I’m not F-ing Sorry

DefendThere’s something that I see happen a lot when fat people are defending ourselves or become angry about the way we are treated.  I see it on this blog in the comments and on other blogs, on Facebook, I’ve done it myself.  Someone will get upset, rant a little, perhaps swear a little then they’ll write “I’m sorry that I’m ranting” or “I’m sorry that I got angry.”

As always you are the boss of your underpants and if you say this or feel this way then that is totally cool.  I also think that it can happen because anger/ranting/profanity are sometimes not well received, they can make people uncomfortable: [Trigger Warning – there’s about to be a lot of swearing.]

For example, today I saw a  post whose author, responding to the fact that The Biggest Loser is trying to include kids this season, wrote  “WTF”.  People immediately attacked the use the acronym –  saying that they were going to stop reading the blog, un-friend the person on Facebook etc.  Several claimed that it was over-dramatizing to even use the term.

Ok look, they are putting kids on a show that contestants have described as a “dehumanization process.”  They are suggesting that kids should have role models who dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood in order to lose weight to win money.  They are suggesting that kids should look up to trainers who tell their clients to put their health at risk by ignoring the advice of doctors and dieticians because that advice might make them lose a game show and not win money.  The First Lady of the United States  thinks this is a dandy idea and many people, for reasons passing my understanding, think that is a good enough reason to do it.

As far as I’m concerned, “WTF” doesn’t even begin to cover it.  What the fuck?  What the fuckity fuck? What the ACTUAL FUCKING FUCK!  This is so severely messed up that there is not language strong enough to discuss it.  What will happen, not just to the three kids on the show, but to all the kids whose parents, teachers, authority figures etc. decide that this is the best way to treat fat kids? There’s an Ani DiFranco lyric that says “if you’re not angry, then you’re just stupid or you don’t care.”  I won’t go that far, but I do think that if ever there was a time for a little WTF, this is it.

Fat people face an absolute torrent of shame, stigma, bullying and oppression almost everywhere we turn.  We face it at home from friends and family who have been taught by society that we should be shamed “for our own good” in some kind of logic-defying effort to make us hate ourselves healthy. We face it at work when our company has a point of view about our body size rather than focusing on our work performance.  We face it at the doctor’s office when our actual symptoms are ignored and our health put a risk by doctors who diagnose us as fat and prescribe weight loss the minute they see us, never hearing a word we say.  We face it from well-meaning strangers who have been taught by society that a fat body is an indication that we need outside advice, especially that of strangers with no particular health training who think that being thin makes them an expert on how to become thin – like being a brunette makes them an expert on willing your hair to turn brown. We face it from not-so-well-meaning strangers who try to beat us down to make themselves feel better in a society that beats everyone down. We are certainly not the only group who faces this, but we face it nonetheless, and – like the trainers on The Biggest Loser – we are told by society that we should be thankful for the massive war being waged against us because their plan of eradicating the world of everyone who looks like us is a kindness, and we should say thank you and get on the treadmill.

I’m a very outcome-based activist and so I often find myself politely asking people to please stop oppressing me, and I don’t regret or apologize for that.  I also try to keep my cool during media appearances, talks etc. because I find it to be more effective in reaching my goals to calmly state my case,  and I don’t regret or apologize for that.  I use humor because I find that effective in getting my point across and I don’t regret or apologize for that.  And I definitely get angry sometimes,  and I certainly rant sometimes (as my regular readers can attest), and I certainly swear sometimes . Now when I find myself about to apologize for that, I rethink things.  It’s ok to get angry.  It’s ok to rant.  It’s ok to swear.  I’m not fucking sorry.

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Published in: on January 4, 2013 at 11:24 am  Comments (43)  

43 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i sing it “what the fuck? what the fuck? what the fucking fucking fuck???” direct quote from Jerry Springer: the Opera.

    I admit I am not a huge fan of swearing – when Iw as growing up parents always told me that it was a sign of a limited vocabulary, and you couldn’t think of anything else to say. I have found, for me, that it tends to be true.

    I also think a well placed swear word can hammer home a point.

