February 14, 2011

Rabid Weasels With Knives

I read a really good post recently (THANK YOU, Steph!) by a girl who wrote about what it's like to be fat. I came away from that post thinking about how right she was: that shame as a motivational tool has already been maximized; that maybe we don't know why some people are hungrier than others or store fat better than others or have less willpower/motivation than others---but that none of that matters when what we're talking about is one group of people treating another group of people badly. Do you know what's a worse character flaw than being fat? ANYTHING THAT IS A CHARACTER FLAW.

I came away from the article feeling understood, and like I had heard a voice of common sense rising over the "Everyone is skinny by default so you must be REALLY screwing up if you're fat!" crowd. I also felt motivated to think things in a new way---to stop thinking all the time "Must! Lose! Weight!" and instead apply the "Something is better than nothing" principle I'm always trying to work on, and to do it in this way: "I may not be able to make my body smaller, but I can still eat broccoli to help prevent cancer. I may not be able to make my body smaller, but I can still exercise to improve my blood pressure and knee flexibility."

Then I read part of the comments section. And it infected me like a virus: I feel nauseated, exhausted, feverish, like I need to stay in bed. Life looks grey; it's hard to manage my usual routine.

Sometimes when people direct your attention to a comments section, it's because they want you too to read it, so that you will agree with them and add your own comments for their side. In this case, I am telling you so that you will stay away from it: Warning! Pile of dangerous infectious biological material on the floor! Go around, go around!

The people in that comments section have a far worse problem than "ugly rolls of fat." They have a part of them that's hateful and ugly and disgusting and unhealthy, and it's inside of them. A brief exposure to it has made me sick for days. It's particularly appalling that they don't know it's rot: they think they're perfectly healthy and normal, so they're continually exposing others to it.

If you have been made ill by contact with people infected by this disease, I'm afraid treatment is very difficult. DO read the post I'm talking about, because it may soothe the pain of past contacts---but avoid re-exposure from the comments section. Think of them the way Paul told me to think of the underside of a lawnmower: as a pack of rabid weasels with knives.

55 comments:

Betty M said...

Sounds exactly like a comments column on any story in a newspaper on assisted reproduction. Some topics just bring out the nasty people.

Raisin'Cookies said...

The anonymity of the internet really brings out the most horrible sides of people. I highly, highly doubt that most of the commenters that hate-talk fat people would say those things about their own grandmama. Or whoever is close to them that is also fat.
I feel kinda sad for them, actually. Like, do you really know what you are doing to your own character, your own soul?

Nik-Nak said...

So I totally read the comments (what? I couldn't help it!) A LOT of opinion throwing around in that one. Why is that such a touchy topic? I mean, I'm large and it doesn't make me all pissy, and I used to be thin and I wasn't all pissy then either. Why do people not thow that passion into something like child abuse awareness or cancer or something constructive? Why be so mad over thin v. fat. I just don't get it.

Lisa said...

I usually agree with Dan Savage and enjoy his writing (freaky sex stuff is funny and I'm all for gay rights), but I'm really disappointed in his fat-bashing. Its ironic that someone who makes a living defending an oppressed group (see the It Gets Better campaign he started) finds it acceptable to spend so much time putting down another group of people.

Lindy's post was great. The comments were terrible. What is it about the internet that makes it a-ok to say vitriolic things that you would never say in person?

Erica said...

I read the article yesterday when you tweeted it. I found it to be insightful and really well written. I never even went close to the comments because, come on. WEASELS WITH KNIVES.

I still find it so odd that such vehement discrimination against fat people is open accepted in our society. Once, we spoke the same way about women and Black people and gay people. Now, such things are unthinkable in polite company. Why is ok to say such awful things about fat people? As though we're not people with feelings?

M.Amanda said...

Every time I read the comments thinking, "That was a great, helpful article! I wonder what other helpful hints people posted in the comments," then read post after post of "well, these hints are actually harmful and if you need hints in the first place, you are a lazy slob/ruining your child's life/EVIL." This is nearly always followed by a list of things that person does that there is absolutely no excuse for everyone else not to do unless they are lazy/selfish/EVIL. It makes me so sad that I actually remove myself from as much contact with other people, especially on the internet, for a while.

