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53 Responses

  1. Lizard
    Lizard May 28, 2007 at 2:36 pm |

    THANK YOU, Piny.

    It seems to me that what’s implicit in the word “anorexic,” when it’s used an insult, is a mishmash of accusations: 1) You’re too skinny; 2) you’re therefore not attractive to me/men/whoever; 3) you’re self-absorbed and neurotic; 4) you’re such a scrawny, insignificant presence on this planet that I don’t have to take you seriously. Numbers 2 through 4 are just the other edge of the sword that paints fat people (women) as unattractive, selfish, and dismissible.

    As I said somewhere in the other thread, there are plenty of reasons to loathe MeMe Roth, but her weight isn’t one of them. Now, I can’t say that I don’t wonder whether the same types of issues that fueled my anorexia long ago are fueling her fat-phobic screeds today. But that’s different, I think, from tossing off a “That anorexic bitch!” and leaving it at that.

  2. Mary
    Mary May 28, 2007 at 3:27 pm |

    Thank you very much for making this point. As a thin to average woman, I didn’t appreciate the comments some were making implying that women who are not over a certain dress size or BMI are not “real women.” This is just lowering ourselves to the same level as MeMe and others who choose to make overweight people feel like non-humans and non-sexual beings. Her own size has nothing to do with the nasty remarks she made. Attack what she says and does, not how she looks or what size she wears. This isn’t a war a fat vs. average vs. thin.

    Taking her view and spinning it back around at her in the same nasty way is no better than what she’s doing. Hips or no hips, large breasts, medium breasts or tiny breasts has no effect on a person’s worth. It hurts to hear that she thinks you’re unattractive, unhealthy or a poor role model, keep that in mind when people of all sizes read your comments.

  3. sweet machine
    sweet machine May 28, 2007 at 3:55 pm |

    This is an outstanding post. Fat, in its presence or absence, is not the external sign of internal health.

  4. Hawise
    Hawise May 28, 2007 at 4:01 pm |

    Disclaimer- I am 5′ 9″, 200 lbs., my husband is 6′ 1″, 140 lbs.

    Her own size has nothing to do with the nasty remarks she made.

    I called her scrawny and I have no clue whether her weight is a result of genetics (my scrawny husband and son) or mental/physical health factors but her weight is an issue if she is spewing the sort of pseudo-health concern that is illustrated in the clip. Perhaps bashing her for her size is petty and trite but her mind-boggling shallow spew against a healthy 17 year-old and her faux concern about Jordin’s potential health problems is infuriating. I do agree that anorexic is a clinical diagnosis and should not be used casually as an insult against vapid blondes trying to make a living running made-up charities.

  5. Bruce
    Bruce May 28, 2007 at 4:16 pm |

    Piny –

    Peace.

    Comparing the lying sack of shit theocratic criminal constitution-defiling President to autistic citizens is misplaced, but I am pretty damn sure you were criticizing that characterization rather than endorsing it. Maybe this is an “A is to B as C is to D” SAT problem that got turned cockeyed in my head as I read it.

    For folks new to the nitty-gritty of autism, autistic people do not generally exhibit the characteristics of President Bush – cruelty, arrogance, theocratic sanctimony, deceit, class entitlement. Indeed, bluntness and lack of communicative dexterity re social clues and “office politics” are more typical.

    At the risk of shameless blog-pimping, this blogroll of links to sites by autistic people may provide insight into how autistic people experience life.

    We have two sons, 4 and 2, diagnosed with autism. So I may be a little more wound up on the topic than I should be. Peace be with you (and with all at Feministe.)

  6. Valentine
    Valentine May 28, 2007 at 4:22 pm |

    You know, i tried to come up with a reason to throw “anorexic” around like I did, and I really don’t have one. So I apologize for it’s hurtfulness. Two wrongs obviously don’t make a right.

    Blame it on how angry her comments made me. It doesn’t make it right, but I wanted to bring her down like she brought down Jordin. Should never have used a disease to do it. Body image is a big thing with me, I’ve been borderline if not over-the-line eating disorder-having myself at various points in my life, it makes me very sensative and reactive to have a normal girl labeled as overweight and unhealthy by some random ugly pundit on Fox News. (can I say ugly? ;) )

  7. BStu
    BStu May 28, 2007 at 4:24 pm |

    Absolutely, any negative remarks about her size are neither fair, reasonable, or appropriate. Even less fair is external diagnosis of an eating disorder on the basis of her outward appearance. This is what is constantly done with fat people and its not right. Being thin isn’t proof of anorexia any more than being fat is proof of overeating. Simply put, fat is an awful proof for overeating, so I don’t doubt that thinness is likewise. It also contributes to the notion that anorexia is a thin disorder. I’ve known more than a few fat anorexics who’ve struggled to get treatment or even acknowledgement of their eating disorder because of their size. Simply put, if you’re fat, you are supposed to be anorexic so the disorder goes ignored. I would agree that at all times using assumed ED’s as an insult is wrong and unproductive.

    All that said, I’m concerned about the way people who respond in an emotional way to an emotional insult from Roth are so quickly condemned. Not the armchair diagnoses but the angry retorts who respond to Roth’s hate with hate in return. I’m not saying its right, but I’m concerned that some are quick to focus on this wrong as a ways of turning the focus off what Roth said. Even though at its worst its no different than what Roth said. I’m not excusing it or saying its right, because it isn’t. But we’re also talking about insults against a privlaged class. While it isn’t right to attack her for being thin, it also doesn’t represent the threat that attacking someone for being fat is.

