Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hatred of fat men revisitied

Today I came across this article on weight issues in relation to gender.

When feminism talks about weight issues it only makes sense that they will be more focused on the weight issues of women. Nothing wrong with that right? Well seeing as how many feminists say they are interests in making the world a better place for all people it makes sense that they will from time to time talk about men and the things they face. Nothing wrong with that right? Well the article made reference to an old post by Kate Harding:
Not so an obese man. A rather fascinating blog on the subject has been created by Kate Harding who feels that fat men need feminism as much as fat women. She makes the intriguing point that fatphobia directed towards men is steeped in misogyny. That female fatness is considered to be an affront, and fat men are often feminised by society.
I took a bit of a look down memory lane and found what I think is the post he is thinking of.

I commented on that post back then back when I had was naive enough to think that a movement that is supposedly about equality would actually tap on the issues of everyone equally. Looking back on that I can see where I wrong to think that men should have equal footing to women in feminism...however I think there is still something deeply amiss here.

This article and that post of Kate's seems to imply that fat hatred of men is depends on hatred of women when that is not entirely the case.

Yes I've had my share of tit jokes and have been called soft but most of what large men have to deal with is a simple attack on their masculinity. The reason people insult fat men in such a manner is because at the base of it the attacker wants to attack that man's masculinity and feminizing said man is only one weapon in their arsenal and it is not the worst one. The goal of the attack isn't to compare said fat man to a woman but to unman him.

In this post I did a short while ago about making huge men out to be rapist there is much more going on than a hatred of women. This is an example of reducing large men to fat mindless beasts that will violate a person for sex (although I find it odd that fat men can be lazy slobs that aren't intimidating and massive rapists on the prowl that are a threat to people at the same time. I guess it depends on who you ask.)

Remember when I talked about Blob from X-Men Evolution and how he was pretty much a big dumb muscle throughout the entire series? That was about taking the creators of that show pretty much had a large male character and did nothing with him but play to the stereotypes.

While feminism has things to offer fat men when dealing with the things we face I get the feeling that things like this:
And fat men as portrayed in the media can sometimes be exaggerated examples of masculinity (also as portrayed in the media) — meat-eating, sports-watching farting machines. But if somebody wants to be truly nasty or threatening to a fat man, they tend to start by equating them with women.
I get the feeling they are trying to imply that the root of fat based misandry is misogyny.

The reason people hate on fat men is because in their warped sense fat men are not "real men". That's it. For some reason we have not met some part of the ideal image of what a man is supposed to be and for that deserve to be attacked. Yes feminizing is a tool for this but removing that tool will not remove the problem that fat men are still seen as not worthy of the mantle of manhood. That's why we have the Homer Simpsons, Peter Griffins, and so on who seem to have an inverse proportion of size and intelligence (i.e the larger they are the dumber they are). That's why almost any medical drama you can think of has an episode (or subplot of an episode) that deals with an overweight man and people go straight to his diet and lack of exercise (which is why I smiled at the House episode "Que Que Sera" when the overweight man's problems turned out to be cancer after about 40min. of being told it must be his weight). That's why fictional characters of our size are usually brainless muscle.

Add that to the fact that (at least to me) feminists tend to only bring up the issues of my reality when it suits them (and sometimes not accurately) and you have why I'm not clamoring to join them. Not saying they are a movement of man-haters but frankly they don't speak to my reality.

Now I'm sure there are people that would go straight to saying I'm crying "what about teh menz?" in this post. Did I say that feminism should turn its main focus to the plights of men? No. I am saying that feminists can at least do me the pleasure of speaking accurately when they see fit to speak on my reality (or at least ask, I'll more than likely tell).


Meadester said...

You have every right to write about "teh menz" on your own blog. It's usually those seem people who are constantly whining about the need "women's spaces" or "safe spaces for women" who attack men for discussing our issues in our spaces. Too bad for them the whole world is not a space where their half-baked ideas are safe from being challenged.

BTW, I really like The Simpsons and Family Guy, so I hope you don't find Homer and Peter too offensive. Homer at least does have some redeeming qualities. Interestingly, fat black men seem to portrayed as being fairly intelligent and wise. There is Cleveland Brown (hilarious name, BTW) formerly of Family Guy, now on The Cleveland Show. There was Chef on South Park (disregarding the last episode he was in when his character was horribly transformed by the shows creators in retaliation for Issac Hayes quitting over Scientology). For most of his time on the series, Chef was the only sensible adult in town. And, of course, who could forget Fat Albert?

Danny said...

I used to be a fan of Simpsons and Family Guy but not so much any more. I think I have noticed how they have gone from just comic relief to a representation of the American dad. And exactly what redeeming qualities does Homer have (honestly I haven't seen the show in about five years)?

