Sunday 22 April 2012

Fat, Thin, Clueless

Someone on Twitter posted the wrong link and I wound up skimming Mallick. (What happened to her? Does anyone know? Was she ever worth reading?)

Using the Rob Fucking Ford at Kentucky Fucking Chicken guerilla video as a take-off point, she blithers about the 'vicious looks' she gets because she's thin.


Here at DJ! we take an occasional interest in matters of fashion, women's bodies, and the obsession and manipulation of same.

It's true: Fat is a feminist issue. And not just fat. All the sizes that women's bodies come in.

While I haven't experienced either end of fat-thin spectrum (well, except for that stint [ok, two stints] of excessive intake of what we called 'go-fast'), I know and have listened to people who have.

Here's a 'thin' story for ya, Heather.

A friend of a friend has Crohn's disease. She is amazingly stoic and rarely talks about it. One evening she arrived fuming at some small gathering.

She had been waiting for a streetcar with two other female strangers. The others starting discussing -- at a meant-to-be-overheard level -- how pathetic it is to see women who are so lacking in [insert noble characteristic] that they starved themselves to conform . . . yadayada.

She ignored them. They continued. She gave them the stink-eye. They continued.

Then she'd had enough. She rounded on them and I couldn't possibly duplicate what she said but it was operatic.

It contained words like: cancer, AIDS, Crohn's disease.

It contained an offer to show them a colostomy bag. Right there.

More about cluelessness and offensiveness. Etc.

She left them stunned and stomped off to take a different route.

We at the gathering were stunned too. She was still catching her breath from the reprise, while the rest of us congratulated her.

She said: 'Well, it just felt good to finally let loose with it'.

Someone asked: 'Finally? This has happened before?'

Answer: All. The. Fucking. Time.

So. Cry me a river, Heather.

No. Cry her -- and all the others whose thinness is a symbol of fortitude and forbearance -- a river.

Note to the Star: Fire Heather Mallick.

Note to self: Never read any of her shit again. (I know. That tactic worked real well on M. Wente, didn't it?)


Dr.Dawg said...

I couldn't disagree more. While Mallick lacks the spark she had back in the Globe & Mail days--she got well and truly tamed by the CBC brass and then ended up at the Star working for the same boss--she's always worth the read.

This post seems uncharacteristically mean-spirited.

fern hill said...

People just love to be judgmental, don't they?

Well, I do too, but it takes a lot of damned gall to voice it TO the stranger you're judging.

fem_progress said...

Picture this. My husband weighs 94 pounds. He never went higher than 120. (His biology is like that.) I weigh 210 pounds. A stupid diet when I was 25 f*cked up my metabolism.

Can you imagine the looks we get?

Even his sisters try to "fatten him up". It does not work.

I one read that doctors treat fat people differently, they spend less time with them, give them less info. The subtext is: fat people are not very intelligent.

Niles said...

Dr D, I'd have to say this wasn't one of Mallick's best or even mediocre. She starts out on Mayor Ford, chiding people for using his weight as a factor in why he's such a repellent entity: to which I agree entirely - he'd be repellent if he was lean as Cassius - but I would advise him to buy better fitting clothes so he doesn't look like he's strangling himself all the time...

...But then, she does a huge FAIL by babbling jokingly about describing fat people in PC terms, then tries to bring her life experience into how hurtful weight shame can using a few adhoc examples of how she knows fat people's nasty thoughts about her own easily not-fat size, not even by conversing, but by scientific means of her vast psychic powers. The funny part is, Ford-fan commentors are going after her for mentioning Ford is fat. They're so cute when they're trying to think like what they think politically correct is.

I just figure women are damned if they do and damned if they don't for body shape. Even the women who fit the present 'het male fantasy' perfection of 36-24-36 get shit on for details within that frame for everything from physical features, to age, to aroma, to clothes, to resorting to artificial enhancement, to what they have to eat to achieve it(the ever fun joke about women eat salads, men eat steaks - as if that has no bearing on things), to how a woman speaks *and* on what topics - especially around men who decide she may favour them with her presence.

There's no winning and there's more losing when women take up the task of pointing out the 'flaws' of a 'failed specimen'. My mother, who I intellectually knew was a product of her own upbringing, did her level best to concern troll me into awareness of everything I had wrong with me, well into my adulthood. The only thing that ever stopped her was not being around her.

Oh well, that's hopefully what feminism is for, to kick holes in the body shape fetishism a culture drowns its citizenry in, women and men, and force critical investigation into reasons for unhealthy bodies beyond blamestorming the individual for not being perfect, whatever perfect is today.

Dr.Dawg said...

I agree with most of this. But Mallick wasn't only talking about mean fat people: the most poignant part was the anecdote about the obese woman who may have though Mallick was laughing at her.

Mallick is on exactly the same side as the rest of us here. I have no idea why she's being made the enemy, but I wish it would stop.

deBeauxOs said...

1) Mallick presumes that the woman who made the video is also obese: "Oh look, a fat man eating the same lardy KFC gunk she’s eating in her car with her two-year-old. Ha ha ha. I know women like that. I have heard that laughter. I have seen that vicious look."

