Sep 11 2013

Mass media fails to uplift spinster aunt

“What the hell, Twisty?” you may well ask. “Whyfore no bloggo lo these past 57.8 months or whatever?” Well, the rumors are true. My lobe got totally blown. Kablooey. Lobaceous matter scattered over several square miles. Obstreperal particles were found as far away as the Texas lege, where, thanks to the Supremes, state Republicans bask in the icy purgatorial glow of their discriminatory redistricted voter maps. Fortunately, I, unlike voting rights in Texas, got better.

Moving on.

What a summer. So much vadge-clenching crap has come down the wire. So many degenerate, entitled, sociopathic, narcissist, megalomisogynist assholes in the news. The spinster mettle has been sorely tested. The eel-like Anthony Wiener*, Mayor McHandsypants of San Diego, the repellent Hugo Schwyzer, murderer George Zimmerman, every dude who works in tech, etc.

And oh my god, what about that dicksmoke victim-blaming judge in that wrenching Montana teen rape case? I allude, of course, to Judge G.Todd Baugh, who reduced the convicted rapist’s sentence to thirty days even though he’d flunked out of his court-mandated sex-offender rehab course. Why? Why why why? Apparently Baugh in his wisdom decided that, before she killed herself out of despair, “the 14-year-old girl was acting ‘older than her chronological age’ and [had been] ‘as much in control of the situation’ as the 49-year-old teacher who raped her.”

O my aching lobe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. No class of human being is more disenfranchised and/or reviled than teenage girls, with the exception of teenage girls who are known to have been penetrated by adult dudes; they are the most disenfranchised people in the entire galaxy.

Well, this morning I thought I might look to cable news for some uplifting info on the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the impending US-related doom in Syria, or at least enjoy some footage of that giant floating bong in the Mediterranean. Dee-nied. Instead of any actual news, MSNBC decided to re-run in its entirety its 12-year-old minute-by-minute coverage of the fucking 9/11 attacks, with smoke-gushing images and overwrought narration complete.

OK, look. Not as bad as this, but still. On the somber occasion of the anniversary of 9/11 one might wish to reflect, pay homage, observe a moment of silence, light a candle, hug a firefighter or what have you, but if you’re anything like me you need to actually re-live that mass murder exactly never, so you turned that shit off, made an espresso that sadly turned out a little too thin, and consulted your poor, neglected Twitter feed. Despair ensued.

Twitter. I flippin’ hate Twitter. Not only does it put the kibosh on my natural inborn longwindedness, the feminists and anarchists and cheese-makers and noted wits I follow uniformly bum me out. For instance, today I found out that a cabal of mean parade-rainers are, predictably, out to erase Diana Nyad’s heartwarming and astonishing Cuba-to-Florida swim record by accusing her of cheating. Now, like every woman in history who ever accomplished anything, Nyad is required to face her detractors and explain herself.

Noooo!

Oh, and from the feminist-dudes-always-turn-out-to-be-misogyinst-pricks department, check this out: an Australian documentarist has discovered that the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, they of the questionably feminist “our breasts are our weapons” fame, is run by — that’s right — a megalomisogynist dude.

These girls are weak,” he says in the film. “They don’t have the strength of character. They don’t even have the desire to be strong. Instead, they show submissiveness, spinelessness, lack of punctuality, and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists. These are qualities which it was essential to teach them.”

Here is the amount of surprise we registered here at Spinster HQ upon learning that enpornulated Ukrainian women who take to the streets in hootchie lingerie with the rape culture motto “FUCK” scrawled across their chests are actually in thrall to an abusive Svengali who admits on film that he masterminded the Femen “movement” in order to get laid:

0

I wish you could knock me over with a feather, because I need to lie down.

__________________
* I did not originate “eel-like” as the most apt descriptor ever for Anthony Wiener. I wish to heck I could remember where I read it, because I would like to buy that genius epithet-coiner a taco.

