Your “Concern” is Not My Problem

Diagram originally created by Genderbitch for an awesome post that clicking on this picture will link you to.

Reader Sara told me about some dishes on sale by a company called Interventionware.  One of the plates says “It’s hard to be around you when you eat like this / Did you really need that second helping? / Please stop eating, we’re worried about you / For the love of God, stop eating.”

Let’s start with my answers in order:

1.  See ya.
2.  No, but at this point if I stop eating with this fork I’m going to stab you with it so bring on a third helping or get some gauze for compression.
3.  I can’t stop you from worrying but I can stop you from talking to me about it.
4.  For the love of god mind your own business.

Per the company’s Twitter “These plates are not to be taken seriously. Of course we never mean to offend!” Well, that’s a big fat failure Interventions. Maybe the people who designed the plate  aren’t aware that this is the kind of crap that fat people have to hear.  We’ve already talked about the idiocy that is the “Do you need to eat that” question. But of course it goes beyond that.

I’ve had people in comments suggest that it’s their moral obligation to tell fat people that they need to lose weight, exercise more, or that if someone sees a fat child they need to say something to the caregiver. I’ve been part of any number of conversations where people who had no business or permission to talk to me about my weight did so.  I recently asked some friends on facebook who had spoken to them about their weight inappropriate.  The answers included:

Strangers, Dermatologist, Psychic, Coworker, Father, Sister, Gynecologist, Cop (while giving a speeding ticket), Grocery Store Checker, Dentist, Restaurant Owner, Airport Staffer, MY MOTHER (emphasis by the original author), Grandmother, Girl Scout Leaders, ER Doctor, Coworkers, Waiters/Waitresses, Gym teacher, Nutrition Professor, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig Employees (when I wasn’t enrolled in services), Softball Coach, Friend’s Parents, ROTC Leaders, Bagel Shop Employee, Other Kids Parents, Palm Reader, Obstetrician, Anesthesiologist, Photography Professor, Dermatologist, Chiropractor, Boss, Boyfriend’s Family, Dress Shop Employee, Massage Therapist.

Whoa.  That’s a lot of people who think that it’s their right to say something to us about our bodies.

I won’t speak for everyone but for me, the response to this is:  No. No no no no no no no.  No.  First of all, how much of an idiot do you have to be to talk to me as if I’ve never heard that I should lose weight.  Do you ever watch TV commercials? Listen to the radio?  Look the hell around?  By my count I get about 386,170 messages a year that my body is wrong.  I’ve been fat for at least 25 of my 34 years so that’s 9,654,250 times that I’ve been told that my body is wrong. If I was going to buy into that bullshit I would have done it already.  So how about you trust me when I tell you that the Nine million, six hundred fifty four thousand, two hundred fifty first time is NOT the charm.

I think that when someone feels this strong of a need to “save a fatty”, it’s often really much more about their own ego than the person they are supposedly so concerned about.  Like an ambitious relief pitcher, they want to get credit for the save.  I call this “Pulling a Jillian” as in Jillian Michaels, ego maniac from The Biggest Loser, who can’t stop talking about how she’s saving lives and she’s making people healthy, she’s doing this and she’s doing that blah blah blah. Newsflash Jillian, if you really cared about people we would be hearing a whole lot less about you.

I am a grown ass woman making choices.  That is my right. Just like other people get to make choices for themselves.  You can decide that your path to health is a raw foods diet, vegan, vegetarian, liquid diet, or milk and potatoes.  I don’t get to decide how you live, it’s not my business.  I get to make choices for my body and you have no right to question those choices. (And if you’re even thinking about making a “but my tax dollars pay for fatties” argument, head over here.)

The bottom line here is very simple:  This is not a tree and I am not a kitten so you can put your ladder away. Thank you.

Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 9:00 am  Comments (35)  

35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Now I am terribly tempted to start marketing plates with food-positive messages.

    a great post, as always.

