Dealing with the Meme Roths

Yesterday we talked about working with the moveable middle, today we’re going to talk about dealing with the other side of the spectrum – the Meme Roths. [Trigger warning for diet and eating disorder talk.] What’s a Meme Roth you ask? Well, the original Meme Roth is a person who calls herself an “Anti-obesity advocate” and delights in spewing hate speech about fat people, splashing around like a joyful baby in a pool of unsupported assumptions, ignored evidence, and just making stuff up. Her core belief seems to be that fat people need to be constantly reminded to hate themselves, that they are ugly and, although she has admitted that dieting has a 95% failure rate, she believes that our lives should be consumed with becoming thin until we get there or die trying, and that somehow we all have an obligation to live like she thinks we should. Or she may not believe any of it, but she’s found it lucrative – it’s hard to say.

Meme is coming from an interesting place – she talks a lot about how she restricts calories (claiming, on various occasions, to eat 1600, 1300 and 1100 calories a day) while making sure that she runs 4 miles a day and “earns” any extra food.  About her wedding day she said “Most women I know commit fraud on their wedding days — they weigh-in for the walk down the aisle with no expectation of maintaining that weight year after year.”  Now, it’s Mimi’s right to heavily restrict calories while exercising a lot, and to believe that true love means never having to buy bigger pants.

But news outlets giving her a platform from which to talk to other people about health (suggesting, for example, that each person should eat 10 times their goal weight in calories as if there is a magical mathematical connection between the two) as if she is coming from a healthy place and has a firm grasp on reality with great advice to give is highly problematic.

Until yesterday Meme was really nothing to me –  just another example of the idea that if you can’t be a good example, you can be a horrible warning – a cautionary tale about the dangers of living a life of hatred.  But today she became real very quickly when I found out that two of my friends were going to be on television with her. Having seen her on TV I know that her debate style is to spew vitriol and  just to keep talking and not let anyone else talk.  I tend to view that as cowardly – I think if you are sure of yourself you can have a rational debate where everyone gets to talk, but that’s just me.

Meme has become a caricature of the kind of haters who, unfortunately as a Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size practitioner and activist, you are likely to run into. Here are some ways that we can deal with it:

  • Remember that every activist group has to deal with this. It doesn’t make it ok, but it’s sometimes nice to know that we are not alone
  • Celebrate the benefits of people like this- play your cards right and this person will highlight the rationality of Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size approaches
  • Resist, with conviction the urge to sink to their level or you lose the benefit we just discussed and then you just have two people screaming
  • Call it what it is – hate speech.  When you say that we need to say that fat people are ugly and that saying anything else is “dangerous” that’s hate speech.  Hate is not healthcare, humiliation is not healthcare.  It doesn’t matter what their intentions might be, people don’t get a pass on spewing hatred because they claim good intentions
  • Recognize the danger – what Meme and the Meme-ettes are recommending: severe caloric restriction, “earning” food through exercise, considering yourself ugly until you are thin enough, placing your value (as a bride for example) on your weight, are all red flags of disordered eating.  I have no opinion about Meme’s eating, but as someone who has recovered from an eating disorder and done a lot of work with people dealing with eating disorders, I have a strong opinion about suggesting that the path to health is to encourage these behaviors
  • Remember that they who scream the loudest and the most incessantly probably don’t have evidence on their side
  • Seek support – if you have a run in with a weight bigot you can always reach out to the SA/HAES community and we will support you.

I have to be honest and say that at the end of the day I just don’t get Meme and the Meme-ettes- I can’t imagine devoting my life to being an Anti-anything advocate.  I can’t even wrap my head around spending my life telling people that they should hate themselves unless they change their bodies.  I would rather create than destroy, I would rather be for than against. I believe that whatever you want to do in life, it will be easier if you like yourself first.  Your body, at whatever size you are, is amazing – the breathing, the blinking, the heartbeat, not to mention smiling, hugging, and a million other things – anybody who tries to tell you any different is trying to pass their issues off onto you, and you can always return that shit to sender.

Pre-order my book (for you and/or that food policing family member) and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   Don’t worry – you’re totally awesome, beautiful, loveable and going to get laid whether you buy this book or not!  This is just a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

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I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 7:43 am  Comments (45)  

45 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Are your two friends HAES activists? I would love to be able to watch whatever show they’ll be on. It’s very frustrating that Meme gets the platforms she does in the media. She has absolutely no expertise or training at all other than being an expert at fat hating. The organization she leads consists of herself..

