Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Remembering New Orleans

Two years ago today Hurricane Katrina eviscerated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, creating the worst natural disaster in American history and adding yet another page to our President’s massive, mind-boggling book of shame. Things are quite a bit better on the Coast, but conditions in New Orleans continue to be a tragedy and an outrage. Thousands of people have worked diligently to repair the damage, but the government – city, state and federal – has been useless as tits on a bull in these efforts. Indeed, disinterest and negligence have been surpassed only by greed, fraud and the imperatives of the almighty free market. Many of those who called New Orleans home have been unable to return and many of those who have come back face enormous difficulties. The city that gave birth to jazz, blues and Zydeco is being gentrified faster than you can say “You want granite countertops with that?” and essential goods and services are being lavished on the nouveau gumbo but withheld from poorer city veterans. President Bush visited the area today and announced that he saw hope in New Orleans. Right. Brought to you by the man who thinks The Surge is working. God Bless New Orleans. She needs all the help she can get.

Confessions of a Tarot Floozy

About ten years ago, I was honored to be an active member of an e-mail discussion group called Tarot-L. It was the place to be for Tarot people back then; many of the leading authors, scholars and readers participated, as well as plain old Tarot enthusiasts. During that time, a joking conversation with a Tarot friend motivated me to write the following little piece of Tarot humor. As I said when I put it out on Tarot-L, this was written with great affection and no disrespect is intended. I believe God has a wacky sense of humor; I certainly think the Tarot gods are just as amiable. If you don’t know the Tarot well, this piece probably won’t mean much to you – but if you’re a true Tarot aficionado, I think you’ll get a kick out of it. Enjoy!

People talk about the Tarot and how wise and wonderful it is, and how it can foretell the future and all. Yet no reader could have told me what my life would be like after I first got involved with those cards. In the beginning it was a thrilling new WORLD, an 8 OF WANDS of kicks and surprises. Then a dark side was revealed. I got myself into Major trouble, even though I was still a Minor. I had climbed high up the tree of life. But soon I had the DEVIL to pay and fell to ruin. I had spread myself too thin. Oh, if only I had foreseen the outcome!

It all started out innocently enough, right after I moved to Tarotown. I was having a few laughs with the MAGICIAN. I thought he was Aces. He’s an infinitely dynamic guy and before I knew what was happening, he laid his cards on the table. He loosened his snake, pointed at me and said “Do you want it Above or Below?” and I just lost my head!

Afterwards I felt so 9 OF SWORDS that it was months before I got involved with the EMPEROR. I’ve always had a thing about older men. He’s very commanding and I felt so safe with him. I was still new in Tarotown and I didn't even know about the EMPRESS until she and that harpy, the HIGH PRIESTESS (there’s more behind that veil than meets the eye!) cornered me at the salad bar in the Red Lobster near one of the local covens. They told me in no uncertain terms to 8 OF CUPS out of town. So it was bye, bye EMPEROR.

I was really shaken and I went 6 OF SWORDS up to New England and just hung out for awhile with the Motherpeace cards. They were so comforting, so nurturing; I really got my 2 OF PENTACLES back. But I couldn’t stay there forever. First of all, there were just too many damn Pages all over the place. And for another, I found myself willing to kill for a hamburger and a straight-back chair – I mean, how much tofu and sitting in circles can a girl take?

So I came back to Tarotown. And one day, I met the HERMIT over at the library and was so taken with him: quiet, shy, hooded... I felt this was someone who wouldn't exploit me. Yeah, right! I won’t even begin to tell you what he wanted to do with that staff and lantern once he got me alone!

I was very depressed after that and went on a sort of Lost Weekend, picking up Knights in bars without evening knowing their Suits, and letting some of those husky Pentacle types have their way with me. There was even an orgy with the 5 OF WANDS (hell, what do you think they’re fighting about!). I tried to have a serious relationship with some of the other Wands and a few Swords, but talk about emotionally unavailable men! Then there was a really ugly encounter with the 7 OF SWORDS. I don't want to call it rape, but he was very rough with me and made off with all my cash and credit cards!