I sometimes want to respond, "Well, I might not be as perfect as you, but at least I know my flaws and work on them while you seem completely oblivious to your biggest one and continue to plague the rest of the world with your pompous, self-centered, obnoxious jackassery." But I don't say it because acting like a self-righteous jerk is not one of my flaws.

Omaha Mama said...

I don't know what it is about comments sections that make people feel like it's okay to be so ugly. What is that?! Thanks for the warning because I have been wanting to read that article, but will absolutely stay clear of the weasels. I hope you can put what you read there out of your own mind. You showed a picture of yourself here once, when you outted yourself as plus-size (me too, btw) and I didn't think of you that way. I thought, what a lovely smile and oh, that's a nice top. I prefer round to stick-like, personally. So there's one non-hurtful statement to try to balance out hatred in comments sections everywhere!

Susan C. said...

I loved this article. LOVED it, and was so happy that you tweeted it so I didn't miss it. I did read the comment section, and you're right, it was awful, but I found solace in the sheer number of "atta girls" mixed in with the knife-wielding weasels. I'm definitely going to re-read the article (many times, I suspect) but I definitely will not approach the comment section again.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

The Internet sometimes makes me sad. It seems like it is FULL of weasels. Sometimes more weasels than actual lovely people. But what makes me MOST sad is that these weasels are walking around in the Real World, probably disguised as lovely people, and at any moment they could just whip out a knife. Sad and a little frightening.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Swistle, I have to thank you twice. Once for pointing me to Lindy's post, which was RAD. And secondly, for steering me, your fellow Sensitive Person, away from the comments.

I love reading deepest personal truths from beautiful people on the internet. I also fear and loathe reading the deepest personal truths of the OTHER people on the internet. Thanks for pointing me to one and AWAY from another.

St said...

I read the article (and many links from there) after you posted it on facebook. And then I read the comments. Like 800 of them. People are crazy.

Jen said...

I read the post and the comments and I was just dumbfounded at how vitriolic some people were. I am all for constructive criticism/disagreement but people of a different opinion so often go to crazy land immediately, it just makes them look like the idiots they are. Every time I read something with people being like that, i just think of that poor PERSON on the receiving side. Because it is a PERSON with FEELINGS.

Jen said...

And then I went and called those people idiots so yeah. Sorry people who leave nasty comments on other people's posts. I meant you were acting in a less than intelligent manner at that moment when you were commenting. Not uh all the time.

Saly said...

I read the article and left it at that. Closing my eyes and not even going near those comments!!

Swistle said...

M. Amanda- YES, YES: I felt like I had to remove myself from ALL OF SOCIETY for awhile, just to recover. And I love your second paragraph, about how at least we know our flaws whereas they don't. Although when I thought it, I thought it less sophisticatedly: "I may be fat but you're an ignorant pinehole. Which one's worse, PINEHOLE? HUH??"

Swistle said...

Lifeofadoctorswife- ACK YES. That's what kills me too. People will say, "Oh, it's the internet"---but all of those people on the internet are ALSO ACTUAL PEOPLE. Walking-around-type people! And they have these thoughts still, but HIDDEN WITHIN. ...In fact, let's change that verb to festering: FESTERING within. Yeah, I like that.

Doing my best said...

Thanks for the warning! I had been wanting to read the article too but have not quite perfected my rabid-weasels-with-knives armor. Avoidance works too!

Hotch Potchery said...

I won't read the article because then I'll read the comments. (I'm fat and nosey!)

Sometimes my students comment about my weight when they are unhappy with me and it's crushing.

Maggie said...

Lindy West writes the best movie reviews in the world. That is all.

Maggie said...