    • Yes they are! Julianne Wotasik and Jeanette Depatie – they were on the Dr. Drew show last night.

      ~Ragen

      • How was it? I don’t get cable and would love to know what happened.

    • Honestly though, would it matter if she did have training or expertise? I highly doubt anyone’s opinion of her would change even if she were a doctor.

      • Ashley, my opinion of HER would not change, but it’s frustrating to see someone treated as an expert in a leadership role when she has absolutely NO education, training, or licensure in any field even remotely related to any type of health issue. She is the president of an organization that has ONE member – herself. But the media treat her as an authority figure. If they labeled her “concerned parent” or “concerned citizen” that would be accurate and would inform people watching that this person has no actual expertise on the subject being discussed.

  2. Where can I watch this debate with Meme? I have watched her many times in these debates with others and I can agree that she doesn’t know when to close her mouth and let anyone talk, and I also agree that her view on carloric restriction is harsh and extreme, but I always notice there is a middle ground where she can make valid arguments, as well as the people she debates with.

    • A “middle ground”? What middle ground? We have a right to exist and be fat, and to choose not to try to lose weight, and diets don’t work for the vast majority of people. Why should we budge from that position to give ground to someone who spews hate speech?

      • Look, all I was trying to say is that I have witnessed debates with her and some fat people that actually agree on things but both parties fail to even recognize it because they are too busy defending themselves and trying to prove each other wrong and themselves right.

  3. Meme Roth is a bitter human being and, believe it or not, she made me less hateful toward my body because she made me realize that she was so self-loathing and that this was the same for all the people I’ve met or seen in my life that had hurt me for my body. They’re the problem. Not me.

    So thank you, Meme, you’ve made feel at home with my fat body.

    • Where’s the “like” button? :-)

      I had a similar reaction when I read a whole interview with her; she sounded so MISERABLE and self-policing.

      • I remember an article where there was a writer interviewing her and Roth refused to have get interviewed during lunch because that meant she would have to eat in front of the writer.

        The more the writer interacted with her, the more it started to see like she had some form of disordered eating and honestly, it’s probable and I can only hope she gets better. Which just makes it grosser that she’s being hired to talk about “health” since it could encourage her disordered eating.

  4. I stumbled across this Dr.Drew episode while channel surfing last night. I saw the words ‘fat acceptance’ come across the screen and got really excited that this was being discussed on tv. Then Meme came on and I lost all respect for Dr.Drew and the entire show. I understand the debate format, bit I don’t understand how they could allow someone who is spewing so much hate and misguided info on there. I’m not a violent person and I believe everyone has the right to their own opinion, but more than anything I just wanted to jump into the screen and slap Meme. As someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder and working hard everyday to learn to accept/love my body, I found everything she said insensitive, ridiculous and even triggering. Thank you for this post and all that you do. And for giving me a place for this mini rant. My tv thanks you as well. :)

  5. I went to Ms. Roth’s Facebook page. She says, “Fat Acceptance Movement wants to make the world a better place for fat people… I want to prevent people from becoming fat in the first place… We’re not completely at odds… But their mission has a dark side…”

    I find it frightening that she thinks that there is some sort of good vs. evil thing going on here and that she’s on the side of the angels.

    • LOL, come to the dark side… Meme I AM YOUR MOTHER….

      • Heh. Never has the joke, “Come over to the dark side. We have cookies” ever been a better punchline.

      • Actually, I think you are closer to the truth on this than you know. When I heard her talking about her family on the clip, I could literally see her body shift. The therapist in me so wants to rescue little Meme. But I don’t get to do that…still what I saw shifted my feelings for her. I just feel badly for her that she has been so hurt by her family being fat that she now has to eradicate the possibility of it in her life. She really thinks she is fighting the good fight.

    • I dunno, I think anybody who wants to eliminate people because of certain physical characteristics is engaged in a good vs. evil thing. They’re just on the evil side.