    I also think that this whole apologising for anger (for me) is a two pronged thin. 1) I am fat. Fat people shouldn’t get aggresive 2) I am a woman. Nice women don’t get aggressive.

    I don’t think either are correct, but wow it takes a lot of self reflection to get over it :-/

    • As someone with some extremely intelligent and foul-mouthed friends, that “limited vocabulary” trope couldn’t be less true.

      • I agree and I thought of proving it, but you know, not my blog. (Speaking of which, while you are free to disagree with someone’s OPINION, it is beyond stupid to criticize the words they use to express it. If an acronym sends you into a butthurt tizzy, click the little red X at the upper right corner of your screen.)

        • “If an acronym sends you into a butthurt tizzy, click the little red X at the upper right corner of your screen.)”

          Or if you’re a Mac user, click the little red button at the upper left corner of your screen. 😉

  2. The comedian Billy Connolly once did a whole riff about how he was taught that people who swore did it because they had inadequate vocabularies. He said, “fuck that”. Imagine you’re being harassed. What do you say? “Go away.” “Please go away.” “Please go awaaaay.”

    Or: “Piss off.”

  3. People on the internet took umbrage with “WTF”? Are they new to the internet? Is this person’s audience comprised soley of Mormons?

    And people who claim that swearing indicates a “limited vocabulary” have clearly never heard Scottish people swear.

    • Scots are, indeed, creative linguists of the vulgar. Brilliantly so, actually.

    • I agree. I was raised by small minded Okie hillbillies who believed the “small vocabulary” thing. What nonsense! I had a higher vocabulary than they did, and everyone I knew who actually swore – most of them educated Manhattanites – did too. I think it’s a Southern religious thing and a way to deny that they’re actually bothered by the profanity on a moralistic level. It’s a cultural thing. Nothing wrong with swearing. Nothing wrong with not swearing. Just keep your judgments to yourself, because I am fucking intelligent and don’t appreciate you demeaning my intellect because your own repressed cultural biases – thanks!

  4. Although I love your blog, I do not agree with the swearing thing. I think swearing lowers intelligence and makes it seem like you have a limited vocabulary. It is vulgar. I find it offensive that so many swear words are such a regular part of our vernacular that you can say almost all of them on prime-time television. Don’t get me wrong, when I am angry I lose control and sound like a sailor, but in every day use I find it somewhat offensive. I work in behavioral health so I hear all the bad words frequently, but it really isn’t necessary.

    • Hi Kerryme,

      I think it’s completely cool to not like swearing and to find it offensive and vulgar and I think that this comment is a beautiful representation of stating your opinion without breaking the underpants rule. Thank you, you rock.

      As to the idea that it lowers intelligence and makes it seem like someone has a limited vocabulary, I have some thoughts. I’m not trying to be argumentative (though it may read that way despite my best intentions) I am, in truth, absolutely fascinated by this topic. Of course you’re under no obligation to answer – I am replying to your comment because you stated your opinion so clearly, but I’m interested in a general conversation, and much of this is not in reply to your comment specifically so I hope it doesn’t feel like I’m singling you out, I really am just interested in talking about this.

      I think the claim that it lowers intelligence is a curious one and I’ve heard it before- I assume the meaning here is that it lowers the quality of discourse, as opposed to lowering the IQ of either the person engaging in the swearing or those listening to it. If that’s the case then I can certainly understand – if someone find words offensive and vulgar that would almost surely affect their perception of the quality of conversation.

      I’m not personally worried about being seen as having a limited vocabulary. What I don’t understand is the base claim – that if someone uses one word then we can logically conclude that they must not know others? That seems like a flawed premise. I know many synonyms for many words and I choose based on the connotation I want in a specific situation. I don’t think we can logically conclude that someones word choice in any given situation is a representation of their vocabulary overall.

      It actually seems like a “Mom-ism” to me (like “don’t make faces – your face will get stuck like that” or “wear a sweater or you’ll catch your death of cold”) that is meant to dissuade us from behavior by threatening a negative consequence that, upon examination, is highly unlikely at best. Except that by it’s repetition it’s become an “everybody knows” type of “truism” in the same way that some people believe that having wet hair in cold weather causes double pneumonia.