    Let me draw a parallel. I’m a man who would consider himself feminist. Its what brings me here. Now, sometimes in discussing issues of gender in our society, I’ve seen people say things like “this just makes me want to hate men”. Now, that probably isn’t a productive thing to say. The solution for a sexist society isn’t to create a different sexist society with the hostility and oppression directed towards men rather than women. At the same time, we don’t live in that society. We live in our society. And in our society, men are privlaged and men are the oppressors. As a man, I can’t take offense if someone is provoked to an emotional response in expressing hatred for men. No, its not right. But its no threat either because of the cultural power the male gender has. “I hate men” is simply a different thing than “I hate women”. They aren’t equal in impact or influence.

    Spinning hate around on a hateful oppression may be no better, but the original hate is actually worse because of the cultural power it wields. This isn’t to excuse or endorse that kind of response, but to suggest that there is a perspective that it should be viewed in. I don’t think its accurate to say that the hate is exactly the same depending on the direction when you are talking about a stigmatized social group. It may not be right or productive in either case, but they aren’t quite the same, either.

  8. Lizard
    Lizard May 28, 2007 at 4:36 pm |

    BStu, of course you’re correct that fat people are more often and more severely demonized and marginalized in this culture than thin people. But thin-hating and fat-hating are just two facets of woman-hating, and to decry one while sort of excusing the other is to miss the forest for the trees. The reality is that this culture will always find reasons to make women feel like shit because of their size/appearance/physical condition, and if we do the same, we’re hurting women of all sizes.

    (I really, really hope this doesn’t sound like a stereotypical “Racism hurts white people too!!!” response. Yuck. The point I’m making here is that fat women and thin women are both subsets of the un-privileged class of women in general—a parallel that doesn’t exist in the racism example.)

  9. bekabot
    bekabot May 28, 2007 at 4:49 pm |

    I agree that anorexia nervosa is a discrete psychiatric disease with specific etiology, but. The fact is, it’s a fashionable disease. There are many reasons for that, reasons which I’m not going to explore here, mostly because it would take up too much time, partly because I’m only a layperson and I don’t want to be caught talking out of my league.

    Back in the day when pro-anorectic websites were more or less free and accessible and open to all, I used to visit them pretty frequently, though I’ve never been anorexic. I visited them for the same reasons I used to visit body-builder and transgender websites (and still do) even tho’ I’ve never been into bodybuilding or experienced the least particle of gender dysphoria. I frequented all these different types of websites for the same reason: they were built and maintained by people who were interested in inducing extreme physical transformations in their bodies and who liked (or who felt compelled) to record, day by day, the results of their “experiments” upon their own physical frames. Anorexics, bodybuilders, and transgender folk are all people who are willing to screw around with their identities on a bedrock bodily basis. That fascinated me then. (It still does.)

    Well, on those occasions when I peeked into Ana-land, I noticed a few things that I thought were interesting. First, not all the girls who visited the anorexic websites were in fact anorexic. Lots of them were thin and wanted to become thinner still and figured that the really anorexic young women would make great sources for diet tips, but that’s not all. The girls who visited the pro-anorexic websites who were not themselves anorexic (there must be many fewer of them now that the pro-ana websites are so well-protected) were like groupies. The girls who were, on the other hand, really anorexic and could prove it were like the stars. Some of the groupies who were hanging around the stars wanted advice on how to become stars themselves, but others just wanted the opportunity to hang around and soak up the rarefied ambience.

    Second, there was a very definite and unmistakeable aesthetic to be discovered on the pro-anorectic websites. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, I know. What’s weird about it, however, is that this aesthetic, in a way, didn’t seem to be a result of the Vogue-cum-W emphasis on skinniness, but seemed to precede or anticipate that emphasis in some way. What I’m trying to say may become clearer when I adduce that the first exposure I ever had to the “dessicated chest” look I was later to come across years afterward in certain fashion magazines was on various pro-anorexic websites where girls who had achieved it were wont to post their photos.

    The aesthetic upheld by pro-anorexic websites didn’t have anything much to do with actual good looks then, let alone good health (and here again one can draw an analogy between the anorexic aesthetic and the bodybuilding aesthetic: after all, does a man actually become more handsome or more healthy when the veins stand out on his forearms?) and I doubt things have changed since. It seemed less aimed at securing the admiration of the herd than at procuring an exemption from that same herd. The overwhelming impression I got, while checking out the pro-ana websites, was that these girls were after extreme slenderness as a proof of extreme specialness, not so much as evidence of extreme beauty. It wasn’t that weighing 76 lbs. made one irresistably hot, as that negligable weight was an achievement, a badge of distinction.

    The reason I bring all of this up is that the “refuse to excuse” and “aspire to greater things” rhetoric connected with MeMe Roth’s movement echoes exactly the rhetoric I used to come upon on the pro-ana sites. The correspondence is eerie. Once again, what I don’t hear is “become lovelier” or “become healthier” but “become less common and more special”. “The more tenuous the body, the finer the spirit” might come close to summing this line of thinking up. Now even if MeMe Roth herself does not subscribe to this line of thinking, the people who hang on to her skirt-tails demonstrably do, because they enunciate its precepts precisely.

