Off the clock with The Checkout Girl: Fatties need love, too

Are fat people the last safe group to hate? It seems it’s become uncool for all but the edgiest of comedians to pick on every other group of people, but, for some reason, the overweight are fair game for just about everyone.

Are fat people the last safe group to hate? Turn on Comedy Central, sign on to twitter, listen to people at the next table in a restaurant (it’s called eavesdropping and it’s perfectly legal, thank you), and you’d think so. It seems it’s become uncool for all but the edgiest of comedians to pick on every other group of people, but, for some reason, the overweight are fair game for just about everyone.

At first I thought I might be imagining it, or maybe just oversensitive because, you know, I’m fat. But it’s real. And it’s not just fellow fat people who are making fun, in that oh-so-endearing, self-deprecating manner we’ve all come to expect and appreciate from those who know they are the world’s punchline and demonstrate bitter good humor about it. No, un-big people are throwing around “fat” and “fatty” like nobody’s business. I guess their mamas never taught them to talk behind people’s backs, like polite folk do.

Last week, the rumblings of fat hate stuck their head above ground like a lookout at Meerkat Manor when Maura Kelly, a regular blogger for marieclaire.com (the online version of the print magazine), posted a piece called Should ‘Fatties’ Get A Room? (Even On TV?) Ms. Kelly claims the post grew out of a conversation with her editor, where she was asked “Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?” after reading a CNN.com article that centered around the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly”. For those of you who don’t know, “Mike & Molly” is about a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group and fall in love. It’s rife with fat jokes in a way that says “There’s no other way for us to make this romance palatable except with a big, fat, jolly wink.” Anyway, Maura Kelly (very thin judging by her picture, by the way), being “not much of a TV person”, decided to check out the show and make own mind up about the whole issue.

“My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese!”

The exclamation point indicates surprise, whereas I suspect that quite a few attendees of Overeaters Anonymous meetings are obese and would expect such a thing. She goes on to say she doesn’t advocate obsession with physical perfection, but the show is “implicitly promoting obesity.” In what way? In that it’s hilarious?

“So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair.”

“Aesthetically displeasing”? “Distressing?” I can’t figure out why in the world either of these phrases would apply to that situation. Don’t people turn away, anymore? Why would you feel distressed about something you could just as easily not see?

Blahblahblah “I have a few friends who could be called plump” (cue collective “pinch an inch” moments among her besties) blahblahblah “I know how tough it can be” (cue big question mark over my head) blahblahblah “obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.” Oh, THAT’S the problem, fatties, YOUR MIND ISN’T TO IT! She goes on to give nutrition and fitness suggestions for anyone who is willing to try to change. But it’s the last line that really gets me.

“Then again, I guess these characters are in Overeaters Anonymous. So … points for trying?”

Actually, NOT the last line. Just the last piece of punctuation. It’s like saying “points for trying… I guess.” Look, you want those fatties to slim down and be more aesthetically pleasing, or what?

It’s important to note that, after a considerable uproar in all corners of the media, Maura Kelly has posted an apology? (see what I did there?) She said she is sorry for being insensitive and that, for what it’s worth, she feels just as uncomfortable seeing anorexic people as she does the obese. She also says that she has history as an anorexic and a life-long obsession with being thin and thinks that might have contributed to her “extreme reaction”.

I just wonder how acceptable the post would have been about another group of people. How much more would we have heard about it if she were talking about an ethnic group? Or a handicap? Or a sexual identity? Would the post still be standing, with just an apology tacked on to the end? Of course not. We should probably ask ourselves why, it’s okay to make the overweight the big, fat butts of jokes. After all, fatties need love, too.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

19 comments on Off the clock with The Checkout Girl: Fatties need love, too

  1. I read Ms. Kelly’s post and was completely stunned. I understand being concerned about obesity, but she sounded like such a bully. I also found her “health tips” to be completely condescending.

    I’ve never actually watched Mike & Molly. Anyone have input on the show?

  2. “Aesthetically displeasing”? “Distressing?” I can’t figure out why in the world either of these phrases would apply to that situation. Don’t people turn away, anymore? Why would you feel distressed about something you could just as easily not see?”

