Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I have been a faithful reader of Robert Rummel-Hudson's blog, Schuyler's Monster, for years.  Rob is a great writer and an amazing parent, and his blog about his life with daughter Schuyler - who was born with a congenital brain disorder that prevents her from, among other things, speaking - is both poignant and fierce.

One of the things that you can count on at Rob's blog is that he will call out any celebrity, any time, for using the R word.  (That'd be 'retard', for those of you who don't spend a lot of time on special needs websites.)  This seems to pop up especially in comedy, where someone will use this word to try and get a cheap laugh.  Rob will not stand for this - and rightly so.  The offending celebrity will be shamed publically on Rob's widely-read blog, and more than likely an apology or retraction will be forthcoming.  The most recent example of this can be found here.

A couple of weeks ago, Rob posted about a comment he'd made on Facebook and the stir it caused to his readership there.  He wrote:

"I lost ten pounds in the week since I was at the doctor. No joke. Perhaps I should let this infection linger a little longer."

Someone attempted to call him out on this, pointing out that he was engaging in fat talk, but Rob was having none of it.  He believed that his statement was not hurtful, because "...it was a joke, and again, it wasn't a joke at someone else's expense."
Oh, well okay then.  Is that the rule?  I can make jokes as long as they aren't at someone else's expense?  So I can call myself a retarded retard who eats retard soup for breakfast, and Rob wouldn't be bothered?
Rob points out again and again - and I agree - that the use of the word 'retard' and related terminology, even when used as a joke and even when used without someone being the butt of the joke, creates an environment in which it is possible to see people with special needs as less than human.  It's hostility and prejudice cleverly disguised as humour.  If we simmer and steep in that environment long enough, hearing 'retarded' as a pejorative often enough, our values are likely to subtly change. 
Let's read that paragraph again, with only one substitution.
The use of the word 'fat' and related terminology, even when used as a joke and even when used without someone being the butt of the joke, creates an environment in which it is possible to see fat*people as less than human. It's hostility and prejudice cleverly disguised as humour. If we simmer and steep in that environment long enough, hearing 'fat' as a pejorative often enough, our values are likely to subtly change.
For some reason, Rob can't see how these are parallel.  But I do.
Our society has a lot of value judgments about appearance in general and about weight in particular.  These values are so subtle and ingrained that we probably don't even grasp them consciously.  Rob's original statement from Facebook - go back and reread it - doesn't even make any sense if you don't include the unspoken assumption that losing weight is good, that being thin is better than being fat.  Try, if you can, to erase that assumption from your mind and reread the statement again - it's meaningless.
One of the strongest roots of this fat-shaming problem is that we have conflated weight with bad health.  To a great degree, this is a falsehood.  It is possible to be healthy at any weight.  It is possible to be fit at any weight.  Moreover - and this is the one that shakes me to my core - all those health risks that we read about that are associated with overweight and obesity?  Are actually much more strongly associated with yo-yo dieting.  Who diets?  Overweight people, of course (and don't even get me started on who defines "overweight" and how).  It's actually way more healthy to stay a consistent weight - whatever that weight may be - than to engage in the lose/gain cycle.  And make no mistake, any diet you undertake to help you lose, will also eventually cause you to gain.  There has not yet been invented a healthy, flawless diet that will keep weight off you permanently.  (If you want proof, go to the bookstore and count how many diet books you see.  If there was one perfect method, there would be only one book on the shelf.)
But anyway - why do you need a diet?  If being fat has no effect on your health - and trying to change your weight actually worsens your health - why does it matter?  Well, it matters because we live in a society that shames fat people.  I've only touched the tip of the iceberg in exploring that issue in this post, but I hope you are beginning to see that I think that's a pretty bullshit situation and a pretty bullshit reason to risk your health by trying to change your weight.  For the past six months, I have been reading and learning and working a lot on my own attitudes about weight.  As part of this learning, there are things I will not stand for anymore.  The unspoken assumptions like the one in Rob's Facebook post are among them.  If you say something like that to me, about your own weight/body, I will call you on it.  I don't believe weight is unhealthy.  I don't believe weight is unbeautiful.  I don't believe weight makes people more or less worthy of love, value, privilege, success, appreciation, respect, or happiness.  I am working hard to stop confusing who I am with what I look like, and while it's incredibly difficult work, I think it's profoundly worthwhile.  I hope you come with me, you just might like it on the other side.

