Fatophobic Sex Scenes in The L Word

Great post at Raging Feminist about fatophobic sex scenes in The L Word, and in MSM in general:

It should have been an interesting scene, then, as she fell into bed with her new romantic interest. Sure, he was a man, but he’s an interesting fat man. Boy was I disappointed, but not shocked, when they cut to a completely different scene as soon as Kit and her man hit their hotel bed. Now I’m not one to look for the sex scenes, and, in fact, the soft core porn atmosphere of the show is often very upsetting to my feminist politics, but damn, if I’m going to see a bunch of people having sex, if I’m going to be subjected to tons of explicit heterosexual screwing, and if I’m going to hear women talking about fucking one another every week, completely internalizing patriarchal ideas about sex, then damn it, I want to see some fat! I want to see Kit’s big body with its soft rolls of fat and big thighs just like we see Katherine Moennig’s spine and boney sternum on every single episode.

Why can’t we see Kit having sex? Why is she hidden behind everyone else in the orgiastic promo pics for the show? If it’s because she doesn’t want to do nudity then fine, but go out and find other fat women to include on the show as well, and don’t hide them.

The fat haters, and you all know who you are, need to get over this shit, because I’m tired of being told that fat women aren’t sexy. I’m sick of watching perfectly gorgeous women covered up and ignored in favor of an aesthetic that promotes eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem. Show me the fat, and pass me the donuts while you’re at it.

Raging Feminist via Brutal Women. (I love that I just typed that sentence.)

This entry posted in Fat, fat and more fat, Popular (and unpopular) culture. Bookmark the permalink. 

189 Responses to Fatophobic Sex Scenes in The L Word

  1. 101
    pseu says:

    mousehound,

    It really depends on who you talk to. Some people have reclaimed the word fat as a descriptive term, and some people prefer other terms like “big”, “voluptuous”, “Reubenesque”, “zaftig”, etc. Most people I know who have embraced the size acceptance view reject the term “overweight”, although some of the fat folks I know who are actively trying to lose weight would probably not hesitate to call themselves “overweight.”

    I think the problem a lot of us have with the word “fat”, is that there’s almost always an “and” implied. Fat and lazy. Fat and out of control. Fat and stupid. The word “fat” has been hurled like an epithet at most of us, even at those who are not actually fat.

  2. 102
    mousehounde says:

    pseu Writes:

    I think the problem a lot of us have with the word “fat”?, is that there’s almost always an “and”? implied. Fat and lazy. Fat and out of control. Fat and stupid. The word “fat”? has been hurled like an epithet at most of us, even at those who are not actually fat.

    Yes. That is it. The word fat has so much baggage attached to it that I cannot bring myself to use it. In any situation where I might need to, it sounds insulting to me because of what I was taught when I was young. I still remember the lecture my Mom gave me in the car after I made a comment about an overweight (fat) woman in line at a store when I was about 5. My Mom was mortified, the lady heard me and was so upset she cried when she paid her bill. That 5 year old me didn’t really understand, I just knew I had made someone unhappy and my Mom mad. Now I know what it is like to overhear comments about oneself. I would much rather hear myself described as overweight as fat. I guess because with the word overweight there doesn’t seem to be that implied and with all its baggage.
    So, while I would never intentionally say anything that I knew might upset someone, I don’t think I will ever be able to use the word fat where anyone might overhear me, even if it is the PC term.

    Thank you for your reply.

  3. 103
    Brian says:

    I understand the concern, mousehound. And its something unique that faces fat people, in that the simple description of what we are is so often used as a negative insult. I wonder how coming generations of gay people will deal with the way gay is used so casually as an insult by a lot of genuinely non-bigoted people who are picking up on a bigoted meme. With fat, though, its clear that there is an effort to define fat as intrinsicly bad.

    I don’t have a problem with words like zaftig, Rubenesque, etc. They are fine words and I use them a lot. But I also think its important to wrestle away fat from those who wish to harm us with it. It also has a virtue of being inheriently nuetral. Zaftig, Reubenesque, etc. are clearly words meant to convey an affirmation. Which is fine. But if I’m going to take issue with words meant to express a negative like those Ilkka uses, I think its fair that I not opperate in the same manner. Fat is a middle ground. Or at least it ought to be. The fact that people like Ilkka know they can’t use fat to hurt people, and that they must resort to more clearly insulting words tells we’re onto something.

    Its not that fat is politically correct. Its that its an adjective. At its heart, that’s all it is. Overweight is often the “kind” thing to call a fat person, but when you really look at the word, its not kind at all. Its a definition of what a person isn’t. Its the literary equivilant of a big neon sign that says “Not right”, and I feel its important to stand against that. It doesn’t have implied baggage. Its declaring its baggage for customs. Now, I don’t think everyone who uses it thinks that about all that. I think Ilkka does, but I’m not going to snap at people for using the word. Nor will I assume a person is okay with fat being used in a neutral manner. But if possible, I’d try to get them to see what the words are really doing. Its a way to disenfranchise fat people. We aren’t allowed to be outselves. We have to be over the weight we should be. Its saying that we are flawed, and that’s a judgement I catagorically reject.

  4. 104
    daffodil says:

    People might begin to realize that fat people are just the same as everyone else, with the same feelings, behaviors, and interests as this people. People might start recognizing fat people as people, not hideous monsters that deserve to be put away in the basement, hidden from the rest of the world so as not to offend.

    I think your expectations are too high. Remember when Dennis Franz bared his rump for the first time on NYPD Blue? Did anything change for chunky, balding guys?

  5. 105
    daffodil says:

    You’re welcome to stick around with your contrary opinions. But: Either stop using insulting terms like “loony left”? or get the fuck off my website.

    Let’s see if we can find a calm middle ground on this one, because I think there’s a key question to be answered.

    In your mind (and in the mind of others here), can liberals be wrong about anything? I don’t mean that in a condescending way – I’ve encountered plenty of folks who insist that their side cannot make mistakes.

    But let’s assume that people here are more reasonable about this sort of thing, and agree that liberals can be wrong about something. How big an error in judgement can they then make?

    My point is, if you are willing to agree that there is room for liberals to make poor judgements or be misguided, then you leave open the possibility that one can take valid liberal positions too far. And though Ilkka’s phrase upset you, the point of it is worth considering. When it comes to causes such as this one, how far can one take it without going too extreme, or being too unrealistic?

  6. 106
    daffodil says:

    Because threads about fat and feminism are the place where the loony left shows its easiest targets, the same way that creationism threads are where the loony right provides the same service.

    I didn’t want to bring up creationism, but it has occurred to me that there are similiarities. In both this topic and creationism, there is science that backs up an unpopular view that a lot of people would rather not be true. One can discount evolutionary psychology if one chooses to (or evolution itself), and one can choose to reject the medical research that shows that being overweight puts one at higher risk for all sorts of unpleasant problems and ailments. But the fact is, the weight of the research favors the position that being overweight isn’t good for you, and that there are biological reasons for why men and women tend to like certain qualities in their mates.

    If there are flaws in that research, then the burden is left to not only offer countering studies, but to also ensure that those studies come from unbiased sources.

    Being about the style of liberal as Daffodil apparently is (judging from what I can read between the lines in his writing),

    I’m a “her” ;)

    And what makes it even worse is that unless Daffodil chooses to chime in again, I will probably be the only one to express any doubt to this idea and argue that brain damage whose only effect is the loss of IQ down to 50 points would be a change to something that is immeasurably and unimaginably worse, not just to “different”?.

    Trust me, I found it quite…interesting.

  7. 107
    Ilkka Kokkarinen says:

    piny: I must be getting really jaded ideologically. Seeing somebody who is supposed to be progressive trying to use homosexuality as an insult does not create any sense of “What the heck is going on here, did I perhaps wake up in the Bizarro world?” in me.

    Avenir: “Do you dislike fat people? Do you think fat people are less valuable to society than thin people?”

    I would like it a lot better if the fat people that I know lost weight, smokers quit smoking, unemployed people got a job, and so on.

    “Do you believe it is better to be thin than to be fat, in all circumstances?”

    Not in all circumstances, but ceteris paribus, it is usually better to be normal weight than fat. Myself, I think I am far better off now at 180 lbs than I was at 240 lbs, in countless respects. I would be even far worse off, had I gone the other way to balloon up to 300 lbs. If someone wants to remind me of how losing this weight made me worse off, I’m listening.

    (Oh, I forgot: nothing is really better or worse than anything else. Everybody who is what they are and that’s it. Nobody can improve their life by becoming something instead of becoming something else.)

    “Do you think that the media should only depict things that the majority of the population agrees are ‘good for you’?”

    I believe that the free market should determine what is shown on TV.

    “Do you believe that fat people should not appear on television?
    Do you think fat people are wrong to desire media representation? ”

    I enjoyed The Biggest Loser tremendously. The people were quite entertaining, especially that guy from New York. I wish he had won, but at least his wife did, in a different way. And besides, hopefully the masses can now finally put away the persistent myth that diet and exercise don’t work because magic fat people can maintain a body weight of 300 lbs while eating only 2000 kcal/day.

    Maybe they’ll cast a fat lesbian in Season 2. I doubt that she would be shown having sex, though.

  8. 108
    Charles says:

    Daffodil, it is actually quite possible for research to be so flawed that it shouldn’t be used (or so immature or preliminary that it shouldn’t be used to draw broad conclusions) without there being a counter-balancing body of research. Research on sexual preference is by and large such a field. Indeed, most of evolutionary psych is such a field. Evolutionary biology is not such a field. It isn’t actually necessary to find supporting research from unimpeachable sources, it is only necessary to cast doubt on the research in question. There are many things that actually are not currently known, and many questions that actually aren’t answerable.

    Jumping from
    1) Evolution is capable of influencing sexual preferences
    to
    2) Studies show that people cross-culturally prefer symmetrical mates
    to
    3) An aversion to seeing women who look like Pam Greer having sex is natural and undoubtably genetic

    is not a well supported argument.

    Actually, the fact that the predominant sexual preference maps to wealth and power (skinny is sexy if fattening food and a sedentary lifestyle are readily available, fat is in if starvation is a worry) is much more likely to be genetically determined (than a sexual preference for skinny people). A desire to figure out what group of people are most likely to give you successful progeny is certainly something for which there is a strong selection pressure, and a huge advantage of intelligence is that it allows such things to be worked out on an individual basis (although see this paper for some interesting thoughts on this same effect in less intelligent species).

  9. 109
    Avenir says:

    “I would like it a lot better if the fat people that I know lost weight, smokers quit smoking, unemployed people got a job, and so on.”

    As if that’s an answer. I didn’t ask you what type of actions you approve of in people. I asked you if you think fat people are as valuable to society as thin people.

    “Not in all circumstances, but ceteris paribus, it is usually better to be normal weight than fat. ”

    Satisfactory…

    “Oh, I forgot: nothing is really better or worse than anything else. Everybody who is what they are and that’s it. Nobody can improve their life by becoming something instead of becoming something else.”

    It’s true- you pulled the words right out of my mouth. Let me lay it out for you: “I truly believe that all human beings should never strive to be anything better or worse than what they are at this very moment in their lives. I am a liberal and thusly I speak.”

    “I believe that the free market should determine what is shown on TV.”

    So it’s a good thing that fat people are voicing their desire to their type represented on television, then, right? And if more fat people were to start appearing in the media, you’d attribute that to the changing average weight of the free market and a desire for representation, and not the effects of pinko-liberal-fascist pc police, right?

    “I enjoyed The Biggest Loser tremendously.”

    I didn’t ask you if you liked to watch fat people on tv. I asked you if you think it is wrong for fat people to be on television, or for fat people to desire representation.

    Anyway, good job providing noninformation with oblique answers.

