How Not to Be an Asshole: A Guide for Meowser

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Last Friday, I had a post all ready to go, riffing on this story about Barack Obama addressing “a mostly African-American crowd” and chiding them for making their children fat. Apparently the crowd cheered wildly when Obama told them to “shape up, turn off the TV, help their kids with their homework and stop letting them grow fat eating Popeye’s chicken for breakfast.”

I was going to post about how the Bad Fatty Workingpoor Mom Who Feeds Her Fat Kids Sodas and Chips And Fried Chicken All Day And Nothing Else Ever was Obama’s stump equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s old riff on the Cadillac-Driving Welfare Queens, those mythic creatures every city was supposedly crawling with, who bought cars and fur coats and expensive vodka with their food stamps and WIC vouchers, including one who had something like 40 aliases and had bilked the government out of some $80,000 worth of welfare payments.* (In reality, they found one woman somewhere who had four aliases and had collected about $8,000 — classic case of Decimal Point Trouble. And change from food stamps was limited to 99 cents in coin*, so do the math on the alleged fur and vodka purchases.) Both stories center around those evil, selfish women that nobody actually knows personally but everyone has totally heard of, whose fault all the problems in the inner city totally are, and if we could just root them out and shame them out of their self-centered, greedy ways, everything would be swell.

I wrote something like this: “Yeah, I really believe ol’ Barry actually knows what it’s like to be a broke single parent and live in a neighborhood where the only food available for miles is Popeye’s Chicken and the bus runs once an hour if it shows up at all. I really believe ol’ Barry sits down with his own children every night and personally charms them into eating the spinach and broccoli he grows by himself in his tiny sunless apartment windowbox. Yeah. I believe that. I also believe he mows his own lawn(s), fixes his own toilet(s), and changes the spark plugs in his cars(s), all by waving a goddamn magic wand. Uhuh uhuh.”

I thought that was all very clever and incisive. And then I read Tara’s post on Fatshionista. You know which one. And I erased the whole damn thing.

“Ol’ Barry,” huh? Yeesh.

I could not bring myself to post that after what she wrote about how white fat-acceptance bloggers don’t understand the person of color’s point of view and aren’t even trying. I can’t say that! I’m dissing the HERO that POCs have waited all their lives for! Didn’t the article say he got “wild applause” for saying those things? And isn’t drinking soda and eating chips and fried chicken all day actually BAD for a 6-year-old? It’s not up to me to say these things. If African-American people object, then I will stick up for them, but if they don’t, I’m just another smug white asshole if I snark off.

This is a problem. You see, Barack Obama has an excellent chance of being our next president. And he will not shut up about obesity. Yeah, they all talk about it. John McCain mentioned obesity in at least one debate, and goddess knows Hillary Clinton AND her husband are all over that topic too. (Bill Clinton, in fact, has been running around putting the fat scare into schoolkids ever since his heart attack, which he is so sure had everything to do with his modest spare tire and nothing to do with his family history of early heart disease or the lack of sleep and killer amounts of stress he experienced for eight years in the White House. Like impeachment is EASY on the vascular system, yep.)

So let’s face it, no matter what happens, our next president is likely to be Officially Fat Unfriendly. If that person happens to be Clinton or McCain, I have no problem ripping either of them a fresh orifice for scapegoating the fatties for all the nation’s problems. They are, after all, Caucasian. If they were to tell a predominantly black crowd (or hell, any crowd) not to feed their kids so much soda or give them fried chicken for breakfast, out would come Meowser’s drillbits, you can count on that.**

But if it’s Obama? How do I handle that? No, I do not auto-assume that every POC is an Obama supporter. (Hell, he’s not even the only POC running, and that’s just one issue for starters.) But I am a giant flaming pale asshole and dense as a twelve-foot plutonium brick, and I need some (okay, a LOT of) help with this. Should I defer the Obama-obesity topic to a writer of color? Do I have it totally bassackwards and am I too thick to understand that this is EXACTLY the kind of issue that Tara is wanting the Fatosphere to address with cannons blazing? Or can I proceed only as long as I take special precautions (other than not calling him “Ol’ Barry,” of course) with the subject? Or is it okay to go ahead and treat him (or any other POC who fat-baits) just like everyone else?