      I am actually personally more annoyed with the use of works like heck, darn and shoot. It seems that making up a word that sounds a lot like a word that someone finds offensive, for the specific purpose of using it in place of that word is a bit disingenuous, but that’s just me and sometimes I’m crotchety.

      While someone can choose to assume that if they hear a person swearing then that person must have a limited vocabulary, it doesn’t seem like the assumption is based on evidence. I also think it’s like any other assumption – fine for the person making the assumption, but it can become concern trolling when we try to put it on other people in the form of language policing (which I’ll note again the original commenter did NOT do).

      So there’s my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.


      • This is a great discussion that has branched off. Ragen, I also use the expression that ‘using profanity makes a person seem less intelligent’ mom-ism, but in this way. In my household I tell my children that until they are 18, I prefer they not use ‘cuss words’ because it is important to not give the impression to others that they are incapable of eloquently expressing themselves or their emotions. It is part of the job of growing up to learn fluency in vocabulary. When you are an adult, you will have the freedom to live with your choices and the opinions that others form of you, but while you are in my care, I want you to expand your expressions and learn more broadly appropriate words. Also, I think there is a huge difference between ‘wtf’ and ‘you are a f…’ So I tend to tolerate explicatives in reaction to surprise or outrage, but not tolerate name calling in flaming.

      • I think the assumption that people who use expletives have a limited vocabulary comes from the fact that swear words are not part of the prestige dialect.

        People who use the prestige dialect are perceived to be refined and intelligent. People who don’t are perceived to be unrefined and unintelligent. It really is a social class thing. It’s the reason our parents and teachers tell us not to use “ain’t,” or the word “them” as a plural form of “that” (e.g., “them dogs,” instead of “those dogs”), or delete the copulas from contractions (e.g., “we tired” instead of “we’re tired”). It’s the reason some people try to ditch their regional dialect (e.g., Black English Vernacular, Appalachian English) and learn to speak “properly.” I know that with swear words, people will claim it’s a moral issue, but “vulgarity” and “obscenity” are easily conflated, and things that are vulgar are often associated with the lower classes. Or actually, things that are associated with the lower class BECOME vulgar. Rituals, behaviors, clothing, makeup, hair, etc. that are different from what you find in the privileged classes are considered “trashy” or “ghetto.” That’s why privileged people watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” and either cringe or laugh.

        If people merely objected to swear words because they are obscene or profane, they would say so. Saying that the use of expletives is indicative of a limited vocabulary, suggests that the main objection is that the words are tasteless or vulgar (i.e., low-class), rather than obscene.

        • I found something interesting, that sort of backs up my idea that a negative reaction to swear words might be a form of sociolinguistic prejudice. Research suggests that the among privileged people, the physiological reactions to swear words and bad grammar are similar:

          “When electrodermal wires are placed on people’s arms and fingertips to study their skin conductance patterns and the subjects then hear a few obscenities spoken clearly and firmly, participants show signs of instant arousal.

          Their skin conductance patterns spike, the hairs on their arms rise, their pulse quickens, and their breathing becomes shallow.

          Interestingly, said Kate Burridge, a professor of linguistics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, a similar reaction occurs among university students and others who pride themselves on being educated when they listen to bad grammar or slang expressions that they regard as irritating, illiterate or declasse.

          ‘People can feel very passionate about language,’ she said, ‘as though it were a cherished artifact that must be protected at all cost against the depravities of barbarians and lexical aliens.'”

          Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Cursing-is-a-normal-function-of-human-language-2567316.php#ixzz2H6ImF87t

  5. Reblogged this on Quotes, Tunes And Specks Of Whatnot.

  6. I think people apologize for what they perceive as overreaction, whether it be verbal or physical, because we are deeply conditioned to obey authority and not veer from the norm. Thank you for writing this article, because sometimes we need to say “Fuck that!”, and mean it.