That really set me back and before I knew it, I’d lost my job, my home, my self-respect. I was working the streets of Tarotown, jumping into any CHARIOT that slowed down along the avenue, holing up in a crack den in the TOWER, playing those pathetic 8 OF SWORDS bondage games. I was strung out on herbs and aromas and let myself get hooked up with that creep, the 6 OF PENTACLES, working for whatever pennies he saw fit to dole out to me. Oh, the shame!

I’d hit bottom. Miss 5 OF PENTACLES, that was me! Then a few of my girlfriends – maybe you know them, the 3 OF CUPS? – did a full-court intervention with me and I realized what a FOOL I’d been. They sent me out west to stay with the Medicine Wheel cards for about six months. After a few sessions in the sweat lodge and some really intense drumming, I was right as rain!

So I came home to Tarotown, my town, the town I love. And I’ve started a new life. It’s not much. I’m living in the TEN OF PENTACLES halfway house and just started a new job with the 3 OF PENTACLES (really, really nice people...). I still have dreams of meeting the KING OF CUPS, getting 4 OF WANDSed and living 10 OF CUPS ever after. But I'm trying to keep my eyes open and my expectations reasonable. Who knows, maybe someday I'll meet a nice, steady 8 OF PENTACLES and settle down. For now, I'm just taking it a day at a time. Lord, give me STRENGTH!

This post is illustrated with THE STAR because she, like this sweet little recovering floozy, represents openness, hope, generosity and good cheer (a Trump with a heart of gold)!.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Listen Up!

If you're having trouble making comments on this blog (or other blogspot blogs, for that matter), please note the following: If you click directly on the word comments to get to the message box, you will probably encounter a jiggly, kind of spastic screen that won't let you do anything. But, if you click on the little comment icon -- the one that looks like a cartoon speech balloon just to the left of the word comments -- you'll get to a nice calm page where you can register your opinions. Hope to hear from you soon!

Donuts and Stupidity

Today's New York Times offered a blog for reactions to a story that combined new "facts" about the increase in obesity with news that Dunkin Donuts is taking the trans fat out of its goodies. Forget the fact that trans fat is a heart-health issue, not a fat issue, the anti-fat brigade was out in full force to bemoan the existence of fat once again, and to offer a few offhand insults to us fat pigs. I posted the following comments in response -- not as cordial as I should be (more friends with honey than vinegar and all that), but they caught me on a pissed off afternoon...

This is getting so tired… In just the first nine comments, the proverbial Man in the Street has declared that stupidity = obesity (honey, thinking fat = dumb is what’s stupid – and prejudiced), losing weight is “simple”: just say no (thank you, Nancy Reagan II), people eat to make themselves feel better but don’t realize that’s what they’re doing (no, we eat to make ourselves feel better because it feels better!), the government should play a larger role in what Americans eat (anything else you’d like those Bozos to have a say in?), and my favorite: obesity is the fault of selfish feminists who aren’t home to cook good, healthy meals.

Folks, obesity is a very complicated matter and food is only part of the story. In addition, as anyone who’s been on a diet can tell you, weight loss isn’t permanent and yo-yo-ing up and down is genuinely damaging. Finally, and I know you won’t believe this because you’ve been brainwashed to believe otherwise, but obesity per se is not unhealthy. Being unfit is unhealthy. Living with great stress is unhealthy. And being obsessed with every morsel of food you put in your mouth is unhealthy - and nuts!

If people would pay more attention to the war that is bankrupting the nation, the Big Brother policies that make communism look like wild abandon, the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are poisoning us, and the fear of everything that colors (and stresses) our lives, the mere sight of fat people might not send you over the edge. There’s a very big difference between something that’s dangerous and something you just don’t like. But like it or not, fat is not your enemy. Get over it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

In Memoriam, Grace Paley (1922 – 2007)

It was announced today that Grace Paley, one of this country’s greatest writers and most dedicated social activists, died on Wednesday at the age of 84. Paley was a beloved hero. To me, she was the epitome of true womanhood, beautiful without the artifice of glamour and unashamedly passionate. She was politically savvy and courageous, profoundly Jewish without a fear-based kind of faith, and the quintessential New York intellectual, unstudied yet immediately distinctive.