    Not on word of this is meant to castigate or throw a shadow over women who are just plain skinny. The anorexic aesthetic, or ideology, I used to run across on the sites that were dedicated to it was always less about being skinny per se than about being distinctive anyway. Here’s what I mean: MeMe Roth’s hangers-on & fans honestly do sound just like the anorexic chicks and their wanna-be hangers-on whose postings I used to read on the pro-ana websites. There is, I will admit, one major difference—the real-anas and wanna-be-anas didn’t pretend to be worried about anybody’s health, let alone their own. They were basically on an ascetic trip and wanted to exalt the spirit by debasing the body. Is it altogether a coincidence that MeMe Roth’s pronouncements seem dressed up in an attempt at pietistic fervor?

  10. sweet machine
    sweet machine May 28, 2007 at 4:51 pm |

    BStu, I see what you’re getting at with the directionality thing, but I think Lizard has a really good point: they’re two sides of the same woman-hating coin. The Rotund, a great new body acceptance blog, wrote about this issue not too long ago:

    But the anger directed at thin people in general isn’t accomplishing anything. I’m sure, for some people, it’s going to be a really important step on the road to self-acceptance. I just don’t want it to be yet another broken paradigm we are trying to put in place of the current (equally as broken) one.

    Let’s recruit thin people as our body acceptance allies. They are being fed the same bucket of horse shit that we are. They have their own body issues. And while we might wish we had their problems, they still have problems. It would reflect well on us not to dismiss them so lightly.

    She’s specifically addressing fat people, but I think the key point is important: body acceptance is crucial for everyone.

  11. BStu
    BStu May 28, 2007 at 4:52 pm |

    I don’t excuse “thin hating”. Its wrong, its unproductive, and its unfair. But it also doesn’t have the power of fat hating and that distinction should be noted. The people who were making thin-negative remarks in the original thread weren’t overwhelming the discussion. The reacted to Ms. Roth in kind and I absolutely think we should do better than that. But, there is a difference in impact and power between what Ms. Roth and so many like her say and the angry reaction it garners in a handful of people. Neither is right, but one has the cultural power to do harm while the other doesn’t. I don’t excuse thin hatred at all. Its profoundly unjustified and completely unproductive. But just as “I hate women” carries more power than “I hate men”, so does fat hatred. The few people who responded to Ms. Roth by insulting her weight were completely wrong, but what they did was not completely the same as what Ms. Roth did in the first place.

  12. Sarah
    Sarah May 28, 2007 at 5:42 pm |

    I agree that mocking someone for being thin is not exactly he same as doing the same for being fat, since the cultural context is different etc etc, however I do hate to see ‘anorexic’ thrown around as an insult, so thank you for saying this.

  13. Callie
    Callie May 28, 2007 at 5:45 pm |

    Bekabot, that’s really interesting.

  14. Kali
    Kali May 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm |

    I think the comment you linked isn’t very insightful, in that it conflates the people who were talking about her body (who should just shut up) with the people who were talking about her mindset.
    I think I probably agree with you that remote-diagnosing people isn’t helpful. But if people who have struggled with eating disorders in themselves or those close to them in the past are seeing elements of those thoughts or attitudes in Meme Roth, I actually do think that pointing that out is a useful contribution to the dialogue. It’s important to point out if the irrational thinking of someone with an ED is being brought into mainstream discourse. (I too got “pro-ana” vibes, especially when I looked at her website. But I know sod all about it so it seemed quite useful to have other people point it out.) And if someone wants to shorthand “she thinks like an anorexic” to “she’s probably anorexic” then– well, OK, maybe they shouldn’t do that, but these are just blog comments and we’re not always very rigorous with language here.

  15. BStu
    BStu May 28, 2007 at 6:18 pm |

    Arguing for body acceptance isn’t exclusive from noting that fat hatred has a different power than thin hating. While fat hatred is an active hate, thin hatred almost always manifests in a reactive manner. It isn’t right. I hate it when people do it because it leaves me appearing to defend something I think is idealogoically wrong and counterproductive. Nevertheless, fat hatred doesn’t have the power that thin hatred does and that’s an important distinction. Indeed, look at the reactions in that thread. When called out, I don’t think anyone stood up for thin hatred. People admited that they were wrong to indulge in it. Me!Me!, however, doesn’t lose a step in continuing to push fat hatred. Because the hate that she is expressing isn’t a reactive one born from anger and frustration. Its a hate which is empowered and emboldened by society. It is expressed knowingly and actively, not just as an emotional response. I don’t excuse thin hatred. Its obviously completely wrong and it frustrates me. But its just not the same kind of wrong as fat hatred. They are fundamentally different beasts.

    Again, though, this is all seperate from tossing out diagnoses of ED’s on the basis of someone’s appearance. Thinking someons is anorexic because they are thin seems to me far more like thinking someone overeats because they are fat and its reckless in either case.

  16. jay in chicago
    jay in chicago May 28, 2007 at 6:31 pm |

    Bekabot,
    This paragraph of yours really disturbs me , but I can’t exactly put my finger on why. I can’t really speak for body builders or people with anorexia, but I know that as a trans person who is in the thick of physical transition the way you have described it has not been my experience at all. I don’t like the portrayal of transitioning as “‘experiments’ upon [my] own physical frame”. irony quotes or not, hormones and surgery are hardly experimental in treating what can only be (in my mind) equated to a disease that has harmed my day-to-day functioning for at least a decade. Medical transition hasn’t been around long, but I assure you I am under a competent doctor’s care and only take my hormones as prescribed (small smile).