  10. 110
    Ampersand says:

    My point is, if you are willing to agree that there is room for liberals to make poor judgements or be misguided, then you leave open the possibility that one can take valid liberal positions too far. And though Ilkka’s phrase upset you, the point of it is worth considering.

    You and I view phrases like “looney left” differently.

    You’re paying attention only to the text, ignoring the subtext of name-calling contempt. That’s because you’re focused primarily on the current debate, which is fine.

    On the other hand, I’m more concerned with keeping “Alas” a place where I can stand reading the comments than I am with any one particular debate (and anyway, I’m currently hundreds of miles away from home, so I’m not likely to get involved with any debate that requires research). Particular debate threads come and go, but “Alas” remains. Making “Alas” a place where people feel free to call the other posters here insulting names – especially idiotic partisan slams like “wingnuts” and “looney left” – would go a long way towards making “Alas” a blog that I don’t want to read anymore.

    So I understand what you’re saying. I don’t even disagree with what you said in the post I’m responding to. However, I disagree with you that I should therefore be willing to overlook comments like “looney left.” Sometimes the general really is more important than the particular.

  11. 111
    Ampersand says:

    At this point, any holier-than-thou objectors should spend a day with somebody whose IQ is 50 and then say if they think their own lives would be improved if their own IQ fell to 50.

    Well, I’d consider that a tragedy, because the person I am now would be radically changed to (in many ways) a different person. My objectives and pursuits would have to change; the substance of my friendships would change, even though who my friends are might remain partly the same. And I think my friends and family would mourn the loss of the relationship they had with the person I used to be (even if they build fufilling relationships with the new me).

    So I’d certainly try to avoid suddenly losing most of my intelligence.

    In another sense, though, this is one of those “wouldn’t you hate it if you had been aborted?” questions. The old me would be suddenly gone, and that’s not something I like contemplating. But, objectively speaking, I can’t say that the new me would live a less joyful, loving life than what I’m living right now. Maybe I’d be happier and more content. If I’m being intellectually honest, I can’t dismiss the possibility. (Nor can I dismiss the possibility that I’d be less happy and less content.)

    So although I’d certainly avoid a sudden, massive loss of IQ, because the person I currently am would hate that, I can’t objectively say that the person I’d become would hate it. The truth is, without actually performing the experiment in real life (and I don’t encourage anyone to try it), there’s no way of knowing.

  12. 112
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Hmmm, interesting topic. I admit, the L Word has been one of my guilty pleasure shows (I really like the quality of HBO and Showtime series better than network). I’d have to say that I’m dubious of the assumption that Kit wasn’t showed in her lovescene due to fat politics. There is another character that has been featured in very sexual scenes and is similarly built to Pam Greer (perhaps a bit thinner, but not much). There also is a third trimester pregnant woman that is one of the main characters, and has been featured multiple times in the buff having sex and she’s not a ‘skinny’ pregnant woman (not huge either, but definitely has become very voluptious during her pregnancy).

    Pam Grier Picture AKA: ‘Kit’

    Lauren Holloway Picture AKA: ‘Tina’

    “Tonya” (not sure of her real name) – guest starred for approximately 8 or 9 episodes as Dana’s lover and then fiance.

    That’s not to say that I’m defending the lack of ‘normal’ people on the show, because it’s blatantly obvious that lesbianism has been Hollywoodized on the L Word. If someone were to present a case (which they have) that their has been a distinct lack of butch and dyke characters, I’d definitely have to agree, and in reality, that absence seems to be the more intentional.

    Finally, the quazi-rape scenes were definitely disturbing. While I personally felt they were unnecessary, I would at least submit as food for thought that they were done in a really uncomfortable and squiggy manner which seemed to acknowledge that these acts were not sexy or right, but instead seemed to be misguided attempts by the producer/director to portray the things wrong in the relationships. Control seems to be a real issue of interest in this show, especially how it manifests in relationships regardless of sex.

    I’ve felt at least somewhat relieved that the one character, Jenny, has been increasingly shown to be a person that has problems with self-identity and consistently puts herself in the position of being victimized in a huge assortment of manners. It also was made clear that the boyfriend, Tim, was a control freak and unstable with relationships and increasingly abusive.

    The other scene with the two women was between Bette and Tina, and I was just as stunned as anyone when it occurred. It was done I think to highlight the depths of Bette’s control issues. It definitely portrayed sexual abuse, but it cut at a point where how far the abuse went was unclear. My biggest peeve about this situation was that it was not directly dealt with, but instead we got the group of friends collectively ostracizing Bette while not acknowledging the extent of her mistakes and abuses. This season has dealt directly with Bette trying to regain Tina’s trust, while Tina has worked hard to establish autonomy.

    It’s definitely not the perfect show, and it definitely has some real writer bleed that has been poorly adapted onto screen, but as far as soaps go, it’s decent.

  13. 113
    piny says:

    piny: I must be getting really jaded ideologically. Seeing somebody who is supposed to be progressive trying to use homosexuality as an insult does not create any sense of “What the heck is going on here, did I perhaps wake up in the Bizarro world?”? in me.

    Trust me: if I wanted to insult you, I wouldn’t comment on that aspect of your sexuality. I am gay; you’d know that if you made appearances on other threads but the weight-related ones. My point was that the appearance of a word in the dictionary doesn’t make that word inoffensive or even common usage in context. Most people, progressive and otherwise, know better than to refer to a mentally disabled person as a “moron.” It’s demeaning, it’s backwards, it’s outdated, and it’s indefensible. It appears in the dictionary for the same reason “faggot” does: some people are too unenlightened to stop using it, and they use it with reference to a historical definition. I have heard that argument made about words like “faggot;” I have had freepers post dictionary.com verbatim, just like you did.

  14. 114
    AmyZawn says:

    Wow, bean, here I was looking up all these sources to refute the fat=unhealthy equation, but you beat me to it. Thanks!

    Ilkka says: “And besides, hopefully the masses can now finally put away the persistent myth that diet and exercise don’t work because magic fat people can maintain a body weight of 300 lbs while eating only 2000 kcal/day.”

    Yeah, that myth’s real persistent, given that the whole damn world seems to believe I must be stuffing my face with Ho-Hos since I’m not a size four.

    Look: Some people are binge eaters. Binge eating leads to them having a higher body weight until they learn to eat normally. But binge eating is an eating disorder, and not every fat person has it. Binge eating is also connected with dieting; check out When women stop hating their bodies by Hirschmann and Munter for a great examination of what’s wrong with the eating habits of millions of women (and men too).

    There are lots of debates about whether or not fat people can be healthy; I happen to feel that science is on my side. That’s a moot point however, since science on both sides of the fence have determined that diets don’t work. 85-97 percent of people who lose weight gain it all back and more, according to the latest gov. survey published in my local paper. (Sorry, I can’t find an online link). The only weight-loss program that showed any effectiveness was Weight Watchers, and they only showed that people lost and kept off about ten pounds. Most “obese” folks will still be “obese” after they lose ten pounds, so is there even a point?

    So, if diets don’t work, do we have any right to berate fat people? As I understand it, the whole premise behind “fatophobia” is that fat people have in some way chosen to be fat, and that they must be punished for this.

    Here’s an older article by Sandy Szwarc (2003) about dieting. You can also check out other articles by her on obesity at the TCS website. Guess what? It’s a pro-free market website!

    Also, I like Campos’ The Obesity Myth which I recommend to everyone, since it deals with the science behind obesity. (God, I’m starting to sound like I’m the guy’s PR person.)

    And finally, here’s http://feminist-reprise.myeweb.net/wann1.htma chapter from Marilyn Wann’s Fat!So? that talks about some health myths.

    Sorry if my links are funky, this is the first time I’ve used this particular setup.

  15. 115
    AmyZawn says:

    Oh, jeez, that was bad. Anybody got any tips on making links?

  16. 116
    Ted says:

    Bean and AmyZawn,

    I think that the evidence that you present for fat people being able to be healthy is quite right, but the overwhelming evidence indicates that obesity correlates with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and almost any other cardiovascular or metabolic chronic disease that you can think of. Some people that are overweight can be quite healthy, no question about it, but the vast majority are not and are a great burden to our health care system (that is NOT to say it is their fault though).

    As you both mention, there is also overwhelming data indicating that many obese people are not binge eaters, and in fact, have eating habits that are only slightly more indulgent than those who are of a normal weight. The cause of this is most likely genetic and a great deal of work has recently been done showing that this might involve the disregulation of the endogenous cannabinoid system (yes, I said cannabinoid, as in marijuana). Now your body does not make THC, but there are other neurotransmitters that bind to the same receptors and, hence, the name cannabinoid. There is a new drug, likely to come to market in one form or another, called rimobrant that is a cannabinoid receptor antagonist and has been shown effective both in animals and humans for appetite control. This does not mean that obese people cannot control their appetites, but, rather, is likely indicative of a slight alteration in the cannabinoid system that controls satiety. When one feels full, they generally stop eating, but if the system is slightly off, you might stop eating just a bit after you ordinarily would. This might not be noticable on a per meal basis, but over time, all those 20-50 extra calories show up in a big way.

    There has also been some recent work showing that a key enzyme that controls the endogenous cannabinoid system is mutated in a population of obese people. It remains to be seen if this might be a true for a larger group of obese people, but if it turns out to be the case, it would provide a good pharmacological target to aid this population, should they want it.

    One more thing… Diets do work, they stop working when people stop the diets. IF a diet is not long term sustainable, then it should never be considered a diet but some method of rapid weight loss involving irregular eating or starvation, which never works long term. The real issue should be why can’t some people stay on a long-term healthy diet? My guess would be that this involves the endogenous cannabinoid system (or some other system) gone awry and that eventually we will have effective pharmacological tools to help the people that want to reduce their weight. Having said that, the current societal (I guess I should say media-driven) view of what a “good” figure is almost certainly unatainable for those of us that don’t have personal trainers and are no longer hunter-gatherers and have to sit in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day, but that is another problem which I am unqualified to address.

  17. 117
    Ted says:

    Just realized I fell into a trap by using fat and obese interchangeably a few times. Please ignore the word fat and use obese in its place. I am using a standard BMI definition of obese with no consideration for morbidly obese.

    Can someone explain to me how liberals are pro-obese and conservatives are anti-0bese (or should I use fat here), this is the impression I’ve taken from the discussion and I’ve never heard of such a thing before (although I don’t see that either side has stated that, they’ve just mutually accused the opposite of some judgement on body weight).

  18. 118
    piny says:

    Pro-obese? That’s like calling anti-anti-choice people “pro-abortion,” dude. You’re letting that lexical sloppiness overtake you again.

  19. 119
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Bean,

    And here I thought they were just being kind and avoiding showing us the motivational speaker more than necessary! JK. I have no idea if there was any motivation behind not including a more intimate look at the sex-act between Kit and her new beau, but Charles Dutton (the afformentioned beau) has been a leading man in several films in the past few years, including starring in Gothika as Haley Barry’s husband, and he’s hardly an unattractive man. It’s weird because I know that I heard reference in the show to how handsome and charming he was as well. Bottom line is while the possibility is there that discrimination occurred (I wouldn’t put it past the L Word Producer, whom has come off as very vain in the articles I’ve read of hers), it just isn’t really obvious in this case. Definitely obvious in the case of the lack of butches and dykes though.

    Dunno. I’ll definitely be watching more for it in the future though.

    K

  20. 120
    pseu says:

    Pro-obese? Um, no. Anti-bigotry, yes.

    And from what I’ve seen in cyberspace and IRL, anti-fat bigotry runs across all political persuasions.

  21. 121
    Ted says:

    Sorry, wrong choice of words (obviously), but I didn’t see anything about bigotry or what I interpretted as bigotted in any of the remarks above either (with the exception of one writer).