Unfortunately I encounter this toxic comment problem in so many articles on subjects that interest me. Sometimes I feel like I should just stop reading articles about working/stay-at-home mothers or food or caring for one's baby or all kinds of other things. Seriously, people will be hateful about almost anything - what next? Scorching comments about picture frame choices or similar? Internet, you wear me out.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I loved the article and also, Paul's description of the lawnmower. Brilliant. And I couldn't agree with you more- external "flaws" really pale in comparison to internal ugliness and hatred.

ixBeths said...

Fantastic. FANTASTIC. I just posted it to Facebook in hopes that people (I like) will read it.

I tried to stay away from the rabid weasels, but SO HARD. I read one bad comment and closed the window. I don't understand why people are so mean to each other.

Farrell said...

I like your small steps plan - eating broccoli for it's health benefits, not to fit in size _.

I know this isn't your main point, but I will say this:
I am fat by some people's standards; I am fine/normal/average by others. I am currently trying to lose weight because *I* want to. I am doing it the old-fashioned way that takes a long-ass time: I am making healthy choices, tracking my calories, staying under a certain limit, and exercising (which I never did regularly, if at all, even though I'm almost 34). And do you know what? It's fucking hard. In fact, it's so hard that I wonder how ANYONE gets thin or stays thin.

d e v a n said...

Yeah, those comments were brutal.

Alice said...

i read the comments (before getting a good warning about them - but let's face it, i'm more likely than my cats to die from curiosity-inflicted stupidity) but even *i* voluntarily closed out the window after reading just a few. i don't get what those pineholes GET out of writing such obviously vitriolic, mean things. like is that ACTUALLY making them feel better? i guess it makes them feel superior, but how on earth does one justify those feelings of superiority when you know, rationally, that you're tearing someone else down needlessly to obtain them?

have you read antonia's post about her family's treatment of her younger sister? she quotes one of her own commenters there, and it seems applicable to this post as well:

"Seriously any time you ever feel sanctimonious I can guarantee that you are wrong - it's the feeling you get when you are avoiding complexity, when you want a lovely unsophisticated feeling of clear, honest vindictiveness and you feel utterly justified."

Julie said...

Gaaaah. I hate it when the anti-fat trolls start trolling.

If you want more smart, thoughtful writing about fat and food, check out Fat Nutritionist. Michelle is brilliant and beautiful and fat and talks about food in non-moralizing ways.

Dr. Maureen said...

I feel sad that you were so hurt by the festering weasels, because you are one of my very favorite people. I think you are delightful, kind, hysterical, full of empathy, wise, understanding, and fun. So screw them.

bunnyslippers said...

Well, I have a slightly different take on it. I view a substantial number of those commenters as being a substantially smaller number of pinehole trolls, just posting hurtful things to be jackasses and to stir it up. I have no doubt they each post multiple times as multiple people.

Yes there are jerks with hurtful opinions, but I cling to the idea that the proportion of jerks to nonjerks out there isn't accurately represented by the comments section of a post on this topic.

(And it was a good post. Thanks for the link and the warning!)

SIL Anna said...

Ack. I couldn't resist reading the comments. Drove me nuts. Why people are so self righteously hateful about a genetic proclivity that hurts NO ONE ELSE, I will never understand.

banana said...

I read that article yesterday and loved it. I only read a handful of the comments (I tend to stay out of comment threads. I get very annoyed, very quickly at the nonsense people feel compelled to spew), but I chose to pay attention to the positive comments, which in the sample I read outnumbered the negative. There were a lot of, "Right on!" "I love you" "You said it perfectly" type comments and those were the ones I let take up space in my brain. It's not easy to keep the negative comments out, but I try to make it a rule to let positive comments make a bigger impression on me then negative comments. There are so many small minded, hurtful people out there, but there are also a lot of kind, thoughtful and wonderful people.

Banana said...

*Than* negative comments. Stupid grammar.

Kelsey said...

You know where else there are hate-filled, awful comments? Any news article about food allergies. I have often read people say that kids/parents of kids with food allergies are wimpy and should just suck it up - doesn't that just make a lot of sense? I get that food restrictions are a pain for other people - welcome to my life!

Thanks for the link to such a great article. I'm kind of sad that we still have to talk about this.

Christine said...

