Douche Shaming —
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Trigger warning: Idiotic asshole columnist with major personal issues pontificates about fatties, eating disorders and the power of negative thinking.
Today, I read an article so awful that I’m going to do something I haven’t done since Alec Baldwin wrote his rambling screed on fatties I’m going to respond to an entire article word for word because the idiocy is so entrenched that I can’t do it justice by extracting a single paragraph to represent the ugliness of spirit behind it. I’m not lining to the article itself because I don’t want to give its author a single click. Same with the other articles she has written which I will cite in my response. Clicks are currency, and I’m not spending any of mine on this waste of carbon.
The article rain the the UK’s Daily Mail. For those Stateside unfamiliar, Daily Mail is to journalism as The Learning Channel is to actually learning anything.
And never ones to miss an opportunity to exploit women, they’ve even got a fun, female-oriented section called “Femail.” Get it? It’s like email for vaginas.
Anyway, as we all now, what women love reading more than anything else are weight loss testimonials like this one:
Aaaaaaaaaaaw, lookie there… cruel taunts are so inspiring that they turned this obese teen into a pageant queen. Oh, and here’s another!
See, bullies, you’re doing God’s work! Keep up the benevolent douchebaggery.
So, on Wednesday, Femail published an article by Linda Kelsey, whose romance novels are available on Amazon for a penny. I don’t recommend wasting the copper.
Kelsey’s other writing gig is being a terrible human being for the Daily Mail. For example, she used her prominent platform to shame older women who don’t dye their hair by citing that deep font of wisdom, evolutionary psychology:
The old cliché about grey-haired men looking distinguished while grey-haired women just look old is depressing, but the sad fact is that it’s as true today as ever… This probably has to do with the fact that men remain fertile for longer — when a woman goes grey it signals the end of her fecundity, while it doesn’t have to for men — and men are programmed to seek out those who are able to reproduce. Add in the cultural pressures on women to stay young and beautiful, and grey-haired women are playing a losing game.
She then goes on to write an article about how much she loathes dogs, including her 11-year-old Labrador, Cuba. She starts the piece by sharing this anecdote:
Cuba is suffering — perhaps for the 50th time in the past decade — from a nasty bout of intestinal trouble, after she decided to wolf down the remains of a discarded take-away curry while we were out for our morning walk.
How did Cuba get a hold of that curry? Kelsey says she took Cuba off the leash and was “distracted by my mobile ringing in my handbag.” You would think that that after the 49th time, Ms. Kelsey might think twice about taking Cuba off her leash in an area where discarded take-away curry containers might be found.
You know, we once had a German Shepherd who we kenneled during the day while at work. One day, we came home to find that we had placed the cage too close to a cardboard box. In the space of an afternoon, Farley gnawed a good chunk off the box and expelled it all, and then some, like a molten brown geyser that splattered the walls and turned the plastic bottom of his kennel into Lake Shitwater. You know what we did in response? WE DIDN’T PUT THE FUCKING CAGE RIGHT NEXT TO THE CARDBOARD BOXES ANY MORE!
Kelsey goes on to talk about how scientists put dogs in an MRI and found they show “‘human’ levels of love and affection.” She goes on:
Despite this, my dog is generally not so much a best friend as a worst enemy. In fact, at the risk of riling every dog lover in Britain, I’d go so far as to say that the old adage suggesting a canine can ever be a best friend is utter nonsense — and an insult to human best friends everywhere.
What never seems to occur to Kelsey is that the saying, “Dog is man’s best friend” refers in non-PC terms to the relationship between the species of humans and dogs, not that dogs are better than human friends. In other words, among all the animals in the world, dogs are probably the best at giving humans their unconditional love and attention. This is not to denigrate other pets, but let’s face it, cats don’t give a shit if we live or die, until it affects their food supply.
Kelsey then says that maybe she shouldn’t have gotten a dog (gee, ya think?) and that she only got it after being fired (er… “going freelance”) from her job as a magazine editor. She then talks about how jealous she is because when she takes Cuba for walks people pay more attention to her dog than to her. And she spends an awful lot of time (and I do mean awful) comparing her dog to her human best friends and complaining how Cuba doesn’t patronize her narcissism verbally.
In the end, the only conclusion I’m able to reach is that Ms. Kelsey is too stupid to own a dog, which is quite an accomplishment.
And this stupidity translates into body issues, when, in an article on her post-divorce dating life, she talks about everything she went through to prepare herself for dating again. “I signed up for a course of cellulite-busting treatments because I thought that in the unlikely circumstance that I would ever again reveal my body to a man the orange peel thighs would surely be a deal-breaker.”