    As for the discussion of the L-word scene, maybe Charles Dutton didn’t wish to be seen semi-nude for reasons that have nothing to do with his body type (last I’ve seen of him he’s not “fat” he’s one muscular guy) and therefore the scene was not shown. As for Pam Greer, I’m not aware of a male in my age group that doesn’t appreciate her for her stunning beauty regardless of race or orientation. I’ve never seen the show (can’t even access the official website from Canada), but I do enjoy Charles Dutton’s acting and perhaps the producers figured they should appease his modesty rather than lose his talent. Just speculating…

  22. 122
    Brian says:

    So, you’re sorry about accidentally using a neutral word like fat and want to make it perfectly clear that you are being judgemental and condemning us by using a word like “obese”. Good that we’re clear on that.

    Your correlations aren’t nearly as strong as you think. When we hear of the power they are given, we assume they must be unassailable. But the fact is that there are just as strong correlations with thinness and a host of diseases. Does that mean thinness is unhealthy? No. It means fattness isn’t unhealthy.

    Perfect case, a while back a study got a lot of press for “proving” that fat people were at an extreme risk of cancer. Twice the risk of thin people, we were told with a very harsh and demeaning tone. One thing should jump out very quickly. If thin people are so healthy, one should assume their risk of cancer is quite low. And indeed it is. So what is two times very little? Still very little. The correlations between smoking and disease, for instance, is thousands of times more prominant than the risks for non-smokers. More telling is what the reporting of the study left out. There was another group, just as common as fat people, which exhibited even greater risks of cancer. Yet, this group wasn’t the object of concerned “tsk, tsks” from the study’s promoters in the media. Their risk, one noticably greater than the fat people who were the object of much scorn and derision from this study, was pretty much ignored. They weren’t told to change or die. They weren’t urged to try treatments with no realistic chance of success, or dangerous and drastic surgeries which haven’t been shown to deal with the problem in the first place.

    The group that got the free pass, of course, were males.

    Bottom line, weight loss promotion is a treatment that doesn’t work for a problem that doesn’t exist. We need to start focusing on how to actually improve the health of fat people. Continuing to tell them lose weight again and again and again isn’t doing that. I think we’ve given that approach quite long enough time to prove itself, thank you very much.

  23. 123
    pseu (deja pseu) says:

    Brian, also IIRC, that same study actually showed that the lowest rates of cancer were among those with BMI’s between 25 and 29.9, “overweight” by definition.

    I’m always wary of how the mainstream media presents these studies and statistics. Group x has 1 death in 10,000, group y has 2 deaths per 10K. Headline: “Group y twice as likely to die!” Feh.

    I don’t remember whether it was Campos or someone else who took apart the “300,000 annual obesity deaths” myth that’s been floating around for the last few years, but it goes something like this: in the U.S. there are 565,000 deaths annually from all causes. Most of those are among people over 65 (can’t remember the exact percentage, I think it was 2/3, but say 60%), for whom weight has shown to not be a significant contributor to mortality. So if you subtract 60% of 565,000, you have 226,000. Now that’s all annual deaths for people under 65. Car accidents, diseases, homicides, all other causes of death. Also, apparently the 300,000 number was arrived at by counting any death of an “obese” person as being caused by their obesity. So a fat guy steps off a curb in front of a bus, and wham! A death attributed to “obesity”. Likewise, the death of a fat 89 year old woman who dies in her sleep.

    (I read this in a book, and right now can’t remember which. I don’t know if there’s a link out there, but I’ll try to find one later.)

  24. 124
    daffodil says:

    Daffodil, it is actually quite possible for research to be so flawed that it shouldn’t be used (or so immature or preliminary that it shouldn’t be used to draw broad conclusions) without there being a counter-balancing body of research.

    Fair enough, but see the large volume of links I provided on post 32.

    This is another creationism parellel. An accurate statement (some studies are flawed or distorted by the media) is stretched to imply that al studies which make similiar claims are flawed and distorted.

    The important point is, the burden of proof is on folks like you to provide objective evidence to support your arguments. You may not agree with my statements about sexual preference, but you’ll have start by showing some evidence that body shape and symmetry aren’t factors in attraction.

    I’ll grant you that evolutionary psychology isn’t the most advanced field, but what’s important is that most of the research on human sexuality points in one specific direction on these matters.

    Actually, the fact that the predominant sexual preference maps to wealth and power

    For women, yes. Men could care less about how much money a woman makes. I’ve never heard of a guy turning down a beautiful woman because she didn’t make enough money.

    skinny is sexy if fattening food and a sedentary lifestyle are readily available, fat is in if starvation is a worry) is much more likely to be genetically determined (than a sexual preference for skinny people).

    It seems to me as though the whole “starving people like fat better” argument is a bit flimsy. Some poor countries do. But clearly, we have plenty of poor, starving countries who still like thin women. Asia has some of the most poverty-stricken regions in the world, but even the poorest nations like thin women and muscular men.

    BTW, I couldn’t access your link.

  25. 125
    daffodil says:

    Most of the ressearch does not show this. Even the studies that claim to show this don’t show this. What we know is that certain behaviors aren’t “good for you.”?

    Right, and eating more calories than you can burn on a year-to year basis is one of them.

    My doctor once summed it up very nicely: the heart is like a car, and everyone has the same car. some people put more lmilieage on their car per year, because the car has more roads to travel (i.e., fat people by definition have more blood vessels and physical area to pump through) . Therefore, it’s logical to conclude that the folks who have ther cars go through more annual mileage will wear out faster.

    You can see this tendency in other examples, by the way. Very tall people tend to live shorter life spans than people of average height. Big dogs don’t live as long as little dogs or cats.

    And, of course, if someone is unhealthy, what is it to you? Why are they deemed “lesser”? by you and your ilk?

    A false dilemma. At no point have I said that it meant anything to me personally. Nor have I referred to fat people as being “lesser.”

    I think what is at the core of this issue is that people want biology and sexuality to be “fair” – that is, the assumption seems to be that the fairest world would be one in which everyone was regarded as equally attractive, and everyone had the same body type and likelihood to get various diseases.

    It doesn’t work that way. Sexuality is not “fair”. Genetics are not fair. Some people have survival and reproductive advantages over others. It doesn’t make them lesser people.

    BTW, although your studies sound interesting, most of the key links are dead or offline. It doesn’t help to paste text from an article that I can’t read myself. Especially when the only active links in the bibliography are from nonobjective sites.

  26. 126
    Ted says:

    I would not agree at all that fat is a neutral word, quite the contrary. Moreover, obese is a medically defined word that should have no conotation (at least in my mind) when it used to describe a condition. The BMI certainly has faults (I am also obese by BMI standards) but it is what is used in the vast majority of studies. I’m afraid that there are few methods, though, that are as generally reliable as the BMI (of course there are notable exceptions, particularly in people that have alot of muscle mass) and using subjective measures would be infinitely more flawed.

    As for “my correlations” they are not mine. They are taken from reading through studies that are freely available from http://www.pubmed.com. I would cite them, but the list would be so long that it would take up an unreasonable amount of space.

    The cancer study you mention could be related to any number of cancers and looking at increased cancer risk for cancer in general is so ambiguous as to be scientifically unmeaningful. There are many cancer types that are linked to obesity (prostate and male breast cancer for instance). I’m sure there are others (as mentioned above) where obesity and cancer are negatively linked. Correlation is not an accurate measure of causation so who knows what the actual mechanism is or if it has anything to do with obesity. The question is does any of this mean that the “obesity problem” in America is a myth?

    I for one don’t think so. I have no question that obese people can be healthy, we all see them everyday (I am classified as obese and think I am healthy and I bet many others on this post and site feel the same about themselves). That is not the issue though, and neither is the correlation between obesity and many health problems. The problem is, at least from my perspective, that many behaviors that can and often do lead to obesity are causative factors for other diseases. Diabetes, for instance, is reaching epidemic proportions in the United States, especially in the younger population. Diabetes is a horrible disease, and when unmanaged can lead to chronic pain, loss of vision, limb amputation, cardiovascular problems and very premature death. Moreover, it is a terrible burden for the health system. Emergency rooms are often overwhelmed with people in keto-acidotic crisis, especially in county hospitals and the patients that suffer the most are those that can least afford their health care. While there are certainly genetic predisposition factors for type II diabetes (some have been identified in the hispanic population), environment is needed to precipitate the predisposition and can do so in the absence of the genetic factors. Two such environmental factors are increased caloric intake, especially from high fructose corn syrup-containing and other sugary foods and lack of exercise, both of which are factors that are important for obesity. Saying that one is causitive for the other (diabetes and obesity) is hard to support, but claiming that the two have no link is misleading and irresponsible.

    We need to start focusing on how to actually improve the health of fat people. Continuing to tell them lose weight again and again and again isn’t doing that

    So how exactly would you propose to improve the health of obese people? Telling them to lose weight is certainly not what I proposed. Providing people with scientifically proven safe pharmacological tools to help them lose weight is clearly the easiest way to do this. There are academic labs and pharmaceutical companies throughout the world working hard on this problem as we type. There also teams of scientists and doctors working to treat hyperlipidemia, left ventricular hypertrophy, prostate cancer, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, sleep apnea, arthritis, atherosclorosis and many other diseases that have been positively linked to obesity. Does that mean that if you are obese you are going to get any or all of those things, of course not, but it does not mean that there is not an increased risk. If someone doesn’t mind that risk and/or doesn’t want to lose weight, fine! If they do want to lose weight and have tried and tried unsuccessfully for their whole lives does it mean that we should ignore their wishes and not try to assist in a meaningful manner? I don’t think so.

  27. 127
    Ted says:

    Dafodil and Charles,

    You both make very good points, but I think you are arguing about sides of the equation that cannot be rectified. Societal pressures almost certainly have some evolutionary component, but seperating them out would be nearly impossible. Charles’ point on wealth and body image is well supported (especially from studies in art history and concepts of beauty) but putting a genetic component to this would be exceedingly difficult and while I do not doubt the darwinian properties of memes I am not sure that we have had evolutionary time to see an influence on genetics.

    As for the animal evidence to mate preference (some of which I have gleamed from the excellent Science paper you cited) I have some problems with alterations in mate choice being due to genetic changes that lead to behavioral alterations in mate choice. The specific example given concerns choice of females and display feathers in birds. While I have no doubt that these are genetic factors (since they involve anatomy) I am not so convinced that changes in progeny mate choice should also involve selection pressure that involves genetics. That the change might be genetic, I have no question, but that the preference is related to display characteristics in the opposite sex gives me some pause since it could also be related to reproduction pressure from population dips or from excess predation related to the display characteristics themselves. Basically, I’m just not convinced that this tye of evidence can be taken from studies that cannot be controlled in a manner that you can actually reach such conclusions, but speculation is fun!

    On the other hand, how is Charles supposed to prove that symmetry and body type aren’t factors in attraction? Surely this would be nearly impossible. Moreover, I don’t think he was referring to money by wealth and power. While wealth and power (availability of food and reproduction area that is safe) in our world might be most easily translatable into money, in terms of the “animal world” I think Charles is almost certainly correct, and whether the pressure is on the male or female is dependent on the species. In some species the males duke it out for the best spots and in others the females so the job. I’ve never been very convinced that human males have much say at all in choice for reproduction and the idea of money as a factor has been a relatively new advance on that front. Having said that, attraction in humans certainly seems to have alot to do with symmetry and body type, but in evolutionary terms it doesn’t make a lick of difference unless you 1) actually reproduce and 2) have some elimination pressure to remove parts of the population (or at least limit their reproduction) and I don’t think humans have that at all.

