posted by meowser
I want to thank everyone who responded to my post of one week ago about how to handle it as a blogger when Barack Obama makes fatphobic remarks to African-American audiences. Many of you had excellent points and made excellent suggestions, and I am very grateful. I knew you guys were supersmart!
I think I get it now, or am at least beginning to. Obama is running for President of the United States, and a pretty good number of people think he can win the whole shebang. He expects a certain amount of criticism from white people, or at least he damn well should, because if he doesn’t get it, it means they’re not taking him seriously. (I’m sure Alan Keyes and Cynthia McKinney both know all about that.) I just have to avoid ad-hominem attacks (i.e. “you’re just saying X because you’re a Y”), and yeah, I do have to recognize there is something else at play here with this particular issue. As Fillyjonk astutely put it:
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 know, it didn’t even hit me until then — and it freaking well SHOULD have — that even the words “fried chicken” (or “Popeye’s chicken”) themselves, in this context, could be considered a dogwhistle of sorts; although the audience Obama was addressing was reported to be “mostly black,” he had to know that millions of nonblack people not present would find out later what he said. McCain or Clinton saying “fried chicken” is a Macaca Moment; Obama saying it, in a sense, is code, perhaps — to the black people in his audience, it’s code for, “I’m what you all could be like if you ate right and behaved yourselves, don’t you want that?”, and to nonblacks who are suspicious of African-Americans, it’s code for, “I’m not like THEM. I do vegetables.” It’s hard to point that out without it seeming like an ad-hom, but yes, it does mean something different coming from him. It just does.
I think what threw me off was the report that his words to this African-American crowd drew “wild applause.” I parsed this to mean, “Not a single African-American person in the entire universe objected to this in any way, shape, or form.” But you know, I ought to know better than to read this stuff without the salt shaker next to the mouse; I wasn’t there, was I? And does every African-American person’s thoughts make the news, or even the blogosphere? Hells no, and even if it does that does not mean it infiltrates the national bloodstream. I mean, there are huge chunks of the population that have never even heard of the Fatosphere, right? And yet, indisputably, here we are. So I need to be wary of stepping in the poopuddle marked, “If you haven’t heard about it, it doesn’t exist.”
Anyway, what inspired the title of this post was something Maritzia said in comments:
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.
That got me thinking. Don’t mistake me, I love the salty, cusswordy, freewheeling, prolixity-friendly nature of the ‘Sphere (and Shakesville, and other fem-lefty blogs). But I’m pretty sure that if I was given five minutes or less (either in writing or in person) to convince Barack Obama — or for that matter, Hillary Clinton or John McCain — of the rightness of fat acceptance, I’d need a whole ‘nother approach entirely. COFRA calls it the “elevator pitch” — if you just have a few quick moments to try to plant the seeds of FA in the mind of someone who is skeptical, what do you say?
The contact page for Obama is here. As you can see, there is not a lot of space here to make one’s point. Maybe 250 words, which ain’t a lot when you exhale dictionaries the way I do. And I’m pretty sure any comments that begin with “hey fucking fuckstick, what the fucking fuck?”, or phraseology to that effect, probably won’t even make it past the spamulator, let alone to Obama’s eyes. (Clinton’s comments page is almost identical; McCain’s comment space is even tinier, maybe 100 words.)
One of these three senators — Obama, Clinton, or McCain — is likely to be our next President barring something unprecedented occurring between now and November. And hey — six degrees of separation, you never know, you might get an audience with one of them, either before or after they take office. What’s your elevator pitch?
I think mine might go something like this:
“Raising awareness about improved nutrition and activity for children is a fine thing, as long as there is equal access for all. But please don’t make it about fat. Plenty of thin children also suffer from a lack of physical activity and good nutrition and their health is no better than that of fat children. Besides, children take it to heart when you shame them about their weight, and many develop disordered eating patterns and aversions to physical activity that are almost impossible to reverse. Please take this into consideration when you address an audience. KTHXBAI.” (OK, maybe not that last word. But you get the idea.)
But you know how long it took me to come up with that? WEEKS. I’m really not kidding.