This is a matter of structural mechanics, folks. It’s not caused by poor circulation, PUFAs, animal foods, sugar, toxins, ‘negative energy’, poor diet, laziness, or any of the other novel and ridiculous things charlatans have come up with to sell you ‘cellulite cures’. Men are less prone to cellulite for three reasons: their connective tissues have more of a criss-cross pattern, their skin is actually thicker so any unevenness in fat below the skin is less evident, and they store more fat viscerally (around their internal organs) than subcutaneously (between the skin and muscle). Ie, their bodies are structurally different.
What have we learned about Kelsey from her own words? She’s a narcissistic, dog-hating douchebag who lectures other women on how they should look and wastes money on scam cellulite treatments. So, what do you think the odds are that this woman has anything productive to say about fat people?
Fat of the Land
The headline sets the stage:
The gall! How dare these young women stroll along in shorts and tank tops like they have the right to be comfortable in summer. Don’t they know they must cover themselves from top to tail until they have spent all their discernible income on cellulite creams?
And from there it only gets worse. In the following section, Kelsey’s words will be in blue, while mine will remain black.
Standing in the queue for airport security at Luton last week, en route to Malaga and my fortnight in the sun, I became transfixed by the three young women in front of me.
All in their early 20s, they were laughing and chatting, clearly looking forward to their hols on the Costa del Sol, excitedly planning their days on the beach and nights on the town.
They sounded — and looked — happy and carefree. But what mesmerised me most about this jolly trio was not their conversation, but their appearance: they were size 18 apiece, at least.
Like a curry-filled dog, Kelsey regurgitates her experience in this word bile because of three young women who were at least a size 18. As a guy, I’m not intimately familiar with women’s clothing sizes, so I decided to get a reference point for this. Wanting to be fair, I searched Daily Mail for size 18 and found a few examples. For instance, there’s Lauren Punter, a size 18 sales assistant from Leicester who won a plus-size modeling contest.
Then there’s Emma Haslam, the size 18 pole dancer from Britain’s Got Talent, which you can watch here.
As for the “at least,” I found the weight loss testimony of Gillian Shaw, a size 20.
These are the kind of women that Kelsey was not only judging in line, but that she decided were in need of a public lecture on the finer points of being FiP (Fat in Public). So, what exactly does Kelsey think of these happy and carefree women?
They were not chubby, but fat. They had bulging bellies and billowing pillows of back and shoulder stuffing, punctured by flabby arms and lardy legs that no amount of fake-tan could disguise.
I had no idea that fake-tan was an effective treatment for hiding your fatness up to a size 18. I’m assuming that after her cellulite treatments, Kelsey slathered herself in enough self-tanning solution to look like John Boehner.
And what struck me even more forcefully about these lumpen individuals (there were dozens more, equally large, in the queue behind me) was how obviously unconcerned they were about it.
Note to Fatties: Henceforth when FiP, you shall not show any signs of enjoying life. Laughing and smiling is strictly forbidden, and if you’re going to talk about anything, make sure it’s about how desperately you are to shed every last unwanted ounce from your lumpen selves. It will help immensely if you can wring your hands and gnash your teeth from beneath the sheet-with-eyeholes you’re wearing. Because we all know what fatties cannot wear:
One was wearing shockingly skimpy crochet shorts, as seen on size-zero models in adverts. But in this case, the shorts made it appear the wearer had an extra bottom hanging below the cut-off hemline.
Another girl wore white stretch leggings with a pattern of cellulite dimples showing through, accessorised with a super-sized sausage of overhanging belly.
Meanwhile, the third sported a cut-away vest top revealing the entire back of her pink bra, complete with chunky rolls of fat above, beneath and around the straps. To top it all, these three were — I kid you not — sharing a bag of crisps.
First off, we all know how Kelsey feels about cellulite on her own body, so is it any surprise that she’s counting the dimples and rolls on other women? Second of all, are you sure they were sharing a bag of crisps? Are you sure they didn’t each have their own bag? Maybe two bags each? This reminds me of that time Dr. David Katz (aka Dr. Dickhole) expressed his outrage on HuffPo at two fat women on his flight to Maui who shared a box of cheesy poofs in front of a child. What is it with rich assholes flying to vacation hotspots and fatties with snacks? Have they never seen thin people eating chips or is it only a damnable offense when fatties do it?
I feel like part of the outrage comes from an expectation that certain wealthy people have that their world should be unsullied by the unattractive. Dr. Dickhole’s a doctor, so we know he’s got money, while Kelsey shared the details of the thousands and thousands of dollars she spent on Cuba, not to mention the £300 she dropped on new underwear when she began dating again, along with the estimated $1,200 for cellulite treatment. Oh, and she can afford to fly to Málaga for two weeks, so she’s not hurting for money. It seems that being thin and rich, you not only feel like you get to judge how people dress and eat, but that it’s a brilliant idea to write about it for major publications.
