Laughing In the Face of Danger

One of the really interesting things that I notice whenever someone points out that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not size dependent (and so fat people should be able to exist in fat bodies without being stigmatized, bullies, shamed or oppressed,) or when someone points out the research about the failure rates of dieting, people respond by insisting that what we are saying is “dangerous”.  And it’s that specific world “dangerous”.  As in “You need to stop spreading these dangerous lies.”

I always think: Well, I’m talking about civil rights and  research and you’re talking out of your ass, so remind me again which one of us is telling dangerous lies?

I often notice that that word “dangerous” is used to try to shout down ideas that are progressive. Letting some consenting adults get married is “dangerous”, people questioning the banks is “dangerous”.  And it’s not a new thing – suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun was “dangerous”, women’s suffrage was “dangerous”.

Often the idea is to use fear to interrupt progress by those benefiting from the status quo.  Historically it works for a while but the thing about evidence and science and civil rights is that it doesn’t matter if people call them dangerous or ridiculous or stick their fingers in their ears and scream la la la la la or whatever, at the end of the day the truth is still the truth.

What astounds me is the people who aren’t using it as a tactic, but truly believe that “everybody knows” is the same thing as “right and true.” This has happened repeatedly in our history – doctors giving pregnant women thalidomide, or prescribing heroin as a cough suppressant or using lysol as a douche (I know, right!) Scientists have made myriad discoveries that disproved what “everybody knew”, doctors have prescribed things that ended up not working or causing heinous side effects, yet somehow there is a vocal group of people who seem to think  it’s not possible for that to have happened again.  And so instead of learning from the past, noticing the mistakes faster and changing course with more agility and speed, they cling to “Everybody knows” and call those who disagree with them “dangerous”.

One of the techniques that I use to help me deal with this kind of thing is laughing at how ridiculous it is.  Please note, this isn’t for everyone or for every situation – it’s just another arrow for your quiver if you want it to deal with the kind of BS that we (shouldn’t have to) face.

Let’s say that someone suggests I should go on a diet. I just give them a look of disbelief, a quick snort of a laugh and say “Are people still peddling that? I thought everybody knew that weight loss doesn’t work.”

Or someone says “You need to [insert weight loss script] blah blah blah”.  I laugh and shake my head. (That typically gets them to stop mid-sentence.)  Then I ask “So, how do you reconcile your pro-diet views with the findings of Matheson et.al,?”  That gets a confused look.  So I give a confused, slightly disbelieving look back and say “Wei et. al.?” Another confused look.  Then, with a decent amount of surprise “Really?”  (as if I was certain they’d know about that one,) then continue “Bacon and Aphramor, Mann and Tomiyama, the Cooper Institute studies?” I’m prepared to have conversations about all of these, but so far in my experience the people I’ve spoken to, including doctors, haven’t read them and can’t have such a discussion. So then I just say “I’m sorry but it sounds like you haven’t done enough research to be qualified to give me advice on this.  I’ll be happy to give you the links though.” If you want to know more about the research just scroll to the bottom of this post.

I don’t think that a multi-billion dollar industry built on lies, stigma, bullying, repeated failure and physical harm is particularly funny, nor do I think that people who shame, stigmatize, bully and oppress fat people are hilarious. But having the ability to laugh in the face of all that crap makes can be a way to declare another small victory. Those small victories add up to bigger victories and before you know it we’ve made major progress and I guess if you’re someone who enjoys bullying fat people, or profiting from selling weight loss, that does make us very “dangerous” people.

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Published in: on March 10, 2015 at 11:37 am  Comments (11)  

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your remarks are so clever. Yet, I get the impression that fat shaming and constant diet talk is going to continue on and on. It’ll be like the civil rights workers….only now 50yrs later does it seem to make sense to the general population.

    I’ll march with you anytime.

    • Yeah. I take hope, though, in the fact that it DOES seem to make sense to the general population, and although racism still exists, it is not socially acceptable to be blatant about it. Even the strongest bigots know that they have to at least try to be subtle, or they’ll be socially punished.

      There’s a long way to go, yet. Still, there’s a long road behind.