    Wouldn’t it makes sense then, to assume that we don’t have to read things we don’t like, either? While Maura Kelly’s article was not kind, it doesn’t have to be okayed by any group. Freedom of speech is what enables any blogger to offer an opinion. It also doesn’t matter what magazine she is representing, because last I checked, Marie Claire was a private company.

  3. Janna on said:

    “Freedom of speech is what enables any blogger to offer an opinion. It also doesn’t matter what magazine she is representing, because last I checked, Marie Claire was a private company.”

    A private company that could easily fold under a boycott by subscribers or loss of advertisers due to public backlash (which is something “freedom of speech” can’t protect them against.)

  4. I just wonder how acceptable the post would have been about another group of people. How much more would we have heard about it if she were talking about an ethnic group? Or a handicap? Or a sexual identity?

    Apples and oranges. Those people can’t choose to not be an ethnic minority or born without legs. No matter what they do they cannot help themselves become unethnic or to grow legs.

    Fat people, however, can help being fat — as least they can help themselves be not as fat. It’s by and large a self-imposed condition and thus subject to the scrutiny of those who put in effort and take pride in their more healthy lifestyle. After all, people are always looking for ways to make themselves feel better than someone.

    Sure, genetics and upbringing play their parts, and those things can make it more difficult to overcome fatness. But they can be overcome, at least in part, by making legitimate efforts to alter one’s lifestyle. Genetics don’t turn you into 300 lbs. of blubber. 4000 calories a day and zero exercise does that.

  5. hey fattie… put down the twinkie and pick up a free weight… a pity party-blog only enables your behavior.

    Get a Wii and blog about your weight loss; stop rationalizing.

    Or get “or-so-raven” on it.

    womp

  6. I agree with Brando. There is a clear difference between things you can’t change (e.g. gender, ethnicity, race, disability, sexual orientation) and things you can (like being obese).

    It is plain to see the difference between disadvantaged groups, who face or have faced genuine discrimination, and obesity. There is obviously NOTHING bad or wrong with being a certain ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. whereas obesity indicates a fundamentally unhealthy lifestyle. Conflating the two is a slap in the face to those groups who fought and are fighting for their equality.

    I think that an accurate parallel with obesity is smoking. The ill effects of smoking, like obesity, are widely known, and many find it to be distasteful or disgusting. That’s not to say that I am in favor of ridiculing or shunning obese people. Smokers are often offered support, sympathy, and even incentives from employers when they show efforts to quit. Every person trying to lead a healthier lifestyle deserves the same.

  7. I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Fat people are harder to kidnap.”

  8. Regardless of whether you think obesity can be controlled or not, I’d hope you wouldn’t think it’s ok to be disrespectful and unkind to people who *are* obese.

  9. Lindsay on said:

    Wow. You people are some haters. I’m about 40 LBS overweight. I’ve spent months on a 1,200 calorie per day diet, six months with a personal trainer twice a week, then supplemented an extra three times a week with 45 minutes of cardio, and I lost 3 pounds. Also spent two years paying out of pocket (insurance does not cover) for a nutritionist. Had every blood test done (normal thyroid, normal cortisone levels, no food allergies, etc) and continue to go to the gym. My resting heart rate is in the low 50s. But you’d probably look at me and hate me or say I live an unhealthy lifestyle. I’m technically “obese” by my doctor’s standards. But I am not a bad person and I am doing everything I can to change how I look, which, by the way, I hate. So bully for you a-holes who do the same things and get better results.

  10. Lindsay, I’m sorry this is all so frustrating for you. I think your experience shows that obesity is not always about life choices.

    I went on anti-anxiety medication a few years ago that caused me to gain about 35 pounds. In that situation, I had to choose between being overweight (which I technically was) and being unable to function as a person because of crippling anxiety. I went with the former.

    Once I went off the medication, it took me quite a while to lose the weight because my body chemistry had to readjust. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

  11. Lindsay on said:

    Exactly. It’s not always about life choices. But people just assume it is. The judgment is unfair and unwarranted. 40 pounds isn’t the end of the world and certainly not the same battle as others (who have hundreds to loose or obesity-related illnesses, which I do not), but it’s enough to have people judge and assume that I eat McDonald’s daily and have a Ho Ho problem. I’ve been vegetarian since high school and my husband and I cook every meal at home (for the most part-when we do go out, it’s to a local restaurant, not fast food). I still methodically count my calories daily and go to the gym, I’m so petrified to gain more, even if all I do is maintain. It’s hard enough to remain dedicated and determined in the face of little to no success. I can do without the hate.