It occurred to me that if these girls hated their bodies and were racked with self-loathing, as we’re so often told that the majority of young women do and are, they were doing a grand job of projecting exactly the opposite impression.
Far from body hatred, what I witnessed was a let-it-all-hang-out faith in themselves and a don’t-give-a-damn attitude to their evident obesity.
Ah, the good ol’ days when women loathed their bodies like proper ladies! I mean, how is Kelsey supposed to enjoy her vacation if these women aren’t racked with the kind of incipient self-loathing that she, an ostensibly thin woman, has to contend with on a daily basis?
And it’s one that must be shared by many, given that it’s not just in departure lounges that I witness young fatties confidently flashing their flesh. I see it on the High Street every day of summer, in the park where they strip down to their undies the second the sun comes out, and outside any given pub after dark, even in winter.
Really? Fat people are stripping to their underwear on High Street? Or are they simply wearing the same shit that thin people wear and you don’t think they’ve “earned it.”
Un-PC of me as it may be to criticise my sex for their size, when it comes to weight I’m not afraid to say it: I am unapologetically fattist. It’s unattractive, it’s unhealthy and, given the problems that being fat can cause, it should be as unacceptable as smoking.
*sigh* Here we get to the crux of the issue. According to Kelsey, being fat is unattractive and unhealthy, but her primary concern is for women. She readily admits that her criticism is not aimed at fat men, who have been wearing whatever the fuck they want since time immemorial, it’s with fat women who wear skimpy shorts and stretch leggings and cut-away vests. And like any good concern troll, her visceral disgust is wrapped in the moral blanket of healthism. But if Kelsey’s concerns were legitimately health related, then sex wouldn’t matter. But the fact is, this is more about Kelsey’s own values of beauty and acceptability than health, though she certainly gives that the ol’ college try.
Yet to judge by the moral panic over anorexia you would think our daughters are a generation of self-starving stick insects. That each and every one of them is dangerously striving for Keira Knightley’s razor-sharp scapula and fried egg breasts or Victoria Beckham’s hand-span thighs and knife-edge hips.
Oh good, Kelsey doesn’t stop at body shaming fatties. She’s also into mocking thin women as well. How metropolitan of her.
This is clearly a fallacy, and it’s one that needs addressing, because not only are most fatties doing nothing substantial to reduce their size, the cost of obesity to the nation’s health — not to mention the health budget — is enormous. And it’s getting worse.
As the Daily Mail itself reports, at least half of fat people are physically fit, and those fat people who do exercise are just as healthy as normal weight people:
They had a 38 per cent lower risk of death from any cause than their metabolically unhealthy obese peers, and the same risk as healthy, normal weight participants. The risk of developing or dying from heart disease or cancer was reduced by between 30-50 per cent for metabolically healthy, obese people, compared with fat unhealthy people, and was similar to those of normal weight.
I don’t deny that anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders are a pernicious problem, and I’ve witnessed at close hand the devastating effects of anorexia as young daughters of friends and acquaintances have succumbed to it.
To put the false dichotomy of “eating disorders vs. fatties” in proper perspective, it’s worth pointing out the fact that 2,700 children in 100,000 have an eating disorder, while just 12 in 100,000 children have type 2 diabetes. And eating disorders are on the rise.
But in the cases I’ve come across, the psychological issues these girls were suffering from had far more to do with their driven personalities, their determination to be A* students at any cost, as well as troubles with over-demanding parents, than simply emulating glossy magazine images of super-skinny models and stick-thin celebrities on the red carpet.
Ah yes, Kelsey’s case study proves to her that it isn’t caused by an over-emphasis on the value of thin bodies in the media, it’s that they’re driven. And to be sure, there is certainly a genetic component to anorexia (as discussed in my interview with Harriet Brown) which may correlate with certain behavioral traits, but actual research by actual scientists finds Kelsey’s assessment to be nothing more than vapid anecdote.
Field et al found that the importance of thinness and trying to look like women on television, in movies or in magazines were predictive of young girls (9 to 14 years old) beginning to purge at least monthly. In another prospective study (17), this same group found that both boys and girls (aged 9 to 14 years old) who were making an effort to look like the figures in the media, were more likely than their peers to develop weight concerns and become constant dieters.
Oh, adolescent weight concerns and constant dieting? Nevermind, that’s a good thing!