    • Do it, do it! I promise to buy some and distribute them to peeps in my world! :-D

    • That would at least make more sense to me. Because eating utensils that overtly discourage eating just doesn’t pass my common sense test. :P

      • Glad it wasn’t just me. I’ve been trying to figure out in what parallel universe it could seem logical to give someone a message about overeating that would require you to ‘clean your plate’ to read it.

  2. I had to search for those Intervention-ware plates, because I honestly couldn’t tell if you were joking. I hoped you were, and now I’m sad.

    Fishs Eddy claims “These plates are not to be taken seriously. Of course we never mean to offend!” but that strikes me as utter manure. People will be offended – HAVE been offended – and saying “we didn’t mean it” is useless. An apology and withdrawing the plates from sale would be better.
    It doesn’t make the abuse any less abhorrent because it’s a joke.

    • Isn’t that always the way though? Oh, you didn’t like my racist comment? Geeze, get a sense of humor it was a joke! Oh, did my comment about making me a sandwich piss you off? Too bad, it was just a joke!

      People are always making offensive, if not outright hateful, comments and expecting that if anyone dares to tell them that isn’t right, well, they can always just say it’s a joke and then YOU look like the jerk for not having a sense of humor.

    • Ugh. I hate that excuse.

      The other day, in a discussion about putting calories on restaurant menus, someone said that what fat people really needed was to be charged extra for NHS services, or not given treatment at all – he hoped, and I quote, ‘piles of dead porkers outside A&E departments’ would scare people into losing weight. When the OP (who, note, believed in ‘obesity’ as a problem but had the sense to realize that that was unacceptable) took him to task about it, he was all ‘Oh, I was only joking’.

      I wasn’t laughing. Not when the NHS is apparently being privatised under our noses, which may mean fat people being marginalized by dint of ‘pre-existing condition’ the way many are in the US. Oddly, many of the people who agreed that the NHS should charge us extra were off in the privatisation thread next door complaining that ‘this will result in people not getting treatment!!’ Double standards, much?

      • Horrific. Unfunny jokes at others’ expense is a well-documented form of verbal abuse:

      • Sadly, those folks probably don’t think of fatties as “people”. They’re not people, they’re lazy, greedy, smelly, piggish slobs who are using OUR tax money to subsidize their disease-inducing lifestyles. *sigh*
        I’m sure there are many people looking for ways to rid the NHS of the “burden” of all the supposedly diseased fat people. After all, if they lived healthy lifestyles they would be thin, so if they choose to be fat then they don’t deserve treatment. It’s scary how more and more people think this way, on both sides of the pond.

    • The website is called “Interventionware” – implying the entire site deals with people who need a lifestyle change. They can play it up as being tongue in cheek all they want, but they’re merely disguising what they all want to say to the fatties in the form of some great practical joke and making a profit off of it. They think that by posting the disclaimer that no one should be offended they can skate right by, and anyone who does actually get offended will end up looking overly sensitive. Newsflash: saying “it’s just a joke, get over it” doesn’t make you any less of a jerk for thinking it’s okay…funny, even…to talk to people that way. In fact, it makes you more of an ass for expecting people to buy into the joke.

  3. “This is not a tree and I am not a kitten so you can put your ladder away. Thank you.”

    Gold, pure gold.

  4. Wonderful post! I once had a “friend” in middle school hand me a diet plan from a magazine and say, “You’re such a nice person on the inside but people don’t know it because of how you look on the outside.” I didn’t know what to say. I was SO hurt. I am now an attorney turned horse professional, and I work every day to help people realize they are wonderful beings, no matter their size.

  5. Amen! What I’m confused about (well, besides how anyone could think that it’s a good idea to manufacture the plates) is who is the target market? Is someone going to give these to the over-eater of their choice, in the hopes of making them feel like utter crap? Or is the over-eater supposed to buy them for themselves? Jeez…If I wanted the thin mean girl from high school in my ear, I would have married her.