    Finally, seperating out genetic components vs. environmental factors in attraction would be virtually impossible in humans unless you used twins seperated at birth. There are tons of studies out there on them in a variety of diseases, but I’m not aware of any on determinants of attraction in other humans.

  28. 128
    daffodil says:

    You both make very good points, but I think you are arguing about sides of the equation that cannot be rectified.

    In many ways, that’s what I’m trying to point out. A lot of the complaints here are impossible to change.

    On the other hand, how is Charles supposed to prove that symmetry and body type aren’t factors in attraction? Surely this would be nearly impossible.

    That’s right, and that’s why I phrased my challenge in that manner. There seems to be the underlying hope that these factors don’t exist, so if he believes that, then he should offer compelling evidence that it’s not a factor – which obviously he can’t.

  29. 129
    piny says:

    …Actually, you also need to offer compelling evidence that social pressure isn’t also a powerful factor in attraction. And you can’t do that. It’s very likely that biology plays a part in partner selection. It’s unlikely that we can clearly see what partners we’re biologically predisposed to select, and it seems illogical that biology would predispose us towards unusually skinny women.

    Look at it this way: say I’m a zoologist who wants to study a particular kind of fish. Unfortunately, this fish lives only in one small pond. This pond happens to be outside a textile factory which has been dumping defective dye batches into the pond for the past eighty years. This has very likely caused the fish to mutate–my hope, in fact, is to study the extent of the mutation. I have oral tradition from people in the area that refers to ancestor fish of different colors, sizes, and habits. And I believe that this kind of dye is a particularly insidious poison. I also have documented several habits that are decidedly odd. Unfortunately, every known fish of this species has been affected by this dye, and I have no unaffected fish to compare them to. Will I have any way to prove that dye causes mutations?

  30. 130
    daffodil says:

    …Actually, you also need to offer compelling evidence that social pressure isn’t also a powerful factor in attraction.

    That’s easy!

    When was your first crush? When was the first time you looked at a person and found them attractive?

    Did you come to feel this way because someone told you that you should be attracted to them?

    It’s unlikely that we can clearly see what partners we’re biologically predisposed to select, and it seems illogical that biology would predispose us towards unusually skinny women.

    How do you define “unusually skinny”?

    As for your fish/dye scenario, all one would need to do is see how the dye affects other animals in the pond, or how it affects animals in lab tests.

    You say in your scenario that the dye is a poison, which means you have the ability to study how it impacts other organisms. In that way, you could probably get a clear, reliable answer.

    But I take it that you’re not allowing for that option. My question to you is, if there are no samples of this fish outside of this pond, and if there is no fossil or skeletal evidence of other kinds of fish, then why should you even believe the locals? And if all fish behave in this way, why would you even assume the dye is affecting them?

  31. 131
    karpad says:

    that’s the point piny was making.
    something isn’t nonmutagenic (or dangerous, or artificial) just because it’s ubiquitous.
    oxygen is corrosive. you can’t go anywhere on earth without being exposed to it, so you might not notice it offhand. and people are organic compounds mostly innert to oxygen’s destructive quality.
    but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust the word of your great great grandparents who tell you the Statue of Liberty wasn’t always green. oral history of “there used to be more, and they were larger and different colored” is a significant bit of information pertaining to zoology.
    and a fossil record would be absolutely useless in such a study, as fossils don’t record behavior or coloration in any significant way. there’s also no such thing as a 60 year old fossil, which means any study of a rapid change due to mutagenic properties would be useless.

    one more thing: I reckon you’re expecting the age of the first crush to run somewhere around 5-8. do you REALLY think children that old don’t understand social cues? you don’t have to be told “soandso is cute/hot, etc” it’s gathered from observed behavior.
    and what did I say about evolutionary psychology? you might as well look for an alchemical explanation for behavior

  32. 132
    daffodil says:

    something isn’t nonmutagenic (or dangerous, or artificial) just because it’s ubiquitous.

    But in piny’s example, there are “no unaffected fish to compare them to.” If there are no fish that lack the characteristics in question, then it can’t be a mutation.

    oxygen is corrosive. you can’t go anywhere on earth without being exposed to it, so you might not notice it offhand. and people are organic compounds mostly innert to oxygen’s destructive quality.
    but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust the word of your great great grandparents who tell you the Statue of Liberty wasn’t always green.

    Bad example. We have plenty of evidence that oxygen is the cause of corrosion. In piny’s scenario, it’s implied that we could not know this. Otherwise, we can look at other animals and resolve the dilemma easily.

    oral history of “there used to be more, and they were larger and different colored”? is a significant bit of information pertaining to zoology.and a fossil record would be absolutely useless in such a study, as fossils don’t record behavior or coloration in any significant way.

    Not neccesarily. There’s plenty of oral history for dragons and faeries, too. And the significant point here is that if no fossil or skeletal remains exist, then there is no evidence that fish ever existed in the pond in the past.

    Plus, frequently, when mutations occur, bones are affected.

    one more thing: I reckon you’re expecting the age of the first crush to run somewhere around 5-8. do you REALLY think children that old don’t understand social cues?

    I know that at 5 or 6, kids rarely talk in that way. they feel drawn to an individual, but they probably aren’t yet calling anyone “cute” in a way that other kids could understand what it means.

    I know that for myself, i thought mykindergarten teacher was pretty, and around the same age, i thought some boys in my class were cute. But much of my assessment is in retrospect, when i was able to grasp sexual issues. At the time, i had no idea what my feelings meant, and otrher kids didn’t talk about it.

    And for whgat it’s worth, studies have shown that infants tend to smile more at faces that we would traditionally define as attractive, and they tend to gaze at them much longer. They also tend to look at faces that we would traditionally call unattractive for the shortest timespan (aside from family members, of course.)

    Plus, your theory comes very close to what fundamentalists believe about homosexuality. If you’re correct, then people choose to be gay based on influence from older homosexuals, or the media.

  33. 133
    piny says:

    …Because the dye is a poisonous chemical, and because these fish are behaving in decidedly odd ways. And because the locals don’t remember any fish like Blinky in the pond until TruffulaCo set up shop.

    What karpad said. Things like oral tradition and folk art are used to construct zoological and botanical timelines. They can be pretty reliable, especially when dealing with generalizations like, “they weren’t like this.” They aren’t as good as photographs, but they’re better than nothing at all.

    That was the point I was making. Studying the mutagenic effects of the dye on other organisms would give you an indication that it’s mutagenic in general, but would not give you proof that it would or would not cause this particular species of fish to mutate. It also wouldn’t give you a really accurate picture of what a non-mutant fish would have looked like, which is the question we’re debating here.

    The argument-from-ignorance fallacy cuts both ways; you’ve got no control group, either. You’re arguing that these fish have always looked this way. If all of this particular species of fish have been exposed to this poisonous dye, how do you know that it doesn’t cause all fish to mutate in profound ways?

    And wrt my first crush: I was six years old, and she was the prettiest, thinnest, blondest girl in school. I spent most of high school killing myself to look just like her, so that I could get attention from people I didn’t particularly want or like. So, yes, I think someone did. And wrt crushes in general, again, what karpad said. Children don’t have the same ability as adults to evaluate or resist social pressure on any level.

  34. 134
    piny says:

    No unaffected fish of that particular species. This is not to say that there aren’t trout in the lake three towns over.

    Not neccesarily. There’s plenty of oral history for dragons and faeries, too. And the significant point here is that if no fossil or skeletal remains exist, then there is no evidence that fish ever existed in the pond in the past.

    Yes, there is. Ponds, generally speaking, are frequently inhabited by fish; dragons and faeries, on the other hand, are not found in any cave or forest. (We did make it clear that the fish most definitely exist in the present time of the scenario, yes? So your faeries and dragons analogy is really weak.) There’s the testimony of the locals as to the tenure of the fish. There’s the decidedly odd behavior of this particular species of fish. And there’s the extreme unlikelihood of a heretofore unseen species of fish appearing for the first time in a pond to which it is utterly unique eighty short years ago through causes unrelated to the establishment of a textile factory in the same area at the exact same time.

  35. 135
    piny says:

    Plus, your theory comes very close to what fundamentalists believe about homosexuality. If you’re correct, then people choose to be gay based on influence from older homosexuals, or the media.

    No. See, the dye didn’t create the fish. It changed them. No one here is arguing that there’s no such thing as a natural creature to inflict various catalysts on. We are arguing that we don’t know what the natural creature looks like, since we’ve never seen a proper control group, and since we’ve all been affected by the catalyst. We don’t know how social factors influence sexual orientation, either.

    Moreover, there’s a difference between something being artificial, and something being an individual choice. Artificial is not the same as unreal. Assuming that gayness is caused by social factors, gay people don’t choose to be gay any more than fish would choose to mutate. Social pressure is not something you can opt out of, and not all effects of social pressure must be mitigated.

  36. 136
    Ampersand says:

    If the question is “are there cultures in which fat is considered more attractive than thin,” then we don’t have to rely on “oral tradition from people in the area.” Anthropologists have visited real-life peoples who clearly think that fat is more attractive. Sometimes this is so extreme that it’s just as negative as the thin-mania in our own culture.

    For example, read Rebbecca Popenoe’s book Feeding Desire, about a culture in which the ultimate achievement in female beauty is getting so fat that there are stretch marks on your arms (stretch marks on the waist are too easy, every pretty woman has those).

    That’s an extreme. But according to a study published in the academic journal Human Nature (“Culture and the Evolution of Obesity,” Human Nature 1991 p31-57), about 80% of known human societies have idealized a plump female figure as the most sexually attractive.

    As far as I know, genuinely genetic sex differences are found in all human societies, without any exceptions. There is no society in which women on average are taller than men; there is no society in which women don’t give birth. Because these traits are biologically built in, they are universal across societies (even though there are sometimes individual exceptions within a society).

    On the other hand, there are societies in which fat is considered more attractive than thin. That being the case, it doesn’t seem possible that the preference for thinness is genetic.

  37. 137
    piny says:

    …I hadn’t encountered those particular examples, but I’m certainly aware of the existence of cultures and subcultures in which fat is attractive (I live half a mile away from Dore Alley, after all). In strict terms, however, a “control group” would be a group of people who had never been exposed to any social pressure in any direction. The fish you wrote about don’t qualify; they’ve been marinating in different mutagens, so to speak.

  38. 138
    Ampersand says:

    In strict terms, however, a “control group”? would be a group of people who had never been exposed to any social pressure in any direction.

    Since no such group of people could possibly exist, ever, I’m not sure that whatever question you’re asking is answerable. :-)

  39. 139
    piny says:

    Well, yeah–I was pretty much pointing out an argument from ignorance fallacy. We have no groups of people not affected by some pressure, and very few groups not even peripherally affected by a particularly modern, Western brand of pressure. Unless and until we do, we can’t say with absolute certainty what would change if social pressure didn’t exist. (It’s possible, if extremely unlikely, that we are all genetically predisposed to want really skinny women, and that Poponoe’s focus group have somehow managed to suppress their natural desires for bony elbows.) We can, of course, make some good guesses based on differences from culture to culture and era to era.

  40. 140
    Brian says:

    It strikes me as entirely likely that uninhibited by societal pressures, we’ll find that a certain portion of the population prefers thin people, a certain (and possibly equal) portion prefers fat people, and then a large swath in between have either no strong preference or a preference between the lines of fat and thin.

    Ultimately, what amazes me in these discussions is the easy dismissal of myself. I’m a man who is attracted to fat women. Always have been. I was attracted to fat women before I had substantial exposure to fat women. There is no “explanation” for why I feel this way, I just do. I’m inclined to think it is because I was able to resist societal cues intended to distort my natural preference, and that one’s natural preference can vary from person to person. I don’t think this as some kind of abstract, but because I have life experience on the subject. Experience I’m upset to see so easily dismissed by those who want to presume a biological justification for fat discrimination.