Skinny celebrity icons are an issue, but I don’t believe they’re the issue on which society should focus in our muddle over body image.
Far more attention and, dare I say it, opprobrium needs to be directed at young fatties who eat unhealthy diets and sit around watching TV and texting rather than going to the gym or even for a walk.
While it’s well known that socio-economic factors have a bearing on weight — with those on lower incomes more likely to eat sugar and fat-laden diets, and less likely to exercise — there are other factors being ignored.
A generation of mothers seem to have swallowed a dangerously misguided message of body acceptance; making them terrified of telling their daughters they’re getting fat for fear they’ll stop eating altogether.
Mums are now so busy shoring up their daughters’ self-worth by telling them they’re lovely just the way they are, they’re becoming guilty of benign neglect instead.
Kelsey, you’re a fucking moron. First, she’s assuming that those three women on her flight just weren’t shamed enough growing up, and that if they were shamed, then perhaps they wouldn’t be so fat. I have my own anecdotal evidence for why that’s bullshit, as you can hear in this interview with my wife where she talks about how both of her parents spent the bulk of her childhood doing exactly what Kelsey recommends. And in a survey of 500 teenage girls, a mom’s own dieting behavior is correlated with the daughter’s eating disorder. So what do you think the effect of a parent constantly criticizing their body is?
I can’t count the number of mothers who have confided in me their concerns about their daughters’ weight, while emphasising they’d never say anything about them tipping the scales because they don’t want to tip them into anorexia.
Good for them. Perhaps instead of worrying about their daughter’s weight, they could simply focus on fostering an environment where healthy behaviors are rewarded with — oh, I don’t know — a healthier body whether or not you have cellulite…
I don’t have a daughter, nor do I have a weight problem. I’ve always felt it was unattractive and unhealthy to be fat and I’ve always been disciplined about what I eat without ever starving myself.
Sorry, Kelsey, but you most certainly do have a weight problem. The fact that you are thin and you are “disciplined about what I eat,” yet ashamed of your own cellulite is just a small glimpse into the self-loathing you wish all women shared.
I love food, but even today, at 62, I am still very careful to cut back if I feel my jeans getting too tight. While I have sympathy for those with genuine metabolic conditions, the majority of today’s fatties seem simply too greedy, ill-disciplined and or ignorant to do the same.
But seriously, Kelsey…
The statistics speak for themselves. According to the Government-backed Health And Social Care Information Centre, the proportion of overweight and obese women has increased by 10 per cent in less than a decade.
Correct, however, if you look at the actual prevalence trends (PDF), you’ll see that, like the United States, the majority of that increase took place in the 1990s, and is now beginning to show signs of leveling off.
As Kelsey said, there are a number of socioeconomic factors that explain these trends,and one of those is the shift to two-income households who have less and less free time. Now, if you’re a relatively wealthy former magazine editor, you probably haven’t felt that squeeze, but I guarantee the middle class families in Britain are feeling it just like they are in the United States. Pour environmental factors like the endocrine disruptors and dysfunctional gut flora I mentioned, and you see where the shift stems from.
I’m sorry, but I interrupted your panic with facts. Please, continue.
And youngsters are getting fatter at an ever earlier age — one in ten four to five-year olds are now officially obese when they start school. That figure almost doubles when you look at under-15s. These statistics are particularly shocking because the earlier fat sets in, the harder it is to shift in later life.
Let me ask you this, Kelsey: did you know that the UK adjusted downward its definition of overweight and obese in children (PDF)? Basically, it followed the lead of the US, as I explained in this post from when The Biggest Loser hired a quack to make fat kids lose half their body weight:
In 2007, an expert committee recommended changing the cutoff points for obesity and overweight. Before, a child whose weight was between the 85th and 94th percentile was considered “at risk for overweight”; between 95th and 97th percentile was “overweight”; and greater than the 98th percentile was “obese.” After the committee’s recommendations were accepted, 85-94 became overweight, 95-97 became obese, and 98 and above became morbidly obese.
Do you think this might have an impact on how we perceive the amount of fat kids in the population? Give that some thought.
Of course we can, and should, blame the greedy manufacturers of addictive sugar and fat-loaded foods for cynically marketing them at the young.
But as a mother of a food-loving son myself — who was only allowed biscuits, ice cream and the occasional McDonald’s as treats — I know full well that healthy alternatives are out there. Overfeeding your kids is not love, it’s abuse.