  6. Y’know what’s chapped my nips lately? When people say what they know are strongly worded statements about anything, then look shocked when you respond with an equally strong rebuttal…THEN say the currently popular back-handed backpedalling phrase, “Well, I seem to have touched a nerve…”

    You bet your arse you touched a nerve. You made a personally insulting comment INTENDED to harm and hurt. And you certainly will get it thrown back in your face.

    It’s the same mentality with the Shaming Them Thin approach. Here’s a newsflash: my weight is not your intervention project. Your opinion means nothing to me because your presence has very little impact on my daily life. Go pick a different crusade, jackhole. Life is just fine and sunny on this side of the fence!

    • Argh that chaps my nips too. I think I know what that means…

      Anyway, I get into that with my mom pretty much on an annual basis. Like clockwork, usually around the holidays when she’s feeling insecure about her own bithday/Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years weight gain. She decides to focus her attention away from herself and distract herself by telling me how I should feel about my body. Not only is my weight concerning, but she’s concerned that my attitude towards my body is harmful, too. God for-effing-bid I actually like my rack or my bum. It’s dangerous, she says. She says she sees women at her practice (she’s an RNP, which she feels adds extra clout to her “you’re a dangerous fatty fat fatty) who have become “complacent” with their bodies through liking them and in turn “didn’t do anything about it” and ended up 400 pounds. Oh for f*ck’s sake, Mom. When I get upset, she comments that the fact that she’s “touched a nerve” proves that I am “sensitive” about my weight and clearly not comfortable and therefore deep down really want to be thin. Who to the what and the where was I?* NO, I’m upset because you just went on an unsolicited, unwelcome rant about how my generally-positive attitude is dangerous. Want me to develop disordered eating patterns and diuretic abuse again? I think not.

      *Credits to Stewie Griffin for this quote.

  7. I’m an overweight, feminist, lesbian (who wants to marry but can’t), who wants to adopt (but can’t), who is a witch in a Christian country, who believes in love, peace and harmony when all anyone else could care about is war, hate and discrimination. Where the f*** do we go from here???

    Like all good activists, the more people who refuse to accept discrimination (a fear based attack of the insecure), the better off we’ll all be! Stand up against discrimination of ALL kinds…

  8. I saw this monstrosity on Jezebel. I can imagine some people’s ‘well-meaning’ friends or family members or work colleagues giving them this. Were I to find myself at a meal where my plate had anything of this nature on it, it would end up being this season’s headgear for the host (waste of good spaghetti carbonara, but a statement must be made).

    Re the ‘Should you be eating that?’ comment: Can anyone from a location where they’ve started putting calorie counts on restaurant menus (I believe I heard NY was now doing it, maybe other places) confirm if it’s led to more of this behavior? Only, they’re going to start doing it here in the UK, and one complication that occurred to me is that now not only will you know the calories in your meal, whether you want to or not, but so will anyone you’re eating with, or even passing strangers. Which, knowing what a-holes people can be, is probably not a good thing.

    • Oh the calorie counts. Welcome to California, where the calories are listed in bigger font than the prices!
      Seriously. Any food store with more than a set number (I think it’s 5 or so) of outlets has to post calorie counts for all their items on whatever menu they have. This means places like Subway have the counts in lovely big font on their board. The prices are at least 4 pts smaller. Places with menus brought to the table usually have NAME Price (Calories) above the item description.

      So far, I have not witnessed any up-tick in the shaming behavior around that, outside of the internal peanut gallery. But then I’m not OMGdeathfatz just a fatty, so I seem to get more of a pass in my daily life.

      Re the plates: No, you totally meant to offend, Mr. Interventionware inventor. Saying “Can’t you take a joke?” when you get called on being a bigot does NOT make it ok and hasn’t since 3rd grade!

      • Fun California Subway story:

        I was there for a professional conference this summer with a thin colleague. We went to Subway for a quick lunch. I ordered a footlong veggie sub (no cheese, mustard as the only condiment) and a water. She ordered a 6″ meat sub meal, so with chips and a soda.