I am, alas, accursed with seeing people as individuals, not as members of group x, although I can certainly see how being a member of group x might influence them. I thought treating Obama like everyone else was what he and his supporters would want, I thought that was the fair thing to do. Now I don’t know. I know nothing.

And I want to. Shit, I think I have to.

*Sorry, I could not find linkies for either of these factoids; they came from Mark Green and Gail MacColl’s long-out-of-print 1983 book There He Goes Again: Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error.

**Full disclosure: I am a registered Democrat, my state’s primary is two months away, and I am still undecided.

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33 Responses to “How Not to Be an Asshole: A Guide for Meowser”

  1. byrneout Says:

    This blowup bugs the hell out of me, if this is the result. Meowser, you’ve never struck me as the kind to be afraid of speaking your mind in the face of an enemy. It’s nothing but poison if you’re finding yourself cowed at the prospect of speaking your mind to a friend.

    I don’t know what the right answer is, but I believe that sensitiving yourself into silence is the wrong one. Be as thoughtful and considerate as you’re able, but having done that, be brave enough to craft your opinions and put ’em on the street. Trust that the well-intentioned people who disagree will favor you with debate, and let the haters fall where they may.

  2. wellroundedtype2 Says:

    I don’t have any answers for you, Meowser.
    I’m glad you linked to that article, though. Maybe linking to articles that speak for themselves is one way to go.
    If any of the candidates talked seriously about improving access to high-quality fresh foods in low-income areas, or increasing after-school programs so that kids could have safe places to play with decent adult supervision, I would applaud that. It’s politically easier to blame parents, though.
    I think the next time my 3-year-old wants a cookie and I don’t think it’s an appropriate food choice at the time — I’ll say “Barak Obama says no cookies.” Let’s see how that goes over. But then again, 3-year-olds don’t vote.

  3. meowser Says:

    If any of the candidates talked seriously about improving access to high-quality fresh foods in low-income areas, or increasing after-school programs so that kids could have safe places to play with decent adult supervision, I would applaud that. It’s politically easier to blame parents, though.

    Yeah, fuckin’ A.

    And thanks, Byrneout, I appreciate it.

  4. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    FWIW I totally agree with byrneout.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    Obama is, to put it mildly, not a stupid person. If he hasn’t noticed a pervasive social idiocy which hasn’t been stomping on his own personal toes, it isn’t a shock and it isn’t especially his fault.

    A letter-writing campaign about the facts (fatness isn’t correlated with health and is so hard to change for most people that it isn’t worth trying) is probably more to the point than sarcasm.

  6. BigLiberty Says:

    These are with respect to your thoughtful post, Meowser:

    “On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. I believe today that there is a need for all people of good will to come together with a massive act of conscience and say in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “We ain’t goin’ study war no more.” This is the challenge facing modern man.”

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

    —-Martin Luther King, Jr.

    And this is for Meowser, personally:

    “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. ”

    —-Martin Luther King, Jr.

  7. wren Says:

    This is so not your point at all, but I spent four years mentoring a little girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the biggest obstacles facing her seemed to be 1) that her mother never seemed to realize you had to consciously make an effort to feed regular meals to a 7-year-old, and 2) her mother was not in a position to help her with her homework.

    The meal thing was frustrating, because the mom and the two older sisters (no dads in the picture, and unfortunately there were never marriages to the fathers so no child support for the mom) would just snack when they were hungry and seemed fine, but the youngest one (my sib) just… didn’t eat. And she was tiny, way smaller than her peers, and had huge circles under her eyes, and when I’d take her out she’d refuse vegetables and stuff because they aren’t good snack food and so they just weren’t in the house? Or something.