  41. 141
    karpad says:

    thank you, Piny, you defended me ably while I was out.
    in responds to the genetic predispositions thing, I’m actually inclined to believe (and this is speculation on my part, I have no research on the matter, though I’d love to see some) that all desire is fetishistic, and small, nigh impercievable events mold one’s psyche from a young age to determine which way one goes.
    i.e. there is no “gay gene” but there might be a gene which would predispose one toward a sexual desire of the same gender, which can be cued by some event at a young age (perhaps that super cute baby from the playcenter, I dunno.)
    since experience in conversation tells me that quite a few latex fetishists have identified similary from presexual ages (“just something about the substance” was a frequent subject) and since latex hasn’t been around long enough for actual evolution to have played a factor, hence the hypothesis.

    again, ALL sex is fetish according to the hypothesis, which grants no moral weight to any behavior as “normal” there are only “common” fetishes. hell, one of the fetishtic predispositions may be “peer pressure” which would mean whatever culture you drop them into, they’ll conform so their idea of desirablity is based on the cultural idea: blonde, skinny, heavy chested women in America, heavy women in appropriate cultures (I vaguely recall one mentioned recently, but don’t want to guess at recall) and even people of the same sex in a culture where that would be normal.

    I’d love to do some sort of social research, to either confirm or deny the viability of the hypothesis. but it seems a fair analysis in my mind.

  42. 142
    Charles says:

    Yeah!

    I’ve been a proponent of “all sex is fetish” for ages, so I’m always happy when I hear someone else propose it.

    Daffodil,

    In the paraphrased argument:

    1) Evolution is capable of influencing sexual preferences
    to
    2) Studies show that people cross-culturally prefer symmetrical mates
    to
    3) An aversion to seeing women who look like Pam Greer having sex is natural and undoubtably genetic

    you seem to think I am objecting to the movement from 1 to 2. I am actually objecting to your transition from 2 to 3. Fat people aren’t symmetrical?

    As Amp pointed out, anthropological research on the subjet suggests that a strong majority of cultures prefer plumpness. It seems to me that one can therefore reasonably argue that a preference for plumpness is genetically determined and cultures like ours are an anti-natural aberation, or that preference for characteristics like plumpness are culturally determined, or that the genetically determined preference is for reproductively fit people, which means different things in different cultures and circumstances. However, arguing that a preference for thinness is inherent, but most human societies overcome that inherent preference simply has (as far as I can see) no supporting evidence.

    And you really think that 5 to 6 year olds have not internalized their own cultures ideas of attractiveness, merely because they probably couldn’t fully articulate it in adult terms? Presumably they haven’t internalized their culture’s language’s grammar either, since they couldn’t fully articulate it in adult terms either? Not being able to articulate it in adult terms doesn’t mean they aren’t able to use it. 5 and 6 year olds know the word “pretty”, they know the word “cute”, and they know what those words refer to. Also, if they don’t have it fully internalized at 5 and 6, they will be given plenty of opportunity to correct their understanding of who is supposed to be attractive over the next decade or so. Standards of attractiveness really don’t (in my experience) have nearly the same degree of inflexability that sexual orientation does.

  43. 143
    piny says:

    And you really think that 5 to 6 year olds have not internalized their own cultures ideas of attractiveness, merely because they probably couldn’t fully articulate it in adult terms?

    Yeah. None of my early-identifying friends had the faintest idea what “gender dysphoria” was when they were in kindergarten, but they were still begging their parents to call them “Andrew” and “Aidan,” and let them cut their hair short.

  44. 144
    Ted says:

    I think Charles really hit the nail on the head with his last post. I would also say that his argument is an extension of a previous post of his; that being the one where he discussed fatness and attractiveness being related to wealth. In the modern world (since 1900 lets say for arguments sake), any culture is pretty much “Western” or something else and all of the something elses are fairly un- or non-sophisticated technologically (e.g. communication, industry, food production) and the notion of being good for child bearing should still be an important biological and social issue. One such cue for this (at least in women) is having some fat on the bones, especially in the hips. That may sound crude, but I think, based on my reading and chatting with some anthropoligist friends (who study in the islands of Indonesia with some pretty primitive cultures — imagine men dressed in penis gourdes when they aren’t wearing their Nike hand-me-downs) that its a fairly well accepted hypothesis. In our society, everyone is good for childbearing, at least on the surface, because we all know that anyone can do it with success due to our resources and health care. We’ve known that for a long time too.

    The symmetry thing is for faces and its goes across genders and sexual preferences. Everyone finds more symmetrical and “average” faces to be more attractive, be they male or female. Faces are only part of the equation. I think Daffodil is also reffering to the ratio between hips, waist and breast that men supposedly find more attractive. I cannot remember what the ratio was, but I know that a fair amount of the research held up over time (there was a VERY skinny 60s miniskirt model who was the famous example of the perfect ratio and I also cannot remember her name). Thing was though, that it didn’t matter if you were skinny or fat, it was the curvy ratio that men found to be attractive in the female body (or at least more attractive than others, on average).

    Being attracted to someone’s face and someone’s body I think are 2 completely different things, at least for men. On a purely sexual level, how many sayings exist in our language to describe sexual desire for a woman with an amazing body (which completely depends on individual preference) and a less than attractive face? I can think of several that go the opposite way as well. Furthermore, I think we should not confuse sex with mate choice. In our society sex is recreation and I agree completely with the argument that preference is largely based on fetish. Where the origin of the fetish derives is anyones guess, but I’d be shocked if there weren’t both genetic and societal factors. I’d also be shocked if anyone could ever come up with a reasonable set of experiments to rigorously test any hypothesis related to that question.

  45. 145
    bellatrys says:

    daffodil, you seem to be stuffed to the gills with junk science, filling all your ignorant spaces, so I doubt that any historical evidence will help any more than scientific evidence by a primate biologist and behavioral researcher will convince you that you’ve got it ass-bckwards regarding the relationship between androgens and aggression.

    But skinny – like tanned -wasn’t considered beautiful until the 1920s. Go get a big art book. Look at the portraits of society’s past superstars. Even when “willowy” was in during part of the 1700s and the 1400s, you’re not seeing Twiggy. “Zaftig” – plumpness – meant beauty. As far back as the cavemen, when it was taken to extremes in the representation of earth goddesses – google image search “Venus of Willendorf” if you don’t believe me. Then look at Titian’s and Rubens’ and Rembrandt’s goddesses and fantasy heroines, at the society queens of Ingres, at medieval the ancient Roman statues of nudes and you will never, ever see anorexia depicted as anything but ugly starvation, famished hermits in the desert who might be considered heroic for having rejected materialism, but not *beautiful.*

  46. 146
    pseu (deja pseu) says:

    Yesterday I went to an exhibit of English and American portaiture from the 1500′s-1800′s. I was looking at the portraits with this discussion in mind. And what I noticed was that even when it was obvious that the female subjects were slender, they were rendered in such a way that any parts of their body not covered with clothing (faces, hands, arms, decolletage) appeared smooth and downright plump by modern standards…not a collarbone in sight. Men with big bellies were painted with their bellies prominently displayed. (Plumpness being a sign of wealth in those times, it makes sense. In fact, some of the fashions almost seemed to be designed to accentuate a belly.)

  47. 147
    daffodil says:

    …Because the dye is a poisonous chemical, and because these fish are behaving in decidedly odd ways. And because the locals don’t remember any fish like Blinky in the pond until TruffulaCo set up shop.

    But this destroys your hypothetical.

    Your closing question was “Will I have any way to prove that dye causes mutations?” If we can view the dye’s interactions with other species, then there is no challenge in determining whether there was a mutation. If you recall, the issue you were challenging was whether we could determinine where biological predisposition begins and ends. In your hypothetical, determining the answer to your dilemma is easy, so it doesn’t help your argument.

    But according to a study published in the academic journal Human Nature (“?Culture and the Evolution of Obesity,”? Human Nature 1991 p31-57), about 80% of known human societies have idealized a plump female figure as the most sexually attractive

    .

    Link, please?

    I checked Human Nature’s website, but I couldn’t find this article.

    As for obesity and beauty, I’m not surprised that one finds aberrations in cultures where famine and hunger are prevalent.

    That being the case, it doesn’t seem possible that the preference for thinness is genetic.

    My point has been not so much that preference that thinness is genetic, but rather preference for symmetry and certain proportions are probably genetic. These proportions are easier to achieve with a thin body (but for what it’s worth, in poor cultures, thinness can imply parasitic infection, which would explain the selection value of being overweight).

    For those who’ve wondered why we are inclined to be attracted to what some have deemed as “unhealthy” traits, this article helps explain it.

    I also found a cute little interactive site that explains some of my points in a more casual manner.

    And you really think that 5 to 6 year olds have not internalized their own cultures ideas of attractiveness, merely because they probably couldn’t fully articulate it in adult terms?

    Oh, I imagine they have to a small degree. But, as the study with infants shows, there is a lot of inherent bias towards certain facial and body types from the beginning.

    As for Pam Grier, all of this silliness might be answered with an amusingly mundane possibilty. A number of actresses insist on clauses in their contracts that allow them to pass on scenes with certain degrees of intimacy or undress. Perhaps the camera cut away not because Showtime is “fatophobic,” but because Grier’s contract requires it to cut off.

    The symmetry thing is for faces and its goes across genders and sexual preferences.

    It extends to the body. See this article on the golden ratio.

    But skinny – like tanned -wasn’t considered beautiful until the 1920s.

    LOL. Why do you think women wore corsets for centuries? Could it be to help approximate an hourglass figure, and make their waists appear thinner?

    Then look at Titian’s and Rubens’ and Rembrandt’s goddesses and fantasy heroines, at the society queens of Ingres, at medieval the ancient Roman statues of nudes and you will never, ever see anorexia depicted as anything but ugly starvation, famished hermits in the desert who might be considered heroic for having rejected materialism, but not *beautiful.*

    Again, the main issue is symmetry, not simply fatness or thinness. Fatness in bygone eras was hard to achieve, and it implied wealth and absence of parasites and illness. With that threat gone in most cultures, fatness loses any sexual advantage it garnered.

    As I review this thread, I keep coming back to what I stated in my first post here: people are putting far too much emotional energy into whether or not TV shows them sex scenes that reflect their experiences. The notion of seeking “fat acceptance” (or any kind of acceptance) through the media is unhealthy. If people are depending on TV shows for self esteem, then they need help.

  48. 148
    Ampersand says:

    I checked Human Nature’s website, but I couldn’t find this article.

    Sorry, but it’s not online, as far as I know. Like most academic articles, the way to read it is via a library.

    As for obesity and beauty, I’m not surprised that one finds aberrations in cultures where famine and hunger are prevalent.

    What “aberration”? It’s no more aberrant than a culture where people so thin that you can count their ribs are considered the ultimate in sexiness.

    But yes, as everyone you’ve been arguing with has said from the beginning, in all cultures beauty standards tend to be associated with wealth.

    That being the case, it doesn’t seem possible that the preference for thinness is genetic.

    My point has been not so much that preference that thinness is genetic, but rather preference for symmetry and certain proportions are probably genetic.

    No one has disagreed with you – at all – about preference for symmetry. Please stop bringing up that strawman.

    However, just because preference for symmetry – and, while we’re at it, for unblemished skin* – does appear to be universal doesn’t change the fact that a preference for fat or thin isn’t universal.

    (*By “unblemished” I’m not including purposeful decorations, like piercings or tattoos).