Femen link via @LettyNijhuis

May 17 2013

Spinster aunt says something about rape on TV

A propos of the other day’s post on “The Bletchley Circle,” here’s a question what often comes up. Blamer Michelle writes:

Are portrayals of rape on TV and in movies unavoidably misogynistic? I watched the Stieg Larsson movie awhile back – the Dragon Tattoo one — and was infuriated by the portrayals of sexual violence… then had a heated debate with my partner about whether or not they were gratuitous. I HATE portrayals of rape in fiction – in print or on screen – that are even mildly explicit, because I think they reek of salacious, prurient voyeurism. But rape happens in life. Should it be censored in fiction? This issue hits my fury nerve, but I’d like to be able to make some reasoned arguments.

It’s all a matter of tone, isn’t it?

Rape scenes rarely do anything but provide an opportunity for plot-driven pornography. These scenes may be used to illustrate the evil of the antagonist, but the tone never suggests jack about the victim beyond “she’s a pitiful dominated half naked sexy lady; look!” If a rape scene is necessary to drive the plot — which, by the way, it isn’t — it certainly isn’t necessary to film it pornulationally. The Greeks always committed their dramatic murders off stage.

Women are the sex class, right? The ridiculous proliferation and popularity of TV rape scenes — there’s a sexual assault about every 10 seconds on television — is proof enough of that, as if you needed it. When TV rapes women, if there is ever any underlying high moral purpose serving Truth and Beauty, I have never seen it. Popular writers and directors almost universally choose to throw the mighty weight of their office behind the goddam GAGFUW. All media serve and perpetuate our misogynist world order.

May 13 2013

Just when you thought you wouldn’t have to slog through a feminist analysis of “The Bletchley Circle”

You’ve heard that spinster aunts, their kiesters permanently affixed to their lime green recliners, are constantly monitoring the airwaves for examples of patriarchy-replication in male supremacist cultural narratives. Recently here at Spinster HQ we cast our jaundiced eye upon PBS mystery/period drama “The Bletchley Circle”. Four women, veterans of the eponymous WW II British code-breaking operation, join forces as civilians in 1952 to solve a bunch of murders.

Because she apparently isn't pitiful enough, the battered wife character is also attacked by a random stranger on a train.

Because she apparently isn’t pitiful enough, the battered wife character is also attacked by a random stranger on a train.

I believe it is customary to announce a spoiler alert at this juncture, but let’s face it. It’s a crime show, so you know precisely what happens. A creepy dude murders some hot babes and is eventually foiled in an abandoned warehouse by a slightly extraordinary sleuth who struggles with personal demons.

Even though “The Bletchley Circle” has been called “feminist” (nowadays the label is applied automatically whenever there is a female lead, irrespective of any actual evidence of feminist themes), it will come as no surprise to you that straight away I was able to tick off several boxes on both the Misogyny in Media Checklist and the Schlocky Old Plot Device Checklist. Note that there is some overlap between these checklists. Misogynical motifs — usually affirmations of the venerable Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women — form the basis of so much of the literary and theatrical canon, they may also be considered schlock.

On to the checklists!

• Sleuth with superpower? Check. (Schlock)

• Scene wherein dude sexually assaults lone, vulnerable woman? Check. (Schlockogyny)

• Scene wherein same woman gets beat up by husband? Check. (More schlockogyny, in case you missed it the first time)

• Serial killer? Check. (Schlock)

• Serial killer is a diabolically clever madman? Check. (Mental illness disinformation, perpetuation of patriarchal myth that only raving outliers are capable of violence against women, and for the luvagod, lunatic serial killer is the most enschlockened character in modern entertainment)

• Serial killer predates upon hot young women by exploiting one or another of their stereotypically weak feminine failings? Check. (Porno-schlockogyny)

• Serial killer rapes the corpses? Check. (Really? Again?)