        Because of the posted calorie counts, it should have been fairly evident to an observer (a kind of nosy observer, but that’s what happened anyway) that my meal had fewer calories than hers. That’s absolutely not intended as a judgment of anything except what happened next — Maybe because a footlong sub physically looks like more bulk of food, but someone came up to our table and “informed” me that I shouldn’t be eating so much food.

  9. Regan, YOU ROCK MY WORLD.

  10. Amen to this post!

    When I was a child, if any little kiddie got too “nosy” with questions or comments the nearest adult would snap “Mind yer beeswax!” and said kiddie would slink off, sufficiently shamed and now instructed in what was not okay to ask or comment on. We really need to reinstate the Mind Your Own Business retort. I remember hearing it all the time growing up, but I never hear it any more at all. There really was nothing more satisfying than watching a lippy a*hole being embarrassed by that response.

    And those plates – blech. Even if a person were suffering from BED or some related eating issue, this would be the ABSOLUTE worst way to approach it. Hopefully no one will see the humor in these plates and they’ll go away very quickly.

  11. Ugh. Not only are those things ignorant and offensive, they’re not even clever. It’s not a joke if it’s not funny. At this point I feel like Cryano de Bergeac. If you’re going to insult me, do it right. Don’t bring this elementary school yard business. “Do you really need that second helping?” isn’t funny, it’s something your nosy relatives say at Thanksgiving dinner.
    Also, you’re going to call it Interventionware and only go after fatties? Come on. There are so many other intervention opportunities. Where are the wine glasses and beer mugs with the witty alcoholic jokes? The steak knives with the cutter remarks? A mirrored serving tray with something about cocaine? Oh that’s right, we don’t hate alcoholics, people who self-harm (although there are far too many jokes about them, too), or cocaine users, at least not to the extent everyone hates a fatty. Ugh. (Not that we should be hating those other groups, or anyone. Just to be clear.)

  12. Burgerville here in the Northwest puts the calorie, fat, carb and protein counts of what you get on your receipt. I don’t remember seeing those figures on the menu when ordering, so at least you don’t have other people looking over your shoulder counting up what you’ll be eating.

    Sometimes seeing those numbers doesn’t bug me, but sometimes they do. What’s supposed to be a treat can get ruined because I feel bad for eating “bad” food. I don’t like that.

  13. LOVE This: ” the Nine million, six hundred fifty four thousand, two hundred fifty first time is NOT the charm”! lol

  14. I wrote them an angry email a few days ago and got this response:

    “We understand that you are disappointed with our Intervention-ware pattern and disappointed with us for doing it. First, let me give you a brief history of these dishes. This pattern was one of the winners of our annual design competition at Pratt Institute. The assignment was “say it in words”. Of course we never ever thought that those words would be taken seriously and we never meant to offend anyone. In fact, ninety-nine percent of the time we poke fun at ourselves.
    Most importantly though, had we believed that this pattern was going to hurt those inflicted with diseases as serious as eating disorders or any other condition, we would have had the artist alter the artwork to be funny but not hurtful or offensive.
    And that is exactly what we will do now!

    We thank you for your feedback and we hope that you will be patient with us as we fix the problem. We hear you, and we apologize.”


    • I am glad they’re going to have the artist alter the product. Will they be pulling the current product in the meantime? Because if I’m supposed to believe that they truly acknowledge that these current products are hurtful, that’s one thing I’d need to see — removal of the thing that’s doing the hurting.

      Also, this — “Of course we never ever thought that those words would be taken seriously and we never meant to offend anyone.” A product made it through a number of people, including marketers, at a company — and no one once said, “Hey, what happens if readers take these words at their harmful face value rather than as delightfully clever misguided humor?”

      At best, that’s unprofessional and not terribly competent.

  15. Whatever the intended demographic, I’d bet you that these plates would be popular among anorexics.
    @Bubbles – Wine glasses with alcoholic jokes would be just a start. They could make condoms with impotence jokes, cars decorated with auto accident jokes, churches with misbehaving clergyman jokes… just imagine the possibilities!
    (Or don’t.)