I met her once when I was 20-something and my mother (who introduced me to her work) and I went to hear her read at the 92nd Street Y. She was completely present, a woman at ease in her own skin, and therefore, not surprisingly, mild mannered and soft spoken. I mustered all my courage to introduce myself after the reading. She was very sweet and took my hand in both of hers. Like a schmuck, I hadn’t thought to bring one of her books to autograph. Opportunity lost.

Paley’s language was clean and plain yet remarkably evocative. She made New York’s Lower East Side almost holographically vivid, documenting a time and place of what the New York Times obituary spot-on called “secular Yiddishkeit,” flavored with the scents and sensibilities of the Italians, blacks and Puerto Ricans in her midst. Her short stories explored a women’s world of little money, broken hearts and promises, guerilla motherhood, and the myriad complexities of coping with men. And as an activist, she was always on the old left side of civil justice, human rights and war resistance.

As a Spiritualist, I believe that the essence of Grace Paley will continue on some other plane of existence that I don’t pretend to comprehend. But as one of the many living left behind, I mourn the loss of this strong, true, exquisite voice. I send my deepest sympathies to her husband and family, and empathetic greetings to her friends and colleagues, and my fellow readers. It feels a little dark right now, but we’ve all been blessed by the warmth of her light.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Word About Choice

It seems that one of the most contentious ideas put forth by the fat acceptance movement is “fat is not a choice.” Millions of fat people know this is true; our own histories tell us this is true. Important, legitimate scientific research tells us this is true.

But on the other side are millions of people who do not believe this. These are primarily non-fat people who make a second job out of staying non-fat. They all think they’re "fat"; they spend their lives pushing back the same five or ten pounds that completely color their existence. Even when they’re not dieting, they eat far less than they want to. They eliminate favorite foods. They exercise compulsively.

As a result, non-fat people manage to stay non-fat. They don’t believe that fat people have no choice, because they work at not being fat, they routinely suffer to not be fat. Most non-fat people cannot eat whatever they choose and stay non-fat – and since they believe that being ten pounds overweight and 100 pounds overweight are the same thing, just a matter of degree (aaaagh!), they reject the idea that fat is not a choice. They buy into the guilt. They buy into the false promises. Most of all, they buy into the infuriating “If I can do it, you can do it” message with which the anti-fat propaganda machine constantly bombards them.

So, there we are, the size equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys, feuding forever, throwing our experience and science at each other, creating nothing but more resentment and resistance between us. And it’s futile. We will never convince non-fat people that fat is not a choice. Never. Ever. It is for this reason that I contend that the lack of choice should not be the factor we primarily cite to justify fat acceptance.

Indeed, in the larger, more important and more inclusive picture of individual rights, choice is not the point. In combating fat hate, prejudice and discrimination, choice is not the point. Whether or not fat people choose to be fat is irrelevant to our right to not be discriminated against or otherwise punished by fat hate and prejudice.

We have a right to be who we are, whether or not other people approve. We have a right to be visible, to be employed, to be parents. We deserve the same opportunities to dress well. We deserve equitable access to health care, health insurance and life insurance, because whether or not we choose to be fat, everybody – fat and non-fat people alike – brings their own particular baggage to the process of distribution of social services and protections.

Until we feel a sense of entitlement to be fat people – choice or no choice – we will never convince society to treat us with respect as fat people.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

As I See It

I’m at a point in my life – past middle age – where I will not voluntarily be a part of something that doesn’t allow me to be myself and speak my mind. Accordingly, I have the following to say:

The Fat Acceptance movement has been around for decades and relatively little has changed. I don’t mean this as a slight against the many women and men who have worked very hard to advance the true facts about fat. But the prevailing ideas, feelings, myths and misunderstandings about fat are so deeply rooted in most of the cultures of the world (parts of Africa and the Middle East are the primary exceptions) that fighting against them is a virtually insurmountable task. Add to this the fact that America’s annual $40 billion diet industry is busy 24 / 7 / 365 reinforcing anti-fat beliefs (and fears) and it’s a miracle that any shred of a movement exists.