• Money shot of bound-and-gagged victim struggling in dungeon? Check. (BDSchlockM)

• Money shot of hot, dead victim looking somewhat sexy? Check. (Ibid)

• Though her motivation for doing so is howlingly unbelievable such that the viewer is compelled to yell at the screen “Shirley you aren’t going to confront the killer alone in that creepy remote location à la Silence of the Lambs!”, the plot in fact climaxes with heroine confronting killer alone in creepy remote location à la Silence of the Lambs? Check. (Aaaauuugghhh)

Is The Bletchley Circle “feminist”? Hayell no.

Well, OK, the leads are four “strong women” characters, where “strong” means “plucky.” Their intellective efforts eventually win the day despite open dudely hostility at every turn, so, grrl-power. Bechdelianly-speaking, they do have conversations with each other. However, except for a pretty riveting opening flashback portraying a code-breaking triumph at Bletchley Park, these conversations are largely about men, either their dickhead husbands or dismissive government authority figures or the dudely killer. Furthermore, their relationships with men are character-defining factors. The stifled hausfrau*, the battered wife, and the sexually harassed waitress depend for character development on dysfuntional dude-relationships (the fourth is another tired old stock character, the spinster librarian). Thus is the feminist thrust of “The Bletchley Circle” thrown into question. The realistic depiction of women’s crapulent status in post-war England, however historically accurate, is so lovingly, painstakingly bleak it practically amounts to torture porn.

The final nail in the coffin:

• Entire series — though purportedly about women’s experience — written by dude? Check. (Puke)

The other final nail in the coffin?

• In the post-series “Making of Bletchley Circle,” (one of those boring filler/filmumentaries that seem to append every episode of every PBS drama these days), the director makes a big fucken deal out of the fact that although he had to work with an unheard-of surfeit of females on this project, there was nevertheless an astonishing lack of catfighting on set? Fucking check. (Aaaand double-puke)

_____________________

*In the empowerful-women-take-back-the-degrading-epithet department, check out this unexpected definition of hausfrau at Urban Dictionary.

May 08 2013

Shirley he can’t be serious

President Obama is shocked/shocked that more and more members of the military appear to be confused about precisely which sorts of violent, antisocial behaviors are patriotic, and which are criminal. Here he responds to the grim 411 that sexual assaults in the military are up over 30% since 2010:

“I want [the victims of sexual assault] to hear directly from their commander in chief that I’ve got their backs. I will support them. And we’re not going to tolerate this stuff and there will be accountability. If people have engaged in this behavior, they should be prosecuted. [...] I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.” [USA Today]

Obama can hardly be astonished that a couple of half-assed sensitivity training courses have failed to eradicate the military epidemic of moral turpitude; “this stuff” is necessarily endemic to the armed forces. That’s because a high moral purpose is absolutely antithetical to the systematic perpetration of deadly force, which perpetration is, after all, the whole raison d’être of the whole flippin military. To wit:

As I suggested in yesterday’s post, the United States appears to have created a warrior class with a culture distinct from that of the general fun-lovin’, happy-go-lucky populace. Despite lofty romantic narratives alluding to honor and quiet heroism and national pride, military culture is ultimately grounded by mores that place a higher value on group cohesion through dominance than on compassion, justice, or truth. These mores are necessary both to foster the required fierce sense of tribal unity, and to permit the execution of the required acts of intimidation and aggression — acts that would be considered psychotic under any other circumstances. Mounting body counts on all sides obfuscate the very concept of “greater good.”

The thuggy, murdery, cannon-foddery nature of the wars becomes more difficult to ignore, while simultaneously the sexual assault rate climbs: coincidence? I think not. It’s nice that the president “has [the victims'] backs,” but if he thinks that it’s even possible to extirpate violent behavior from a tight-knit culture based on violence, that dude seriously needs to answer the clue phone. As these relentless wars drag ever onward, it is to be expected only that fewer and fewer members of the military will be able to survive such extreme cognitive dissonance with their moral compasses intact. Warfare debases all humanity.

May 07 2013

Spinster aunt blows dust off computer, reads depressing Google news

It was a narrowed, bloodshot eye that I cast upon this morning’s Google News top headline: “US air force sexual assault prevention unit chief charged with sexual battery.”

