Friday, December 19, 2008

Hate Speech on HuffPo: "A Nation of Overweight Porkers"

Frank Schaeffer posted "Why Is the USA Screwed -- Maybe Forever?" on the Huffington Post today. It's one of those "where are we going and why are we in this handbasket" diatribes, a cheery little screed morosely listing all that is wrong with our culture and why we are utterly doomed forever.

There I am, innocently reading along, when I hit a list item that sends me reeling. So I wrote a diatribe of my own back to Mr. Schaeffer. It took me forever to edit it down to HuffPo's limit of 250 words. I'm not going to link back to the article because I'm angry and don't want anyone benefiting from blatantly hateful language. But here is the link to my comment. If you happen to be incensed as well, feel free to post a comment of protest yourself. Here's what I wrote:
I take serious exception to this: "Why are we a nation of overweight porkers, incapable of losing weight[,] who may well have shorter life spans than our parents (declines in smoking aside)?" Here, Mr. Schaeffer, your ignorance is showing, along with your bigotry.

In spite of the so-called obesity epidemic, life spans continue to increase. You assume that the thin are in some way morally virtuous and that the fat are not. You also assume that fat people eat more than thin people do, but there is no evidence for that. There is, however, a clear correlation between ill health and a sedentary lifestyle, especially when combined with poor nutrition. But that correlation applies to people of all sizes.

Please, before you indulge in any more fat hatred, educate yourself. Start with The Diet Myth by Paul Campos.

Fat people are not part of what's wrong with our culture, but the stigmatization of fat people is. If shame made people thin, no one would be fat. The problem is not "overweight porkers." The problem is our obsession with body size, our knee-jerk judgment of people who are larger than average, and our refusal to accept that good people come in all shapes and sizes.

Insulting fat people does not do anything to alleviate what's wrong with our culture. And don't you ever call me a porker again, Mr. Schaeffer. You owe me an apology.


  1. Very well put Mary! I am disabled and my overweight is a combination of a FORCED sendentary lifestyle (I have no choice, my body just can't be as physically active as a normal person should be) and a side effect of medications necessary for my survival. It has absolutely no correlation to my calorie intake or discipline and has no reflection on whether or not I am morally virtuous.

    People who judge others by their outer appearance (size) only assume they know the story of how that person allowed themselves to become large and why they stay that way. Assumptions that are usually far off the mark. If discipline was all it took to stay within the "standards" of socirty in regards to size, overweight people would be few and far between.

    Thanks again for responding so eloquently about this insult and discrimination Mary.

  2. Thanks for your encouragement, Karen! I relate so well to your situation. I'm a big girl and was really doing just fine until I got depressed (seasonal affective disorder), which really got in the way of my ability to be active. The SAD is finally under control now, though, so I'm hoping to work my way back to being as active as I was before. But the inactivity has been rough on my body. This is going to be a big project. I don't need anybody compounding the difficulty by judging me and calling me names.

  3. I am thrilled everytime I read a response such as the one you have written, Mary. Confronting bullies is always a noble and brave thing to do. The kind of bully who uses terms like "fat porkers" aren't usually amenable to any sort of new information, logic, or call to empathy or virtue. People who are willing to attach their names to the throwing around of hate speech are all about something else, something other than expressing ideas or conveying information. They are about being hateful, smarmy, condescending; they are about getting away with something ugly. And I do believe that hate speech is on the bottom rung of murder. As Gordon Allport demonstrated in his THE NATURE OF PREJUDICE there is a clear pathway from hate speech to extermination. And I am afraid, as a fat woman, that as long as hate speech about us is unchallenged, our society is on its way towards the elimination of us. So you are heroic when you challenge publically hate speech. If you were close enough to reach I'd pin a medal on you. Love, Susan

  4. I'm not going to read the crap that inspired your response -- hate speech enrages me and I'm trying to have a zen day. :)) So, I appreciate your speaking up for all of us, Mary! Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Susan and Kathy. You make me brave!

  6. Brilliant, Mary! Kudos to you for so elegantly saying what this man so desperately needed to hear. Hugs!

  7. Thank you, Lesleigh! I haven't gotten my apology yet. Still waiting.... (taps foot, cocks eyebrow) Oh well, here's hoping he at least reads his comments. It did feel really good to speak up. :)