The fact is, we spend most of our time commiserating with each other. Our efforts to communicate with the non-fat world fall on deaf, hostile ears. I believe that a good part of the problem is that what we say flies smack in the face of most people’s experience. And it’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem so much as how we say it.

“Fat Acceptance” is a very off-putting term. Most people, women particularly, would rather accept a cyanide pill than fat. Most people don’t even want to hear the word fat. They think it’s a slur – and we throw around the word fat the way contemporary gays use queer – as a deliberate confrontation, meaning, “we reclaim this word so you can’t use it against us.” We would be better served by the alternative terms already in place, like body acceptance, size acceptance and body autonomy.

One of our main battle cries is “diets don’t work.” I believe a battle is lost every time we say this, because millions of people, the ones keeping the diet industry flush, the ones who live on salads and rice cakes and cabbage soup and no carbs and no fat and all fat… they know full well that diets do work. What doesn’t work is maintenance. The strongest, truest statistic on our side is “98% of people who lose weight gain it back within one to three years.” Everyone who diets knows that regaining weight is a fact, it’s just that they’ve been made to believe that the fault is theirs: they didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t have will power. So they continue the cycle of yo-yo dieting that creates the health problems they’ve wrongly been taught to attribute to being fat. We would be better served by a term like weight loss isn’t permanent. That will, hopefully, resonate with most people long enough to continue the conversation.

Also in this category is “Fat Rights Now!” This sounds more humorous than serious, particularly since we don’t have an established, broad-based constituency. Rather than demanding, we should be imploring. I don’t mean begging, I mean helping people to see things differently – just that, for starters. Slogans like Fat Hate Hurts Everyone, Fat People Are Not the Enemy, People Come in All Sizes and Fat is Not a Crime would serve us better.

Then there is the message that obesity is all about genetics and other physiological factors and has little or nothing to do with food. This is preposterous and challenges the direct experience of everyone who watches the scale rise and fall with french fries one week and celery the next. Obviously, what we’re trying to communicate is a complex piece of information that doesn’t lend itself to sound bites and slogans.

We’re talking about factors such as genetic predisposition to obesity, compounded with yo-yo dieting that generates new fat cells that never leave, set points that will not be over-ridden for long, and very real thyroid and metabolic malfunctions, not to mention the fucked-up internal “thermostats” that don’t let us know when we’re not hungry, and interpret the hours between meals as starvation. And, there’s the wealth of missing knowledge that science has yet to accumulate. In truth, very little is known about how weight operates.

This is all very involved and extremely difficult to articulate. But by taking the short cut to “fat isn’t a choice” and “we can’t help it,” we immediately lose credibility among the millions of non-fat people who see us chowing down at the mall. They don’t know that the heavier you are, the more fuel you need, or that some of us can eat like birds and still gain weight. They don’t know and they don’t care. They’re hungry! And as far as they can see, they’re depriving themselves and we’re not. We would be better served by slogans such as fat isn’t just about food, or food is only part of the story, something that might motivate a reasonable person to listen to what we have to say next.

Finally, speaking for myself, I love food, I love to eat. I love to shop for food, I love to cook, I love to watch the food network on cable, I love to talk about food, I love to eat with other people who love to eat. I will not undo years of struggling for self-acceptance and become a closet eater again. Since I no longer diet, I’m not obsessive about food the way I was back in the day. But I won’t deny my passion for food. Food is one of the few great joys of my life. If people – fat and non-fat – are put off by this “excessiveness,” that’s just too bad. I pay for my own food. I’m not ripping chicken legs out of the trembling hands of starving children. When this country ceases to be a decadent food court, wasting more food than most nations consume, then we can talk about having a food system of equitable shares. Meanwhile, the market is open and I’m going shopping.