Prepare yourself to not be shocked in the least. The sexual assault prevention unit chief was a dude, and the person he neglected to prevent himself from sexually assaulting was a woman. Quelle surprise.

The news reports all endeavor to help us understand the salient facts of the case: Air Force guy didn’t just grope a woman, he drunkenly groped a woman. Ohhh, well it makes sense, then. Deficiency of sobriety is a popular theme in sexual assault narratives. As everyone knows, a drunken dude can’t help it, and a drunken woman deserves it.

Although, you know, it has occurred to me that maybe dudes whose inebriation causes them to refrain from not raping women should just lay off the sauce already. And get themselves castrated. For the common good.

Stupid Air Force guy looks so bummed in the photo, doesn’t he? Well, he should lighten up! Nobody, unfortunately, is gonna castrate him. Even better for him, guilty verdicts in cases like his are all but chimerical figments. Should so fantastic a verdict happen — against all odds — to achieve escape velocity from the crumulent black hole of misogyny that is the typical jury trial in a 21st century American sexual assault case, chances are that a sympathetic higher-up will simply overturn it. That’s what this 3-star general-cum-astronaut did with the aggravated sexual assault conviction of one of her dudely underlings. And she’s not alone.

Although, you know, it has occurred to me that maybe governments that train a hierarchical warrior class to go around oppressing and killing on a global scale should not be surprised when its members routinely exhibit hubris, entitlement, violence, criminality, and antisocial moral lapses.

Mar 25 2013

Shirley there’s nothing more to say on the subject of Radfems vs Trans Women?

I love the smell of a transgender politics dust-up in the morning. Mmmm.

I strongly urge those readers for whom transgenderism is problematic to examine the roots of their bigotry, and to consider adopting a more reasoned, tolerant and inclusive platform.

For those who are interested in the Savage Death Island argument supporting the right of all persons to exist on their own terms, today I’m republishing the relevant parts of a post I wrote back in 2011, omitting the superfluous preamble (for connoisseurs of superfluous preambles, the unabridged version can be found here). I’m plagiarizing myself for two reasons. One, the old essay is better than the one I wrote yesterday. Two, because the first essay racked up nearly 800 comments, it seemed judicious to start afresh than merely to link to the crowded 2-year-old page.

* * * * * * * * * *

There are three aspects of this trans “debate” that particularly chap the spinster hide. One is that it is even considered a debate. Is there anything more demeaning than a bunch of people with higher status than you sitting around debating the degree to which they find you human? I don’t think so.

The second hide-chap is the main anti-trans “argument.” It goes:

Unless you were born a woman, how can you really know what women’s oppression means? You benefited from male privilege once; how can we trust you? Your male junk threatens us. You mock us with your affected femininity. You’re not authentic.

This argument is phobic and dumb. It proceeds from, among things like fear and internalized misogyny, the premise that there exists a standard or authentic “woman’s experience” of oppression that derives entirely from childhood indoctrination and imbues the experiencer with some kinda moral authority. The premise is false. An experience of womanhood is not the experience of womanhood. Take, for example, the issue of privilege:

Some women have a little privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege and then lose it. Some women have zippo privilege and then get some later. Some women only ever have zippo, period. Some women are atheists, have short brown hair, drive red Fords, have scars where their sex organs used to be, can’t get health insurance, eat only vegetables and shave their mustaches.

Thus we see that there are infinite manifestations of womanity, both in terms of privilege and otherwise, each topped with its own unique little dollop of oppression. Of the gazillion factors that comprise female awareness, the condition of having been born female is but e pluribus unum.

Not only is there no “standard” women’s experience of oppression, but a primary experience of womanhood is in fact inessential to the understanding of oppression. It is not necessary, in order for the oppressed to unite behind the common cause of liberation, that every oppressed person should share the background experiences of every other oppressed person. It is not only not necessary; it is not possible. The imposition of such jingoistic strictures precludes all possibility of revolution.

