Monday, June 14, 2010

Thinking about acting like an idiot on the internet. And sizeism. And a picture of Beth Ditto's sweet behind.

When I had the idea of starting a blog about being offended I talked to my girlfriend about it, and I sort of hoped that maybe one day I could be the go-to person that current affairs programs would interview about being offended. I would sit on the Good Morning couch wearing earrings and a sassy top, and I would give the new Mary Lambie a knowing and vaguely patronising look and say "Yup, that is definitely offensive". This lofty goal sort of grew and grew in my brain, until everyone was afraid of me because of the huge and all pervasive power that I had to deem things as offensive. When I was talking to my girlfriend about this she said that wanting to be feared possibly wasn't the best or the most reliable life ambition, and I probably sort of agreed and waggled my head around a bit and changed the subject to talk about the most positive and non-confrontational thing that I could think of at that moment in time. Like how great my flatmate Dan's new lemon zester is and how it creates really long strips of lemon rind without getting any of the pith. Or something.

But part of the writing-the-blog-about-being-offended thing was that I wanted to NAME and SHAME. I wanted the racist and the sexist and the privileged to SHAKE IN THEIR VERY BOOTS when they read about their offensive acts, and immediately realise the error of their ways and humbly thank me for tactfully drawing their attention to it. And I would give them the Mary Lambie expression and I would accept their apology but probably still think a little bit less of them. But in the very first post, I chickened out of the naming. And not really the shaming, but without the naming it was somewhat diluted. I went instead for the irritatingly passive aggressive and weakly confrontational first letter of people's names.

But, as I am clearly fixated with naming and shaming, for the last couple of months I have been avidly collecting anything that comes up on my Facebook newsfeed that I think is negative about female appearances. I sort of started doing it for a women's theatre project I am doing, and I liked to lie around thinking about my Facebook friends sitting in the mildly uncomfortable seats at BATS, and think about them squirming, not because of the invasive arm rests but because their WORDS OF SHAME were emblazoned on the wall. And then I sort of realised that me standing on stage reading these out might make for reasonably average theatre, and that maybe my collection of statements would be put to better use where they belong, and where they came from. (Which, in case you didn't realise, is on the multi-faceted and often mindless but sometimes revolutionary Internet).

Because I have been thinking a little bit about how Facebook turns people into idiots. About how people halfway through their honours degree feel the need to join groups like I Love the Sound of Rain as I'm Going to Sleep and why people who have an important job doing something with pylons and engineering "like" the page Clapping to the Opening Theme of Friends. My girlfriend thinks that these pages have something to do with liking feeling included in a group, and liking to feel like part of an in joke. I think that she is probably onto something. But as for the rain sounds and the Friends clapping, actually everybody in the entire world likes that shit. You do not need to join a group about these things, because you would be joining a group with EVERYBODY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD THAT HAS A ROOF AND A TELEVISION. And god, why must so many of these groups be so comfortingly banal? The other day a Facebook friend of mine "liked" The Sense Of Dread When A Feather Comes Out of Your Puffa Jacket =( and I could have written an entire blog about how BORING this is, but then I realised that I had recently "liked" Where Do All My Bobby Pins Go? and I came to the painful and inevitable realisation that I am just as boring as everyone else. So I have been consoling myself with the fact that Facebook makes everyone act like an imbecile, and that it wasn't actually my fault that I thought for a second that my friends might care about my hair clips.

And so I thought that I might want to write more posts about Facebook, and the way that it gives me this sort of bizarre insight into the most stupid thoughts of acquaintances on my friends list, and how these often offend me. I thought this could be a good place to start unloading some of the things that these acquaintances have said and that I find offensive. People from places like media studies tutorials and high school and average parties in Newtown and people that my friends have slept with and I have never gotten around to deleting. And I think that I really, really want to name people, because hello Voldemort, names have a lot of power. But I think for now I am too scared of confrontation and insipid initials feel like an easier way to unpack Facebook idiocy for a little bit.

When I started a blog I think that I also really really really heaps badly wanted to write something about fat activism, but I think that anything I try to write will be so influenced by the exhaustingly amazing words of size activists like Natalie Perkins and Lesley Kinzel and Ragen Chastain and Charlotte Cooper and Kate Harding. Because I am constantly disgusted by the things that people will breezily say about fat people, because if these things were said about black people they would be completely unacceptable and borderline psychopathic. And I am angry that BMI is supposedly an indicator for health when actually all it indicates is that everyone should go and get a blood test and BMI actually just hides that heaps of thin people eat crap and don't move their bodies; and I do resent that apparently every fat person is a drain on the health system but that nobody begrudges cyclists or highly stressed lawyers or bungee jumpers of their free health care.

So I think I want to use this blog to sometimes look at sizeism on Facebook. Because when I look through all of these horribly offensive nuggets that I have gathered, it is not just people from Newtown parties who are writing this shit. It is my friends. It is people who are friends with me and heaps of other fat people, and who are educated and left wing and funny and well dressed. It is people who say stuff like this:


And I guess that this might seem kind of inoffensive. But actually, I am offended. I am offended because calling someone fat isn't just a description of their body shape. The social meaning of the word means they are a smelly, awful, unlovable pleb who eats nine Big Macs every day and probably never has sex and also definitely has diabetes and will die of a heart attack in the next seven months. Kate Harding wrote an essay about this and you should read it because she is smarter than me. But I think that this little Facebook post here by Anonymous Facebook User [AFU], and liked by three other Anonymous Facebook Users, shows how ingrained jokes about fat people are in society. And how easy they are to make. As easy as making a cake with a cake mixer, or as easy as keeping your tights up when you know that you just have to wear a pair of black undies over the top. They're so easy because you use the word fat and you immediately have a punch line. And like I said last time, this is Facebook. It is public. I wasn't aware that fat people weren't allowed to have iPads, and also that they weren't allowed to think they are "cool". God forbid a fat person uses a piece of technology in public, in case someone thinks they are trying to be impressive. Don't you realise that you can't be impressive if you are a fat person? Even if you have an extremely well paying job that means you can buy an iPad, you better not use it in public in case ANFU thinks you are trying to impress her.

Ultimately nobody is winning by making these kind of jokes. Unhealthy fat people get the message that their body is something to be ashamed of, and they don't want to spend any time nourishing it or moving it around. I don't know anyone who has ever wanted to look after something they hate. Beauty standards continue to be perpetuated, fat people continue to be othered and thin people continue to fear being fat. How is it a good thing that 50% of women aged between 18 and 25 would rather be hit with a truck than be fat? Living in fear of YOUR OWN BODY is not a good way to live, and nobody needs to live like that ever since they figured out that spontaneous human combustion is a myth.

So, Facebook. Fat shaming. I can't sum it up as neatly as I would like to. But I'm going to keep trying. Facebook makes this kind of kitchen sink anthropology pretty easy. Almost as easy as making a fat joke.


  1. Oh god yeah, I actually quit Facebook for this very reason. Sure, I could have simply blocked or deleted each person but that would have left me with none anyway.... which is sad no matter how you look at it.
    I love this post (and all the blogs you link to).
    Good to see a kiwi out and about!