Latest Editorial From Paul Campos

Paul Campos has written another excellent editorial discussing Gina Kolata’s new book, Rethinking Thin. I’ll quote my favorite part:   

This inspires me to point something out to my more liberal readers. Remember that particularly clueless right-wing acquaintance of yours? The one who believes that anybody in America can become rich, because he thinks about poverty in a completely unscientific, anecdotal way, which allows him to treat the exceptional case as typical? The one who can’t seem to understand the simplest structural arguments about the nature of social inequality?

The next time you see some fat people and get disgusted by their failure to “take care of themselves,” think about your clueless friend.

It was my favorite for one thing because he nailed it. Everything that’s wrong with every argument I’ve ever had about fat. I’ll quote it again because I love it. “they think…in a completely unscientific, anecdotal way, which allows him to treat the exceptional case as typical?”  If one person can lose weight, everyone can be thin. Thus fat is a choice. It is proven.


But also because I appreciated the minisermon to the liberal crowd. It’s a bane for me. I don’t think I ever stop feeling that sharp bite of disillusionment and depression when it happens. When liberals, my friends, my allies  – from sophisticated feminists to staunch nonconformists – suddenly start talking about fat in terms that ring of nothing so much as Victorian moralism.


There is no apparent cognitive dissonance as they expound on the need to educate the fat (and the obviously ignorant) in how to “eat properly” and live correctly. As they associate fat with poverty, and assume ignorance or laziness rather than discrimination. As they then without missing a beat, turn us into symbols for greed and consumerism. As they deploy caricatures and stereotypes of the fat that, if applied to any other group, would fill them with outrage. As they urge us to keep trying to become “normal” no matter what we want, or what the personal cost. To redouble our efforts when we fail. And then redouble them again. To restrain our urges, control our bodies, to not be a burden on society that we surely must see we are.


And all of this, in the name of helping us.


Of course it’s not all liberals. I don’t even think most. And it’s not a “liberal thing” – it’s pervasive in the society. It’s just so much more strange and dismaying when liberals do it.


9 Responses to “Latest Editorial From Paul Campos”

  1. celsou Says:

    It’s definitely not a liberal thing, it’s just self righteousness which occurs everywhere. I find that liberals tend to regard fat people as victims, and that p***es me off. Although I guess it’s better than being the poster child for western greed and capitalism;)

  2. Meowzer Says:

    Exactly, fatfu. Whenever the subject of Rush Limbaugh or Dennis Hastert or Dick Cheney comes up on Daily Kos, the fatty fatty fat fat fat slurs come nonstop without a peep of protest, as though those men would be any less detestable if they had Ralph Nader’s physique. But let one person make a “tranny” comment about Ann Coulter and they’ll be troll-rated into the next century and pleaded to be sensitive towards the transsexual members of the community.

    Not that I think “tranny” comments are cool either, but I don’t understand why fat japes get a free pass there. I don’t post there, I only lurk, but I get the feeling that if I were to become a posting member and register a complaint, all I’d get would be troll ratings and diet tips.

    And Paul Campos? QUADRANGLE. With the bases loaded.

  3. CJ Porter Says:

    I participated in a training a number of years back with an organization in DC that was/is committed to diversity education and helping people challenge their prejudices. The training had approximately 150 people participating and you’d be hard pressed to find a more liberal group of people.

    For five days, we discussed issues of race, gender, ethnicity, education, religion, birth order, class, sexual orientation… but things came to a screeching halt when the subject of size was brought up. You could see the main facilitator (who was one of the founders of the organization) was clearly uncomfortable with categorizing size as a legitimate topic for diversity education. In discussion with other participants, the old and worn “well, size is a matter of choice” came up. Even in a group committed to ending prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination the fat couldn’t catch a break.

  4. Meowzer Says:

    Oh, and if I ever see a car with one of those “forests are being cut down to make room for your fat ass” bumperstickers, I’m going to slap one of my own over it that says, “My fat pedestrian ass leaves smaller footprints than your stupid car, dipshit.” Fortunately, this being Portland, where people are Nice, I’ve yet to encounter one. But I’m ready.

  5. fatfu Says:

    celsou – yeah for time and brevity i didn’t take on the victim angle, but that’s a big obnoxious piece of it. They just want to “help us” learn to live correctly. That their “help” is offensive and insulting and saturated with vicious stereotypes marinated in complete ignorance doesn’t seem to penetrate their satisfaction at being “enlightened” and “tolerant.”

    CJ – oh god it makes me cringe to think that a group that is talking about challenging prejudices can’t even conceive of applying the same logic to fat.

    And of course – there it is again – the spectacularly reductive “fat is a choice.” I’m going to memorize Paul Campos’ line about unscientific anecdotal thinking just to better be able to undermine that idea.

    Meowzer – Yeah Daily Kos has a LOT of fat bashing. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a fat acceptance post there but have never been able to brace myself sufficiently for the blowback.

    Your comment about tranny comments also bring in another angle. How often when we say “yeah, but what about us” – when we try to point out the very glaring parallels between fat hatred and what’s been done to other groups socially and rhetorically we get this tremendous backlash. We’re flayed alive for “trivializing” racism or homophobia or whatever. Because fat is, of course a “trivial” “foolish” problem – the problem of clowns and slobs. And it’s a choice. Everybody KNOWS that.

  6. vesta44 Says:
    This story really made me mad. I know for a fact that my obesity is NOT making my minivan use more gasoline that it would if I were thinner. How do I know this? Well, it gets 25 mpg in the summer when I drive it (and I weigh 390 lbs). When my son drives it in the summer (he’s 6′ 2″ and weighs 200 lbs), it still gets 25 mpg. When my daughter-in-law, who is 5′ 10″ and weighs 145 lbs, it still gets 25 mpg. Now, there is a difference of anywhere from 190 to 245 lbs in the drivers, but the mileage doesn’t change. I think this is just another way to say that fat people are using more resources than necessary, whether it be food or fuel. I am so tired of being told it’s all my fault because I’m fat. Makes me feel like telling them to prove it, with hard, uncontrovertible facts.

  7. fatfu Says:

    Vesta – yeah I think these fuel economy stories are a) bunk and b) desperate groping to find some reason why it’s “ok” to moralize about somebody else’s weight. They feel the need to “prove” that it’s a moral issue, and not just plain bigotry (which is what it is). It’s the same reason that haters invariably point to the same hypothetical: the fat person who takes up too much space in the airplane. It’s like the one single instance where somebody’s weight might conceivably affect you in any way. And you never stop hearing about it.

  8. Meowzer Says:

    Check it out. According to this article, the average vehicle sold in North America in 2006 weighs almost 500 pounds more than the average vehicle sold 10 years earlier.

    Furthermore, a Toyota Corolla weighs almost 3000 pounds, while a passenger van weighs almost 4500 pounds.

    So anyone who wants to blame global warming on fat can kiss my thick pedestrian bottom.

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