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Rapid Fire —

October 3, 2012

When I was in grade school, I faced quite a bit of torment from my classmates, but there was one bully in particular who really seemed to have my number: Mike Dougherty.

Although he took swipes at my weight, my glasses and my overbite, his favorite insult was to call me Brussels Sprouts because my last name is Russell, you see.

Nobody ever said bullies were all that clever.

In any case, Mike began challenging me to fight after school, and day after day he would call me a chicken and tell me how he was going to kick my butt. Finally, I got tired of listening to his bullshit and told him I would be at the top of the stairs near the playground after school.

When the bell rang, I trudged out the door and up the steps where I wait… and waited… and waited. Mike Dougherty never showed up.

And from that day forward, he never wanted to fight me any more. Of course, he still called me Brussels Sprouts because that’s what big, dumb bullies do.

The same can be said for the bullies who trade in fat hatred. The underlying principles are still the same, even though the bullying has become so thoroughly pervasive in our culture.

Sometimes I wish I could just blog all day because it seems like there’s more and more stories involving fat people. Stories that make me want to punch a wall, including weight-based criticism of  Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera (or not) and even Gerard Depardieu.

Gerard Fucking Depardieu still has to put up with petty shit like this:

Yeah, this whole “transformation” thing? Fuck that. It’s the same guy. He didn’t transmogrify. He gained weight. Same body, bigger fat cells, that’s all.

It’s like that obnoxious “new body” motif common to Us and OK!:

They must have Britney bodies stacked like cordwood in Hangar 51.

Then there was this obnoxious article in Psychology Today (it has now been deleted), covered deftly by Jezebel. In a nutshell, asshole psychologist goes to the grocery store, sees too many fat women and writes an article suggesting to women that their men need to do a better job of making them feel sexy so they won’t get all fat and disgusting and ruin his trip to the grocery store. Do not read it if you are anywhere near sharp implements and/or assholes or somebody’s going to jail.

And this is all just stuff I’ve seen in the past week.

It’s so disheartening to have all of this hate directed at fatties, which most often comes in the form of passive aggressive “advice” about these marvelous entities called calories that flutter in and out of our bodies like sprites. If only we fatties were truly devoted believers then the magical calorie sprites would transform our bodies into something 35 years younger.

It’s patronizing and it’s obnoxious and it’s ridiculous that people feel justified legislating the bodies of others. And, sadly, it has become so infused in our culture than the whole world can seem like hostile territory. And no doubt, the dickweeds and haters are out there, lying in wait to unload all of their self-loathing onto someone else. It sucks, but it’s true.

This is why so many fat people become prisoners in their own homes. They have suffered so frequently at the hands of juvenile hate-mongers that they would rather isolate themselves than risk another humiliation, public or otherwise.

If we, as a society, claim that our ultimate goal is to improve the health and welfare of all people, then we have to do what is best for all people.

From my perspective that means just one simple thing: back the fuck off with all the finger-wagging at fatties.

Shame and stigma don’t work. Don’t give me anecdotal evidence, just find me one decent study that proves stigma makes fat people thin and I’ll let you smash a dozen creme pies in my face and call me Fatass McGee.

Fortunately, I’m in absolutely no danger since no such research exists. But there is a significant body of research meticulously documented by Dr. Rebecca Puhl, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University. Her work shows that in terms of motivation, stigma and shame will backfire every time.

In fact, Weight of the Nation created a 19-minute, online-only segment on stigma, which includes an interview with Dr. Puhl.

As a result of growing consensus on the ineffectiveness of stigma, there’s been a recent, awkward shift in how public health officials try to balance public health messages. Somehow they have to keep telling fat people to get thin, while not using stigma to motivate the desired behaviors.

Strong4Life gave us two perfect examples of this cognitive dissonance, first when the National Institutes of Health condemned the billboard campaign and, more recently, when S4L began it’s brilliant “Let’s talk about your weight even though it’s not about your weight” campaign.

As a result, the medical profession seems to increasingly accept that it’s not possible to wage a War on Fat without harming fat people.

I know there are those who are persistently pessimistic in their view that society will never stop the War on Fat until each and every one of us is starved and shackled to a treadmill, but I still believe that we are seeing some incredible progress.

In fact, there’s been cultural shift that has taken place beneath our feet, almost unnoticed.