    My identity hasn’t been screwed with, on a bedrock bodily or any other basis.

    Back in the day when pro-anorectic websites were more or less free and accessible and open to all, I used to visit them pretty frequently, though I’ve never been anorexic. I visited them for the same reasons I used to visit body-builder and transgender websites (and still do) even tho’ I’ve never been into bodybuilding or experienced the least particle of gender dysphoria. I frequented all these different types of websites for the same reason: they were built and maintained by people who were interested in inducing extreme physical transformations in their bodies and who liked (or who felt compelled) to record, day by day, the results of their “experiments” upon their own physical frames. Anorexics, bodybuilders, and transgender folk are all people who are willing to screw around with their identities on a bedrock bodily basis. That fascinated me then. (It still does.)

  17. Mwezzi
    Mwezzi May 28, 2007 at 6:56 pm |

    I realise that my comment may fall into this, and so I’d like to make a quick apology and point out that my comment was not intended to trivialise the disorder; rather, to point out the way that MeMe was grossly exaggerating Jordin’s ‘extra weight’ with a counter-example. Having spent plenty of time explaining the difference between very skinny (me) and actual anorexia to my sister, I should really have phrased my comment better. Sorry.

  18. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate May 28, 2007 at 6:56 pm |

    Perhaps bashing her for her size is petty and trite

    It is.

    The few people who responded to Ms. Roth by insulting her weight were completely wrong, but what they did was not completely the same as what Ms. Roth did in the first place.

    Tell that to the skinny girls being called anorexics.

    Indeed, look at the reactions in that thread. When called out, I don’t think anyone stood up for thin hatred. People admited that they were wrong to indulge in it.

    I guess I missed those admissions. Where did you find them?

  19. Callie
    Callie May 28, 2007 at 7:03 pm |

    Bekabot, I skimmed over your first couple paragraphs because I saw the second-to-last paragraph, the one about the pro-ana rhetoric, first and found it interesting. I think there is some of that language being used by Roth.

    But I agree with Jay about the first part of your post. Trans folk aren’t screwing around with their identities. And perhaps body builders are putting their bodies through experiments in a way, but it’s not accurate to say that trans people and anorexic people put themselves through experiments. I don’t see a connection between the two groups of people–trans and anorexic–at all, actually.

  20. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 28, 2007 at 7:16 pm |

    For me, it’s not her weight, but her very clearly unhealthy obsession with the moral righteousness of being underweight. I don’t say that lightly, either. I have no idea if she’s anorexic, but she has conflated being anything but way underweight with sinfulness to a degree that seems like it’s a mental condition instead of low grade assholery.

  21. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 28, 2007 at 7:25 pm |

    Or, what beka said. I didn’t think Roth looked anorexic so much as I got the strong vibe off her that if she read me writing, “I don’t think she looks anorexic,” she’d start crying because that’s what she’s aiming for. If that makes sense. Her behavior is pro-ana.

  22. Kali
    Kali May 28, 2007 at 7:46 pm |


    what they did was not completely the same…

    Tell that to the skinny girls being called anorexics.

    Skinny girl who’s been called anorexic here. It’s not the same at all. Some of those comments annoyed the hell out of me, but equating them to fat hatred is remarkably short sighted. There is no systemic bias against skinniness in the culture. And guess what? That makes the insults hurt less. In fact, the only comments on my weight that have ever actually got to me are the ones that every woman gets, the ones that say the fact of my appearing in public is an invitation to pass comment on whether my appearance is appealing or not. And they’re insulting me as a woman, not specifically as a thin woman.

    Just my experience here, but if you ask around you’ll find very few women who have the same powerful reaction to being called too thin, as they do to being called too fat. Of course, passing judgement on anyone because of their body shape is wrong. But equating the two experiences is silly.

  23. Dauphine
    Dauphine May 28, 2007 at 7:47 pm |

    I was actually attempting to stay away from Roth’s weight, but my rebuke to her knee-jerked toward the physical rather than the intellectual, which, as you and Raging Moderate point out, is no better than Roth’s argument. My comment was insensitive and I apologize.

  24. bekabot
    bekabot May 28, 2007 at 8:12 pm |

    To any and all transgender people who read my comment and objected to it—if you found what I had to say offensive, I’m sorry. (I realize that “screwing around” was a poor choice of words.) No offense intended. I understand that bodybuilders, anorexics, and transgender folk all do what they do for different reasons and out of different motivations, and (lord knows) they’re looking for different results. Speaking, though, as a person who belongs to none of these three categories, when I ask myself what I find interesting about persons in all three categories, I come up with this: People in all three categories start out with a body which is one way and has certain characteristics. Then they act so as to change the way their body is, sometimes radically, so that they end up with a body that may be very dissimilar to the one they started out with, and may display very dissimilar characteristics. What’s more, they’re very conscious of the bodily changes they induce in themselves and pay attention to these changes, sometimes minute attention, so that they’re ideally positioned to describe (if they wish) their “outward” physical changes from the inside. This is fascinating to me; if less so now than it was several years ago. I hope that it’s comprehensible that these kinds of transitions can compel the attention even of people who have never intended to go through them. Once again, no offense intended, and no intention of somehow categorizing all three groups as “the same” or of categorizing their individual members as “the same”.

  25. Kelsey
    Kelsey May 28, 2007 at 8:22 pm |

    I recently found out someone very dear to me is anorexic. HE has been fighting it since age 15. It’s really hard to listen to people throw around the word like it’s meaningless, or, as you say, slang for “dumb skinny white bitches”.