    The little girl was also far, far behind in school by the fourth grade. She was a little angel, so never got pegged for disciplinary problems and didn’t get special attention… but no one at home was in a position to help with her homework, and so a lot of it just didn’t get done. Because at that age kids have a lot of questions and need a lot of help, you know? And that’s what’s going to screw her over in school later–she’s behind now, and no one is going to be able to help her catch up, because “she’s sweet, but just dumb.” Dumb is not the issue here. I went in to talk to her teacher at one point and was told–when she was in the FOURTH GRADE–that she didn’t have an “academic future,” and it was too bad they couldn’t just get her straight into the vocational program, but that’d have to wait for high school. AAAH.

    So, in essence, I think Obama has some good points–these are issues that need to be dealt with. My little sib’s mother didn’t have the resources to do it, though, and although it was immensely frustrating seeing my sib in that situation, I couldn’t really blame the woman who was already giving up everything and doing her best to overcome some rather serious fear of authority to do what she could for them–getting her a big sis, for example, to help with the homework she couldn’t.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately–what are the concrete things that could be provided to families in these situations to create a better life for the kids? This problem seemed to run so deep, I don’t know that I’d even know where to start, even though I spent so long as part of that environment.

    I do know, though, that putting another burden on the shoulders of the mother already doing everything she can? Is not going to solve anything. I’m an Obama supporter, but I’m a little ashamed that he doesn’t seem to recognize that.

    (sorry this is such a long comment, but this is obviously a very personal issue for me.)

  8. sparklepants Says:

    I, personally, am sick to death of no one being able to get on Obama’s case because they’re afraid of being seen as racist. It (this situation, anyway) doesn’t have anything to do with his race; it really isn’t as easy as he makes it sound. Stop feeding your kids Popeyes for dinner? Well, okay. You going to give me the time and money to do that, President Obama? I mean, there are people who know better, can afford to DO better for the sake of their children, and still take them to McDonald’s every night. Those people need to be punched in the face. But what you said in your erased post is TRUE and it isn’t because Obama’s black or the people he’s talking about are black. You don’t tell welfare mothers that crap, no matter what race or ethnicity, because there’s not a whole hell of a lot they can do about.

    I think that Obama could’ve handled the situation better. I haven’t read the text of his speech but did he promise any kind of reasonabl e, logical healthcare plan for low income families to afford and have access to balanced meals and the like? And ultimately, the time crunch, which leads to so many people hitting the drive-thru instead of the produce section (or what have you), is a problem for people of all social classes.

  9. GoingLoopy Says:

    This isn’t about race. Your comment is telling – “If that person happens to be Clinton or McCain, I have no problem ripping either of them a fresh orifice for scapegoating the fatties for all the nation’s problems. They are, after all, Caucasian.” Obama doesn’t get a free pass from tough questions and criticism because he’s African-American. He’s running for PRESIDENT of the COUNTRY. That means he has to face the same scrutiny, questioning, and criticism that any other candidate faces. If you’d go off on Clinton or McCain for saying the same shit, you should go off on Obama.

    I am not saying that white people aren’t privileged in some cases; I’m not saying anything against anyone of another color or gender or sexual orientation. But if the ultimate goal is equal treatment, that means people – no matter what their color or size or sexual orientation or gender – are to be praised for doing something well and (metaphorically) smacked upside the head for doing it poorly.

  10. kristin Says:

    A little OT, but I saw Bill Clinton speak last night, and I wanted to just freak out when he said that he is dedicated to helping stop the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics. Also to wild applause.

  11. Denise Says:

    Yup, I want Obama to get a frigging clue about putting the blame and shame on poor folks, whatever their skin color or heritage, for their eating habits. I agree with the commenter who said that a letter campaign on behalf of FA could be a good way to educate him. But, wasn’t he a community organizer on the mean streets of Chicago? Shouldn’t he get the access issue? Is he not just jumping on the OMG Obesity! bandwagon? I guess I feel that anyone who is running for president should be open to fair criticism, regardless of their race. But, how do we know what’s fair?