I mean, dissing fatties in tabloids has been a hallmark of tabloids from their very creation, so there’s nothing new there. And as long as there have been fat people, there have been busybodies with bad advice. The difference is that the War on Fat made those approaches seem like a legitimate motivational technique for draftees.

But something happened yesterday that made me feel optimistic like never before.

If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. Take four minutes to watch TV news anchor Jennifer Livingston of WKBT in LaCrosse, Wisconsin before continuing. Once you do, you’ll understand why I’m so hopeful.

Within the Fatosphere, we’re used to uplifting videos from fierce fatties taking a stand against bullies, but this was something above and beyond all those videos in terms of precedent.

Think about it… her husband posted a copy of this dickweed’s letter on Facebook and the public outpouring is such that her producer gave her four minutes of air time to address this issue directly. And Livingston’s words seemed to say everything that we’ve all been shouting for so long. But this time, it was where the people of LaCrosse, Wisconsin could see it.

Now it’s winding it’s way through the internet, spreading an amazing message of strength and courage for those who are moved by her message, as well as those who are waiting to scoff. What they witnessed was a woman with a spine of steel read word for word the judgmental, a hurtful email before delivering a truly inspired response that put the letter’s author, and all those like him, exactly where they belong: on the outskirts of civilization.

Because, let’s face it… we’ll never abolish all racism or xenophobia or sexism or homophobia or fat hatred. People hate those they stigmatize for deep-seeded reasons that we’ll never be able to fully understand. But why they hate us has never been the key to eradicating public hatred.

What has been the key, sad but true, is that the stigmatized, and those around them, have ultimately confronted the bullies and the haters and said, “Enough.”

And what we usually find is that, like Mike Dougherty, inside every bully is a loud-mouthed coward.

Like Livingston said, we are better than the bullies, and it’s time we let them know.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Fab@54 permalink
    October 3, 2012 10:57 am

    Jennifer Livingston is my new hero. I saw this yesterday on my Facebook newsfeed (thank you, Ragen Chastain aka; and immediately shared it several places.

    The only thing I was slightly (and I mean just *slightly*) disappointed about was that Livingston did not mention “health” in any context- whether it was to say “fuck off” about assuming she is unhealthy; or to proclaim she IS healthy – despite her size. Especially since “health” is many a bully’s claim of concern… but that’s really here nor there.
    She’s still my hero.

  2. fatology101 permalink
    October 3, 2012 12:31 pm

    I was also teased about my name. My maden name is Johnson. What, how could that be. Yep, it was during the baby boom age and I was teased and called a baby and diapers and anything associated with being a baby. Well, I lied. I said my grandfather invented baby powder and all the Johnson and Johnson products. I became a celeberity. LOL

  3. Duckie Graham permalink
    October 3, 2012 12:49 pm

    The JL video is not just big news on the internet either. The local TV news here was reporting on it yesterday. I’m really tickled with how much attention it’s getting in the mainstream!

    Also, I recently saw Gerard Depardieu in My Afternoons with Margueritte. He is a staggeringly good actor. I believe he’s gotten better as he has aged and his body is used expertly as an integral part of his professional toolkit. By the way, if you’re looking for a great movie where the lead actors are a very large fat man and a very small elderly lady, My Afternoons with Margueritte is totally the movie for you!

  4. vesta44 permalink
    October 3, 2012 1:18 pm

    JL was on Good Morning America this morning, you can see it here. She was on there with her husband, who was saying that she’s competed in several triathlons! This woman is amazing, and that jackass who wrote the email needs a big cup of MYOB flavored with STFU.

  5. lifeonfats permalink
    October 3, 2012 4:39 pm

    The prick that sent her the email has said he stands by his words. He said he felt compelled to write it because of the obesity epidemic. He also said he hopes she will lose weight and he will be there to provide support.

    The thing is dude, she doesn’t want your support. She basically said it live on the air. She wants you to stop shaming her and other people and keep your opinions to yourself. It’s not about health. You just don’t want to see fat newsladies on TV because it probably prevents you from watching with one hand. So get over yourself.