  26. Frumious B
    Frumious B May 28, 2007 at 8:29 pm |

    Thank you for saying this, Piny.

  27. Morgan
    Morgan May 28, 2007 at 10:01 pm |

    i am a professional of sorts, and i can say that her mindset mirrors the psyche of an anorexic, although only a doctor or therapist would have all the information to make a clinical diagnosis (cessation of menses is required) of the actual disease of anorexia nervosa.

    i do see a difference in pointing out an anorexic mentality and calling naturally thin women that are not fat-bashing anorexic. i don’t feel she was being bashed for her size so much as for her words and actions. but that’s just me.

    i have been very thin via an eating disorder, and overweight via eating a lot, and i have to say, the insults i received in my thinness were usually based in jealousy, which didn’t make them, in my mind, insults at all. when i was called a fat, disgusting pig, i knew no one wanted to look like me or fuck me, and it stung far deeper.

  28. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 28, 2007 at 11:10 pm |

    i have been very thin via an eating disorder, and overweight via eating a lot, and i have to say, the insults i received in my thinness were usually based in jealousy, which didn’t make them, in my mind, insults at all. when i was called a fat, disgusting pig, i knew no one wanted to look like me or fuck me, and it stung far deeper.

    I found this part of your comment to be fascinating, because I know obese people who were able to happily date and marry and thin people who couldn’t get a date to save their lives. That you would automatically interpret comments about your thinness as veiled compliments and jealousy as is very interesting.

  29. Isabel
    Isabel May 29, 2007 at 2:01 am |

    Bekabot: I’ve skimmed through the pro-ana communities that are (were?) on livejournal (after a friend revealed to me a) she had a livejournal and b) she had started it during a period of her life when she was, as she put it, “kind of anorexic”–a mercifully brief period, and she’s better now, but I cried for like an hour after she told me so, yeah, like Kelsey says, I really, really don’t like when people throw that word around) and I know what you mean. There’s a certain equation of thinness with holiness, almost. It’s not about being skinny, it’s about being skinnier. Being exceptional, as you said. Pride in being “pure.”

  30. Morgan
    Morgan May 29, 2007 at 8:27 am |

    well, maybe i was overgeneralizing, but yeah, i do think most of those “skinny bitch” comments come from a place of repressed envy. i don’t think having an eating disorder is anything enviable, but i think the HUGE amount of privilege our culture give to thinness, especially in women, creates that sort of thing. when i think back on the insults i received when i was skinny v. when i was heavy (now i’m neither) i could totally see the difference. i have trouble believing that any woman who has been both overweight and skinny could honestly say that she did not see that difference. i think that our culture should be as open about thin privilege as we are about male privilege, white privilege, financial privilege. that could only help women with eating disorders see it as a construct, instead of maintaining this idea that the experience of being thin is no different than that of being fat.

    and i’m always glad to hear about obese people who can marry and be happy, but i still think even they would argue that it’s a fucking bitch to be fat in our culture, and that people treat thin women better.

  31. Penny
    Penny May 29, 2007 at 9:18 am |

    Thanks Piny, good to keep the word as a description of an illness rather than another word to bash women with, like we need more.

    That said, I got the pro-ana vibe right away from Meme’s website – before I looked at her picture or saw the video. Using one’s old wedding dress as thinspiration. This emphasis that getting larger than you were on that day is wrong. Particularly loaded imagery, since so many women starve themselves in the weeks leading up to the wedding in order to “look good on the day”. (anecdata from watching my friends.)

  32. BStu
    BStu May 29, 2007 at 9:22 am |

    I’m not sure I’d say that fat people who lash out against thin people are simply jealous, but I get what you’re saying about envying the privilege that comes with thinness, Morgan. I think when you’re dealing with issues of privilege the hate directed towards either side simply has a different character and impact. This isn’t to say it is in the least bit productive to hate people for being thin, but I feel it is too reductive to say that its the same thing as hating people for being fat. Its not good for a black person to hate white people, but its different than a white person hating black people. Hating heterosexual people isn’t the same thing as hating gay people even if neither are right. Hate from a privileged class is a substantially different problem than hate towards a privileged class. I don’t like either, but they are meaningfully distinct.

  33. Kyra
    Kyra May 29, 2007 at 9:33 am |

    Thank you for this.

    I am quite thin, and have run into that sort of reaction (accusations of anorexia, accompanied by insults about my looks that suggested it wasn’t my health they were worried about) on occasion, and even in the worst of it (the friends in high school who ganged up to prevent me from leaving the table until I’d eaten all my French fries, which I hate; the man at the Renaissance festival who picked me up and lifted me into the air to demonstrate how too-light I was), I could never quite put my finger on why it bothered me. The “oh, they’re just being concerned for your health” excuse was pre-supplied in my own head, let alone anywhere else I might ask.

    Finally, a more accurate answer. Thank you.

  34. sly civilian
    sly civilian May 29, 2007 at 9:46 am |

    word. those comments really skeeved me out. and yes, there are different powers that animate anti-fat and anti-skinny comments.

    but all of them give strength to a world in which women’s bodies are fair game for the scrutiny of power. and that’s industrial grade bullshit.

    thanks for this piny.

  35. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 29, 2007 at 9:47 am |

    and i’m always glad to hear about obese people who can marry and be happy, but i still think even they would argue that it’s a fucking bitch to be fat in our culture, and that people treat thin women better.