    Meowser, I really appreciate this post a lot. I often feel completely paralyzed, not knowing if it’s okay for me to have an opinion on something or what. And, I know that because of my own privilege there’s a hell of a lot that I don’t get at all. But, as the Buddha said, to truly know that one does not know is the beginning of wisdom.

  12. fillyjonk Says:

    As SM pointed out in the comments on my post yesterday, saying “okay, I’m never going to talk about POC ever again” is another way of shutting down conversation. You’re too smart for that.

    I think you’re right to be sensitive about how the post would come off. So look back at it and say “is there something here that would be reasonably considered racist?” If there is, take it out. Then post. People of color who are asking for openness and consideration are (surprise!) not actually irrational troublemongers.

    You might even, though this is kind of advanced-level and therefore above and beyond what can be reasonably expected, address the significance of race in a speech like that. If John McCain told a bunch of black parents to stop feeding their kids fried chicken, I would expect you to come down on him not only for being anti-fat but for being racist. Isn’t it at very least classist to assume that these parents don’t already KNOW about nutrition, and that they’re doing the best they can? Is that classism erased because Obama is the same race as the people he’s talking to, or is it just harder to spot? You could even say “I’m writing this from a class perspective, but it seems to me that there are racial issues inherent here too… I’m not sure how to suss them out, though.” Just acknowledging that race exists and is important goes a long way. You don’t have to go all the way to the other side and say “I’m so aware of race that I can’t ever talk anymore, damn you POCs for making me so self-conscious.” (Which I know is not what you said in so many words, but it’s how the “I’ll just shut up” thing tends to play out in these discussions.)

  13. cerasmus Says:

    I think it is important to think about why this message might have been appealing to this audience and why Obama–who is not unaware of socioeconomic issues around food and health–would make this argument to this audience. It’s not just that he’s a POC in a prominent position but there are a lot of reasons why this got wild applause that have to do with cultural context. An argument about self-help coming from a POC sounds quite different than the welfare queen scolding of a white president.

  14. Rachel Says:

    Meowser – Speak your mind with an open mind. And keep in mind, Tara’s is just one opinion, also. She doesn’t speak for all non-white women, although she may articulate the frustrations of many PoC.

    As for the snippet you quoted from Obama. I think it’s sound advice, actually. I just wish he wouldn’t use obesity or parents as the whipping boy to make it. The number one health risk facing American children today isn’t obesity, it’s poverty.

    And I don’t think Obama’s comments are entirely racist: Fast food joints are strategically placed in low-income areas, where they are most popular despite the relative lack of wealth there. Sadly, African-Americans and Hispanics disproportionately make up a sizable portion of this demographic. In these low-income areas often exist what are called “food deserts,” in that the area lacks availability of the fresh produce and healthier foods that many of us take for granted. In Cincinnati, for example, there is an area of downtown called Over-the-Rhine, which is predominantly African-American. Cincinnati is a fairly large city and we have lots of renovated lofts that appeal to young urban professionals, but despite this, there is exactly ONE grocery store downtown, and it’s tiny. I walked to it once on my lunch break to get some fruit. There are two produce stands, and aisle after aisle of sugary, processed foods. When you are on a limited budget, these kinds of foods are cheaper, calorie for calorie, and this is why they appeal more to lower-income residents. Many people of all classes are ignorant about nutrition, so yes, I do feel nutrition counseling is necessary. But I think the larger issue is not ignorance, but poverty. Politicians need to go beyond the rhetoric and oh, actually support and enact changes in the farm bill to provide more subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables so as to make healthier foods more widely available to people of all income levels. They need to provide more subsidies for alternative fuel research to curb rising food prices as crops are diverted for fuel purposes. They need to address the growing chasm of inequitable distributions of wealth and provide real social, economic and health care reform to help stem generational cycles of poverty. They need to actually support education, both primary and secondary, so economic mobility is a reality, and not just a dream. And if kids do eat Popeye’s for breakfast, it’s not necessarily because Mom is feeding it to her kids. It’s probably because Mom is either working or sleeping from working late and she just isn’t able to monitor her kids’ dietary choices 24/7.