Gah, I haven't read the post you linked to (yet), but as of late I've gotten really into fat acceptance. Some bodies are just bigger, just like some bodies are just smaller, and that's normal! And good and shouldn't be open to criticism. Additionally, even if all fat bodies were unhealthy (and there really is no definitive evidence that they are), ALL people are entitled to respect and dignity.

If you have the chance to, I would go read two of my favorites: Lesley Kinzel at http://blog.twowholecakes.com/ (there is a 101 tag that you can go through) and Marianne Kirby at http://www.therotund.com/ Sorry! too lazy to link.

Now I'm off to read your link. :)

Marie Green said...

I realized after reading that article how much of my life I've spent hating my body and feeling ASHAMED of it, and feeling... apologetic for exposing people to it, which goes against EVERYTHING I believe in, and I've NEVER felt that way towards any one else's body. And guess what? Shame has not made me any thinner.

Bell said...

I've fortunately toughened my skin, and I can already predict exactly what sorts of terrible comments can follow any article. It's a sort of cynical, bitter feeling, but it's also sort of freeing, in a sense, to be prepared and just realize most are trolling/trying to get a rise out of people. People are jerks, and sometimes it's hard to remember that the dissenters and bashers tend to be far more vocal.

Thank you for linking to it; I greatly enjoyed the read.

Joanne said...

I loved that post and I was so glad you linked to it. I did look at the comments, and I know that those are real people, but the thing is - they are not like real people, really. Jeez could I say really more?

They are cowards and - honestly I can't imagine that they really feel that way! And if they do, it's so effed up, I find myself not caring.

Several years ago, I had a friend whose husband murdered her in this terrible way (not that there's a good way, but it went on for a long time and she was missing and he told her family all these lies about her until they finally discovered her body) and the comments on the articles about her death were UNBELIEVABLE. I had the same reaction that you talked about to those comments - I couldn't believe that people like that existed, that people would blame my friend, who was the mother to a baby boy, for her death.

Anyway. I decided then not to stop reading comments, because I sort of can't stop all the time, but I definitely don't read them on things that really matter to me, or things that are super sad, because I don't want those giant jerkstores to have control over how my day or life goes.

But I think about that writer! And what a great post that was, and I truly think there are more kind, normal people in the world than there are the nimrods like the people that commented against that writer.

Anonymous said...

My sister is two years younger than me, and we're both 5'6; she weights 110 and I weigh 170. The shame rolls off of me every time I eat something and she doesn't, every time she remarks "I"m getting fat" and "I don't want kids because I don't want to get fat", putting in as much distaste and revulsion into that word as she possibly can. At lunch, she'll have a diet coke and I'll have my whole-wheat sandwich, feeling disgusting and repulsive for having the audacity to shove a calorie in my face (in fact, I feel that way every time I eat in public).

Being plagued with gut-wrenching, self-esteem annihilating shame is no way to live, but for now there's no alternative for me.

Swistle said...

I hear you, Anonymous.

Nicole said...

I read both the article AND the comments, I wish I had read this post prior to doing that, because then I would have been spared the comparison between "rolls of fat" and "open sores".

Christina said...

I can't seem to get to the article without my browser shutting down...but I just want to say, that one reason I really love your blog is because there is a lot less vitriol here than at MANY other blogs I've read through the years. Maybe because you're a smart, nice, non-controversial NORMAL person, much like the rest of us, and we can identify with you because you're REAL. You're not trying to be something you're not. You are Swistle! And that's why I come here. Because, even though sometimes I really don't share the same concern about the fish in the tank, I love it that YOU CARE, and put so much passion into it (or fretting lol, whichever you may choose). I just think there's a LOT LESS crap here, and I like that. Keep up the good work!

Linda said...

The man who she quotes in her article responded and I enjoyed reading that one, too. I think it's worth it because he claims she has taken his quotes out of context.

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/02/14/hello-im-not-the-enemy

Hulga said...

I second Christina's comment (almost right above me). I have a very different life than you ( I don't even have one kid!), but I find your caring, nurturing attitude to be very soothing and I enjoy your writing more than the hipster-y, ironic, often bitterly insulting blogs I sometimes read.