  7. When I try to listen to the podcast, I get directed to a webpage saying: Error 404 – Page Not Found.

    I *LOVE* this post! I believe you are on target with your use of the F word, as that just barely expresses the outrage I feel when I read your blog and hear about such rampant stupidity in our culture. I recently turned 50, and am realizing more and more how much I’ve apologized for expressing myself over the years… and heck, even for being fat. I’m changing that and taking a NO APOLOGIES stance — and feeling much more empowered! I’m so glad to be in good company!

  8. I find people often go after the words to derail the topic. I find people go after the words because they have no idea how to respond to the topic. I find people go after the words to bash another person and avoid the topic. I find people go after the words to discredit the poster.

    As for finding “WTF” to be somehow be the new “vulgar”…that is quite amusing. Seems the commentators are just looking for reason to bash the poster’s real intent in a backhanded manner.

  9. Petition signed, and I will be boosting the signal.

    For a different perspective on swearing: I had a cultural/linguistic Anth professor who was always pointing out modern (USian) culture’s ties to their Anglo-Saxon cultural origins. He once went on the following tangent in the middle of a lecture:

    “Speaking of which, do you ever notice that there are certain topics which good Anglos are “supposed” to discuss in Latin? You can’t use our regular words, you have to use Latin! If you don’t, you’re “vulgar”, right? Which is Latin for “common” (and God forbid people should be “common”!) What *is* it about our uptight Anglo culture? We get so freaked out when we talk about things like sex and emotions, that we break out into LATIN! We have PERFECTLTY good Anglo words for these things, people!”

    I’ve made ready with my good ol’ Anglo words ever since 😉

    • Please clarify because I’m not following what you’re saying at all. What Latin words do you use? I mean, you cited “vulgar” as an example but that’s not really Latin, it just has Latin roots (as do a lot of words in English).

      The primary contributors to modern English were the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes – all Germanic tribes. And their languages were heavily influenced by Latin from vocabulary to sentence structure.

      The Normans also contributed to the language, providing many of the “French” vocabulary and spelling (such at the “ge” in the word garage. The Normans also had heavy Latin influences in their language.

      So I’m not sure what you mean by “good ol Anglo” words since most “good ol Anglo” words are of German or French and, by extension, Latin in origin.

      Now, if you really mean Gaelic or Celtic, that is not and never has been Anglo or Saxon.

  10. “Fuck” in all its colorful variations has been a perfectly cromulent word in the English language for centuries. “WTF” is more common than “LOL” on the internet. It is used with abandon about everything from the Holocaust to Justin Bieber’s latest body art to pictures of kittens snuggling with hamsters.

    I’m going to go with BBW Fairy Girl’s theory that people responded to the ‘angry’ word because they couldn’t actually find fault with the point expressed and didn’t want to lose societal brownie points by agreeing with such an unpopular opinion.

    As for apologizing, no. I can’t apologize for occasionally getting angry that there is a full-out war being waged on my body and all bodies that bear a resemblance to it.

    If you can’t get angry about your own oppression, what can you get angry about, pray tell?

    And as much as I tend to prefer to get more creative with my terminology, there are times when a good old four-letter, Anglo-Saxon swear word is the only appropriate response in my book.

    It certainly wasn’t inappropriate in this case.

  11. “For example, today I saw a post whose author, responding to the fact that The Biggest Loser is trying to include kids this season, wrote “WTF”.”

    I don’t often used the “f” word, but come on. I think that shaming, bullying, harassing, and humiliating *children* on *national television* warrants a “WHAT THE FUCKING FUCKED UP FUCK??”. Because seriously, *children*! And these are *fat* children, who have probably been bullied, harassed, and humiliated every day of their lives in school.

    I can’t even.

  12. Dude, seriously? WTF? Great post, Ragen!

  13. In one of the books I read in my late teens/early twenties a character was told that swearing indicated a limited vocabulary and responded by not only expanding her vocabulary but also learning several languages competently so she could converse and swear in them when appropriate. I decided to follow her example.