    In fact, the example undercuts your point. There is no known human society in which there is a preference for asymmetrical faces as a cultural standard of beauty; one reason to think that the preference for symmetry has a strong genetic component is the lack of exceptions.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the preference for thinness – or even for an hourglass shape – is not universal. This suggests that it’s less likely to be genetic. Genetic traits tend to be universal to all cultures.

    …people are putting far too much emotional energy into whether or not TV shows them sex scenes that reflect their experiences.

    I’m not all that interested in what any particular TV show does (unless I’m a fan of the show, and that’s a different sort of interest); I am interested in the general patterns in what most TV shows choose to do, and how that reflects the beliefs of the larger society.

  49. 149
    piny says:

    As for obesity and beauty, I’m not surprised that one finds aberrations in cultures where famine and hunger are prevalent.

    What “aberration”?? It’s no more aberrant than a culture where people so thin that you can count their ribs are considered the ultimate in sexiness.

    Good point. As a culture where famine and hunger are unheard of, we’re the aberration. How many people and populations were free of that threat a hundred or two hundred or five hundred years ago? Millennia ago? You’ve just kneecapped your own evo-psych argument, daffodil.

  50. 150
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Studies by psychologists have been devised to test the idea that the golden ratio plays a role in human perception of beauty. They are, at best, inconclusive. [1] (http://plus.maths.org/issue22/features/golden/) Despite this, a large corpus of beliefs about the aesthetics of the golden ratio has developed.

    Interesting quote from your ‘Golden Ratio’ link, Daffodil. Pfft.

  51. 151
    piny says:

    LOL. Why do you think women wore corsets for centuries? Could it be to help approximate an hourglass figure, and make their waists appear thinner?

    An hourglass figure–a soft, plump 150 -pound 5’4″ woman in a tight-laced corset–is not at all the same as a size 2 fashion model. Lillian Russell wore corsets; she still had an incredibly generous figure. Equating the two is like equating a current preference for really tall Amazonian women with historical evidence that people were turned on by short, round women in stiletto heels: “See, we’ve always liked height!”

  52. 152
    daffodil says:

    Sorry, but it’s not online, as far as I know. Like most academic articles, the way to read it is via a library.

    Then where did you get the text you posted?

    What “aberration”?? It’s no more aberrant than a culture where people so thin that you can count their ribs are considered the ultimate in sexiness.

    If the majority of people prefer thinness, then it can’t be an aberration.

    No one has disagreed with you – at all – about preference for symmetry.

    Actually, some have. That’s why I keep bringing it up.

    And I’m glad you brought up the preference for unblemished skin, which is something that is also more easily achieved with a thin body.

    I am interested in the general patterns in what most TV shows choose to do, and how that reflects the beliefs of the larger society.

    So which view do you subscribe to:

    A. the media dictate values and standards to the public, who then accepts them without neccessarily realizing they’re being influenced.

    B. the public dictates to the media, who then accepts the demands by giving the public what they want.

    In other words, does the L Word exist because Showtime wants people to watch and accept sexy lesbians, or does it exist because there’s an audience who desires to see sexy lesbians, and Showtime is fulfilling that wish?

    As a culture where famine and hunger are unheard of, we’re the aberration.

    Who is “we”?

    I have no idea how you view your figure or the group you’re identifying with, so I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

  53. 153
    karpad says:

    ok, slower and clearer for you, daffodil.

    the first world (ie America, Western Europe, and the other places where thin is in) are vastly the minority.

    cultures where famine and hunger exist are the more common variety.
    which means a culture where they do not exist is an abberation.

    you’re looking at this from the point of view of a spoiled American. this isn’t your fault, but for evolutionary behavior theory to carry any weight, you can’t assume that what you see in a culture of rich, spoiled bourgeoisie is going to be the behavior as dictated by evolution.

    and no one disagreed with symmetry. someone asked upon what evidence you draw an analogy between symmetry and slimness, as fat people can be perfectly symmetrical.

  54. 154
    piny says:

    Thank you. God.

    A population that doesn’t have to worry overmuch about survival is not a good source of data on survival mechanisms. Duh.

    And even in the countries that now make up the first world, the idea that the vast majority of people don’t have to worry about having enough to eat is relatively new. It wasn’t the case even in the nineteenth century, even here. We have been talking about historical examples.

    And where are you getting this unblemished skin is easier for skinny people crap? A poor diet can cause acne and other skin problems, but that’s equally true if you live on diet coke and cigarettes. For most people, it’s a genetic crap shoot; severe acne can sometimes be mitigated by controlling diet, but you can’t rid yourself of it entirely if you’re predisposed.

  55. 155
    daffodil says:

    the first world (ie America, Western Europe, and the other places where thin is in) are vastly the minority.

    Uh-huh. I think you need to do a little more research on Latin America, Asia, Australia, and Eastern Europe. Take a look at their celebrities, as well as the folks they consider to be the most beautiful. I imagine you’ll be disappointed.

    (I’m not as familiar with Africa. But I do know that celebrities and models who come to America from Africa tend to be both thin, and already classified as beautiful in their native countries.)

    cultures where famine and hunger exist are the more common variety.

    Define your terms. Do you mean cultures where both famine and hunger exist now , or where famine and hunger have existed within a certain time frame? And how do you define hunger?

    For what it’s worth, the International Famine Centre lists only 21 countries that are either in a state of famine, or close to it. 17 of them are in Africa. In the context of the 150+ countries in the world, that’s far from being “more common.”

    you’re looking at this from the point of view of a spoiled American.

    Oh, yes. All of us spoiled Americans who travel overseas and meet people of diverse cultures who all seem to look for basically the same physical qualities in men and women. (And if anything, Eastern cultures prefer a more extreme macho and feminine standard. America’s definition of beauty is far more androgynous and moderate compared to the Orient, for example.)

    as fat people can be perfectly symmetrical.

    One point that I’ve found particularly fascinating is that so far, nobody’s been willing to go out on a limb and name a fat person they think should be considered beautiful. No one has been willing to cite a fat celebrity whose weight is distributed in a symmetrical way.

  56. 156
    piny says:

    Camryn Manheim. Kelly Osbourne is cute as hell. Rosie O’Donnell has lovely skin. That is the most painfully illogical argument you’ve made yet. Here: why don’t you give me an example of a handsome female-to-male transsexual from television. Or in the movies. Or fashion. It’s not as though prejudice ever slants these demographics, is it?

  57. 157
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    I shall be diplomatic.
    I shall be diplomatic.
    I shall be diplomatic.

    There. Whew.

    Okay – to add to Piny’s list:

    - Janeane Garofalo (Comedian – Actress – Activist)
    - Margaret Cho (Comedian – Actress)
    - Queen Latifa (Musician – Actress)
    - Cynthia Ettinger (Actress – Rita Sue – Carnivale)
    - Melissa McCarthy (Actress – Sookie – Gilm0re Girls)
    - Delta Burke (Actress – Designing Women)
    - Kirstie Alley (Annoying Actress – Fat Actress, Cheers)
    - Alex Borstein (Comedian – Actress – MadTV – Voice Actress)
    - Jasmine Guy (Actress – Dead Like Me)

    There’s a few – granted they don’t get nearly the recognition they ought, but they certainly are beautiful, symmetrical women, one and all (though Alley is hands-down one of the most annoying actresses).

    Anyways, point being, you don’t by any means speak for the majority, Daffodil, please stop framing your points as if you do, or as if Hollywood or other such celebrity industries are typical.

  58. 158
    Ampersand says:
    What “aberration”?? It’s no more aberrant than a culture where people so thin that you can count their ribs are considered the ultimate in sexiness.

    If the majority of people prefer thinness, then it can’t be an aberration.

    Historically, the majority of people across all cultures haven’t preferred thinness.

    If you mean that within our culture, the majority of people prefer thinness , then that’s true – but if that’s the definition of “aberration” you’re using, then you can’t refer to the tastes of people within cultures in which the majority prefer chubby as “abberant,” either.

    And I’m glad you brought up the preference for unblemished skin, which is something that is also more easily achieved with a thin body.

    Well, if that’s true, I haven’t noticed it among the people I know. Do you have any peer-reviewed evidence to support your statement?

    I am interested in the general patterns in what most TV shows choose to do, and how that reflects the beliefs of the larger society.

    So which view do you subscribe to:

    A. the media dictate values and standards to the public, who then accepts them without neccessarily realizing they’re being influenced.

    B. the public dictates to the media, who then accepts the demands by giving the public what they want.

    I don’t subscribe to either view; both of the views you describe are too simplistic to have any value. My guess is that the reality includes elements of both; the public’s tastes influence what the media presents, and what the media presents influences the public’s tastes. (Note that for both ends of the cycel I say “influence,” not “dictate.”)

    We should also remember that mass media is not the only thing influencing tastes within society; and that what is important is not only which kinds of bodies are fashionable, but what level of acceptance society has for people whose bodies aren’t fashionable, or for tastes that don’t match the majority view.

  59. 159
    daffodil says:

    Rosie O’Donnell has lovely skin.

    So would it be accurate to say that you find Rosie’s double-chin more attractive than Estella Warren’s chin?

    Here: why don’t you give me an example of a handsome female-to-male transsexual from television.

    I haven’t claimed that transsexuals are attractive. Folks here, on the other hand, keep saying fat people are, without naming whom they have in mind. Glad to see we’re at least getting some examples now.

    However…

    Why is Janeane Garofalo on the list? The issue for her was never that she was “fat.” Just that she was overweight by Hollywood standards. Any photo of her shows that she’s never been close to belonging on a “fat list.”

    Same goes for Margaret Cho

    And while Jasmine Guy may no longer be as thin as she used to be, she certainly doesn’t qualify as “fat.”

    Anyways, point being, you don’t by any means speak for the majority, Daffodil, please stop framing your points as if you do, or as if Hollywood or other such celebrity industries are typical.

    If a majority of people disagreed with me, then this topic and this blog wouldn’t exist.

    As for Hollywood, sorry, but when magazines ask readers to vote in their “most handsome/beautiful” polls, everyday folks are voting for thin people.

    If you mean that within our culture

    I’ll say it again: thinness is the standard for beauty outside of America. In fact, as I was thinking about it, I’m surprised that no one has mentioned South America.

    To quote from the article:

    “Americans are nearly alone…particularly in our hemisphere…in considering vanity an evil. What we call vanity, others in the world call self-confidence. In Brazil, for instance, being called “vain” can be a compliment suggesting self-respect, and the fashionable types known as “las siliconadas” make no secret of their surgical upgrades. “Plastic surgery symbolizes modernity, shows you have money to spend,” U.S. anthropologist Alex Edmonds told Reuters. “In Brazil, beauty is not something natural, it’s something you have to work at.”

    Per capita, Brazilians undergo more cosmetic surgeries each year than any other nation: 300,000 operations were performed in 1999, in a population of 160 million. That year in the United States, with nearly a hundred million more citizens, only 500,000 such surgeries were performed.

    Across South America, beauty-pageant contestants are put through rigorous training and numerous plastic surgeries before they are considered representative of the nation’s natural beauty. At the Miss Venezuela academy, girls 17-24 are vetted for education and height. Those who make the cut…a 100 or so from each class…parade in swimsuits for the organizations’ official plastic surgeons, who assess the would-be beauties. Cosmetic dentists scan the teeth and gums. The finalists then make it on to local pageants. This year’s Miss Brazil, Juliana Borges, was not shy about the fact that she’s had 19 surgical procedures, including collagen injections in her lips and silicone implants in her breasts, cheeks, and chin.”

    Like I said earlier, the notion that the USA’s preference for thinness is unique, or that it puts the most pressure on its citizens to be thin is absurd.

    And if you skim down to the center of this page, there’s articles about the popularity of plastic surgery and the desire to be thin in China and Brazil.

    As for the rest, I’ll get to it later.