    This is so not your point at all, but I spent four years mentoring a little girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the biggest obstacles facing her seemed to be 1) that her mother never seemed to realize you had to consciously make an effort to feed regular meals to a 7-year-old, and 2) her mother was not in a position to help her with her homework.

    I, too, mentored a biracial girl from the projects here in my town. Her biggest problem is that they just didn’t have food in her house at all. Her able-bodied mom refuses to work and doesn’t have a car. The only grocery store in the area closed years ago and the closest one – a small, crappy store Brandon and I call the ‘ghetto Kroger’ – is about a 30-45 minute walk away. Not a very easy feat to do when you have a 12 and 8 year old and bags of groceries to lug back home. There is, however, a White Castle and assorted fast food places around them. Once when I took the girl out for an afternoon outing, she told me she hadn’t had anything to eat that day because they had no food in the house. I offered to buy her lunch at Subway, the only fast food place that has anything relatively healthy. She chose White Castle. I usually never purchase meat products, even for others, but I obliged in this case because I figured White Castles was better than no food at all.

    Race is certainly a large factor in issues of class and poverty, but not always. People of all races, ages, genders, backgrounds are impacted by poverty – including myself. Personal experience of an issue certainly helps to understand it, but I don’t think it is a necessary requirement for those who want to help ameliorate conditions. I slept beneath a freeway one night in a homeless camp to experience homelessness, but I wasn’t truly homeless. I had an apartment I could drive my car back home to. But U don’t have to actually be homeless to want to help eradicate homelessness, either.

  15. JoGeek Says:

    Also remember that Obama was a fat kid, and a fat teenager. This might be a personal issue for him.

  16. thoughtracer Says:

    God, I don’t even know what to say. Because if Obama does get elected, are all the white people screwed in this country for the next four years? Any criticism that is made can then be perceived as racist, and presidents suffer a barrage of non-stop criticism for anything and everything every day of their presidency. And that is true for Clinton as well. If she is elected, all the criticism could be perceived as sexist (and as a foaming at the mouth feminist, I maybe would be the one to be like: They are only picking on her because they are sexist dicks and they wouldn’t be this harsh with a white dude.)

    This reminds me of the criticism Bill Cosby got when he said essentially similar things.

    Quite frankly, when it comes to issues of fat and health, if someone is going to continue to mess with my rights and personal autonomy around that, then I am going to have something to say about it, whether the person critiquing and oppressing me is black, white, or purple. I am not sure I can get involved in a conversation where someone of one race is critiquing their own race. I don’t know if I have that right. But if I were of the same class, I may jump in there. But I am of the same body, and what I can say to Obama is this: You carry thin privilege and male privilege. Shut it.

  17. meowser Says:

    Also remember that Obama was a fat kid, and a fat teenager. This might be a personal issue for him.

    Is that true, JoGeek? I was under the impression he was one of those effortlessly skinny types.

  18. shinobi42 Says:

    One of my professors in college told us a story once about a black freshman he had in his class. This young man had done well in high school, from I believe a predominately white area. HE seemed intelligent and he asked intelligent questions and did well on quizzes. The class had a required paper and the TA graded it, and the student received a D. He was furious and went to see the professor, positive that his paper deserved a better grade. When the Prof spoke to him about it, he said that he’d gotten an A on every paper he turned in in High School. But despite his high marks in High School this student could not write, his grammar, sentence structure, composition, etc was terrible. His writing was not even approaching what would be expected at our University. because none of his (white) teachers wanted to appear racist by giving him a lower grade.

    This student had to work twice as hard his first year of college to learn to write in addition to all of his other difficult coursework because none of his previous teachers had wanted to appear critical of a black person.