Oppression is oppression. Race, ethnicity, religion, pigmentation, sex, gender, health, education, class, caste, age, weight, ableness, mental health, physical health, marital status, employment status, diet, IQ, internet access — any combination of these or a thousand other arbitrary markers may be used by the powerful to justify oppression, but the net result is always the same: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough.

My third point strikes a somewhat different and theoretical note. It has long been the contention of all expert spinster aunts that the notion of gender is itself a fiction promoted by the usual hegemonic patriarchal forces as an instrument of oppression. A person can only be “trans” if there are rigidly enforced gender roles from which and to which one might transition. Obviously, post-revolutionary society will not be burdened by tiresome gender constructs at all; nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are. Meanwhile, we gotta stop slapping the Four Ds on anyone who fails to conform to the stupid misogynist gender binary.

I would love to delve into this at greater length, but the aforementioned time constraints compel me to put a sock in it. Fortunately, yesterday blamers Nails and AlienNumber were kind enough to link to Daisy Deadhead’s excellent essay on Savage Death Island’s executive director Andrea Dworkin and her remarks on transgender politics. The remarks, excerpted by Daisy from Woman Hating (1974), are sensible and kind and radical and a breath of fresh 70?s air. And they pretty precisely express the Savage Death Island doxa. Essentially, Dworkin’s saying that everyone has a right to exist on her/his own terms. Duh, right?

Transsexuality* is currently considered a gender disorder, that is, a person learns a gender role which contradicts his/her visible sex. It is a “disease” with a cure: a sex-change operation will change the person’s visible sex and make it consonant with the person’s felt identity.

Since we know very little about sex identity, and since psychiatrists are committed to the propagation of the cultural structure as it is, it would be premature and not very intelligent to accept the psychiatric judgement that transsexuality is caused by a faulty socialization. More probably, transsexuality is caused by a faulty society. Transsexuality can be defined as one particular formation of our general multisexuality which is unable to achieve its natural development because of extremely adverse social conditions.

There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here.

One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition.

Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised.

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.

I recommend reading Daisy’s essay for a bit more context. Nails has a new post on the topic too.

______________________
* In 1974, “transsexual” was the term for what we now call “transgender.”

Mar 22 2013

A girl can’t have a dick.

Gender is the most important fucking concept in the world. It’s the ur-fucking-concept.

Smith College won’t admit trans woman Calliope Wong, no way no how, because her birth certificate categorizes her as a dude. Apparently the only way Wong can change the check-box from “dude” to “dudess,” in the eyes of Smith, is to undergo sex reassignment surgery, which she hasn’t done. Says Wong:

“Transwomen are most likely not ready for surgery at 17 or 18, the typical age of a college applicant. It’s a monumental personal decision that usually arises from years of introspection and deliberation.”

So Wong can’t just declare herself to be whatever it is she is. Woman, they say, is denoted completely arbitrarily by lacking a dick. Not by any of the other factors that might just as easily be employed to differentiate members of the sex class from members of the regular class. Factors such as hormones or chromosomes or giggly head-tilts or — heaven forfend! — personal preference. The genitalia are the only thing anyone gives a fig about.

The carpet must match the drapes. One must be consistent, down below, with what one advertises up top. A girl can’t have a dick. The entire fabric of the universe, in fact, depends entirely on girls entirely not having dicks. No dicks, not of any kind.

That’s right; as is usual in all matters pertaining to everything, nothing matters but pure, unadulterated pussy. So Wong needs a doctor’s note stating that she’s had vaginoplasty. She must become legally penetrable. She has to get a fuckhole installed. That’s because the Global Accords define “woman” as “that which can be fucked.”

Someday, when future humans are lounging around the pool, strumming lutes and basking in the sunny uncomplicatedness of gender-neutrality, they’ll look back on this and laugh.

Tangentially: I get that lots of people are sure as shit, such that they actually want or need sex reassignment surgery. But is that really true of everybody? Setting aside for the moment my firm conviction that gender can and should be made irrelevant by feminist revolt, I have always thought it was super discriminatory that, in the cut-throat world of sex and identity, one is generally expected to buy the whole farm in a one-time-only sort of a deal. What if I wanted to be a dude, but maybe not forever, and without having to lop off any of my shit or going through monumental introspections and deliberations? As in, I’d merely announce “Yo, I’m a dude! Lead me to the drugs and bitches and higher paychecks!”

