after women for so many years. I guess that when you’ve saturated a market demographic, it only makes sense to look for another one to sell your snake oil to and men are a whole new demographic to be mined. Just think, if the diet industry is making almost $60 billion a year off of mainly women, how much more could they make if they can expand their marketing to men? And that goes for WLS of all kinds, as well as all the other ways that people are made to feel dissatisfied with their bodies/looks. Women have been spending billions of dollars every year trying to meet unattainable ideals, why not expand those unattainable ideals to men, thereby expanding your profits outrageously? Follow the money, because that’s what it’s all about.

  2. June 9, 2011 10:19 pm

    I know Vesta! And speaking of saturating one demographic and moving on to the next…My AARP newspaper came today and in it was an AARTICLE extolling the virtues of bariatric surgery for people over fifty. They actually said that the Biggest Losers are the Biggest Winners and that the surgery has been known to cure diabetes! So first the lapband gets approved for teens and now they are pushing it for seniors…talk about saturating the market and widening the demographic!!! AAWFUL!!!!

  3. June 9, 2011 10:24 pm

    P.S. @ Vesta: LOL, I pushed the like button for your comment Vesta and it came out as me liking my own post!!! I may be confident but I’m definitely not one to LIKE my own POST! 😀 Sorry bout that!

  4. vesta44 permalink
    June 9, 2011 10:58 pm

    I saw that article on the AARP website and left a comment about WLS and how “effective” it is. Somehow, I don’t think many people are going to like it. From What I read of the comments, they’re either WLS cheerleaders who haven’t had complications or regained their weight (yet), or they’re convinced that the Nightmare on ELMM Street works. I don’t know whether to pity them or consider them brainwashed tools of the diet industry. I expected more of AARP, since they’re supposed to be advocates for seniors, but I don’t see anything advocating for seniors when they recommend WLS for seniors, especially when even surgeons aren’t sure of the efficacy of it for that population. Smacks of irresponsibility to me and jumping on the “OMGOBESITYEPIPANIC” bandwagon just not to be left out of the media circus that it’s become.

  5. June 10, 2011 3:06 pm

    During our unit on media a few years back, one of my students made a comment about the fact that it’s becoming more common to see men in objectifying images or have them be the subject of body-related criticism as though this was justification for ignoring the problem. We had to have a talk about how not all change is progress.

  6. June 11, 2011 1:27 pm

    Lucy good point Lucy! Vesta, re: the AARP aarticle, I posted a comment on face book about it and received this reply:
    ” I am truly surprised at your comments. You are usually more well-informed. Bariatric surgery for insulin-dependent diabetics can drastically improve their lifestyles, particularly for those whose additional and/or underlying medical issues may make it impossible for them to engage in an exercise regime in an attempt to lose the deadly “insulin weight” which accumulates around the middle. It has nothing to do with body image. Contrary to your label of “the bomb” which makes it sound trite, it can truly extend the life of someone with diabetes.”

    I’m not a medical doc. so I certainly can’t respond on that level re: the diabetes, but when I read an article that says “Cures” diabetes, that is, as another reader pointed out, accompanied by a Sharon Osbourne photo touting her success with the weight loss surgery, it just had such a sensationalistic feel to it.

  7. vesta44 permalink
    June 11, 2011 5:01 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – anyone who thinks bariatric surgery is a “cure” for type 2 diabetes is living in a fantasy world. If those type 2s who have WLS keep on testing their blood sugar after meals like they did before they had WLS, they would see that, along with lows before meals, they are having high spikes after meals. Those lows and highs give them an average HbA1c, which makes doctors think they are “cured”. However, if doctors would bother to do a glucose tolerance test on their type 2 diabetes patients after WLS, they would see that they haven’t “cured” jack shit and the highs that their patients are having are still doing damage to their nerves and vision. Where is the “first, do no harm” in that? Gone right out the fucking window when the profit of WLS walked in the door.
    HbA1c is an average of one’s blood sugar over 3 months, so you can have a shit load of high readings and a shit load of low readings and they will average out to a normal reading, but those high blood glucose readings are doing real damage every time you have one, and the more of them you have, the more damage you’re doing. How do I know this? I’ve had to educate myself because my husband has type 2 diabetes and I have to know how to count carbs when I buy groceries and plan meals for him. I also figure out how much insulin he needs, depending on his blood glucose readings before meals and how many carbs he’s having at that particular meal. And I can tell you right now that if his doctor said he needed to have to WLS to lose weight and “cure” his type 2 diabetes, he’d be looking for another doctor right away and she’d be pulling my foot out of her ass.

  8. Bree permalink
    June 12, 2011 7:30 pm

    AARP did a real disservice by jumping on the “WLS is GREAT!” bandwagon.

    My grandfather has Type 2 diabetes. It is genetic. He is 6’3 and currently 255 lbs. He has never been told to lose weight as a “cure.”

    Recently he had issues with his blood sugar spiking. Now, he is not on a special diet to control his blood sugar, he controls his with Metformin. Turned out the Prednisone he was taking for his rheumatoid arthritis was the culprit. We learned this when he went to see a rheumatologist who knew her stuff. She prescribed him Plaquenil, an anti-inflammatory that does not spike glucose levels. He’s been on the medicine for about two weeks and his sugar has never gone above 150. He tests three times a day and his second reading this afternoon was 90, which is the lowest it has been in years. He’s so used to his levels being 150-210 that when he sees a reading like that, he thinks it’s too low. The new medicine combined with the Metformin has done a tremendous job of regulating his sugar.

    There is absolutely no reason that WLS should be prescribed to anyone who is already at an advanced age.

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