Chef was a decent character for the most part but as far as South Park on the whole is concerned the remaining black person on the show is a black boy named Token. 'nuff said.

Fat Albert was entertaining but but like Homer and Peter when it became the image of large black guys I just fell out of touch with it. I can't count how many "Hey Hey Hey"s I've heard in my day.

Rachel Cervantes said...

All fat people catch crap, but fat women get it more. That doesn't mean it's ok. But...rather than making obesity-discrimination primarily a gender issue, I think we'll make more headway uniting against obesity discrimination than we will by going at each other.

*We being societal. I can't speak as an overweight person *now* but was in the past.

Danny said...

Who catches it more is debatable. Yes women might be attacked about it more openly but men are conditioned to think being overweight is something to be proud of. And in pop culture name a fat female character that can be openly mocked for her weight like Homer Simpson can? The Rosanne character may have been a fat women but she was the main character of the show and she was not portrayed as fat, lazy, and incompetent.

I agree going at each other is not good but trying to say the real target of fat based misandry is actually women I just lose my cool a bit. In fact I was close to call that article "what about teh wimminz".

Sonja Newcombe said...

Women appear to cop more comments about their weight, but obese men are usually used as comic relief in the media far more often. It evens out in the end and is an issue (or several issues, if you want to focus on each gender separately) that very simply needs to be fixed.

I don't mind the Australian Government's "Take 30" ads, or the "How Do You Measure Up" campaigns. Both are realistic, health-focused campaigns intended to encourage us to do our 30 minutes of exercise and be aware that we (overweight people. I am overweight, though I don't look it that much) may be at risk of diabetes.

Meadester said...

Homer does often show himself to be a loving father and husband and usually does the right thing after trying everything else. He often takes great risks to help his wife and children - going with Bart to face an angry mob, when Bart stole the town statue's head, going on the lam with Lisa when she was accused of sabotaging an animal testing lab, risking the wrath of the mafia to help Marge start a business, etc. He often says things that have some underlying intelligence like "This perpetual motion machine she made is a joke: It just keeps going faster and faster. Lisa, get in here! In this house, we obey the laws of THERMODYNAMICS!" or “The information superhighway showed the average American what some nerds think about Star Trek.” I realize none of these examples make him seem ideal but they do make him more complex than a simple stupid oaf.

Do you think that the South Park creators calling their black character "Token" is an example of actual racism rather than making fun of racists and racism? I think these episodes suggest otherwise.

I can certainly see how you would get annoyed at people saying "Hey! Hey! Hey!" all the time. Also, watching some Fat Albert episodes in this day and age I do find a lot of it to be hopelessly naive. Still, it was a good program for its time.

Danny said...

Now that I think about Homer you are right. However I had to think about and I'll bet that you are one of rare few people that think about those things that Homer says and does. After 20 years on the air and becoming an icon of American pop culture though, what sticks out the most about Homer? That he is stupid, fat, lazy, and incompetent. While the things you say are true I'm afraid that his place history will be cemented not by the things you point out but by the things I point out.

South Park does push the envelope often and for the most part they do such things to raise awareness. However again like with Homer what do most South Park fans watch the show for?

With Fat Albert yes it was good for its time the problem is when people use it for such mean purposes. The creators of the show did not make it for the intent of giving people some ammo in their hatred of fat men but that is what people have done with it. A more recent example of this would be Eddie Murphy's "The Nutty Professor" movies.

William said...

The article that you linked to is based on the thoughts of Susie Orbach and her peers. Most of these Women were not Fat Women and could not have a clear understanding of being Fat. They certainly did not have any experiences of being a Fat Man, yet they felt entitled to define the fat male experience for feminism and Fat Acceptance. Fat Acceptance went further astray when it linked with Dimensions Magazine (a fat fetish community) which further cartoon-ized the subject of Fat and Gender.

Researchers, Doctors and Writers who took the time to look have been recording Fat Male Issues well before the 1950s.


William said...

Hi Rachel

I think that too many discussions in Fat Acceptance sound like Fat acceptance can be measured and put on a scale. You may be able to observe the greater instances of Fat Bias toward woman, but you will not find any proportionate support from society for Fat Men that will suggest that Fat Men are accepted in anyway. What little that is said about Fat Men by Society is negative. Most novels and movies would describe fat men weak. Even more often Society will comment on lean men who have gained even a little as being soft and weak.

I think that many Fat Men question Fat Acceptance because they have not experienced this greater acceptance that Fat Men are assumed to experienced. Most of my life directly and more often indirectly I have been told by Society that Fat is bad.