  60. 160
    Ampersand says:

    Like I said earlier, the notion that the USA’s preference for thinness is unique, or that it puts the most pressure on its citizens to be thin is absurd.

    It’s funny that you quoted (part of one sentence) from my post before making this point. I never claimed that the US is unique, or that our culture was unique, in preferring thinness. Nor, as far as I can tell, has anyone else here.

    What’s absurd is refuting arguments that no one here has actually made.

    It’s also absurd to quote not even an entire argument, and not even an entire sentence, but an out of context portion of one sentence to respond to. I’m not saying that you have to quote entire posts before responding; but since you in particular have a bad habit of using out-of-context quotes or dubious paraphrasing to create straw men to respond to, it’s probably a bad idea for you to respond to sentence fragments rather than whole ideas.

  61. 161
    Amanda says:

    I’m amused that people think this is a cut-and-dry issue. Fat-bashing has become so popular a substitute for other, not socially acceptable ways to bash, that calling someone “fat” or “ugly” is often totally meaningless. I’ve been learning this the hard way, since my new blog, being more popular, has attracted people who want to call me “fat” all the time, when what they mean is they don’t like my opinions.

  62. 162
    Amanda says:

    That being said, if “fat” can be substituted for other moral judgements, then it follows that people are in the habit of morally judging fat people. It’s very much like the old notion that plain-looking women are morally suspect and vice versa. So, is Margaret Cho “fat”? Daffy, you showed a picture of Cho at her lightest weight. Fat and thin are fluid definitions and usually used as a substitute for some other approval/disapproval.

  63. 163
    Crys T says:

    What Daffodil also doesn’t seem to recognise is that images that one finds in the media do not necessarily represent real-life people’s preferences. Most men I’ve talked to about the subject have expressed active dislike for the ultra-thin “beauty” standards shown in the media. Especially men who are not WASPs and/or middle-class. Sadly, it seems to be mainly women who find those images attractive. Of course, it’s women who have most of the pressure on them to attain unrealistic body proportions.

    As for people in other cultures: I’m sure that someone here has links to the theories and studies that have linked ultra-thinness in women with socioeconomic status (ie, before the current age of plenty, only the rich could afford to be fat, so being heavier was attractive. Now, only the rich–at least in Western countries–can afford to be thin, so thinness is now “beautiful”—especially exaggerated thinness that can only be achieved by artificial means). Anglocentrism in the media and US economic/political domination have forced American media, and its attendant “beauty” standards into many other cultures, along with a plethora of other cultural beliefs and standards. It would be no wonder if some of those were being picked up on in places where for any number of reasons, local media can’t compete and other aspects of local culture are being increasingly shut down.

    However, once again, I think it’d be very interesting to talk to real-life people in these places to see what they really think, as opposed to what we are told by our own media that they think.

  64. 164
    piny says:

    Yes, I think Rosie O’Donnell, chin included, is damn sexy, if a little older and married for my tastes. I think Estella Warren is pretty, but I’d go with Rosie any day. Incidentally, I’d also pick Oliver Platt over Ashton Kutcher.

    I haven’t claimed that transsexuals are attractive.

    I would have guessed as much. But I am claiming that. I was pointing out that their utter absence makes it difficult to find any examples. Find me one on television who isn’t attractive, if you like.

    I like how you leave out most of the fattest examples of women we find hot. Delta Burke is a big woman. So’s Camryn Manheim.

  65. 165
    piny says:

    What Daffodil also doesn’t seem to recognise is that images that one finds in the media do not necessarily represent real-life people’s preferences.

    She did almost say that:

    Why is Janeane Garofalo on the list? The issue for her was never that she was “fat.”? Just that she was overweight by Hollywood standards. Any photo of her shows that she’s never been close to belonging on a “fat list.”?

    Same goes for Margaret Cho

    And while Jasmine Guy may no longer be as thin as she used to be, she certainly doesn’t qualify as “fat.”?

    She does realize that “Hollywood standards” have nothing to do with reality, so she should realize that most people’s preferences, being reality-based, have nothing to do with what Hollywood shows us are objects of lust.

    …But then she goes on to say this:

    As for Hollywood, sorry, but when magazines ask readers to vote in their “most handsome/beautiful”? polls, everyday folks are voting for thin people.

    Right, daff. Because there’s a much smaller number of skinny people to choose from, hein? Especially fat people who are about to star in Hollywood blockbusters. Those People lists are advance publicity; Queen Latifah made it for Chicago, and Diane Kruger made it in because she was in Troy.

  66. 166
    piny says:

    The transsexual example works for another reason: to the extent that transsexuals appear in the mainstream, our culture needs them to be as unpassable, unattractive, and physically nonthreatening as possible. Anything else would be scary as hell. Overweight people have the same problem.

  67. 167
    daffodil says:

    What Daffodil also doesn’t seem to recognise is that images that one finds in the media do not necessarily represent real-life people’s preferences. Most men I’ve talked to about the subject have expressed active dislike for the ultra-thin “beauty”? standards shown in the media.

    Hmmmm…could they be saying that just because they don’t want to upset you?

    I’m not saying that there aren’t people like this, but it seems like a topic where someone would prefer to give an answer that dodges an argument, rather than the truth.

    However, once again, I think it’d be very interesting to talk to real-life people in these places to see what they really think, as opposed to what we are told by our own media that they think.

    Someone here pointed out looong ago that all you need to look at is which women get the most attention and arousal from men in their local setting. Those that do tend to reflect the norm I’m talking about; you don’t see many workplaces, schools, or towns where the most popular women are the heavier ones.

    I like how you leave out most of the fattest examples of women we find hot.

    There was no question that they fit the definition. Therefore, there was no point in arguing your personal taste. The others, however, have fluctuated far too much, and have too much history on the thinner side to really fit the bill. Even when Garofalo and the others have been heavier, they haven’t fit the definition of “fat” that most here have been using.

    To me, the inclusion of Cho and Garofalo opens a whole new can of worms: women who think they’re fat.

    Right, daff. Because there’s a much smaller number of skinny people to choose from, hein?Especially fat people who are about to star in Hollywood blockbusters. Those People lists are advance publicity; Queen Latifah made it for Chicago, and Diane Kruger made it in because she was in Troy.

    See my response above in this post. Also, see where the money goes. Playboy, Maxim, etc get huge sales. Porn featuring thin, busty women garners far more sales than porn featuring fuller figured women. It’s not because men have few women to choose from; they have plenty to choose from, and no guy is pressured to buy this stuff.

    It’s funny that you quoted (part of one sentence) from my post before making this point. I never claimed that the US is unique, or that our culture was unique, in preferring thinness.

    Sorry, but you italicized “this culture.” You emphasized it, and the rest of your statement reinforced it.

    Now, if you’re contention is that our “culture” includes Europe and South America, then you render the notion of “culture” useless.

    For what it’s worth, I think the argument presented here that media impacts our definition of beauty is a pretty strong one. I think folks here go overboard with it, but it’s clearly a factor at some level. My greatest disagreement is with this notion that people secretly desire heavier women, but at some point, they were pressured to act like they prefer thinner women.

  68. 168
    piny says:

    There was no question that they fit the definition. Therefore, there was no point in arguing your personal taste. The others, however, have fluctuated far too much, and have too much history on the thinner side to really fit the bill. Even when Garofalo and the others have been heavier, they haven’t fit the definition of “fat”? that most here have been using.

    Yes, which is why they’re great examples of why your earlier point, the one we listed those women in response to, was wrong, wrong, wrong. You brought up our personal tastes yourself. Those you did respond to did too fit the definition of fat, especially since Cho was at least as big as Queen Latifah, whom you apparently consider chunky enough. We’re not just talking about really fat people; we’re also talking about women with normally voluptuous, plump, or big bodies. They’re also not found on TV.

    To me, the inclusion of Cho and Garofalo opens a whole new can of worms: women who think they’re fat.

    No, women who are told that they are fat by the media. Remember how Cho was put on a diet so strict that her kidneys failed, so that she could play herself in her own sitcom (nice little example of talent being the deciding factor in exposure, there)? Remember Garofalo’s constant complaints about how difficult it is to not be Uma Thurman and find work in Hollywood?

    See my response above in this post. Also, see where the money goes. Playboy, Maxim, etc get huge sales. Porn featuring thin, busty women garners far more sales than porn featuring fuller figured women. It’s not because men have few women to choose from; they have plenty to choose from, and no guy is pressured to buy this stuff.

    Well, given that industry standards for mainstream porn’s definition of “thin” has trended significantly thinner over the past few decades, I’d say that, yes, men are pressured.

  69. 169
    Crys T says:

    BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I see, there is evidence that contradicts your little theory, so you rationalise it away by making it something personal with me????

    No, sweetness and light, I hate to let you in on this, but it’s actually quite widely-acknowledged that ultra-thin is a white, Anglo-Saxon middle class thing. Try moving out of such restricted circles and you might get your eyes opened.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t people like this, but it seems like a topic where someone would prefer to give an answer that dodges an argument, rather than the truth.

    Excuse ME?!? I think you’ll find that no one here would ever accuse me of “dodging an argument”. The problem here is that you are finding a lot of people here who are not passively lying down and accepting the “truth” you are trying to give them. Another news flash: the “truth” you evidently see is not the only one out there. I know that idea can be scary, but you are just going to have to live with it.

    you don’t see many workplaces, schools, or towns where the most popular women are the heavier ones.

    Not where you live, or reflected in the media you watch. That does not in any way, shape or form mean that your experience or life is the norm, or indeed the only alternatives out there.

    Even when Garofalo and the others have been heavier, they haven’t fit the definition of “fat”? that most here have been using.

    I beg your pardon, but Garofalo has admitted to being up to 140 pounds, and at about 5’2 or 5’3, that’s heavy. Anyway, I must have missed the hard-and-fast “definition of fat” that you seem to be working off of.

    see where the money goes. Playboy, Maxim, etc get huge sales. Porn featuring thin, busty women garners far more sales than porn featuring fuller figured women.

    Well, I’m certainly no expert on porn, but I do think you’ll find that the sort of mainstream stuff you are holding up as examples are nowhere near where “the money goes” in porn these days. And as I understand it, porn featuring very, very heavy women is very popular these days.

    My greatest disagreement is with this notion that people secretly desire heavier women, but at some point, they were pressured to act like they prefer thinner women.

    Most men, when they are not trying to prove how upwardly-mobile they are, DO express a preference for women who are heavier than current media beauty standards. I won’t get into an argment over exactly how many percentage points of body fat over the size 0 media ideal, but they do prefer women larger than most actresses and/or models. And, like it or not, there is a significant population of men out there who actually find women you might call fat sexually attractive.

  70. 170
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Why is Janeane Garofalo on the list? The issue for her was never that she was “fat.”? Just that she was overweight by Hollywood standards. Any photo of her shows that she’s never been close to belonging on a “fat list.”?

    Same goes for Margaret Cho

    And while Jasmine Guy may no longer be as thin as she used to be, she certainly doesn’t qualify as “fat.”?

    Ahhh, I get it now, it’s relative, right? That’s what people have been saying, Daftodill. While the media might view them as fat and unwilling for the most part to cast them in leading roles that are reflect that they are desireable and beautiful examples to many, to me they are beautiful full-figured women that provide excellent role-models that shouldn’t be overlooked.

  71. 171
    Crys T says:

    I’ve been thinking this over today, and to my mind what it really (“it” being this argument here, even more than the whole body facism thing in the media–though of course that is closely connected as well) is about is that dominant-group thing of believing, because you only really see your values reflected in the media, that these views are somehow “what the majority really thinks” and therefore “normal”, even “natural human behaviour/instinct”–rather than simply the idiosyncratic preferences of one group of people.