Forget it! Gender is not to be trifled with. It is the most deadly serious social construct ever invented. The gender-binary police state doesn’t accept, no way no how, that gender can be fluid. Before granting a sexception, they require that a person literally be in emotional crisis, and demonstrate an irrevocable commitment to the Establishment by subjecting herself to the medical industry for barbaric surgical procedures. And when I say barbaric I’m not jokin’ around. Do you realize that vaginoplasty essentially takes a peen and turns it inside-out? I mean, I’m hardly one to cry out “oh dear what about the peen?!” at every turn, but Jesus in a jetpack, that’s gotta smart.

So don’t give me any of that womyn-born-womyn crap. Wanna be a girl? Be a girl. A person shouldn’t have to implode her body parts just to go to fucking Smith. I seriously doubt that by letting Calliope Wong in, the joint’ll soon be overrun with entitled dudebros in drag.

NOTE TO COMMENTERS: The entitlement of trans women to basic courtesy and compassion is not up for debate. If you’re an anti-transite, I will ban you.

Mar 21 2013

Spinster aunt reads Kate Harding

Fat acceptance hasn’t been discussed much here at IBTP, probably because, until recently, I pretty much thought I got it. Like: fat people are human beings? Sure. Of course. Now let’s talk about the misogyny of pencil skirts, tiny handbags, and high heels.

So a few weeks ago I was informed by medical doctors that, although I am skinny, I am obese, ostensibly because I have been eating junk and drinking too much for the past year.* Here’s the post about that.

When I used the word “obese” in that post I was gently informed by fat blamers that the term is offensive. “Obese” is used by fat-hatas as a synonym for “fat,” “fat” is not the equivalent of “unhealthy,” and “obese” medicalizes a perfectly natural variant of normal. I was sent to Kate Harding’s blog.

Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle do cause health problems, in people of all sizes. This is why it’s so fucking crucial to separate the concept of “obesity” from “eating crap and not exercising.” The two are simply not synonymous — not even close — and it’s not only incredibly offensive but dangerous for thin people to keep pretending that they are. There are thin people who eat crap and don’t exercise — and are thus putting their health at risk — and there are fat people who treat their bodies very well but remain fat. Really truly.

Harding explains that being fat is not the equivalent of (my words, not hers) being a barnacle on a La-Z-Boy. She has to point out this distinction because the bogus equivalence she describes is overwhelmingly the narrative in modern discourse, and is the root of anti-fat bigotry (see Michelle Obama’s cringe-inducing Skinny2K-Compliance campaign “Let’s Move!”). Tangentially, she also avers that even if a fat person is sick, she’s obviously still entitled to the same respect one would accord a human being. Because she’s a human being.

So, according to Kate, I’m not obese; I merely eat crap and don’t exercise. A dessicated old aunt teetering on the brink of a metabolic cliff. A slothful, self-indulgent sicko.** That I also happen to be thin proves that “fat” illness can happen to anybody, not just fat people.

Fair enough. No argument here.

Having read Harding’s blog further, I have concluded that, although “obese” seems to be the term favored by the medical establishment to describe the state of my fatty guts, my identifying as obese on this blog appears to be somewhat analogous to a dude commenter calling himself a feminist, i.e., it’s insulting.

Anyway, this whole episode has pointed the glaring spotlight of cold hard truth on, not merely my fondness for Funyuns, but also on a gaping sort of hole in my oppression-culture literacy. Namely, that I don’t know jack about the fat acceptance movement. Which is pretty disgraceful, considering that it is such a major issue within the purview of patriarchy blaming.

To be continued.

_____________
* Although here is a 2007 article from Junkfood Science, provided by blamer Blue, suggesting that the results of a huge, 8-year health-food clinical trial (the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification Trial) totally debunked the notion that diet has anything whatsoever to do with health.