    This is an extreme example (I hope) but not criticizing or disagreeing or calling someone out because of their race can be just as racist as going out of your way to be critical of them.

    From what I have seen/read/heard of Obama, he seems open to discussing and hearing other viewpoints. This is one of my favorite things about him. So, though we may disagree with him, I think it would be worth while to attempt to educate him on the matter of obesity and fat acceptance, where education is required. Smart people know when they don’t know something.

  19. wellroundedtype2 Says:

    I want to speak up here just for one second about kids and food based on my recent experiences as a first-time parent.
    I’ve noticed, and other parents/parenting sources have related this as well, is that young children tend to reject new foods. They tend to want to eat what is familiar. It takes persistance and effort to introduce them to new foods. This is certainly true of my little one, who eats a mostly “balanced” diet.
    If what a child finds to be the most familiar food is fast food or highly processed food — it’s a big uphill battle to get other foods in there. Some adults are like that, too, of course.
    What many parents could benefit from is understanding how to work with their children, while understanding child development, to introduce new and varied foods into their diet. It’s not a bag of chips once in a while that is the problem, but there are plenty of kids of all backgrounds whose parents make them PB & J or grilled cheese because they know it’s something their kids will eat, and no one really likes to waste food.
    I agree with Rachel that the message isn’t so bad, it’s talking about it as obesity, that makes me uncomfortable. A diet that is very high in saturated fat, little or no vegetables or fruits, only processed foods, combined with little or no physical activity, is a recipe for ill health for most people, regardless of weight. And what’s problematic about tv isn’t just that it’s a sedentary activity, but that it exists to sell stuff to kids — foods, toys, games and more time in front of the tv watching other programs.
    Ellen Satter’s advice is what is needed, and it’s not likely to be conveyed well in a political speech (but in a parenting education setting, it’s probably very sound):
    http://www.ellynsatter.com/

  20. kateharding Says:

    I was under the impression he was one of those effortlessly skinny types.

    He’s referred to his younger self as a “skinny kid” in numerous speeches, and the high school yearbook photos I’ve seen bear that out. I’m curious about this, too.

  21. Rachel Says:

    When the story of his mother made the Times, I saw pictures of him as a teenager and he looked more like a lean track star than a chubby kid.

  22. Rose Says:

    I am quoting below what I view as the crux of Tara’s excellent, thought-provoking piece on Fatshionista. Somebody please explain where she said that no criticism of Barrak Obama was allowed because it would be racist?

    Cause Meowser, I’m a fan of your writing and your blog, but this seems like a real “Straw, meet man” kind of post. And while other commenters are encouraging you to not let Tara rob you of your first amendment right to free speech, I don’t see how her very respectful request to open up the FA movement to the concerns and needs of people of color interferes with anybody’s Constitutional right to speak their mind.

    As a white woman with a multi-racial family, I cringe every bit as much when white people try to twist the very real issue of racism to suggest it’s more hurtful to them than it is to anyone else (i.e., those damn PoCs are so sensitive to everything being racist that I can’t even speak my mind on very important issues lest it offend their delicate sensibilities!) as I do when people attack FA as somehow interfering with their “rights” as dieters.

    Obviously there’s something that some here find offensive about Tara’s post, and I’m serious when I say I’d like to know what it is.

    “Fat acceptance bloggers are guilty of the same sins of white feminism in that there is often a wholesale grouping of all fat people under the same oppression umbrella, with little or cursory examination of how things like race, class, sexuality, gender and gender presentation, ability, and age play into the fat equation. At minimum, folks in the fat acceptance movement need to take serious stock of their own position in the world, and how their privilege may be blockading their understanding of how other peoples’ experiences, identities, and embodiments change the way they experience their fat and how their fat is experienced by the world at large.”

  23. pennylane Says:

    Thanks Rose. I found myself nodding in agreement with your post. I have no idea where the meme that only middle class white people (men?) can be criticized in this country. I’ve seen plenty of criticism hurled all around.

