Also: These women are considered “fat”? I give up.

Last week, while I was busy exploring the rich Northern Idaho social scene (so much homophobia, you guys—-more on that later), Mike Riggs offered to man The Sexist in my stead. And man he did. But it’s over now! And thankfully, some brave commenters waded into the fray to say what I was probably thinking. Let’s hear it:

On More to Love: Sending the Wrong Message, in which Riggsy helpfully refers to fat women as “addicts” who are victims of “rationalized over-eating and sedentary lifestyles”:

From alix:

Yikes. How is fat-hate feminist? How much help is promoting the message that to fall in love, women need to change themselves as opposed to finding men who are attracted to them just as they are?

Not that I’m defending the show—-but to say that fat people should only be allowed on TV when they’re trying to lose weight? Fuck you.

Do you think that if there was less fixation on weight, and more fixation on health (how the FUCK do you know that these women overeat/ get no physical exercise?), we’d have a healthier society?

I think you need to spend a bit of time at Shapely Prose (http://kateharding.net), and then report back.

From Mike Riggs:

Hey Alix, thanks for commenting today! (Before I get started, I’d like to point out that you’re the second person to criticize this post without first watching the show. Would it help y’all to provide some Hulu links?)

Re your points:

How much help is promoting the message that to fall in love, women need to change themselves as opposed to finding men who are attracted to them just as they are?

I didn’t write that. In essence (that seems to be what you’re referencing–the “essence” of my argument), I’m disappointed that the contestants, from what we’ve seen so far, think that exercise is exclusively for trying to get skinny; that a positive attitude about their body is a substitute for a realistic attitude about their health; and that there’s a nostalgic treatment of over-eating. One woman even remarked (paraphrasing here) that she was tired of getting up in the morning to diet and be skinny. So, to you I say, How is promoting an addiction feminist?

but to say that fat people should only be allowed on TV when they’re trying to lose weight? Fuck you.

Didn’t write that either. I made an offhand reference to the biggest weight-related reality TV show currently on the air in an effort to show that I THINK IT’S OK FOR A REALITY TV SHOW TO REVOLVE AROUND HEAVY PEOPLE. It’s kind of stupid to hate on me when there aren’t any other reality TV shows about heavy people (unless you want to count that brief series A&E did about morbidly obese people).

From thedrymock:

It’s great that you think it’s okay for a reality show to revolve around heavy people, but I think you’re missing Alix’s point. Please do take a look around at Shapely Prose (www.kateharding.net). You might want to start with this post: http://kateharding.net/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/

Leaving aside the show itself for the moment, you’re making a lot of basic assumptions in your post, including: 1) Fat people are all fat because they overeat and don’t exercise 2) Being overweight or obese necessarily causes health problems 3) Losing weight in and of itself (independent of the health benefits of exercising and eating healthy foods) improves health 4) It is possible for most people to lose weight and keep it off

Even if 1-3 were true (and please check out the post I linked for refutation of those), 4 clearly isn’t — as you sort of acknowledge when you admit that “evidence suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to obesity or plain old chubbiness.” The fact is that 95% of people who lose weight regain it (and often some extra for good measure) within 5 years. If those women have “the conviction that fatness is forever,” as you put it, it’s because every single one of them has tried NOT to be fat, has probably spent a huge amount of time and energy on that effort, and it hasn’t worked for them. (And in the process of trying to lose weight, they’ve quite possibly made themselves less healthy overall by losing and regaining weight multiple times.)

But the most ridiculously wrong assertion you make is that “we’re not supposed to comment on or disapprove of fatness.” I don’t know if you are or have ever been fat, but I’ll be shocked if you have been and can still make that assertion. Being fat is almost universally seen as a moral failure, and fat people — especially women (and from what I’ve heard you can see that gender differential in the show) — take all kinds of shit just for existing. Why do you think the women in this show have dealt with so much “weight-related anxiety, depression, isolation, and rejection”? You seem conscious that women especially do suffer from these things because of their weight, but somehow you haven’t put two and two together there.

Your point that it’s ridiculous to think that finding a lover is a panacea for all ills is well taken, but I think you are underestimating how rare that is for fat women and how much better it can make you feel about yourself to be with someone who really doesn’t think you need to spend the rest of your life eating 800 calories a day in order to be good enough for them. Clearly, going on a dating show like this is probably not the way to do that, but given that the Bachelor/ette and other similar dating shows have the exact same premise, I’m not sure why you’re making that criticism of this show and not the others.

Lastly, you keep talking about “addiction,” and I cannot figure out what you’re referring to. It sounds like you’re saying that all fat people overeat and that overeating counts as an addiction. There is such a thing as compulsive overeating, but it’s extremely unlikely that most of the contestants on this show suffer from that. It’s an eating disorder, and it is a serious problem — but the same goes for anorexia, which somehow I doubt you’d refer to as an addiction.

I’m sorry if you feel “hated on,” and I’m trying to be polite here, but you posted on a feminist site about how fat people (and fat women in particular, as there are 20x as many of them on this show as fat men) just need to be criticized more and then they’ll lose weight. You’re gonna get some backlash.

From brie:

Do you think you’re being some badass rebel or something talking about this when “we’re not supposed to comment on or disapprove of fatness”? Do you think you’re being transgressive or smarter than everyone else or something?

Because you’re not. Being fat isn’t (like you say) something that’s not “openly maligned.” Have you ever been to celebrity gossip website? Or a girl’s locker room? (Actually, I’m sure you haven’t actually experienced the last one, which may explain why you’re so insensitive about this.) I’d like you to name me a place where it’s okay or not maligned to be fat (and NOT this show, which is just as manipulative and exploitative as the rest of the cesspool that is reality TV).

But I’ve got to hand it to you: your reasoning is flawless. All fat people are “addicts”? Even if you’re only talking about the people on the show, I think you’d be hard-pressed to prove that they’re all compulsive over-eaters. But, no, don’t worry about it, let’s all lump them together. They’re like cattle anyway, right? Size-wise? You’re sooooo rebellious!

I bet you write this stuff without thinking about, but you’re what gives millions of girls (of all ages) across this country eating disorders. When you write off people like this or even comment on this exploitative trash, you’re furthering a way of thought (whether you’re doing it on purpose or not) that causes girls to think that stick-think is the only way to be attractive or even vaguely human.

How can you feel good about doing that, just look like some smartass rebel or make some pointless point about a stupid show? How can you run such rancid anti-woman bile in a feminist column?

It’s not dumb, outwardly ignorant people who are the problem; it’s people like you, loud white men who pretend like they can be sensitive and empathize women and gays and lesbians and different races all while spewing this same stupid shit. People like you who pretend they get it but don’t have a clue.

Yeah . . . I’m with the commenters on this one.