After more than eight years, there were no difference in the incidences of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks or strokes among those who ate “healthy” and those who ate whatever they pleased.

The thesis of this essay seems so out-there that I am almost tempted to believe it.

** Actually, I would hesitate to classify my outdoorsy life of shoveling manure, chasing horses around, and hoisting hay bales as “sedentary,” so I can only conclude that either my diet of potato chips, Fresca, and Prosecco was even crappier than I thought, or something more sinister is afoot. Nice.

Mar 20 2013

TMI: spinster aunt surprised by spinster aunt’s obesity

As I revealed in the comments to yesterday’s post on Big Gulps, Sarah Palin, and metabolic disease, I recently had my personal auntly body fat measured. They dunked me like a donut in a sort of clinical baptismal vat, whereupon it was revealed that the spinster aunt is comprised of 37% fat.

This, it will not surprise you to hear, blew my entire lobe (the extra fat globules made the explosion particularly glisteny). Based on my being generally underweight, of bird-like aspect and of lanky build, the assumption had always been that I am skinny. But no. I am obese. Clinically and for real obese. Some of the fat is subcutaneous, the la-di-da no-big-whoop kind of fat. But apparently a goodly slab of it can be found festering in the dank hidden recesses of my abdomen, in the shape of the far more sinister visceral fat.

Sidebar: yesterday, when I suggested that better education might help liberate the American populace from toxic diets — a remark that was perceived by some as classist — I was writing from the perspective of recent fat ignorance. Before I got dunked and subsequently gave reluctant audience to a reading of the Riot Act, I of course knew that sugar is bad and fiber is good, but I was a little shaky on the science. The fact is that although I am privileged, white, suburban, and overeducated, as well as a world-renowned expert aunt who can afford monthly road trips to Whole Foods, I had never before given a moment’s thought to visceral fat, much less its unique (as opposed to sub-q fat) characteristics or its specific role in the jolly Parade of Fatal Human Diseases. I do concede that because of the aforementioned socioeconomic factors, I am in a better position than many to address my hidden globs. But it has nevertheless occurred to me that I am probably not alone when it comes to lack of visceral fat awareness. No, education alone can’t, as blamer Saurs pointed out, make you not poor or give you a fat-free liver. But it’s got to be better than no education. You can’t fight what you don’t know.

Anyway, it turns out that, whereas subcutaneous fat — muffin tops, saddle bags, bingo arms, et al — is actually beneficial, goodly slabs of visceral fat are, in a word, not. Particularly for cancer patients, among whose ranks I am, reluctantly, counted.

To help me achieve a fully-realized panic attack over this latest healthbomb, my ever-obliging oncologist gave me this book Fat Chance by, oh what the hell’s his name, Lessig? Ludwig? Whatever, I keep calling him Dr Zaftig. He’s a practicing childhood obesity specialist who uses No. 1 Science Information to explain in terms that even a spinster aunt can understand the relationship between sugar, processed food, and metabolic disease.

Before you go all Savage Death on my ass, let me say that this Dr Zaftig is no fat shamer. He might even be construed as an advocate, asserting that obesity is not, as is popularly imagined, a function of character flaws or lack of willpower, but rather the inevitable outcome of heredity combined with the flaws in the so-called American diet. Zaftig doesn’t suggest anything new or earth-shattering. His advice consists of the usual “less sugar, more fiber, and have a little olive oil on your salad.” But he does advance a theory explaining how an aunt can be underweight and obese at the same time, which I found pretty enlightening. I won’t bore you with the soporific details about insulin, lipogenesis, the fucking Maillard reaction, and correlations with cancer and dementia and whatnot. Suffice it to say that I have beaten a hasty retreat back to Kale Nation.