    • Oh, Mulberry, I once received what I think may have been an ‘intervention’ greeting card for alcoholics, from my mother. It had a poem inside which very roughly said, in bad rhyme, ‘I know you hate me going on at you, but I only do it to make you a better person, and after I’m dead you’ll realize I was right'; the front had a watercolor picture of a cluster of empty glasses and booze bottles, one of the bottles overturned and forming a puddle of wine. The odd thing about that was that I have always drunk less than anyone in my family, and have definitely never shown any behavior that could be described as alcoholic. I’m guessing it was really aimed at all my other ‘faults’ which they never made intervention cards for because, you know, that stuff really isn’t anyone else’s business.

  16. As I said on a different forum that mentioned these plates, if anyone I know gives me any they’re quickly going to find out that a dinner plate can fit in their left nostril.

  17. Re: the list of people who’ve commented on weight: I’m an ob/gyn doctor, and also fat. I hate talking to patients about their weight – sometimes it’s completely unavoidable, because we have to use different options for anaesthesia etc, but I always try to do it in a non-judgey, here’s-what-you-need-to-know kind of way. I definitely don’t do the intervention thing – when someone’s already sick or stressed is not the time, even if they did want to address it. Sure, I’ll be supportive if someone asks me how to lose weight, but all my patients are grown-ups and can make their own decisions. I just give them the information and let them do what they like with it.

    I sincerely hope I’m Doing It Right. I’m totally open to being told I’m not, but nobody seems to have objected to my approach yet. I think it helps that I’m not skinny myself!

    As for the plates, if someone gave me my dinner on one of those they would find my speculum where they did not require it.

  18. I wish that veganism was not always associated with being thin. I am a fatty vegan, and there are many of us. :) One of the things that I often encounter in my activism is that some activists that I support for one aspect of my beliefs almost seem to be against what else I am advocating for… Believe me, that does happen many times when some vegans (I’m looking at you, PETA) are willing to be anti-fat, and it saddens me when I see it either way.

    I also think that making vegan choices is completely unrelated to weight or judging someone else’s body. While nobody has any right to say ANYTHING ever about anyone’s body (I was one of the one’s who responded to your Facebook post about the many, many people who have made inappropriate comments about my body.)….I think that I do have the right to state that eating meat causes the exploitation and murder of other animal’s bodies. Something I want no part in.

    Whether suffering matters even though it’s another species feeling it or a fellow human is not something that I think is up for debate, but I know that many people feel that it is.

    Overall, I just felt that ending further lumps together the myth that vegan and vegetarian has anything to do with “dieting” for weight loss or “liquid diets.” It’s an ethical choice for me. As is respecting every single body as beautiful the way that it is.

    Anyway, I want to say lots of nice things as I love your blog. :) Just some thoughts that it inspired.

    • Hi Robin,

      Thanks for your comment. I can absolutely see how frustrating it would be to have your choice to be vegan lumped in with people who judge others based on their bodies. To be clear, I never intended this piece to do that – I listed vegan in with options that people choose as their path to health,and I chose the phrase “path to health” very specifically to avoid lumping it in with weight loss techniques. I apologize if my attempt fell short. Thanks for the kind words about the blog and for letting me know how it read to you, I hope that clears it up.


  19. It seems like it is more for people with a dark sense of humor. It is obviously not funny to people who have been through hearing those comments, and that is totally understandable.

  20. I sent them a stern email citing many facts about body shaming and prevalence of eating disorders, and many of my friends did the same. The response we all got was a variation of ‘well, this design won a contest!’ It really made me want to say ‘That’s nice, if a plate that said ‘friends don’t let friends date black people’ won a contest, you wouldn’t put that on your website!’ As a business they have ultimate responsibility of the content that is available on their site. And after the amount of emails I know have been received by them, and their refusal to stop selling the plates, it’s obvious what’s important to them. Morality, or money? They made their choice.

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