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I know there's something wrong with this, but I'm having trouble articulating exactly what it is, so I'm hoping some of the more savvy in my circle can help me figure it out, 'cause it's bugging me.

The full story is here--mostly in the comments.

The summary is this: in a move that gives provides medical and scientific backing, the Centers for Disease Control have declared their support for the Department of Transportation's recent and controversial "active transportation" initiative, which puts biking, walking, and mass transit on an equal footing with cars and highways in its planning efforts. The CDC's reason for supporting it is that walking and biking as transportation would be a good way for a lot of Americans to be more active, and that more activity would be better for Americans' overall health.

I'm fine with that part. Excited, even. It's good news for American cycling.

Then come the comments. "Jackattak" (a regular on that blog) at number 2 says: "Here's a good idea: Get your fat ass out of your car and get a bike, walk, jog, or skateboard to work" and goes on to bemoan his mother's morbid obesity (including her height, weight and age).

This bothered me, so I commented back requesting an end to that kind of name-calling, and said that active transportation wasn't magically going to solve the nation's obesity epidemic. I cited my own cycling and my own wide posterior in evidence, and I think I was groping towards pointing out the fallacy of his broad brushstrokes, but I don't think I got there and I wasn't really clear on what I wanted to say.

He posted back giving me (I'm pretty sure) permission to accept myself under certain circumstances. I, uh, may have thanked him for this with a wee bit of sarcasm.

Now I feel all inarticulate and icky. I know that I'm sick and tired of the "fat ass":"lazy" equation (stated or implied), I know I don't like being reduced to a single physical characteristic, and I'm sure that I've had it up to here with the bootstrap philosophy of the privileged. But I need a better set of answers, a clearer conclusion--if only just to repeat in my own mind.

I'm not going back into the fray or anything, and I don't want to score points off the guy, but I'd LOVE some clarification.

If anyone interested in these fat-related, privilege-related types of issues would care to read the comments (they're pretty short) and help me think this through, I'd be very grateful.

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
all I can say is that comebacks don't get any more perfect than yours ('thanks for permission...'; short, sweet, and right to the point). I *lol*'d. (P.S., I'm basically slim and lazy, if it matters).

Internet high-grades for jackasses like jackattack, IMO. He needs to quit seeing everyone through his mommy-issue goggles.
May. 1st, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how recently I would have taken his second comment in personally, and asked myself if I met all his criteria for worthiness to enter into the discussion.

And I need to stop reading the comments! It's just that on a local and topic-specific blog, I learn a lot from the comments. But every single time I've said anything more than "Yes, yay, excellent news" or the equivalent, I've regretted it.
May. 1st, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
I wonder why it never occurs to jackasses like that, that there are a lot of reasons people do not fit his definition of fit. True, most of us probably eat too much of the wrong things and don't exercise enough. No news there. But a lot of us have physical disabilities which preclude much activity. Ten years ago I walked four miles every morning and went to the gym three times a week. I had cheekbones and biceps, the works. I looked good. Well, stuff happened. I now can barely walk across the room, frequently use a cane, can't exercise because of my arthritic feet, and take medication that causes weight gain. I know I'm not alone. As for rear ends, oh, I just quit worrying about my butt and just applied for two separate zip codes, one for each cheek.

At 71 I don't care much anymore what people like that dodo think. That's the only advantage to getting old.

I did find one real drawback to elastic waist pants, though. If you're dressing in the dark it's entirely possible to put them on backwards!

May. 1st, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
LOL! Elastic waists FTW!

No, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, really, and least of all some jerk on the internet. I certainly don't.

I think I'm more troubled by the fact that the progressive/liberal community has moved past most of its outright bigotry but still allows, supports, and applauds foul language and name calling against fat people.

His second response to my comment fell into that "Well, you're not one of those really [blank] [blank people]" where [blank] might have been black, or Mexican, or queer in an earlier decade, but this decade it's still okay to say that about fatness.

I'm not one of those really FAT/lazy/Wal-Mart-going/junk-food-eating/tv-watching fat people, so I'm allowed to exist. Not really join the bicycle club, you understand, but we welcome your comments on our blogs.

Thank you. You've helped me nail what was bugging me about the whole exchange.
May. 1st, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
There are bigoted, simple minded people, control-freak people in all walks of life, and some latch on to 'liberal/progressive' causes.

'Overweight'ness is certainly one of these areas. Smoking is another. Others include religion (in any form), being 'southern', being 'redneck' (all Texans are stupid right wing hicks), eating meat, drinking Coors. The 'blue-collar working man' is an image that many champion in concept, but ridicule in actions and words.

I've long bitched about this irony in the so-called open-mindedness of the 'hip' liberal.
May. 1st, 2010 05:26 am (UTC)
To clarify my position in that rant - I am so 'liberal' I call myself a socialist.
May. 1st, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
Oh sorry. And one further comment. If a person IS morbidly obese because they eat too damn much and are lazy, even then...who the hell's business is it except their own?

It doesn't really *matter* the reasons that someone is in ill health, it is their health, they have their own reasons, and I seriously don't get why other people seem to think they can make it their business.
May. 1st, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
Privileged people always think everyone could be just like them if they'd only try harder.
May. 1st, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Oh, absolutely, and the particular prejudices you mention are ones that I've not only encountered, but am sometimes guilty of.

I'm glad I posted this, because your comments and others' are making me see that the exchange on the bike blog was annoying on its face, and doubly so because of the context. I mean...BikePortland. That's like, the Commissariat of Hip in the People's Republic of Portland. My expectation of better made my encounter with bigoted stupidity more jarring.
May. 3rd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Weight, Obesity and Health
I think one thing that gets particularly lost in discussions of health in the U.S., is that a healthy person is not judged solely by their weight, or even their body mass index.

The type of food they eat, the type of exercise they get, their genetic makeup, etc all play a part in how they can be considered at a "healthy" point.

The problem with simply tackling "obesity" as a healthcare project, is that it places too much focus on weight. Some people are larger-boned and/or genetically predisposed to a higher weight, but at the same time have perfectly normal cholesterol, blood pressure, lung capacity, etc.

Being active is very important. Eating well is equally as important.

A person can be basically healthy even if they are over the "recommended" weight for their height. A person can be very unhealthy even if they are well under the "recommended" weight for their height. Not everyone will look exactly the same at their healthy point. Not everyone would be healthy if they looked the same.
May. 3rd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Weight, Obesity and Health
Damn, that's me again, sorry :)
May. 3rd, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Weight, Obesity and Health
Not everyone would be healthy if they looked the same is a very clear, simple conclusion, and I like it a lot.

I've got no argument with the idea that our society as a whole would be healthier if, as a whole, it were less obese and if, as a whole, it had a more natural diet and were more physically active.

I also think that systematic efforts to improve the quality of the American food supply and promote physical activity will probably result in less obesity--again, on the whole.

I'm a walking (cycling) exception to the broad brushstrokes; my deep annoyance with the BikePortland commenter sprang, I think, from the unexamined privilege he displayed in granting me permission to be an exception.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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