Doing my best said...

Oh, Anonymous, what a terrible situation! My heart aches for you!

the new girl said...

I have never, ever, ever heard a better description of them than a pack of rabid weasels with knives.

EVER. It's perfect.

Also--I totally get that about the comments. The metaphor about the biological spill is also APT.

Slim said...

Oh, that "Hello, I'm not the enemy" -- it's like the comments on Lindy's essay: DO NOT READ.
"Taken out of context" as though there's a context in which his comments would be intelligent or rational.

Linda said...

Slim -

I think it's reasonable to read his response. You can read the article where he said that. He was talking about a certain type of pants. You can agree or disagree with him, but it's pretty easy to take quotes out of context.

bluedaisy said...

I read it and then I just had to comment b/c the comments were so annoying. Aside from disagreeing with all the hateful stuff, I get very disturbed when people are making arguments about things and their arguments make NO SENSE. Because no one is talking about the SAME THING! Even if I find an opinion repulsive, I get even more irritated when the person's argument is illogical. So I had to comment as well...and the real shame should be on those who feel that they have a right to sit in a place of judgment (judgement?).

Swistle said...

Linda- I didn't even process his quotes as being part of it: her article is really a defense against the attack of a whole society.

brzeski said...

Item 1: I loved her column, except for the kind of rage-ish attacks on Dan. I thought it would have been so much better done as what you said, Swistle: a rebuttal of society in general's attitude toward fat. Did not read comments, have enough hatred in my own head. Learning at an advanced age to avoid extra.
Item 2: "the "Something is better than nothing" principle I'm always trying to work on": I swear, Swistle, not a day goes by that I don't say to myself (or more often RIGHT OUT LOUD) "It's a drop in the bucket but it's a DROP and it's IN the BUCKET" Thanks for the wisdom!
Bonus item: Boy, Elizabeth wins my $5. I thought to myself, oof that's not a good color, that's not going to work. And ka-chow! wrong again! it's so cute!

Swistle said...

Brzeski- I KNOW RIGHT? I was thinking, "Magenta. Huh. Well. Er." BUT I REALLY LIKE IT.

I liked the Dan-attacks better when I figured out he's her boss, and I get the feeling they like each other a lot---so then it was more, "SEE, Dan, you JERK-FACED JERK? This societal context is why sometimes your casually-meant remarks hurt my feelings!" instead of, like, putting a finger on one unknown person as The Epitome of All Evil.

Misty said...

Oooo, I almost peeked at the rabid weasels. ALMOST! But then the second comment jumped out and started slashing, so I closed the browser.

Thanks Swistle. You saved my life.

Linda said...

Agreed. What she was saying to society as a whole was spot on.

Mairzy said...

Of course I read the comments. And here's what bothered me: the nice ones. Not the affirming ones, but the ones who kindly explained how they lost weight so it could be done. I nodded along until all of a sudden I thought, "Why should she lose weight if she doesn't want to?"

All the talk about health and burdens on the taxpayers and body image is just smokescreen. The real issue is that it's not socially acceptable for people to be comfortable in a fat body.


It's a great post, and we live in a strange society where it's easier to discuss your sexual orientation than how much you weigh.


-- Mairzy.

cherylc said...

I was reading through the comments on this and I suddenly thought, "Dan?," "the slog?" And since I'm from Seattle, I had to read it, but not the comments. I haven't read Dan's response back, but in case it's not obvious, it's Dan Savage and he's made a lot of reputation being provocative. Which does not excuse his comments AT ALL. But it puts it in context for me; and I do agree with him on other issues much of the time. I'm not sure why I'm defending him. I've contracted some kind of crazy Seattle/Stranger/Dan Savage defensiveness. I'm going to go lie down.

Also, the comments on the Slog tend to be super nutty. The people who are mean are probably really young. I don't know if that makes it better or worse.

Swistle said...

cherylc- What I took away from it was her big-picture perspective: what it's like to be fat in this society, and how our society treats fat people.