Voice of the People

Have you seen the site Overheard in New York? ( It’s actual comments made by people around town, offered for distribution on this site by the eavesdropping passersby who overheard them. These people are hilarious, often coarse, and frequently shockingly stupid. It’s quite a commentary on how people think and the surprising openness they bring to public conversation these days. I guess private is out and uncensored is the new status quo. If you’re in the mood for Metropolitan Diary on acid, check it out!

For more real-life humor, enjoy the two lists posted below (courtesy of friends who share via e-mail).

* * *
These are real notes written by parents in a Tennessee school district. (Spellings have been left intact.) Most of them are funny, but some are just sad…

1- My son is under a doctor’s care and should not take pe today. Please execute him.
2 Please exkuce Lisa for being absent she was sick and i had her shot.
3- Dear school: please ecsc’s John being absent on jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and also 33.
4- Please excuse Gloria from jim today. She is administrating.
5- Please excuse Roland from p.e. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
6- John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
7- Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
8- Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
9- Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
10- Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
11- please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre, dyrea, direathe), the shits. [Note: words in parentheses were crossed out.]
12- Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea, and his boots leak.
13- Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
14- Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father’s fault.
15—I kept Billie home because she had to go christmas shopping because I don’t know what size she wear.
16- Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday we thought it was Sunday.
17- My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the marines.
18- Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.
19- Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
20- Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.
21- Please excuse Brenda. She has been sick and under the doctor.
22- Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever an sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn’t the best either sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.

* * *
These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters who had the torment of keeping a straight face while these exchanges were taking place.

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, “Where am I, Cathy?”
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-one-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he’s twenty-one.
ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shittin' me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception [of the baby] was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Uh... I was getting laid!

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Are you shittin' me? Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Huh... are you qualified to ask that question?

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

* * *
I think the popularity of all this real-life dialogue is an extension of the popularity of reality TV, which has helped the culture realize Andy Warhol’s sage prediction that eventually, everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame. These blogs are an extension of that idea as well, although almost all reality television is less than mediocre, while the blogs, at least some of them, represent a revolution in intelligent, articulate self-expression and what used to be called “vanity” publishing. I feel that all these trends are a response to the need people have to see themselves reflected in the mirror of society, an image that has grown dimmer and less familiar in the ever-brightening glare of celebrity worship. Well, mirror, mirror in the media, who’s gonna make it into Wikipedia?!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Some Fat Facts

Why is there a fat acceptance movement and what is the information put forth by its proponents to justify our message? For today, I just want to focus on the high level of fat self-hate and fat fear that exists in our culture.

A woman named Lindsay, who writes the blog BABble (, recently posted statistics she gathered from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the National Eating Disorders Association. This data shows just how virulent self-loathing based on size has become, particularly among the young, and the lengths to which people will go to avoid or try to get rid of fat.

Nobody is suggesting that people should go out of their way to become fat, but the facts show that desperate attempts to live up to a virtually non-existent thin ideal is much more damaging to good health than being fat per se. Accordingly, note the following:

From Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty:
* Over 50% of women say their body disgusts them (Dove Internal Study, 2002)
* The body fat of models and actresses portrayed in the media is at least 10% less than that of healthy women (British Medical Association, 2000)
* 6 out of 10 girls think they’d “be happier if they were thinner” (UK Teen Body Image Survey, January 2004)
* While only 19% of teenage girls are “overweight,” 67% think they “need to lose weight” (UK Teen Body Image Survey, January 2004)

From the National Eating Disorders Association:
* Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
* Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
* 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
* 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
* The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.
* Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women (Smolak, 1996).
* 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).
* 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting; 22% dieted “often” or “always” (Kurth et al., 1995).
* 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, et al., 1996).
* 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995).
* 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).
* Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year (Smolak, 1996).

Not surprisingly, people who actually are fat are treated disgracefully in this climate: reviled, scorned, belittled, ridiculed, discriminated against, discounted and disrespected. Before you dismiss the concept of fat acceptance, consider the harm that prevailing values are doing to the fat and non-fat alike.