    Shinobi–I’d be curious how you know that the student received As because his teachers didn’t want to appear racist? Because I have loads of subpar students who can barely write who had 4.0s in high school because standards are low, they haven’t done much writing before, because they weren’t graded on grammar, etc. I’ve never seen the problem be racially grounded. I admit I’m wary of imputing motivations to people after someone explained to me that I got a good grad school package because they wanted more women in the program (as opposed to because of my qualifications).

  24. meowser Says:

    As a white woman with a multi-racial family, I cringe every bit as much when white people try to twist the very real issue of racism to suggest it’s more hurtful to them than it is to anyone else (i.e., those damn PoCs are so sensitive to everything being racist that I can’t even speak my mind on very important issues lest it offend their delicate sensibilities!) as I do when people attack FA as somehow interfering with their “rights” as dieters.

    Dude, I don’t think I said THAT. Quite the opposite. It’s that I don’t want to offend anyone who clearly has it MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH HARDER THAN I EVER WILL. I’m trying to do the right thing here, and if it really is my place to STFU for good I will do it. It’s not a matter of my rights being endangered as a white person, poor me. It’s about me questioning whether or not I legitimately have them at all.

  25. jenjen Says:

    I enjoyed this post.

    For most of us pale ladies in the audience, we are just trying to understand what is okay to say and what is not.

    The truth is, I know I’m not allowed to say certain things that I hear from others every day on the phone, at the store, at a playdate…because of my skin color.

    This doesn’t bother me, all people deserve to be respected *the way they interpret respect* insofar as I’m able to provide that. I just want to understand where the lines are, and what’s okay to say…and I’m never sure. So I think about it. A lot.

    I think this post is an example of meowser thinking through what is acceptable in a public forum. I think it’s a great idea because the post and the comments that follow are helping me in my own journey.

    It comforts me to know that I’m not the only one that wants to be understanding but isn’t sure what is acceptable.

  26. maritzia Says:

    Well, I have to start off by saying, yes…I’m incredibly white. I’m also a *huge* Obama fan. Huge I’m telling you (I’ve been working on his grassroots campaign in my local community for a year now).

    However, I’m not afraid to say when I disagree with the man. I’ve heard him talk about obesity a couple of times, but not egregiously, or in a true fat-hating manner. Trust me, if I saw it, I’d be talking to the man about it.

    What he said at that speech is that we can’t feed our kids junk all day and never get them exercise and then be surprised when they get sick. If he’s just left the word fat out, I’d have no problem at all with what he has to say.

    Now, on to the issue of not saying what you think because he’s black? No, no, no. That would not be right. While he was speaking to a predominantly black crowd in that speech, I don’t think he was just talking to the black community. He holds everyone to those standards. It just happens that the speech at the moment was directed at a black audience. But he’s given similar speeches to white audiences.

    Seriously, and I’m saying this as a big supporter of the man, if you have an issue about him, let him know! Don’t just blog about it here, go to his website. He has a feedback button on the main page. Tell him what you think. Believe it or not, he really does take feedback seriously.

  27. Ydnic Says:

    De-mostly-lurking to say that I’m glad you posted this. I’m with fillyjonk: review what you write with your own critical eye, then go ahead and post it. And I would add: If you unintentionally post something that might be offensive, well, that’s what your readers are for, yes? To let you know if/when you’ve crossed a line for them, to point out flaws in your argument, to tell you what works and what doesn’t. It might not be easy, but you’ve said you’re willing to learn. And we only learn by making mistakes.

    Just 2 cents from a Coward With No Blog.

  28. meowser Says:

    If you unintentionally post something that might be offensive, well, that’s what your readers are for, yes? To let you know if/when you’ve crossed a line for them, to point out flaws in your argument, to tell you what works and what doesn’t.

