Friday, October 7, 2011

Fat Men, Feminism, and Shadows of the Past

So I'm looking through my stats in Blogger tonight and see an incoming link from an old Kate Harding post from a few years ago (a few months after I setup shop here in fact) called, Why Fat Men Need Feminism. Yes I'm even more put off by that title now than I was back then but I decided to read it again to see how I felt about it now. (BTW I even did a post on it back them too.)

Still not feeling it much but I think for a slightly different reason now.

Here's the main thing that still puts me off.
But fatphobia directed towards men is heavily steeped in misogyny. Because female fatness is considered to be such an affront, fat men are feminized, or at least unmanned, before being attacked or dismissed. Think about the insults you see directed at fat men: they have breasts, they are soft, they can’t see their penises or their penises are small, they can’t fight (except by sitting on someone), women won’t have sex with them. These aren’t the only ways that fat guys are picked on — I asked my husband what insults he thought were directed at fat men in particular, and the first thing he said was “you smell bad even if you don’t.” Then of course there are the stereotypes about being lazy and eating everything that we all know so well; fat dudes get that too. 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.
In a post that is supposedly about how fat men need feminism why would you go and basically tell us that the hatred against us is "really" centered around hatred of women?

Here's the thing about the intersection of fat hatred and being a man. The first thing that comes to the mind of some bigot when they want to insult a fat man is that for some reason that fat man is not a "real man". (And I can't believe I'm going to say this...) Full Stop. That's the problem right there. Holding fat men to some standard of what a "real man" and then attacking him for not meeting it is the problem here. It the fact that some portion of fat hatred is in reference to women doesn't matter (I don't see too many people making a big deal about how gay women are masculinized and how "if somebody wants to be truly nasty or threatening to a lesbian, they tend to start by equating them with men"). To focus on this is like thinking Al Queda is dangerous because they have access to AK-47s. Yeah they have the bombs, dangerous thought, and other weapons in their arsenal but its the AK-47s that make them dangerous.

Just in the paragraph before that one:
One effect of intersectionality, when it works, is that the language and concepts of one social justice movement can be enlightening and liberating even for those who are facing a different challenge. A fat man encountering feminist ideas for the first time will be privy to a new rhetoric of body autonomy and rejection of beauty ideals.

So she speaks of intersectionality and how the tools of one social justice movement can be used in others. Can someone tell me how this equates to acting like the reason fat hatred against men needs to be confronted is because of its misogyny? Sure it exists and needs to be confronted, and maybe I'm just in the minority here, but I don't feel a lot of love when the intersection of my fat and being a man is pretty much only being talked about in terms of women. Last I checked feminism is supposed to be a movement for all walks of life and all people. So why is it so hard to make a post about the shaming of men in which you actually focus on the fat and the men?

Near the end:
But I do think that feminism has something to say to fat men in particular. They get insulted by being compared to women, and we espouse the still-radical idea that being feminine (or being called feminine) isn’t inherently insulting.

So nevermind all those other ways I'm insulted right? Its almost like they want to get fat men into the movement while still keeping it all about the women.

Oh and there was one comment in particular that I just had to respond to:
fillyjonk:
Danny, think about it this way: You are upset when feminists treat you as a member of a group instead of asking after your personal experience. You get to feel this way, because as a man you get to consider your personal experience to be paramount and you are allowed to become accustomed to being treated as an individual and not a representative of your sex. It feels unusual and uncomfortable for people to ignore your personal experiences because of your gender, or consider your gender more important than your personal experiences. Male privilege is not being used to that. Male privilege is not growing up thinking that’s your birthright.


Yes I tend to get upset when people treat me like a member of a group instead of asking for my personal experience. Even we ignore this from the end of the post, "So… where’s the men at? I know there are a few of you. Does this idea resonate? (If not, set me straight.) Have you found feminism to be personally useful in combating your own internalized fat hatred? And, because I know there are only a few of you: how can we get the word out to other fat men?" this is offputting.

But here's what burns. Okay fillyjonk comments that it feels unusual and uncomfortable for people to ignore my person experiences because of my gender. That is the fucking opposite of what I'm feeling. The discomfort isn't because my "male privilege" makes me unused to be treated this way. The discomfort comes specifically from being treated as representative of my sex. Its almost like she is saying that I don't feel upset and uncomfortable from the fat man hatred but because I'm a man and I'm not used to not having my experiences being treated as paramount. I'm sure she wouldn't say that about a fat woman.

Look fat men want to be treated with the same respect that any human being deserves. This post still comes off sounding like in order for fat men to get anything from feminism we have to make fat male hatred all about women. You don't win allies by drawing them in with an issue that hits close to home but expect them to ignore what their own experiences tell them about the issue.


(PS - If feminism isn't just about women then why the constant need to turn nearly every issue they think is important into how it harms women?)

14 comments:

Jim said...

"Danny, think about it this way: You are upset when feminists treat you as a member of a group instead of asking after your personal experience. You get to feel this way, because as a man you get to consider your personal experience to be paramount and you are allowed to become accustomed to being treated as an individual and not a representative of your sex. It feels unusual and uncomfortable for people to ignore your personal experiences because of your gender, or consider your gender more important than your personal experiences. Male privilege is not being used to that. Male privilege is not growing up thinking that’s your birthright."

This is some of the pig-ignorantest erasure I have seen in a long time and what makes it worse is the way it's offered in theis sincere-sounding but in relaity very smug and condescending way. someone like this has exactly nothing to contribute to the conversation.