And, those of you who pride yourselves on not being taken in by the propaganda of decadent consumerism, ask yourselves this: Isn’t it possible that those who profit from the $40 billion diet industry have a vested interest in making everyone feel inadequate, insecure, unworthy and unacceptable, even if doing so requires deceit and misinformation -- not to mention constant reinforcement through advertising, marketing and the funding of "scientific studies"?

Finally, I ask women who consider themselves intelligent, liberated, self-actualized persons: Don’t you think it’s a little odd that the more that women successfully establish themselves in business, government and equitable interpersonal relationships, the more we are told to get thinner and thinner? Is it possible that a size zero is a metaphor for reducing women to nothing? Does it make sense to allow fat to be the kryptonite pressed against us to strip us of our power?

Just asking.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Kind of Sophie’s Choice

For the past several weeks, fat activists have been following the story of Gary Stocklaufer, a Kansas City man who was denied the right to adopt his cousin’s baby boy, who had been living in the Stocklaufer home practically since birth, because Mr. Stocklaufer weighs 500 lbs. He responded to this clear-cut case of fat discrimination by filing an appeal on that basis. Now, doctors at Renaissance Hospital in Dallas who heard about this story have offered Mr. Stocklaufer weight loss surgery free of charge and he has accepted. Although there is no guarantee that he and his wife will get the baby back if he undergoes this procedure, he’s doing it anyway in the hope of bettering his chances.

Increasing evidence shows that bariatric surgery is even more dangerous than originally thought and it has always been regarded as a very high-risk procedure. Even when it doesn’t result in death on the table or immediate side effects, it’s not uncommon for people who have had this operation to develop serious medical problems down the line, some of which can only be repaired with additional surgery, some of which kill the patient. Many people of all sizes regard weight loss surgery as barbaric.

So in essence, Stocklaufer has agreed to having his body mutilated in an effort to regain his right to function as a parent – a kind of Sophie’s Choice.

The ironic twist in this sad, cruel story is that the villains here are well-intentioned. I think it’s important to make a distinction between fat hate and fat ignorance, especially since the latter can be more readily changed. The judge denied the adoption because he genuinely believes that Stocklaufer could drop dead at any moment due to his size and is therefore an unsuitable candidate for adoption. The fact that this same judge approved Stocklaufer’s adoption of another young son several years ago, even though his weight then was the same as it is now, demonstrates the ever-increasing reach of the fact-flawed fat hysteria propaganda machine. The doctors at Renaissance Hospital truly believe in the efficacy of weight loss surgery. They don’t think they’re butchering him, they think they’re doing him a great favor – particularly since the surgery usually costs around $100,000.

Some of the other fat blogs (I include myself in this category even though I’m not all-fat-all-the-time) have already reported this story and are understandably appalled by this Sophie’s Choice. One writer said he could not understand or empathize with Stocklaufer’s decision; another said she was rushing him information on the dangers of weight loss surgery, which frankly gave me the same creepy feeling as when anti-abortion activists foist pictures of fetuses on women as they arrive at women’s health centers.

An FA blog called The Rotund recently made me aware of a wonderful term: body autonomy, which means “my body, my choices; your body, your choices.” This should be a golden rule for any issue that involves an individual’s physical well being and integrity. I trust that Mr. Stocklaufer is making an informed decision. Whether or not I agree with it, or it’s in keeping with the prevailing fat acceptance doctrines, is beside the point. His body, his choice.

This terrible situation is a sobering reminder that there is nothing more important for the FA movement to do than continue to battle the fat hysteria propaganda machine and try to get the real fat facts through to the general public, which incorrectly believes that fat per se is a death sentence. We must also make a point of learning how to understand and empathize with fat people who make counter fat revolution choices, as well as those with strong anti-fat perspectives – if only to deal with them more effectively. As the saying goes, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Junk Science du Jour

According to a Cornell University research study just released, white working women classified as overweight earn an average 7% less than their thinner counterparts, “equivalent to the wage effect of one year of education, two years of continuous employment at one job or three years of work experience,” writes Cornell spokeswoman Susan S. Lang in her press release.