    I’m not disagreeing with you — fat people are treated terribly in our culture, far worse than people who are considered too thin.

    I was pointing out the two extremes of your thinking: when you were going towards anorexia, every comment could be ignored as jealousy, but when you were going towards obesity, every comment was a direct attack on the core of your self, with no middle ground.

    It’s probably striking me because I know someone who is both a recovering anorexic and a recovering alcoholic and, for her, both states are related. She finds it very, very difficult to steer a middle ground in anything, so it was interesting to see what seemed to be related thinking in someone else.

  36. Natalia
    Natalia May 29, 2007 at 10:25 am |

    I’m on the thin and tall side, and I’ve been called “pogo-stick” (my personal favourite) and “”skinny-ass bitch” and I have been told that there is no way in hell that any man would find me attractive since my tits weren’t big enough, et cetera, ad nauseum.

    As hurtful as these comments were – I don’t think they were nearly as bad, or as prevalent, as the things my fat friends got flung at them: “pig,” “cow,” “tub of lard,” “porky,” “fat ass,” “thunder-thighs,” “pork chop,” and so on. Fat people do get it worse than skinny people – no doubt about it.

    I like to think that this is a cultural thing, however. A lot of women in Ukraine, women who would be considered “pork chops” by MeMe Roth & Co. are actually viewed as voluptuous and appealing.

  37. Sally
    Sally May 29, 2007 at 10:52 am |

    I think you’re missing the point entirely, BStu.

    This isn’t about whether it’s ok to insult skinny women or whether insulting skinny women is akin to insulting fat ones. It’s about trivializing mental illness. When people call George W. Bush a “retard,” the offense isn’t because George W. Bush deserves protection from insult. The primary, important offense is to people with cognitive disabilities, not to our unfortunate President.

    People with anorexia are not privileged, any more than any other mentally ill person is. I know they seem privileged, and they may even enjoy some positive attention that looks like privilege, but they’re not privileged. They face the same insurance discrimination that all people with mental illnesses do. (My hospitalization came close to bankrupting my upper-middle-class parents, because I had a psychiatric diagnosis, and my insurance only covered a small portion of my treatment. I knew a young woman whose parents lost their house because they couldn’t pay for her hospitalization.) Anorexics have been kicked out of college for having anorexia. Even the positive attention isn’t really privilege, because it forces the anorexic to fixate on her weight and makes it harder for her to recover. (And the same thing is true of negative, weight-related attention. Anything anyone said about my weight, whether positive or negative, just reinforced the idea that my weight totally defined me.)

    MeMe Roth has serious fat-hatred issues. That’s a personal failing, not a mental illness.

  38. Frumious B
    Frumious B May 29, 2007 at 11:04 am |

    There is some thin privilege, but there is no skinny privilege. If your ribs and iliac crests show, you get nothing but revulsion from fat people and thin people alike. That’s why I wear clothes.

  39. Lotte
    Lotte May 29, 2007 at 11:07 am |

    Thank you. The problem with MeMe’s bullshit was not that she was judging a fat woman — it’s that she was judging a woman based on her size. And it’s every bit as moronic to do that based on skinniness.

  40. Miranda
    Miranda May 29, 2007 at 11:33 am |

    BStu Says:
    May 28th, 2007 at 4:24 pm
    Absolutely, any negative remarks about her size are neither fair, reasonable, or appropriate. Even less fair is external diagnosis of an eating disorder on the basis of her outward appearance. This is what is constantly done with fat people and its not right. Being thin isn’t proof of anorexia any more than being fat is proof of overeating. Simply put, fat is an awful proof for overeating, so I don’t doubt that thinness is likewise. It also contributes to the notion that anorexia is a thin disorder. I’ve known more than a few fat anorexics who’ve struggled to get treatment or even acknowledgement of their eating disorder because of their size. Simply put, if you’re fat, you are supposed to be anorexic so the disorder goes ignored. I would agree that at all times using assumed ED’s as an insult is wrong and unproductive.

    Sorry, but you’re flat out wrong here. There is no such thing as a fat anorexic. In order to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, one must meet certain diagnostic criteria, including (but not limited to)being at 85% of their “ideal” weight (or having a BMI that is less than 18) and having lost their menses. If they do not meet those two criterion they would be ED-NOS: eating disorder not otherwise specified. It’s difficult for anyone to receive treatment in the US due to insurance issues, but there’s a reason that those with the lowest BMI are given priority: they are physically the ones most at risk of dying from the disorder. It is not discrimination based on aesthetics or incorrect ideas, it is medical fact.

  41. BStu
    BStu May 29, 2007 at 12:36 pm |

    Sally, I’ve been very mindful to differentiate “thin hatred” and the casual diagnosis of anorexia because a person is thin because I think the later is not usefully distinguished from the kinds of judgments fat people endure. The examples Raging Moderate had cited included both people presuming Anorexia and people who just mocked her thinness. Its the later that I don’t think can be said is the same thing as a person mocking someone for being fat. I don’t like it, but its not fair to equate it to fat bashing. The anorexia accusations are another issue entirely and I’ve repeatedly indicated that I have no sympathy for that. Thinking someone has an eating disorder because of their weight doesn’t seem meaningfully distinguished to me by the ED that is being presumed.

    There is no such thing as a fat anorexic.

    I am well aware that fat anorexics cannot be diagnosed clinically as such. Diagnosing them instead with a catch-all is a significant barrier to treatment. If not technically, there are still fat anorexics in practice.