Of course, as an upper class citizen, those “healthy alternatives” are more readily at hand for you, aren’t they? My in-laws are relatively wealthy and they still rely on convenience foods for most meals. The difference? Their convenience foods are typically freshly prepared with a minimal amount of unnecessary ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup which is ubiquitous in cheap convenience foods. This isn’t just because HFCS makes food sweeter, and therefore more palatable, but because it’s used to preserve frozen foods and increase shelf stability. This idea that fat people are gluttons for fast food, while thin people are all eating homemade, organic, locally-sourced, freshly-prepared meals every day is bullshit. Everybody eats convenience foods, but the quality definitely depends upon your time and financial budget.
Fat is killing millions and costing billions. More than £5 billion to the NHS each year, in fact, compared to the £80 million to £100 million that eating disorders cost.
Ah yes, the ol’ “fatties cost us more money” argument. It’s a favorite among fat-haters because it turns personal choices into “waaaaaaaaaaaah, you’re robbing me!” arguments. Except, studies on the costs of obesity frequently use spurious calculations, like counting ALL heart disease as caused by obesity or counting fat people with mental health issues (like depression) as an “obesity-related disease,” as I outlined in this post. The fact is that health problems stem from an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle, regardless of what size you are. And if you think fat people are the only sedentary people out there, then you are a fucking moron. Full stop.
Of course, eating disorders can kill. But being overweight leads to high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and even cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, as many as one in ten cancer cases could be prevented by improving our diet. The link to breast cancer is less clear, but dietary fats are increasingly thought to be implicated.
Again, it’s unhealthy diet coupled with sedentary lifestyle that can lead to hypertension, strokes, heart attacks and cancer, not being fat. The fact is, if you are fat and you have a healthy lifestyle, you’re no more likely to develop metabolic disorders than thin people who have a healthy lifestyle. And if you’re thin with an unhealthy lifestyle, you’re fucked as well.
Type 2 diabetes, linked to being overweight, is on the increase and more children are suffering from it. Asthma, sleep apnoea, acid reflux, fatty liver disease, dozens of illnesses, minor and major, can be linked to being overweight. Fat, and this can’t be denied, is fatal.
First of all, yes it can be denied. I’ll deny it right to your face. Second of all, type 2 diabetes is linked to being overweight because insulin resistance causes weight gain. But simply being fat does not make you diabetic. First, you have to have the genetic predisposition, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you’re fat and have a family history of diabetes, research confirms again and again and again that exercise, “regardless of weight loss,” has an incredibly positive impact on the disease.
We live in a society in which it has become OK to shame people for being skinny, but to come out and say ‘You’re fat. Not healthy, not a good look’ would be tantamount to a crime.
First of all, it is not okay to shame people for being skinny, but I find it ironic that you snarked on Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham in this article. Here’s the deal: it’s bullshit to shame anyone’s body, and to do it in such public fashion is fucking pathetic. You may as well write, “Here are all my insecurities projected onto three innocent girls who I resent for not sharing my daily self-loathing!”
It’s about time we stopped tiptoeing around the size issue, stopped kidding ourselves that anorexia, however serious, is the biggest eating problem we face, and started to tackle fat for the problem that it is.
I’d like to tackle you for the problem you are.
Not because celebrities and models are worthy of emulating but because fat is a blight on both individuals and society.
Sorry, but assholes like you are a bigger blight on society than fatties.
One way to start might be by calling a fat girl a fat girl. No apology required.
Kelsey, I know you think you’re being edgy and thought provoking by standing up against the tyranny of self-acceptance, but it seems to me that if anyone is in need of wake-up call it’s you. Obesity rates were driven up long before Body Acceptance became popular. The 1980s and 1990s were the hay days of fat shaming and aspirational media representations of the thinnest and most socially acceptable bodies. This is also the time during which eating disorders AND obesity rates increased the most. For example, hospitalizations for EDs in Canada jumped among teenagers during that time:
And since the obesity panic began in the early 2000s, eating disorder hospitalizations among children in the United States has jumped 112%.
Body Acceptance only really took off in this decade, so anyone waving a flag of fear over three fat women comfortable in their own skin is completely ignoring what came before that. Kelsey acts as though Body Acceptance is responsible for obesity rates increasing (which they are not) and that shaming them into a state of perpetual vigilance over every morsel they eat will result in everybody leading healthy lifestyles and wearing clothing appropriate for their size.
It’s pearl clutching at its finest, and the “solution” proposed by Kelsey as novel and radical is nothing more than the status quo. It’s the equivalent of somebody lamenting the rates of drug abuse in this country and suggesting — oh I don’t know — a War on Drugs or something.
Weight is a complicated issue with complicated causes and complicated effects, so when someone offers this kind of childlike proposal for dealing with fat people who don’t hate themselves enough, it’s time we realize who really needs to be shamed in this world.