Just hopelessly clueless.

"It feels unusual and uncomfortable for people to ignore your personal experiences because of your gender,..."

No you spoiled little shit, who gets to cry in public and write endless navel-gazing journal entries and publish them to blogs and in fucking magazines and if they're realy out there, in actuul books becauee there really is a market for narcissistic drivel when iot comes form someone who looks like you - our gender is exactly why our personal experiences get IGNORED.

She is completley ignorant and yet she presumes to analyze your life and expound on it to you.

Femsplaining in high heels.

You need to post this whole article of yours as a comment in an open thread over at NSWATM.

debaser71 said...

If feminism isn't just about women then why the constant need to turn nearly every issue they think is important into how it harms women?

Narrow lensing plus narcissism plus victimhoodization.

debaser71 said...

"You don't win allies by "

they aren't trying to win allies. They are trying to reaffirm their in-group.

Clarissa said...

"So why is it so hard to make a post about the shaming of men in which you actually focus on the fat and the men?"

-Because there is this trend in feminism that insists on seeing everything in terms of female victimhood. It's like such quasi-feminists have learned this single, very limiting strategy of analysis and now apply it to absolutely every phenomenon under the sun. Of course, the results are, more often than not, quite ridiculous. As a feminist, I find this extremely narrow focus to be very frustrating. And insulting both to women and men.

Danny said...

Good point.

Danny said...

Yes very insulting indeed Clarissa.

Toysoldier said...

Honestly, I do not see the connection between fat men and femininity. I have never heard anyone make that connection, and I cannot imagine why anyone would. I wonder if that leap in logic happened because many feminists believe that anytime a man is considered less of a man that he is automatically feminine.

Either way, it is rather insulting for feminists to disregard men's personal experiences, particularly since feminism is founded on the notion that the personal is political. Why would a man's individual experience not count?

Danny said...

I'll be fair TS and acknowledge that there is SOME connection between fat men and femininity. And that SOME portion of shaming/insulting fat men is based in likening us to women. However that is only a very small portion of the hatred against fat and it gets nowhere near the base of the hatred itself.

I wonder if that leap in logic happened because many feminists believe that anytime a man is considered less of a man that he is automatically feminine.
I think so. To me when people make this leap they are buying into the very gender binary they claim to be fighting against. Its very possible for someone to be shamed as not being a "real" man/women and it not be a slight against the other. In fact look at how they talk about homophobia against gay women. I don't see any mention of how homophobia against gay women is an slight against male sexuality...

Either way, it is rather insulting for feminists to disregard men's personal experiences, particularly since feminism is founded on the notion that the personal is political. Why would a man's individual experience not count?
It would seem not and that is what bothers me. They say they want to help all people but rather than acknowledge our experiences as they are they twist them into "look at how this harms women" and then expects us to spring into action.

EasilyEnthused said...

Two things here:

1. I don't think it's so much that fat men are seen as women - just that they are seen as "not men." For example, the stereotypes about fat men being lazy, unable to fight, never get laid, etc. are all seen as moral failures as it relates to the hegemonic male - who works hard, kicks ass and never lacks female attention. FAT Man = F(ail) AT being a Man.

EasilyEnthused said...

2. Ouch about that comment from fillyjonk - I forgot how "male privilege" could be used as such a shaming tactic on gynocentric blogs.

It's really easy to do, too:
"Dear man writing on my blog - you only think that way because of male privilege. If you weren't a man, you wouldn't think that way - so I don't have to explain anymore to you and you will never be able to advance discussion here with your position. Thanks for playing."

Paul said...

Honestly that kinda reminds me of that PSA ad put out by a DV shelter that was targeted to men... about a year or so ago? The one that showed a naked man with Ken Doll genitalia. I recall Salon did a piece on it claiming it was only offensive because the "man" was being turned into a woman by his victimization. What most, possibly all, of them failed to realize (and because this was Salon, nobody was really allowed to point out- My comments, at least, got deleted) was that the victim wasn't being turned into a woman, because he didn't have *female* genitals, he had *NO* genitals. All they could see was lack of penis= woman.

That wasn't the case then, and it's not the case now. Not man =/= woman. you'd think for a movement that claims to hae the gender binary, they wouldn't subscribe to it so much

Danny said...

That wasn't the case then, and it's not the case now. Not man =/= woman. you'd think for a movement that claims to hae the gender binary, they wouldn't subscribe to it so much
Exactly!

It amazes me to now end that there is a movement of people who constantly talk about how they are going against the gender binary but will then use it with a straight face when it suits them. I honest don't think a good number of them can actually just say, "Hey that's harmful to men, its bad, something needs to be done". No it will always be, "Hey that's harmful women (and it sucks for guys a bit too), its bad for women, and something needs to be done to help women."

William said...

Danny

Women have no problem associating Fat Men with Femininity. What they rarely do is focus on the other side of the coin, how Fat Women are sometimes masculized by their fat/bulk.

Lesley at TwoWholeCakes has about the fairest approach to the subject

http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2010/08/huge-episode-9-standing-here-on-this-frozen-lake/

Danny said...

Women have no problem associating Fat Men with Femininity. What they rarely do is focus on the other side of the coin, how Fat Women are sometimes masculized by their fat/bulk.
And oddly enough when they do they seem to be perfectly capable of talking about it without making it the center of their argument either (speaking of ever notice according to some of them homophobia against gay men and gay women are both misogyny?).

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