    When necessary I have told a guy that was publicly harassing me to piss off, fuck off, leave me the hell alone – very loudly and obviously and nobody took me to task for it as it was obvious he was being a nuisance – I took to doing this repeatedly despite being embarrassed about making a fuss because formal complaints were never properly processed and I was told he was just being him and was harmless.

    I prefer to handle things more calmly and neatly, like on a certain addictive MMORPG which was not known for being very female friendly, I called one person ‘an unhygienic, unpleasant individual who couldn’t get a date with his own hand’ about the time he devolved into trying to push me around for being openly female while playing games. I no longer play the game as I can get that kind of treatment any without having to pay a monthly fee and I can no play lots of different games to keep my mind active.

    How you use language can tell people more than just the language they use, I try not to routinely swear and generally default to sci-fi swearing or nonsense when mildly frustrated, I swear outright when really pissed off and if I lower my voice get verbose and start making use of some of the more eclectic parts of my vocabulary then my friends tend to try to distract me with something shiny ’cause that’s when I’m likely to do something the person pissing me off will regret.

    • “In one of the books I read in my late teens/early twenties a character was told that swearing indicated a limited vocabulary and responded by not only expanding her vocabulary but also learning several languages competently so she could converse and swear in them when appropriate. I decided to follow her example.”

      That was this book (http://tinyurl.com/bap482n) wasn’t it? 😀

  14. In my experience, the swearing/intelligence correlation exists in the same bubble as short skirts denoting an “easy” girl and asian-ness equating to math superiority. It’s just another stereotype that once broken is forever broken … one person at a time.

  15. Well here’s my two fucking pennies on the subject (general “you” here, not any specific person):

    Curse words are a sign of high emotion, not low intelligence. And fucking hell, there are situations in which a heightened emotional response is damned appropriate if the people involved have a shred of fucking empathy. I challenge anyone who bloody well thinks my fucking trashmouth “lowers” a single goddamned speck of my integrity or perceived friendliness or mastery of English or whatever other puerile fuckery they’re on about to answer me which is more important: my “intelligence” and the tone, accent, and linguistic mastery of my argument, or the motherfucking compassion and rightness of my motherfucking argument? Furthermore, if I’m trying to get a goddamned point across to you and all you can do is comment on my “swearing” (which makes your own intelligence seem a bit lowered right off the bat, honestly, since you’re getting pedantic about word choice while the proper word for the idea you’re trying to express is actually “cursing,” “cussing,” or possibly “slang vernacular” if you want to really wade in the lofty verbiage), I should think that says a good fucking deal more about you than me, since I’m trying desperately to communicate something about which I have a high degree of emotional investment in and you’re trying to manipulate it into a shutdown with whinging about my fucking language choice. Frankly at that point, you’re the one shitting all over the communications process as far as I’m fucking concerned. Fuckin’ hell.

    • *slow clap*

    • Fuckin’ A right.

    • *throws flowers* molto bene!!

  16. I’m very pro-swearing, although I try to be sensitive to the context. I generally don’t swear in front of young children, for example.

    But this fall, when I ran an online course on dance improvisation, I asked everyone whether they were comfortable with the course forum being a swearing-friendly zone.

    They were, and knowing it was okay to let loose and swear made everyone more comfortable letting loose to improvise too.

  17. Hmmm…In my past life, I was a political campaign staffer. Trust me, I can give the sailors a run for their money.

    Now, I’m pastor. I don’t swear from the pulpit, even though I very much preach in the vernacular – I work really hard to keep all the hoity-toity 18-syllable seminary words out of my sermons, along with the profanity. Which isn’t to say that I won’t let loose with my BFF and a bottle of wine…

    And I agree with the person above who said that it’s more about emotion than intelligence.

    I also think it’s about what you’re trying to accomplish. If you need to vent about the asshole you just broke up with, and just need to communicate what an asshole he is, great. When you have something serious to say, and every other word out of your mouth is profanity, it just gets hard for me to focus on what your point is.