2) The column is a pretext for Mallick to blather about her favourite subject: Mallick.

3) And the paranoïa. "When my wedding ring slipped off, as it always does, I went out this week to buy my fourth — four rings, one marriage — as it seems to please my husband who never takes his off, which I think is weird. 'I’m already married,' I told the woman in the jewelry store. 'I lost weight and it fell off. So I need one that fits tightly.' I looked up to see pure venom on her face. She was stout. Awkwardness and bitter remarks ensued. I froze, courteously, as per normal."

Awkwardness? No kidding. TMI. Just buy the ring, since it seems to please your husband that you wear one, Heather. Why would a salesperson be *venomous* about such trivia?

4) "I often think of a woman on a bicycle on the corner ... She was extremely obese. ... I smiled at her manically, emitting friendliness rays, but I knew she couldn’t see me clearly. I know to this day she thought I was laughing at her from behind my windshield ... I felt so bad it hurt."

Oh really Heather, you *know* she thought you were laughing at her.

Perhaps she was afraid that a self-preoccupied driver, engrossed in the minutiae of her anxieties and fixations, was about to run her over. It happens a lot in Toronto, I hear.

Dr.Dawg said...

Amazing. The mean-spiritedness is catching, I see.

deBeauxOs said...

Yes, Heather's *pure venom* is indeed contagious.

Námo Mandos said...

I tried hard to fish for something redeeming about that Mallick column, but I came up empty. The problem is that modern, liberal-left culture uses fat as a mental proxy for moral incontinence. I also have my fingers in the US blogosphere, and the biggest flamewars/grudge matches I've been involved in have included the belief of a lot of card-carrying American liberals and leftists that it is OK to mock the fat and that fat people complain too much rather than joining a gym...

The point of Mallick's column is to claim that fat people have it easy, actually, and they hate her for her evident ability to not eat a chocolate bar in 20 years, ie, have the moral continence they lack. It's just the passive-aggressive "they hate me because I'm pretty".

Dr.Dawg said...

That's not the point at all, although your gesture of solidarity to your colleagues is no doubt appreciated.

Mallick begins by decrying the mocking of Mayor Ford for his girth, and ends with an anecdote about an obese woman who might have thought she was being mocked as well. The point of her piece is the "lookist" unkindness that people show each other, whether fat or thin.

Mallick wrote about herself and her own experiences. Once upon a time, the personal was the political. Now its all TMI and accusations of self-fixation. Into the dustbin of history, I suppose, go the works of Erica Jong, Kate Millett, Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer...even Sylvia Plath. Why is it all about them?

And let's not forget the obligatory trashing, too: Mallick, not her detractors, is the "venomous" one.

Good grief, I thought I'd wandered onto the Babble board for a moment.

Niles said...

Dr D, it's her presumption that she knows what the other women in her anecdotes think that is annoying to me. It's just weirdly trading on no actual interpersonal engagement with them on what she believes she is perceiving, only her internal conclusions.

Let me try an example of what I'm trying to say. I was sitting in a Dairy Queen, lost in thought and completely zoned out to my surroundings, staring blankly off into midspace. I came back to externals to find a young woman sitting a few tables away in my line of sight, who was glaring visual daggers at me and then got up and left, muttering under her breath. I sat there baffled, trying to figure out what I'd done.

I concluded I might have been taken for someone staring at *her* intently for some time, but honestly, I'll never know what the true reason was. For me to conclude it was me doing what I thought I might have done is sheer self-oriented presumption on my part, as we never actually communicated to clarify. I was looking for patterns/reasons that fit the situation and found one that seemed to fit and held me blameless for intent.

I don't share the vehement reaction to what Ms Mallick wrote, but I'm not fond of her certainty in her personal examples. Even recounting conversation is hearsay but at least it involves two people.

Is that narrowing the scope of criticism from the broader intent of Ms Mallick's article to how she detailed her idea? Yes.

fern hill said...

So. I think we've revealed why Mallick is still employed. Her fuzzy but self-centred thinking allows anyone to draw any conclusion atall atall.

My gut reaction is closest to Mandos's parsing. I am fatally allergic to passive aggression.

Dr.Dawg said...

There seems to be a certain reading comprehension difficulty here. Mallick explicitly stated the very opposite about the obese woman in front of her car--she just doesn't know what that person might have thought.

Her initial reaction to the jeering at Rob Ford and the viral/virulent post-commentary was entirely appropriate. She then connected on a personal level.

She did not say fat people had it easy.

She did not claim to be in everyone's heads.

She was reacting to lookism/physicalism and wrote a pretty good column about it.

No venom to be found.

But she ends up being personally trashed at a feminist blogsite for daring to express herself. I find this distressing, to put it mildly.

fern hill said...

Oo. Dawg is distressed with our feminism. It does not measure up to his high standards, apparently.

Niles said...

Ms Mallick is employed because she's read. She has more hits than misses on progressive tracks. I've found her interesting more times than not. She reacted viscerally to the video and the videographer, finding a bullying aspect in it. For all I know, she was triggered by it to something in her life. I still have trouble with the angle she took and I wish I could articulate it better.