The study adds that the same apparently doesn’t apply to African American and Hispanic working women. And health policy scholar John Cawley, an economist and assistant professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell, “found no evidence that weight affects the probability of employment for white, black or Hispanic women, or the probability of holding a white-collar job.”

Cawley’s study was “controlled for many other factors that affect wages, such as education, measures of intelligence, number of years at the current job and local unemployment rates.” And he hastens to add that “the finding that weight lowers wages is not conclusive evidence of workplace discrimination.” In an effort to understand why the wage discrepancy exists, Cawley points out that “consistent with these findings is that heavier workers are less productive at work. It has repeatedly been found, for example, that obese workers are more likely to miss work due to illness.”

Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of science – and reportage – that makes many fat activists want to burn someone at the steak (er, stake…). The report on this study doesn’t explain why it was conducted in the first place or how its results might be applied. Cawley concluded that fat discrimination isn’t a factor in the hiring, promotion or dismissal of working women. In addition, his controls did not factor in racial discrimination to help explain his findings – meaning, he ignored the fact that the salaries of working black women are already under par, because the majority of them are relegated to low-paying service jobs, such as those in the hospitality, health care, child care and fast food industries.

I know that “anecdotal evidence” (the kind that comes from the actual experience of real people) is routinely dismissed by researchers, which is why, for example, they don’t believe that arthritic people can tell when it’s going to rain. The fact – anecdotal and otherwise – is that fat women (and men, too) are discriminated against in the workplace. We fail to be hired initially, are more readily dismissed, and definitely earn less than non-fat people. Half-assed studies like this, and others – such as those that have most recently told us that fat is contagious, fat women are less likely to have healthy, normal children, and that fat people are bad and anti-social -- egregiously misinform the general public and fuel a growing climate of fat hate.

Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. For further information, check out the excellent Sandy Szwarc's eye-opening junk science reports at:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Views From the Tower Wants YOU!

Hey, isn't anyone going to make a comment here? I don't have to venture online to talk to myself; I do that all the time anyway!

The Obesity Myth

I appreciate that many of you who are coming to this blog for the first time – in particular, friends and colleagues with whom I have not yet discussed the meaning and importance of fat acceptance (FA) – will be disturbed to see [someone as fat as] me embrace what you will be inclined to regard as a spurious theory about fat. To document why FA is more than legitimate (it’s essential!), I’ve been assembling research in preparation for writing a detailed post on this subject. In doing so, I came across:

This article appeared on, a blog from the UK with quite a bit of info about the obesity hysteria epidemic (England has a worse case than the US). It’s an edited excerpt from The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession With Weight is Hazardous to Your Health by Paul Campos, a Colorado sociologist, attorney and teacher. Although it was not the first book to posit some of these ideas (Dieter's Dilemma: Eating Less and Weighing More by William Bennett got things going back in 1983), The Obesity Myth immediately became the seminal tome of the current fat acceptance movement when it was published in 2004.

Frankly, I don’t feel like re-inventing the wheel. I’m referring you to this Campos piece because I can’t even begin to quickly and cogently write my own version of what he spent a great deal of time researching and writing. This article is long – but reading it won’t take a fraction of the time involved in undertaking another unproductive diet (98 percent of people who lose weight re-gain it, with interest, within two years). I think you’ll find it fascinating reading that will perhaps motivate you to re-think your beliefs and ideas about fat.

