My Blog Week: May 17 to May 23
A Word on the Week
I personally have fat cred. I was heavy enough in the 90s that I made jeans from overalls, cutting the bib off, and using the side buttons (one set down) to hold them up. My teenage years and twenties were during the 70s and 80s…and if you were not a woman in those decades you don’t know had bad people can make you feel about your weight. This was the culture that taught us a size eight wasn’t thin enough, that Valerie Harper was Mary Tyler Moore’s fat friend; that Joyce Dewitt was the chubby one on Three’s Company…
There is a journalistic axiom that “men do, women appear”, coined from the habit writers have/had of describing a woman’s hair and clothes, a man’s actions… For a lot of us, the pressure we grew up with made us feel we could not do, until we’d first achieved appearing…perfectly, as to skinniness. We put off life, in a constant state of diet, waiting to look right before we felt confident asserting ourselves.
So, we have Nancy Pelosi calling Trump morbidly obese, and we have a backlash—a contention that commenting, joking, about someone’s fatness is “never acceptable”. In the name of comedy, let’s break that down. The proposal is that a fat joke about one person hurts all fat people…but is this true? Consider the famous “Miracle” hockey team, going to the podium at a Trump rally in February (which seems like a year ago, at least). No one said a word about the effects of time, and the fat factor, if there’d been reason to make use of it, was available (sorry to mention). What raised so many “I’m done with them” comments on social media was that this endorsement perverted America’s great moment into something tainted by individual politics.
A thing that diminishes your faith in, your fondness for a person, would hurt him and anyone else about whom it could be said. Here we have a true principle, but tangential to the contention. Or the contention almost requires a reversal…to be insulted this way, you’d have to see fat as a character flaw, someone’s being overweight as reason to dislike him, as if he’d thrown a rock at a dog, or dumped trash in a lake…
Think of how it functions as an insult to women when someone says, “women are too emotional”. What would it mean, then, if you said, “women are too fat”? What if you said, “fat people are too emotional”? (Statement A is an insult applied to a group; statement B is nonsense, a condition that can’t be applied to the group as a whole; statement C would be an insult requiring self-categorization.)
In practice (excluding certain chummy understandings), we don’t make fat jokes about fat people we like. The opposite case, a person as objectionable as Trump not being fat, couldn’t make thinness a saving grace. Broad-stroke jokes—about the south, for example—run afoul on the principle that you don’t know the target, you haven’t spoken to the target…you’re just stereotyping. The real sin in humor is to tell a lazy joke; and if you want to insult a bad person, better to be precise in your cuts. With a person as known as Trump, the weight and eating habits, the boredom he displays in his leadership role, give further evidence that he doesn’t care about public health…
Tens of thousands dead to coddle greed and ego? You could split hairs…if that’s not offensive to the frizzy…but I for one don’t feel touched by jokes about Trump’s weight.
On Monday, a new non-series poem; on Tuesday, the promised debut of The Mirrors, a ghost story set in the 1930s, in a southern city. (Welcome from Pinterest, those of you who saw my ad and checked it out. And thanks!) Wednesday, the seventh German Spy, “Lonely in its Reckoning”, the beginning of Agnes’s portion. Thursday, Frédéric Boutet’s “The Faker”, the story of a scheming prisoner. Friday, Eight, “The Dispensing”, the last entry in the Lifton section. Saturday, “The Blurbs”, a poem made up of imaginary (but entirely possible) book plots.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: May 17 to May 23