    Well, yes, except I’ve also been reading things pointed at by the Fats thread, including this response on Alas, A Blog from the “How Not To Be Insane When Accused of Racism” thread:

    “not *trying* to be racist,” which is worth about as many good behavior points as me “not *trying* to drive over old people in crosswalks

    This is the kind of thing that freaks me out; the idea that if I don’t do it perfectly, somebody DIES. It doesn’t exactly make me eager to “take the wheel,” so to speak.

    Not being a racist by commission is relatively easy for me. I’ve spent my entire life smacking down slurs and stereotypes even when it cost me friends, jobs, and keeping the peace within my family, over and over again. I am certainly not fighting for the right to drop N-bombs on anyone; I couldn’t do that if I tried, not even in jest.

    But racism by omission is a much scarier prospect to deal with, because so much of my blogging is personal and has to do with how I feel about things and what I’ve experienced and how I see things. And I’m not sure I’m capable of fully illuminating the reality of someone who has lived a very different life from my own, not in a way that wouldn’t seem superficial and presumptuous and overgeneralized, in a blogging context. No matter how much I “listened” or “studied” or “asked questions.” At the end of the day there’s really no substitute for being inside that reality full-time.

    Sure, I can touch on those issues, and I’m perfectly willing to do so when contextually appropriate, and learn more as I go along and have whatever assumptions I still drag around with me stripped away over time. But I would not ask Kate Harding, for example, to write a post about Asperger syndrome or male-pattern baldness, because she does not know those realities the way I do and thus does not have the handle I have on how they intersect fatness. Similarly, I told Tara she was perfectly welcome to guest post here specifically about institutionalized racism WRT food access, or that Liss at Shakesville would probably be receptive to the same thing, or that she could certainly put a blog of her own on the ‘Sphere. But there’s no way in the world I myself could ever understand those issues exactly the way she does. I just hope that can be good enough. I’ve just been freaked out to death that it isn’t.

  29. Michelle Therese Says:

    Hmmm. If you had nothing to say about race or Obama’s race then how could your post be racist? Just because Obama is black doesn’t mean he automatically receives a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card when it comes to criticism. If he can’t handle criticism then he shouldn’t be running for president. Don’t pander to over-sensative people who jump on the “I’m Offended!” bandwagon at the drop of a hat so they can get attention. Let them sort their own precious feelings out and say what needs to be said!!

  30. wriggles Says:

    What is it with some skinny smokers that they have to get on fat people’s case the whole time? Why do they insist that fat people are degraded endlessly whilst moaning about their own position?

    This is not a race issue, it’s an issue of some people insisting that fat people must be kept in their place, whilst they smoke, booze or drug themselves senseless.
    Tiresome hypocrisy is ‘colour blind’.

  31. Meowser Says:

    My understanding (though I could be mistaken) is that Obama quit smoking about a year ago. However, that also fits, since I’ve known quite a few ex-smokers who were infernally self-righteous about it. “I gave up cigarettes, so why can’t you stop being fat at me?”

  32. crinkletoes Says:

    I tend not to comment much, I prefer to read what’s going on, but this (racism, lack of POC, etc) is a topic near and dear to my heart. Read: I’m a fat, black woman. I’d like to leave my two cents: for this criticize/don’t criticize Barack thing. Go on and criticize him. He’s not made of eggshells, and neither are the POC that support him (I like him and HRC but I did vote for him). Ever since I’ve discovered the fatosphere (relatively recently) I’ve loved reading your posts Meowser, because they are intelligent, well-reasoned, and basically, a blast to read. I would be sad if you stopped writing because you thought you couldn’t understand where a certain group of folks are coming from. I agree with fillyjonk and Ydnic, do what you do, try to be as aware as you can, and rely on your readers to point out if you make a mistake.

  33. Five Minutes with the Next President « fat fu Says:

    […] Comments crinkletoes on How Not to Be an Asshole: A G…Meowser on How Not to Be an Asshole: A G…wriggles on How Not to Be an Asshole: A […]


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