  6. October 3, 2012 6:57 pm

    I have this secret theory that I will reveal here. That the fat haters are really fat lovers but have been shamed into believing that loving us fat people will somehow diminish them and make others hate them. So, they join in to avoid shaming themselves. That doesn’t let them off the hook, because despite their personal feelings, you don’t join in. Anyway, I say this with a little sarcasm but also with some honesty. I believe that less people hate fat people than we are led to believe because of the pack mentality. Otherwise, why would men who marry skinny, cranky women who complain about their weight and do all those negative things to fit in, go out, get drunk and proposition fat women? AGain, I’m not trying to make fun, but make sense of things. I think fat women and men attractive humans just like the rest of the world. I say that because looking in the mirror today I saw a beautiful woman, and it was me. I wouldn’t be more beautiful if I were thin. I would still be me and I’m awesome! And JL, god bless her, she’s gorgeous and her husband is my hero for standing up for his wife and fatties everywhere. Good for him! Good for her. Good for us!

    • fatology101 permalink
      October 4, 2012 2:55 pm

      Janet, you have a very good point there. I agree with the mob mentality. I think we all have experienced this: out with a friend and he/she says, your not fat, or I dont think of you as fat. Somehow if they dont see us as fat, it is ok to like us. Or they see us as human beings. Dont know the whys, it just is.

  7. October 3, 2012 8:06 pm

    All stigma does is drive people to harm themselves. To feel alone and lost, to be scared to leave their homes. Anyone who thinks it does anything is a sad and stunted human being.

    Or, in my more traditionally blunt way of speaking, fuck ’em with a cactus. When people attempt to talk to me about my weight, my thought process is simple: I’ve worked too hard, put in too many hours toward the goal of loving myself or at least tolerating myself, of having any self-esteem to speak of … why should I let some myopic asshole take it away from me at a stroke?

  8. The Real Cie permalink
    October 7, 2012 5:39 am

    My problem with Gerard Depardieux has nothing to do with his looks. He’s an a-hole of the first order. He at one point thought it was funny to joke that he had raped a woman when he was nine years old. I can’t have much love for someone who thinks that sort of thing is funny.
    I had a lot of torturers when I was going to school, but the most perverse incident occurred in my math class when I was in seventh grade. I wasn’t fat at the time, or it probably would have been even worse. I was just different. I was shy, I wasn’t pretty, and I had to wear the horrible Martian headgear that any of you who were teenagers in the 1970’s and 1980’s might remember.
    The teacher of this class, C U Next Tuesday that she was, just sat there and let this transpire, because she didn’t like me.
    One of the girls needled me, I don’t even remember what about, until I was hanging my head, looking down, partly feeling that I deserved this hate and partly willing myself to have the guts to just reach out and crack the bitch in the jaw. I had long hair and it obscured my face when I hung my head. One of the boys proceeded to say that I was playing with myself. Another said “she’d play with her tits, if she had any.” (Which I did, and I generally slumped so nobody would notice because I didn’t like having attention called to them.)
    Looking back on it, the one I was angriest with was the teacher for just sitting there and letting this happen. Later, I was the one who got in trouble for writing “this class sucks” on the desk.” Well, what did the dumb ass expect? She also asked why my grades had dropped so sharply.
    At that moment I got the eggs to tell her that I was being picked on every day in class and she sat there doing nothing about it. Her response? That I was being too sensitive and needed to toughen up.
    I walked out of there thinking “fuck you, you stupid bitch.” It was one of the few times in my lifetime of not liking myself that I knew I was absolutely in the right. This woman had no business being a teacher.
    I will say that if I had been fat as well as awkward in my adolescence, I probably would be dead. That level of bullying would have pushed it over the edge. Once I got into high school, I was the “insane wacko” that bullied the bullies. Whenever I saw bullying, I’d call them out on it. All the other outcasts loved me then.

  9. October 10, 2012 8:01 pm

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, what you wrote here.!!! So real and so true! I too suffered bullying and ridicule all of my childhood life for being fat. Once i lost weight in college, suddenly the whole world wanted to befriend me. It always amazes me how quickly a person can turn on you simply for the size of your waist. I have now dedicated my life to serving people who are looking for support in dealing with their weight issues. I am one of the few health coaches out there that do not put my clients on a weight loss diet plan. I work with them on what THEIR goals are and with what they themselves would like to achieve. Keep Blogging, you are amazing!

    • October 11, 2012 11:38 am

      Thanks Rachel and welcome to Fierce Fatties.


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