I also find it interesting that Dr. D has a 'bigger bucket' read on the article when it seems every one of us here at DJ! tripped over the devil in the details. I'm not of the impression we're a hive mind here (an opinion I'm sure will be disputed by other parties) and I'm unwilling to cede we're having difficulty parsing the article, so where's the breaking point on this?

I have troubles with the framing being fat=organized monolithic lobby; fat guys getting a pass from her while fat women 'of a certain age' were out to get her because she was thin; settling on the word 'stout' for all fat women, as if forced to it (btw, I know a woman I consider truly stout, she runs a ranch and can launch a shirty stud off its feet she's so big and strong) Ms Mallick's presumption the woman on the bike feared she would now mock the woman?(biasedly, if I was just verbally abused by a carful of strange men while out biking, I think I'd have more on my mind than fearing a woman in the next car was going to mock me. I might be looking for witnesses and support, but again I'm investing my own mindset into the scenario)

Námo Mandos said...

That's not the point at all, although your gesture of solidarity to your colleagues is no doubt appreciated.

Um, I'm a...little taken aback by this and not quite sure how to respond.

I honestly don't see how you would find this:

Mallick begins by decrying the mocking of Mayor Ford for his girth,

from this:

I, like you, watched the much-quarrelled-over amateur paparazzi video of Rob Ford, failed dieter and Toronto mayor, entering a KFC outlet for a bag of deep-fried chicken skin.

Apparently, the video, by virtue of its existence, mocks Ford for being fat. I disagree and think it’s just life in our city. Truthfully, fat is irrelevant. It ravages your health but it doesn’t change the way people regard you.

For Ford isn’t a thin mayor or a fat mayor, he’s a terrible mayor. He could forage for dandelion leaves on the city’s unkempt sidewalks, he could grow healthful beets in his own driveway à laPortlandia, he could grow thin as a paper clip, and he’d still be bad at his job.

Yes, she is saying that Ford would be bad at his job even if he were thin. But she's also denying that fat "changes the way people regard you." Which is really not true---fat is a huge cultural symbol---and it's particularly offensive when she's claiming that "fat has a lobby", and, by implication, showoffy-thin people like her don't have an entire culture.

The remainder of the article is humble-bragging about cultural dominance displays.

Going back to the first of your statements that I quoted, well, I don't see why you feel the need to defend her so, considering that at best her column is filler, which if you think about it is kind of offensive in itself. And if you must ask, a bunch of us have held her in low regard for some time now, certainly from before I joined DJ as a coblogger.

Dr.Dawg said...


Mallick says that the virality of the video is more about Ford being a poor mayor than about his girth. I think she's possibly right--just more Ford being Ford, and how contemptible is that? But she goes on to note that the laugh-track turns this all into more than a political lampoon.

As a thin person, she's felt that same lash. And she goes on to note that women, who are surely the victims of lookism par excellence, become their own oppressors. We both know enough theory to know how that works.

She expands upon this through personal experience, and foregrounds a problem worthy of discussion. But apparently this is a firing offence. Seems to me that the woman in the car isn't the only tricoteuse hereabouts.

Jim Parrett said...

As a lifetime thin person 'suddenly' gaining much weight in my advancing years, so much so that a young man calmly approached me the other day on the street and patted my belly and not like he was mistaking me for Buddha, weight has become an important issue for me, if not a soft spot.

But I feel that Mallick's take on Ford's KFC moment is wrong. The video portrays a hypocrite being caught cheating, the weight is beside the point. The Star had every right to post it as any politician going against their words should be exposed.

There are dozens of videos of Ford in public and nobody's laughing. He was just as obese now as he was then. But this video of him entering the fattest of fat food restaurants while he is riding the "Cut the Waist" scam, is funny. In fact, it's hilarious in its catching of the mouse about to take the bait that fate has placed before him.

The video hasn't nearly as much to do with Ford's weight as it has to do with his blatant HYPOCRISY. What we have here is a man being caught doing the exact opposite of what he is promoting. He just also happens to be obese.

If we're going to be sanctimonious with each other, there are other subjects much more profound and timely. Mallick is on the wrong track here and as Dawg has pointed out, she's not the same writer she once was.

Plus, I don't think calling out people who disagree with oneself as embroiderers at an execution or screaming banshees is productive. We need to get over this name calling and Progressive Blogger mentality. Let's get back to exposing the Cons, not inventing outrage over events open to interpretation.

JJ said...

That article sounded paranoid to me. I've been slim all my life, and I can't say I've ever encountered any genuine Anti-Slimitism.

The closest thing was a few years ago when a sales clerk looked at the label on the jeans she was ringing in for me and *jokingly* said "Size 5? Ooh, I hate you." My mom was shopping with me and she chimed in and said "Yeah, me too!" Needless to say, I didn't take either of them seriously.

Pertobello said...

Yeah Heather M. is just a terrible. On top of that, she makes up a lot of vague reasons to be hateful just so she can write an "interesting" article. Meh.

Thanks for the article. Agreed.