Don’t construe this post as an ad for the book, by the way. In the first place, I haven’t applied to it the jaundiced eye of feminist analysis; I’ve only read it from the perspective of a skinny obese aunt who wouldn’t know a lipid if it poked her in the eye with a sharp stick. In the second place, Zaftig is a dude, he’s a privileged member of the Establishment, he’s got a NYTimes bestseller, and of course he’s been on NPR, so what are the odds that that his argument doesn’t contain hidden agendas and dominant-culture affirmations galore? He certainly does take a pretty paternalistic tone when writing about his feckless soda-swilling patients. And his attempts at humor could be used to make corn syrup. But I will say that at least he’s not as condescending as, say, the NIH. Their website says

“Our bodies have a complex system to help keep our weight at a healthy level. In some people, this system does not work normally.”

Whereas Zaftig refreshingly declines to label obese persons as “abnormal.” He avers instead that the cause of obesity rests, not with an individual’s supposedly “abnormal system,” but with the normal body’s completely reasonable response to the wackaloon processed, refined, and artificial foods that in recent decades we Americans have been conditioned, and in many cases coerced, to accept. This conditioning, he maintains, is the direct result of profit-driven efforts of the mighty Fast Food Industrial Complex.

A propos of which efforts, have you seen any reviews of that Pink Slime dude’s book Salt Sugar Fat? I haven’t read it, but it’s supposedly an expose about how the processed food industry specifically designs toxic convenience foods to be both addictive and cheap, then poisons the citiizenry all the way to the bank. Quoth the NY Times, the author

“visits with neuroscientists whose M.R.I.’s of test subjects demonstrate how the brain’s so-called pleasure centers light up when the subjects are dosed with solutions of sugar or fat. He then describes how consultants and food scientists calibrate products — ‘optimize’ them, in industry-speak — to maximize cravings.”

And did you get a load of Stephen Colbert mocking the so-called “bliss point” by using a giant taco shell as a chip to scoop up a dip made entirely of Tostitos?

You get my drift.

Anyway. Using the Zaftig argument, it is hypothesized that my high fat content is a result of my having reverted, over the past year or so, from a fancy privileged vegan life to a “convenience” diet of refined flour products, potato chips, “liquid sanctimony” smoothies, Fresca, Thundercloud Subs, too much wine, cookies, and Amy’s frozen entrees (mostly the kind with cheese sauce and potatoes). The hypothesis is on its way to being confirmed; I have lost an estimated 2 percentage points worth of fat in as many weeks, merely by adjusting this program to reflect a more lentil-heavy foodlosophy.

Which is my usual long-winded way of saying: I grasp that, though it still poses mondo health risks, skinny obesity is, at least in terms of women’s oppression and membership in the sex class, orders of magnitude less stigmatizing than fat obesity, and I’m sorry I fatshamed. And concerntrolled.

Mar 19 2013

Eat more kale.

Gulp on, Palin. Nothing says "Freedom!" like the right to cook your liver in its own fat.

Gulp on, Palin. Nothing says “Freedom!” like the right to cook your liver in its own fat.

No spinster aunt would presume (except in her dreams) to tell anyone over the age of nine what to eat. We aunts can but lead by example, sanctimoniously choking down our raw-kale-on-Mestemacher-fitness-bread sandwiches, perhaps while casually describing the process by which ad-lib fructose turns the viscera into diseased slabs of fat.

However, one can’t help thinking that if the populace were to enjoy — say, through improved, non-corporate-sponsored education — a more thorough understanding of the human metabolic process, the hi-larious spectacle of historical footnote/reactionary buffoon Sarah Palin chugging a defiant gallon of soda at CPAP yesterday would have had all the comic overtones of a slow suicide. The caption might as well read “I support the right of the beverage industry to profit from poisoning you, me, and the millions of poor and underserved who have no access to decent food!”

Bloomberg’s giant soda ban was a dumb idea, but if the discourse it provoked hips a few more people to the link between fast food, poverty, megacorporate profits, and metabolic disorders like diabetes, I say, you go, girl. When waved as a banner to rally the troops, however, the Big Gulp has all the inspirational ideological zing (and even fewer of the health benefits) of “Leggo my Eggo.”

_________________
Sarah Palin photo: MSNBC.

Older posts «

» Newer posts