*I have used the word 'fat' throughout this post as I believe it is the most honest, authentic and unvalue-laden term available - as opposed to 'overweight' which implies there is a 'right' - and wrong - weight.


jwoap said...

As an obese woman I loved this. It's hurtful to hear shaming words about my body. *My body*. I'd no sooner refer to someone's child as retarded than I would make jokes about those of us who are fat.

Anonymous said...

I don't see Rob's comment as parallel at all. He did not use the word fat, he didn't define what he believes to be "fat" or anything other than indicate that he himself would like to lose a few pounds. I really don't see how that is "fat hate".

dedlocklady said...

I agree with Anon above - Rob did not use the word "fat". Nice post you put up here, but as someone who has been caught in the storm of the "weight issue" her whole life, I followed the entire thread/blogs/debates and just don't see what Rob said as an issue. Have we gotten so sensitive as a society that we cannot joke about our OWN bodies? Rob was talking about HIMSELF, in a self-deprecating manner. Who are we to judge what he has to say about himself? Good Lord, let it go already. If Rob wants to call himself a cotton-headed ninny muggins, that is his right. *shrugs* Don't get the big deal.

J O'C said...

I saw this whole thing unfold on Facebook. Rob was poking fun at Himself...on his very own Facebook profile. In my opinion, it was just a quick status from a guy who'd been very, very sick with a sinus infection. Ever had a sinus infection? They're horrible. I read it as a guy who was just trying to find his own bright side to a pretty awful situation, not someone who was being hurtful to others. And do you *really* think that joking about your own weight loss after you've been sick is the same as calling a disabled child a retard? Really?! Wow.

Aren't there worse villains out there for you to attack?

Anonymous said...

You are way concern with being politically correct. And furthermore, there IS a right and wrong weight range, it is a medical fact. Deal with it. As someone who has struggled with weight most of their life, and has no time for oversensitive people, get a life. Find a hobby. Do something other than writing a blog post that is incredibly stupid.

Anon said...

Rob is incapable of having compassion for anyone but himself or his kid. He refuses to see that someone who hears "hey fatso" is as hurtful as it is for his kid to here "hey r-word".

His pain is the worst and no one else can compete.

Anonymous said...

I ... what? Your post makes little, to no, sense to me, especially knowing that Rob is someone for whom being overweight has had a direct and dire affect on his health. I can't see the parallel you're drawing, at all.

Catie said...

Hey Anon, have you ever read any of Rob's blog posts? He has compassion for people other than himself. The comment he made was not the equal to yelling "fatso" at someone. Perhaps you should read some of his posts.....

bexybeans said...

there actually is a diet that keeps you fit and healthy for life. it's the diet our caveman ancestors practiced. eat real food, not processed boxed crap, and you will be healthy, and if you eat right all the time and engage in a worthwhile exercise regimen, you will have an ideal body composition. and schuyler's diet sure as hell can't and won't have any impact on her disease, so you can't even compare a brain abnormality to a fat person.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading Rob's blog months ago when I realized he "writes" for self promotion, he speaks for a fee or for techie freebies. Kudos to him for using his eloquent and misleading narratives to gain blog hits and income. Just don't be fooled into believing he does it for any reason other than his own needs.
Have any of his "cheerleaders"actually even met him other than at a book promotion or speaking engagement where he is promoting the device his daughter uses?
While he is a talented man with the written word...he is a bully.
Last year he felt justified in calling people names that referred to mental illness. Odd how he felt "that" disability was ok to ridicule. In fact, all people are open game for him....as long as it doesn't offend his potential profit.
Wake up people, he is far from sincere.

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Anonymous said...

A person can make a choice of being overweight or not. It takes action on an individuals part to take the weight off. I, in no way, say it is easy to loose weight or it can happen overnight. I personally know it's not easy. A person with with special needs cannot make life changes that will correct the issue. There is no parallel between being "fat" or the r word. Nor did Rob call anyone fat.


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