    Which then leads to seeing any other views as somehow “abnormal”, and pathologising of other points of view. So anyone stating a preference for those things that fall out of the dominant group’s sanctioned tastes is abnormal and has a “fetish”.

    It’s got nothing to do with “evolution” or “human nature” or anything in fact other than hegemony.

  72. 172
    daffodil says:

    You brought up our personal tastes yourself. Those you did respond to did too fit the definition of fat, especially since Cho was at least as big as Queen Latifah, whom you apparently consider chunky enough.

    The difference with Latifah is that A) since she has been in the public eye, she has always been noticeably overweight. B) Cho fluctuates back and forth enough that you can’t really define her years as a celeb as being overweight or thin.

    Now if you want to say that when Cho is overweight, she looks better, that’s different. But claiming that Cho fits the bill as well as Latifah is silly.

    Anyhow, your point brings up another question: how overweight must one be to fit the definition of “fat”?

    (Don’t try to dodge the question by saying that “everyone’s got their own scale…” Disclose your scale. Do you go by what size they wear? How many pounds over the FDA’s ideal weight for their height they are? Some visible cue, like a double chin or a beer belly?)

    Remember Garofalo’s constant complaints about how difficult it is to not be Uma Thurman and find work in Hollywood?

    No offense, but I’ve always considered Garofalo to be a bit of a phony. Her whole shtick is that she’s as starved for attention and fawning as any other celeb, but she gets it by acting like she hates being a celebrity.

    I’ll never forget a few years ago, when I was channel surfing through the late night TV shows. She was on not one, but three consecutive talk shows. On each one, she moaned and groaned about how she hated being on talk shows, and she hated being a public figure. By the time I saw her on the third show pulling the same riff, it was clear that she didn’t mean a word of it.

    And while she may not get all the parts, she does get a lot. Some years, she’s in almost as many movies as Jude Law (almost….)

    Well, given that industry standards for mainstream porn’s definition of “thin”? has trended significantly thinner over the past few decades, I’d say that, yes, men are pressured.

    If you want to believe that most men secretly pine for heavyset women, then go ahead.

    I think you’ll find that no one here would ever accuse me of “dodging an argument”?.

    You misunderstood me. I was talking about the guys who told you that they don’t like thin women. They were dodging an argument with you. For them, the whole topic is set up a lot like the “do you think I’m fat?” question. No matter what guys say, they’re nervous about our reaction, so they play it safe.

    Not where you live, or reflected in the media you watch. That does not in any way, shape or form mean that your experience or life is the norm, or indeed the only alternatives out there.

    Name me a specific school and town where the heavier girls get all the attention and the prom dates, and the cheerleaders are friendless and dateless.

    Anyway, I must have missed the hard-and-fast “definition of fat”? that you seem to be working off of.

    As I asked piny: what is your definition of “fat”?

    And as I understand it, porn featuring very, very heavy women is very popular these days.

    Evidence, please?

    While the media might view them as fat and unwilling for the most part to cast them in leading roles that are reflect that they are desireable and beautiful examples to many, to me they are beautiful full-figured women that provide excellent role-models that shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Isn’t it ironic that you folks consider these women to be fat, and I don’t?

    Seems to me as though I have a more lenient scale than you guys do!

  73. 173
    Ampersand says:

    Daffodil, you’ve now made 45 posts on this blog, many of them quite long, which I think has given you a more than fair chance to make whatever point it is you’re making.

    So, with all due respect, I’m now asking you not to post on “Alas” anymore. Best of luck to you. Thanks.

  74. 174
    Crys T says:

    I was talking about the guys who told you that they don’t like thin women. They were dodging an argument with you. For them, the whole topic is set up a lot like the “do you think I’m fat?”? question. No matter what guys say, they’re nervous about our reaction, so they play it safe.

    Hate to break it y0u, but the first guy who ever told me that was my older brother, when we were discussing his then-girlfriend. Now, at that time, said girlfriend was what is considered quite heavy, while I had my bones sticking out. So explain: why would my brother be “trying to avoid an argument” with me at a time when I was one of the “properly thin” females? Also, a lot of the times I’ve heard men express this, they were not even addressing me. Sometimes, I’ve heard/read them making these comments on TV/in print/some other media where I am not even present–nor do they even know of my existence. You can rationalise all you like, the fact is that what you are choosing to see is only one tiny slice of the world. You perceptions are seriously distorted.

    Name me a specific school and town where the heavier girls get all the attention and the prom dates, and the cheerleaders are friendless and dateless.

    Oh puLEEZE: firstly, I’d like to point out that not everyone lives in the good ol’ US of A. Secondly, I’d like to point out that your argument is silly: no one here EVER said that thin girls are unanimously considered so hideously undesirable by absolutely every male that they are utterly rejected. All any of us has said is that there is a sizeable proportion of humanity–even IN the good ol’ US of A–that doesn’t agree with the current media-prescribed “beauty” standards. You are trying to portray anyone who considers to be attractive what you call “fat” as a fetishist. My comment to you is that while you may imagine that all overweight girls never get asked to the prom or otherwise ever get laid, you are wrong.

  75. 175
    Crys T says:

    Oops–made that post before seeing Amp’s post. Sorry. And, judging by the look of my own little rant, I apparently still don’t get how to post properly…………….

  76. 176
    karpad says:

    you know, just from the second quote you dropped, Crys T, I’d wonder:
    when I went to school, most of the really popular girls actually were pretty well built.
    but they were also cheerleaders.
    cheerleading isn’t about a build, it’s a personality thing, so by definition, you’ll never find a friendless and dateless cheerleader (they don’t get the job if they’re friendless and dateless)

  77. 177
    Jeff says:

    I know it’s not exactly fair to comment about someone who can’t respond, but I find it interesting that “cheerleader” and “fat” are put in opposition to each other. At my high school, the super-skinny types tended not to be cheerleaders, and there were several cheerleaders who could be considered “fat” (going by the “over 50% of Americans are fat”/”likely to be called fat, told to lose weight, or discriminated against because of their size” definition, not the “so obese their health is endangered” definition, just so we’re clear).

  78. 178
    Jean says:

    Responding to the whole thread really…

    All I can say is, thank G-d I gave up trying….all this talk about what fat is or is not or when is it attractive or not.

    I was born disabled.

    I became fat. (Still am)

    and I’m a woman.

    My life is saner because I go for health, can’t move enough to lose it, and I literally chose not to *care* anymore that fat and disability combine to make me a non-sexual object. What *I* still hate is : Celibacy is yards better than rejection, but why am I thought *stupid* as well? Ideas are passed over at home and at work, and universally approved and applauded online or on the phone when I can’t be seen.

    I may not get laid, but by Gawd I demand *Respect!*

    End of rant

  79. 179
    Charone says:

    Sorry if this was already said, but I wasn’t able to read every single comment. I just wanted to respond to daffodil’s claim that there is no definable fear of fat. This is false. People (especially women and girls) are scared to death of not being attractive. I believe that part of what drives the hatred of fatness and of fat people, and the reason why people do not want to look at those images, is people’s fear that they may start to feel ok about gaining weight. Or perhaps it is more about the fear that our culture’s whole beauty paradigm/heirarchy will come tumbling down if we start to view fat as acceptable.

  80. 180
    Cruella says:

    I found this great alternative to TV which portrays men and women much more realistically and increases self esteem and confidence! Its called real life. That’s right folks – switch off the telly and go out and meet real people, chat with them, get to know them. Who knows you may even end up having sex with them and that’s a lot better than watching it on TV.

  81. 181
    piny says:

    Will you be waiting? Because if so, I think I’ll stick with the Designing Women reruns.

  82. 182
    Amanda says:

    Ok, I just came across this blog at random, and I’m alittle more than outraged at something I read. Two “rape scenes” were described earlier. Im a huge L Word fan, and at 5’2, I weigh 165 pounds – so don’t accuse me of being a “fatophobic”. I saw both of those episodes, and you took them totally out of context. The scene between the man and the women happened after the woman, Jenny, left her fiance, the man, Tim. Jenny admitted to being a lesbian, and Tim decided to move out of their home. The night before he was leaving, he came into Jenny’s room, and Jenny did say no because she didn’t want to complicate things, but once it started, the farmiliarity gave them both closure and Jenny wanted him to stay. Between the two women, Tina and Bette, it got slightly violent. Bette threw Tina onto the bed, saying “Please, Tina, dont go, please.” and Tina grbbed Bette’s hand and shoved it down the front of her pants. It was not forced at all, Tina was in shock over Bette’s cheating and wanted to feel wanted one last time before she left. Please – get your facts straight before posting this nonsense.

  83. 183
    Charles says:

    So rape isn’t rape as long as it plays out according to the “you’re only saying no, but you don’t really mean it,” formula. Also, forcing someone else to touch your gentials is not in any way inappropriate (at least as long as you were sexually involved at some point).

    So nice to know.

  84. 184
    Avenir says:

    “So rape isn’t rape as long as it plays out according to the “you’re only saying no, but you don’t really mean it,” formula. ”

    Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, when you’ve been with someone a long time and know a lot about them and can read their body language, permission to proceed with sex doesn’t always have to follow the “Dear, may I penetrate your vagina with my penis?” “Yes, I consent 100%,” model. It’s true that Jenny said no, at first. But obviously she didn’t mean it, or she changed her mind, as a few seconds later she was asking Tim not to leave. I doubt a rape victim begs her rapist not to stop raping her.

    “Also, forcing someone else to touch your gentials is not in any way inappropriate (at least as long as you were sexually involved at some point).”

    It’s wasn’t inappropriate. Bette ‘initiated’ sex (sort of rape-ishly, I agree), and in doing so was obviously consenting to having sex, so how is it inappropriate for Tina to then shove Bette’s hand down her pants? And it’s hard to argue that Bette was raping Tina when Tina herself put Bette’s hand on her own genitals.

  85. 185
    punfluffgrrl says:

    Actually – all this is moot – because in real life Kit – Pam Grier is very small – I am 5’9″ and she was shorter and much smaller than I expected – I think she looks curvy because everyone else on the show is so small – it is an LA based drama after all ladies

  86. 186
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Wow, I never saw Amanda’s post (obviously not Marcott) in response to the rapes on L-Word. She’s completely misremembering the scenes, if not representing them to fit something she wants in her mind to be the case. In the Jenny actually confronts Tim about the rape in this past season and even goes so far as to warn Tim’s new wife about his rapist tendencies.

    In the case of Bette and Tina, it is obviously them struggling with one another and the emotions, but the end of the scene is clearly Tina struggling to the point that Bette grabs her wrists and holds them down. I agree that the scene did have some ambiguity as to whether or not it was ‘grudge fucking’ or rape, but if the writers wanted to avoid the supposition that it was rape, they really did a poor job of giving any clarity that assures the audience that the situation wasn’t rape.

  87. 187
    Kelley says:

    I just watched the Bette “rapes” Tina episode last night on DVD and have some clarification for the various renditions of the scene that are being posted. Bette does forcefully initiate things with Tina and at one point holds her wrists down. However, contrary to what Kim posted, the scene ends with Tina struggling out from under Bette, getting on top of her and having an orgasm. Perhaps the DVD version includes a bit more of the scene, I’m not sure?

    I do agree with the majority of the posters that this scene is very unsettling and seems to be a ploy on the part of the producers to include the very familiar “heterosexual passionate/violent/sex” we see too often in TV and movies in a homosexual context. I am very dissapointed that they chose to do so.

  88. 188
    Dylan says:

    The actress who played Kit did not sign a contract that allowed for nudity or explicit sexual scenes. She did not want that kind of role as an actress. It had little to do with the producers, and maybe less than you think to do with fat phobia.

  89. 189
    blobette says:

    This just in… in what world is Pam Grier considered fat???

    The mind boggles…