  6. Thanks Ragen. I think overall it was a good experience and even just getting the words size acceptance or fat acceptance written on a screen underneath our picture is a step forward. I think it’s telling that these shows now bring someone like Meme on. In the past they were more likely to just let the hosts make fun of us. Now they tend to bring somebody else on to be the bad guy so the host can stay more with the “moveable middle”. I hate that she gets airtime, but consider the fact that shows bring her on as a rather unpleasant side effect of progress. Just trying to see the bright side here (cuz that’s what I do.) Anywho, love you to pieces for this post! oxoxoxxo Jeanette (TFC)

    • I watched the clip that was on CNN. You guys got the last word in that clip. Frankly, she sounded ridiculous with her assumption that people are fat because they overeat. She also assumed overweight = unhealthy. You guys were on TV with video proving her wrong. It was great. I hope at least some people can see that she and others like her are just plain wrong. You guys were so brave!

  7. Hi Ragan – just saw this and thought you’d be interested:

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/245967.php

    Thanks for the link to the research page the other day – very helpful!

  8. “Return that shit to sender…” <– SO classic! LOL

  9. The first four minutes of the TV show– Dr. Drew doesn’t really moderate it– he lets Meme just roll and interrupt.

  10. What bugs me the most about giving MeMe Roth airtime is that she has zero qualifications. Surely there’s someone who can spew the weight loss party line who has some actual training, right?

  11. this is a good article on meme’s lack of credentials – http://jezebel.com/5479381/just-what-are-meme-roths-qualifications-exactly

    and ragen, just want to say how much of an inspiration your blog is to me. even as a somewhat slim person who is in recovery from an eating disorder, learning to accept my body for what it is has been a huge step for me. i am a huge HAES advocate. personally, i’ve learned to focus on my health and happiness instead of punishing myself with what i eat or don’t eat or how i exercise. i believe that there are bodies of all different shapes and sizes – and that we can all be healthy without having to force our bodies to look a certain way. thank you for the work that you do!

  12. I have been tripping over your use of the name because at first I was thinking it had to do with ‘wrathful memes’ and then I started thinking of ‘mome raths’ from the Jabberwocky: “‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; / All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe.” Scary stuff – frankly, if I were her, I’d get a friendlier name. ;-) To be honest, I don’t even want to watch these debates because I know they won’t be fair, just like I don’t want to watch Weight of the Nation because I know it will just make me mad and not give me any new information. I saw Ms. Roth previously on a four-person discussion and she did the exact same thing – steamrolled everyone. I’m still surprised she gets so much airtime since she seems to have learned her debating skills from a two-year-old, but without the creativity.

    • I thought almost exactly the same thing! I was like, “Meme rath? What’s that, someone who endlessly repeats angry internet memes? Are they lost fat green pigs?”

      And then I got what it actually said, and it became all the more appropriate.

      • I totally went there. “Oh, and the Meme Roths outgrabe.Right, now what is the wroth of the memes about again?” Kudos to Jeanette and Julianne for having the big fat guts to get up on national television and expose themselves to the Meme Roth gyring and gimbling in the wabe. She makes a lot less sense than Lewis Carroll….

      • Now I want to make a Mome Rath Meme Roth meme…
        But what I need to do is make dinner.

    • “Scary stuff – frankly, if I were her, I’d get a friendlier name.”

      Well, her real name is Meredith. Would you have us call her ‘Merry’?

      • Eww. I’m a Meredith-called-Merrie. I object!

  13. The Guardian did a good interview with her, where the interviewer repeatedly asked her what she’d had for breakfast and lunch and the responses were strongly suggestive that the woman has a very problematic relationship with food. The writer all but called her a loony:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/may/24/meme-roth-obesity-nutrition

    • Alexie, thanks for the comment and the article, but i want to also give readers a Trigger warning! This article is extremely fat negative, takes a diet-positive mentality and suggests things that are not based in evidence.

      Ragen

      Sent from my iPhone Please excuse my thumbs!

  14. Lovely Ragen, I saw the show, too. BTW, I thought our friends looked wonderful and came across exceedingly well, especially with the hysterical Meme for contrast.

    However, it just occurred to me, that if every time Meme said “fat” or “obese” you replaced the word with Jewish, or Asian, or African American, or Native American, or autistic, or mentally impaired, or blind, she would be excoriated and deservedly so.

  15. I found you through a friend of mine (we are both dancers) and I have to say that you are such an inspiration to us! I get your daily emails and they make so much sense, I love the way you articulate your ideas and you are both logical and sincere. Thank you for doing what you do, it is so nice to have some friends on “this side” of the fat/thin coin. :)

    • Thank you so much, great to meet a fellow dancer!

      ~Ragen

  16. Anyone who thinks that they can stay the same from the day of their wedding onward is deluding themselves. I mean, what, does Meme think that she can thwart aging as well?