    They can exhibit all of the characteristic behaviors and psychology of an anorexic, but by being labeled as having a non-specified eating disorder they are classified in a manner which even some professionals don’t fully appreciate. I know a lot of professionals do understand the problem this represents and use the ED-NOS diagnosis appropriately, but I can’t ignore the first-hand accounts of women dealing with medical professionals who just didn’t get it because they couldn’t accept a fat person exhibiting the characteristics of anorexia. Practically speaking, there absolutely is such a thing as a fat anorexic. Treating fat people suffering from anorexia isn’t a threat to people suffering from clinical anorexia. Its just treating fat people suffering from anorexia. I’m not saying they have to be treated exactly the same way, but the first-hand accounts I have heard make deeply concerned that fat people with anorexia-like eating disorders are struggling to get treatment at all.

  42. TheKiti
    TheKiti May 29, 2007 at 1:35 pm |

    I think it’s perfectly legitimate to point out that Roth is advancing a “pro-ana” agenda, regardless of her own personal weight. If Oprah Winfrey or Rosie O’Donnell said the same things, I’d still regard it as “pro-ana.” That is far different from simply being anorexic, as the vast majority of true anorexics probably do want to get better and not have their disease reinforced by cultural gadflies such as Roth.

    And the fact of the matter is that she is advancing a belief that all women should be at least as thin as she is, based on the ideas that her weight is the ultimate health ideal and that there is no such thing as a woman being too thin, thus leaving herself open to being reminded rather harshly that all currently available statistical data suggests that neither is close to being true.

    Is “skinny bitch” accurate shorthand for the above? Maybe not. But let’s be clear about who made Roth’s body the issue first; it was, in fact, Roth herself.

  43. jeanette
    jeanette May 29, 2007 at 2:04 pm |

    While anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder, “anorexia,” as a symptom, is not. If you are generally not eating, as evidenced by a lack of calories on your plate or losing weight rapidly without a good exercise plan, you can be considered anorexic but not necessarily as someone who has anorexia nervosa.

    Additionally, among “skinny white bitches” who are preoccupied with their appearance, anorexia’s not a bad guess (nor is bulimia). The percentage of women with an eating disorder in western society means that, frankly, if you guess someone who is very concerned with their outward physical appearance/weight has disordered eating patterns, you’re probably right. It’s not okay to use it as an INSULT, per se, but I do think it’s fine to basically say that someone with disordered eating patterns has no right, whatsoever, to criticize anyone else’s weight or caloric intake.

  44. BetaCandy
    BetaCandy May 29, 2007 at 3:18 pm |

    This really needed to be said. It’s good that we’re calling someone for ignorantly judging a woman on the basis of her size. It’s good to discuss the possibility that messages like Roth’s may inspire unhealthy behaviors (like anorexia) rather than the healthy ones she claims to be concerned about.

    But there’s nothing wrong with a person being slim, or large breasted, or blond, or any of the other things the patriarchy tries to make the rest of us feel bad for not being. What’s wrong is some people having a sense of entitlement to tell others what they should look like.

    Only a doctor has any business telling you your weight needs to change.

  45. fatfu
    fatfu May 30, 2007 at 6:06 am |

    This is not to Piny, because I think he was very clear about this, but it is to some of the commenters.

    While I don’t like setting up hierarchies of oppression or falling into the trap of viewing them as competitive with each other, I have to admit, I’m with BStu that it has to be stressed that the current incarnation of fatphobia is not just the “flip side” of thin prejudice. Not because I want to trivialize prejudice thin women face, but because we need to remember what a serious and precarious situation fat people are in right now.

    To a fat person this is not about body image or name-calling anymore. This is literally about our viability in society. This debate (and the thousands of others like it that rage every day) are about: is it ok to prevent a fat person from being a role model? A teacher? A doctor? Is it ok to decide a fat person can’t represent your company? Or travel by plane? Or pay the same health insurance costs? Or get the same care? Or be treated fairly in the workplace? Or anywhere? To walk around unharrassed?

    And though most people came down against MeMe in this case, that’s very much a function of the fact that most people felt Jordin isn’t “fat enough” to warrant discrimination. But if she *were* fat “enough,” the discussion would have gone differently. There would have been a swarm of people chiming in about how MeMe had a “valid” point. If not here, then certainly elsewhere on the internets.

    That said, I think it’s as ridiculous to judge based on thinness as fatness. Without qualification it’s ignorant and absurd. I also am absolutely opposed to holding anorexia up to ridicule in any way.

    However there clearly is a cognitive style that we associate with anorexia (rightly or wrongly) which we need some reasonable means of talking about. I wonder, is talking about a “paranoid” or “delusional” thought process slamming paranoid schizophrenics? Are we really talking about the same thing? Or do we understand that we’re using the term in a loose, non-clinical sense?

    And if the term anorexic is offensive (and probably inaccurate) in this context – what would be a better term? Eating-disordered? Fatphobic? — I’d have to say there’s more going on with MeMe than simple fatphobia – this is also about her valorizing her own thinness and constructing a bizarre narrative about it that seems pretty pathological. Is the term pro-ana up to the job?

  46. The Rotund » Disclaimer
    The Rotund » Disclaimer May 30, 2007 at 8:36 am |

    [...] s — admin May 30, 2007 @ 6:36 am

    Sweet machine (laura) pointed me at [...]