  12. Wow. Those who are saying that obesity isn’t the same as discrimination because of race/religion/etc, because it is a choice–Even if that is true, when did it become okay to be rude and mean just to make a point?

    It seems that the prevalence of blogging and online communication have made people think it’s okay to go out of their way to be mean to others. Yes, have an opinion, consider free speech. But if the problem isn’t bothering you (and someone on TV’s weight problem is not), then why is it acceptable to be outwardly mean about it?

    Access to blogging and free speech does not mean it’s okay to be cruel to our neighbors. Let’s not lose all idea of manners.

  13. Sweet Jesus, I was not expecting fat bashing in the comments.

    Clearly everyone who is hating on the fatties has never been one. I am. I’m medically obese. I used to be underweight. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and the original article was offensive as hell. I didn’t get fat by eating McDonalds and ho-hos. Some times being fat IS out of your control. I went on different medications and gained 50 pounds. Is that MY fault? No. Can I lose weight? Nope, not without eating 300 calories a day or going off my meds.

    And yes, I am harder to kidnap.

  14. I’m not surprised that there are people like Ms. Kelly (and some of the commenters here) who hold ignorant, bigoted ideas about size/weight. What always amazes me is that they don’t stop and think about their assumptions, ask some questions, do a little research, challenge their beliefs, and gain some information. It also continually surprises me that these people, while clinging to their ignorance, decide to type out their bigotry and hit “submit”. Ms. Kelly doesn’t have an editor to take her aside and say “Maura, darling, you can’t go around saying this stuff out loud, you’re being an ass”???

    For all those who think fat jokes are funny, that fat people deserve derision, or that diet and exercise are always the way to the promised land of the perfect figure, google “fat awareness” and learn. And then print out a “fat hate bingo” card, come back to your original assumptions, and see how you score.

  15. nersmom on said:

    Well, like the unhappy, struggling, young gay people, are obese people suposed to commit suicide if they cannot get their weight under control for many reasons unknown to the critical masses? Just take ourselves off the face of the earth? I already suffer from agoraphobia to a large extent because I don’t want to be taunted and teased or whispered about. I already feel uncomfortable and depressed. Self-acceptance is a struggle every day without the haters reminding us that we are weak, worthless and flawed.

    Maura Kelly’s column was mean and bigoted. Her editor should have killed it. If it had been her personal blog, then she could write hate with impunity, but the editor should have known better to protect the brand, if for no other reason.

  16. I absolutely adore you for this column. Hear hear!

  17. I’m sorry, I see a lot of excuses above. Yes, some people are overweight due to medication – that can up weght by as much as 40 pounds or so. That certainly doesn’t lead to obesity.

    And the rate of obesity in this country is not explained by medication.

    It is explained by diet and lack of exercise people. Occam’s razor. Why is everyone so much fatter now than they were twenty years ago?

    I’ve been fat and I’ve been in shape. What’s the difference? Diet and exercise. Not the magical fat fairy. And to the poster above who claimed that vegetarianism =s a healthy diet, that’s utter nonsense. In my experience vegetarians usually have a really unhealthy high carb diet – it’s really hard to avoid.

    Should people be mean or rude to fat people? No. They shouldn’t be rude to smokers either. But frankly, I find both to be nasty habits. And have known many fat people, none of whom thought it was their choice, and none of whose diets I could eat without gaining 10 pounds a month. There’s a lot of BS floating around there, and though I understand it makes people feel better about themselves, its still nonsense. Talk to a doctor sometime…

  18. Gil Elliott on said:

    Hey Brando, just so you know… Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

  19. First. My favorite line to my husband, “Fatties need love too.” So I love that you said that.

    Second, I am not sure where to put the massive amounts of shit she just dumped. Really her thinking is exactly why doctors brush off overweight patients. Perhaps it is that thinking exactly that perpetuates obesity. WTF. Wake up.

    How about I make a joke about her needing to take a pill and get her barf back on? And did she really, REALLY compare some chub, to a tapped out heroin addict. Wow.

    I guess I need to go exercise some self control now.

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