    When Ragen’s writing a blog about this cray-cray idea of kids on Biggest Loser, WTF is an entirely appropriate sentiment. But I’m guessing that when she had the conversation with the show’s doctor this morning, she didn’t start off with “Dude, what the fuck?” because that probably wouldn’t have advanced her goals very much…

  18. Regan this is off topic but I don’t know where else to ask. I tried to sign the Biggest Loser petition and make my voice heard but a street address is required. Why isn’t city and email enough? It seems like a lot of personal information is asked for just to sign a petition and it makes me uncomfortable to have that floating around the Internet. I’d really appreciate it if you could share your opinion on the matter. Thank you!

    • Hi Jen,

      To be honest I’m not thrilled that they ask for street address, though I know that when I’ve signed paper petitions they’ve asked for the same – still I'[m not sure it would be my choice to include it. For the record I’ve had almost 200,000 people sign my various petitions and not one has complained of a privacy breach. I imagine that there are some people who choose to type in a mailing address that is not accurate to maintain anonymity. Does that answer your question? Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll take another run at it!



      • I haven’t had a privacy breach (that I know about) but I did get quite a bit of spam type mail from change.org from a previous petition I signed.

        It got quite annoying as my politics run generally to the conservative, so I wasn’t best pleased to be courted to sign a gun control ban petition because I had objected to the new UC logo.

        • If you want to stop getting e-mails about Change.org’s different campaigns, sign in, then click on the arrow next to your name in the upper-right-hand corner of your screen, select “Settings,” then “Email Preferences,” and under the heading “E-mail me when:”, deselect “There are opportunities to join campaigns that I might find interesting.”

    • “It seems like a lot of personal information is asked for just to sign a petition and it makes me uncomfortable to have that floating around the Internet.”

      That’s why I didn’t sign, TBH. I don’t use my real name or location anywhere on the ‘net.

  19. I love that analogy “..like being a brunette makes them an expert on willing your hair to turn brown.” I’m going use that, putting my own spin on it. I’m going to say that being thin and thinking you know what to tell others about being thin is like thinking that if your hair didn’t go gray when you became middle-aged, you can give others advice on keeping their hair from turning gray.This points out in a real way that there are differences in people’s bodies based on genetics and that you can’t just “will” things to be different.

  20. I actually believe “WTF!?” is an ADDITION to our ever-changing language rather than a detraction from more expressive (or refined) words or phrases. Someone tell me a phrase that better conveys a sense of utter bewilderment and outrage at the same time. For instance, the phrase, “What?? I’m confused and angry and can’t believe this!!” does not pack nearly the same wallop as “WTF?!”

    • Agreed!
      Plus I doubt “W??ICAAACBT!!” would ever catch on…

  21. They’re going to unfriend the person for using WTF?
    Hm…methinks in my little brain that probably they would not unfriend a thin person for using WTF.
    If someone told me they were going to unfriend me for using WTF, I would reply “cool. Don’t let the fucking door hit you in the fucking ass on the fucking way out.”

  22. I wholeheartedly fucking agree.

  23. Elizabeth and others have hit the nail on the head re “swearing” and class/prestige.

    When the Normans invaded England, they obviously brought the French language with them, and simultaneously became the new “upper class”. Anglo-Saxon language and culture started to become seen as common/lower-class/ignorant/hillbilly/country-bumpkin/unsophisticated (take your pick).

    The next stage of that process involved the NORMAL everyday Anglo-Saxon words for various things becoming “vulgar” or “bad” and eventually “swear words”.

    So, an educated respectable person would obviously use the latinized word “vagina” and not the Anglo-Saxon word for it…can anybody guess what word I’m talking about? Yup, the Worst Swear-Word EVAR is in fact the normal Anglo-Saxon word for vagina. A sophisticated person would urinate rather than piss, they would not fuck or shit either, but rather copulate and defecate. This was pure ethnic and class prejudice. And as people have pointed out, we’re still doing it today (“Oh, that sounds so GHETTO….” etc etc)

    Incidentally, there are 12th Century court records of a young man with a typically Anglo-Saxon name petitioning the court to have his name changed to (the very Norman) William, as he was getting teased/bullied so badly for his trashy/hillbilly name. Sometimes I wonder if the human species ever learns.

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