    And by the way, by not dieting (eating intuitively) and actually getting proper healthcare for my health issues (which for a long time were ignored by asshole doctors in lieu of “just lose weight” lectures), I am at a somewhat smaller size than I was at my wedding (though I don’t really care about that, to be honest), and what really makes me happy is that all of my health markers (triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc) are so much better than when I was thinner and dieting.

    I feel healthier, have more energy, and enjoy so much more fullness in my life because the weight of massive self-hatred is no longer on my chest.

    I pity people like Meme because they carry their own crosses and bleed their anger and sadness onto everyone they come into contact with. When faced with that sort of vitriol, I must simply keep repeating to myself that it’s all about THEM, that it’s not about ME, because people give themselves so much more permission to hate on themselves than others, and yet that’s the first way it tends to manifest (projection).

    Still, doesn’t make it less painful when someone says mean stuff.

    Oh well. I’ve never fit into the ideal anyway. *puts on Rainbow Dash hat with ears and wings* XD

  17. I well remember the first time I heard of Meme Roth. She was being interviewed on The Daily Show because of her comment to the effect that giving a child a cupcake was the equivalent of handing that child a loaded pistol. Even by the end, I don’t think she got that she was going to appear on a comedy show. Jason Jones (he was interviewing her, IIRC) made mincemeat out of her just with his facial expressions.

    So right from the get-go I had good reason to refuse to take her seriously.

    Doesn’t mean she isn’t a dangerous influence on some, but still, she really is pretty laughable when you get right down to it.

    Gaining weight after you get married is ‘committing fraud?’ Seriously? How does she say that with a straight face? I’d be on the floor rolling about helpless with mirth trying to get that one out! Did Mr. Twistie somehow commit fraud against me by getting grey hairs since we got married nearly twenty years ago? Did I by starting to need reading glasses?

    Bodies change, and cupcakes aren’t poison.

    Meme Roth is entirely welcome to her world view… but I have to say, it strikes me as a painfully cold, dark, miserable one that I wouldn’t have for five minutes on a bet.

    Think I’ll stay my fat and happy self, and pity her when I bother to think of her at all.

  18. Meme Roth is a pathetic piece of work all right. I guess she gets invited on these shows because she’s good at promoting herself and says yes as soon as the producers call her. Based on what I’ve read, she most likely has an undiagnosed eating disorder and rather than deal with it honestly she’s trying to force the rest of the world to
    behave the way she does. I really pity her kids.

  19. Her name says it all Ragen. ME ME ME ME. Not a thought of the people who she is mowing down in her wake of self-serving anti-fat propaganda. But even in the spirit of free speech that gives her the right to voice her hateful opinions, the first two letters in the word MEan are…
    Thanks for a wonderful and empowering post!
    Warmly,
    Dr. Deah

  20. Every time I hear her name, I always smile when I think about how the YMCA called the cops on her and had her pathetic behind thrown out for destroying an ice cream buffet:

    https://sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=34&articleID=10

    That type of harassment and behavior shouldn’t be celebrated but it is, and we are made to look like the lunatics.

  21. When Meme and I were on Anderson Cooper and she started shouting over me, I told her to be quiet because I wasn’t finished and I didn’t talk over her. Anderson backed me up on it so she shut up for a minute! I didn’t realize I was still on camera when she was talking and was making faces…like rolling my eyes and shaking my head no when she said all we wanted was for other people to pay our way and subsidize our lifestyle! I didn’t know everyone else could see me too…LOL! So then I started talking over her and Anderson had to say, “Peggggyyy” LOL! I think we’ve got it on video around here somewhere. I’ll have to dig it out and have a good laugh.

  22. Reblogged this on ireadthereforeirant and commented:
    Meme Roth is a very toxic human being.

  23. Two thumbs up. This is A+ advice.

    Peace.
    Shannon

  24. Y’all need to check out the interview with MeMe, courtesy of Atchka at Fierce Freethinking Fatties (fiercefatties.com). It’s a real eye-opener.

  25. This comparison may be rather extreme but hear me out. I think Meme is comparable to Hitler. She has targeted a group of people she doesn’t like and has continued to try to spread lies and propaganda about them the same way Hitler singled out the Jewish population (along with many other groups). I know the situations are different but spreading hate on any level is extremely dangerous. People who hate and try to disguise it as “concern” are always snakes in the grass.


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