      One of these days, we’ll reach critical mass, and bigotry will explode on the racist front. Then on the LGBTQIA+ front. Someday, on the fat front. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that by then, we’ll (our descendants, at least), will be fighting on some other front, as well.

      The more we learn about treating people fairly, the more injustices we see.

      • To some extent, or perhaps in many circles, yes it’s not as acceptable to be racist in public but I want to point out that when you’re not the target, you don’t see it nearly as often, if at all. I know this has been addressed before but I want to repeat this because I still do see blatant racism or anti-Semitism from people who act as if it IS totally acceptable so even with that, we still have a ways to go.

        • You’re right. A lot of it depends on where you are, and who you’re with. And as a white, cis-gendered straight person, I’m sure I miss a lot of the more subtle stuff, too.

  2. Hi,

    Yes, being able to find a punch line in the most execrable of situations does feel to me like a small victory. It helps me cope.

    ((((hugs)))) Keep on laughing 8)

  3. What never ceases to amaze me is that when I cite research from studies on dieting which invariably show that it does not work (at least not for weight loss, although it is wonderful at enabling people to develop eating disorders), people say, “I’ve never heard of that.” It’s not that I necessarily expect them to have heard of the studies I cite (they are not publicized much, and we know why). It is that they can’t imagine that any research has been done in the past, say, fifty years, at all. It is as if “everybody knows” not only serves to quash any possibility of disagreement, but it also negates the possibility of any movement/;progress at all in the area. Amazing – every other area of any kind of science moves somehow (forward, backward, sideways), but for some reason, the science of human bodies and their complexities of size and genetics stands still?

    Which, of course, is why we have to keep publicizing these studies…

  4. Hmm. I guess this is not really in the category of “laughing.” I guess if one laughs after the poor schlub (zhlub) says, “I’ve never heard of that,” and then proceeds to explain, it might work. Why not?

  5. What an appropriately timed Xander-inspired heading!

  6. Beautifully said. I loved this article and am going to try this technique to stop people from giving me their “advice”.

  7. My mother grew up in the South, during the period of integrating black children into white schools. She told me that she was TERRIFIED that those dangerous blacks would do awful things to her.

    Then, nothing bad happened. Her parents and relatives were still telling her that the blacks were dangerous. But nothing bad happened to her.

    She got older, and there was no “Ahah!” moment of clarity. There were, however, many tiny, “Huh?” moments. Over time, the sheer number of them managed to change her thoughts on the matter of racism.

    By the time she grew up, and had children, she knew in her head that she was wrong, and that racism was wrong, and although it’s a lifelong struggle to overcome those early teachings, she did her best to teach her children NOT to discriminate based on race. She still struggled, emotionally, but she knew, intellectually, that the emotions came from wrong teachings.

    I remember watching “South Pacific” with her, and she pointed out the truth in the song, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.” I didn’t understand the whole thing, or why anyone would be stupid enough to break up with someone they loved because he had children of a different color. She just grinned at me and told me she was proud of me. As if my indifference to color was MY doing? Nope. She taught me.

    Later, I learned to be less indifferent about color, and more accepting, because I realized that color was a vital part of many people’s identities and that they were proud of their race, and to be “color blind,” was a way of erasing their identities. Moreover, being color blind led to being blind about the racism that still exists. Being color-accepting, on the other hand, means that I can appreciate people of all colors, and be an ally in their struggle against ongoing racism, even while I acknowledge my own white privilege. Accepting that was a step on the road for me to accept my identity as a fat woman, rather than a woman who happens to be fat. It IS different.

    So, my point is, that just as bigotry is taught in small doses over a length of time, so is the cure. We won’t have some big AHAH! moment, where we manage to convince the world that fat people are people, too. But the small victories, the tiny fights, the itty-bitty teachable moments add up, over time, and that is how we will change the world. We have a long way still to go, but I have more hope now than I used to have.

  8. So treating human beings decently whatever their size happens to be is dangerous? Giving people accurate information is dangerous? I suppose they’re dangerous to unearned privilege and a sense of entitlement. That’s how civil rights movements eventually succeed.

    What’s that quote from Ghandi? “First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win?”


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