Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sun Freakin Times

What the hell is going on over at the Chicago Sun-Times? I'm so thoroughly un-proud that all this shitty size-related journalism (whatever) is going on in my town.

Laura Washington, the S-T's self-appointed "Fat Nag," who wants to shame America into un-fat, challenged Kevin Smith in February after the Southwest fracas to "lay off the tweeting and put that energy into reducing his girth." She called his complaints about the airline treatment "just another dangerous dalliance with that tired old denial: It's OK to be fat, even if it's killing you." (Everything Washington has written about issues of size has made me lose respect for her, then quickly replace that with worry about her ability to use logic.)

More recently, this column by Esther Cepeda in the June 21 Sun-Times, "Time to turn up the heat on folks who are obese," presents ideas less monomaniacal than Washington's writing but more frankly bigoted.

After pulling together every recent bit of fat-is-bad news in her intro, Cepeda says: "I'm not going to copycat my tall and thin [? more journalistically credible?] Sun-Times colleague Laura Washington, who used her space in this paper to become the "Fat Nag" . . . but just for today allow me to be the 'Skinny Grumbler.' " Then she goes on to blame fat people and those who "enable" them for making her cold.

That is the point of this piece: too much air conditioning. A/C makes it easy to stay fat. Fat people--the "over-stimulated and over-served"--the "already health-challenged chow hounds"--the "well-padded"--make us keep the air too cold in restaurants and stores. The temperatures in our public places are a barometer of how we are unhealthy and fat.
"Enabling people who are challenged with the burdens and risks of obesity by making them more comfortable in public situations where, under normal circumstances, they'd be uncomfortable only reinforces the idea that their ill health is bearable. Why do we accept our public spaces masking unhealthy people's natural body signals that something is very wrong?"
I guess I didn't realize that fat people were the only ones with their fingers on the thermostats. Or were the only people miserable in the city when it's 100 degrees and humid in the hairy armpit of America that is the Midwest. Or that fat people never get cold.

The column is yet another piece that makes me wonder: even if I agreed with your shitty logic; even if thought that every time an innocent thin person gets cold it is the fault of a fat person; even if I felt that over-A/C-ed spaces were a sign of our gluttonous ill-health; WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO DO?

Cepeda's answer is (clearly): smoke 'em out. Turn the heat up and sweat the fatties into shame. If you make them miserable, as nature wants them to be, they'll change. She pushes her thinking very far: "You should be outraged that your hard work in supporting a loved one's quest to make healthier choices is undermined by a society willing to make them feel more comfortable. And shouldn't others get to be comfortable sometimes, too?"

There is scary shit in the ridiculousness here. I do not think people who write "us" and "them" pieces about fat people realize how very much prejudice they pass along, how their arguments are built from hate and very little else.

- - - -

Addendum: at Cepeda's site, she adds that this piece was "satire": "NO, the subject of ridicule is not obese people, but rather, society's passive acceptance of a debilitating and deadly disease." Psych!

Using making fun of fat people to make fun of fat people isn't really satire. Nor is there any passive acceptance of the 'disease' of obesity. Anywhere. And as a group we have been blamed for everything from global warming to the decline of the mitten industry, so blaming fat people for thin people being cold doesn't actually read like satire. Plus: the column isn't funny. No satire there.

The comments on both her site and at the S-T piece are generally pretty great. I hope she's reading them.