  47. BStu
    BStu May 30, 2007 at 11:43 am |

    I’m not sure I’d necessarily attach “pro-ana” to Roth’s views as thus-far stated. For one, it seems appropriate to me for “pro-ana” to continue to represent the explicitly pro-anorexia movement. This movement exists and I’m not sure blurring the lines isn’t going to also blur the dangers presented by such unapologetic promotion of anorexia. Because, she’s not saying that people should starve themselves. She’s not telling people that they can never be thin enough. She’s not really advocating for anything that explicitly advances anorexia.

    Moreso, though, I think it lets Roth off the hook for what she’s pushing. Classifying her as “pro-ana” effectively marginalizes her to an extreme that I don’t think is really justified by her actual positions. I do think she is advocated for disordered eating and disordered relationships with one’s body, but I don’t think she’s really that out of the mainstream in what she’s saying. I know a lot of people here see Jordin Sparks and think, “well, she’s not fat” but she is precisely what the medical establishment and dieting industry is targeting. She IS what they are talking about when they bemoan the “epidemic” of fat children. Marginalizing Roth dismisses that she really isn’t off the reservation on what she’s saying. She’s being more blunt about it, perhaps, but her message is strictly mainstream. If we object to that message, we need to question that mainstream campaign against fat people. Not dismiss it as a fringe. Because while Roth is garnering attention for attacking Jordin Sparks, there are thousands of movements going on in this country to target the “pre-obese” for intervention and dieting. “Pre-obese”. As in not even technically “obese” or “overweight” like Jordin Sparks. Roth is just the tip of a big ice-berg. She’s not just a solitary cube bobbing on its own.

  48. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 30, 2007 at 12:09 pm |

    I wonder, is talking about a “paranoid” or “delusional” thought process slamming paranoid schizophrenics?

    No, but talking about a “schizo” thought process is. Paranoia and delusions are things that can and do exist outside of paranoid schizophrenia, which is why it’s not specifically insulting to schizophrenics the way that talking about all thin women as “anorexics” is.

    We can talk about how someone is driving our kids to eating disorders without turning “anorexic” into an insult.

    Because, she’s not saying that people should starve themselves. She’s not telling people that they can never be thin enough. She’s not really advocating for anything that explicitly advances anorexia.

    I guess we watched a different clip, because that seemed to be exactly what she was saying to me. She’s strongly encouraging people to unrealistically restrict their eating and strive for an unrealistic body weight. That screams “anorexia” to me.

  49. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred June 2, 2007 at 12:42 pm |

    What the… I meant it in the clinical sense, that woman was projecting like hell, it wasn’t just some petty snipe at “thin women” in general, I never fucking well do that, the fuck’s sake, I know about weight cycling, I know that there is actually such a thing as a fat anorexic, I wouldn’t call someone anorexic based on their looks unless they looked like someone who had been recently released from a concentration camp, I’M ANOREXIC, I have explained at length that I’M ANOREXIC, I was saying “this woman sounds like I did a handful of years back, specificaly, me when I was commenting at World O’ Crap and mocking Ann ‘skeletor’s husband’ Coulter, before I gained a shit lot of sense and stopped being such a massive unrealized asshole, which makes me think that she really is projecting her eating disorders (or more specifically, externalizing her body dysmorphia) onto other people.”

    Which is somewhat fucking different.

    FFS, first I’m what? A merry dog murderer, and now what? I’m accusing other women of being anorexic as some generic snarky thing?

    How big a hypocrite do you think I am exactly?

    (though rereading what I wrote, ouch, that whole “washing their teeth intheir own stomach acid thing” is way over the line, that I apologise for, the internet diagnosis seems valid though, I never actually said “she is suffering from an ED” I said, I quote;

    being this obsessed with other people’s amount of body fat is a clear sign of the pretty psychotic stage (yeah, me an alot of other people with EDs I’ve talked to about it have also experienced it, so it seems like a ridiculously normal stage of an ED) people with severe eating disorders go through when they start projecting their body dysmorphia at everyone around themselves even as they push their body harder and harder because ZOMG THEY’RE SO FAT!!!!.

    it was diagnostic, she seems to be acting like someone with a severe form of body dysmorphia, not “OMG, teh thinniness! It is teh wrong and teh Sick!”, and mores to the point, it was based on her words, not her appearance, give me at least that much credit)

    Additionally, among “skinny white bitches” who are preoccupied with their appearance, anorexia’s not a bad guess (nor is bulimia)

    It’s a pretty crappy guess actually, eating disorders are not always visible, and their affects are not just that the sufferers is thin, in fact the reverse is sometimes true because depressions and other disorders can in fact lead to a gross increase in weight.

    All it means is that the person, fundamentally, hates themselves, and hates their body, extreme skinniness is in fact merely the most obvious sort of symptomology of an ED, even if they’re binge eating when no one is looking while eating nothing but a singular stick of carrot during the myriad social eating rituals that people like me with EDs find really fucking hard to cope with, and make a wide variety of social interactions really fucking difficult.

    The Bulimia Fairies are, remember, Purge and Binge.

    Between the Oh-No-Not-At-All-Externalizing-Or-Nothing-Crazy-Lady and the woman she was mocking for “being fat”, either of them Could have an ED, but only the crazy lady showed any signs (that is, what she sounded like, I haven’t actually seen an image of her yet btw, so “she’s skinny therefore she’s anorexic” again, cannot have explained my thought processes there).

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