This post is illustrated with the Ten of Swords Tarot card because, as you can see, it portrays serious injury, even death. But the 10-S is really about over-reaction to trouble and loss; it hardly takes ten swords to inflict a mortal wound! And look closely at the sky. The soft colors on the horizon represent the dawn of a new day, a new opportunity to face problems with courage and innovation instead of panic. It's time fat people stopped killing ourselves with misinformation, stopped allowing the myths about obesity to stab us in the back!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Welcome to Views From the Tower

May you live in interesting times, says an ancient Chinese curse -- and who can deny that our times are interesting indeed! In the Tarot, The Tower card tells of cataclysmic change, wrenching loss, enormous destruction, complete upheaval in power, and the wrath of nature -- in other words, the state of the world today. It's easy to lose one's head and dive out. But despite the flames and lightning, there are options -- and opportunities. I call my blog "Views From the Tower" because I live in a small apartment in a high-rise that I rarely leave. It is both a sanctuary and a prison that provides a respite from the madness outside. I keep vampire hours. I don't entertain. Yet still, the world invades: the television, the telephone, email and the Internet, and my dreams. I stay out of the fray, but increasingly, I realize that I can't stay out of the struggles. In chaos there is profit, another old saying advises. We all of us, each of us, in our way, have a chance to build something better out of all that is broken. But we have to stay informed, we have to speak out, we have to be willing to surrender the comfortable familiar for something hard and new (I'm still working on that one). I'm trying to turn my tower into a vantage point, a platform, and a launching pad. I don't know if it will make any difference, but it couldn't hurt -- and just maybe it might help.

The Choices We Make

During Thursday night’s Democratic debate on GLBT issues, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was asked if he believed being gay was a biological fact or a personal choice, and his immediate response was “It’s a choice.” He was asked the question again (since “choice” was not the right answer), and he spiraled into the Bush 43 parallel universe where ignorance rules and language is brutally mangled.

It has been firmly established that sexual orientation is inborn, not selected, but that’s not the point. What if being gay was a choice? Would that justify gay-bashing, discrimination, and a complete lack of civil rights? Why aren’t people entitled to make personal choices that other people may not approve of without being reviled? Why should demands for social justice always be couched in terms of “don’t hate me, I can’t help being what I am.”?

This matter of choice and its intimations is a sore point with me, because I’ve been confronted with it all my life. I’m bi-racial (white mother/black father) and I was raised to never deny or be ashamed of what I was; in fact, I was raised to define myself as black (actually, Negro). I didn’t deny it and I wasn’t ashamed, but I was confused, because I look white – not light, white. I’ve always had problems with some black people about this. If I defend my heritage, they’re irritated because I have the option of copping to it, or not, a choice they don’t have. If I don’t make a point of it, they’re offended because they think I’m trying to hide something – and anyway, I’ve never experienced racism because I can pass. This no-win situation was brought into sharp “you can’t make this shit up” relief back in the 60s, when I was harassed by members of the local Black Panthers for not being black enough, then asked to join an elite corps of members who were given special assignments because they could pass. I declined.

Right now, America is in a stranglehold of rage about choices – the cars we drive (no SUVs!), the food we eat (no red meat!), the energy we consume (watch those carbon footprints!), the words we use, the lifestyles we live. I firmly believe the reproductive rights movement really started having trouble when they adopted the term pro-choice. It accurately describes the position, but it hits hot buttons among the anti-choice contingent (they’re pro-life in their dreams), because, in their estimation, there are some things one should not be legally allowed to choose.

Chief among the other things that shouldn’t be legal choices are cigarette smoking (aaagh!), pot smoking (maybe medical marijuana is okay, but you shouldn’t be able to have it just because you want it), teenage sex (abstinence only!) and not being as “green” as Kermit the Frog. Ironically, being fat is considered by most people to always be a choice, even though it rarely is – but then, not choosing to be obsessively healthy, compulsively fit and hysterically environmentally friendly is simply inexcusable.

It’s no wonder that people are largely indifferent to the myriad ways in which the Bush administration has shredded the Constitution. The Bill of Rights is out of fashion. “They hate us for our freedom!” GWB is always telling us. But our freedoms have been eroded and our social conversation has devolved into a polarized screaming match. Can we turn the tide towards rational debate, compromise, mutual acceptance and respect? The choice is ours.
This post is illustrated with the Tarot's Seven of Cups because this card is all about the choices we make.