Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

The Truth Will Set Your Freer Than You'd Like
Another great Bob Morris column in Sunday's New York Times, about the truths we're not allowed to tell. You can't say anything about a woman's age, and also off-limits is calling anyone fat:

...When someone asks you “Does this dress makes me look fat?” you have to say no, even when it does. Had Donald Trump known that calling a woman fat is never allowed (even one who fully admits that she is), he might have saved himself from prolonging his ongoing feud with Rosie O’Donnell.

“The F word in our house is fat,” Ms. O’Donnell said on “The View” last week.

It seemed to be a curse in Nan Kempner’s house too. The late famously thin socialite once caused a public furor when she quipped that she “loathed fat people.”

Imagine how she would feel right now, when extra-skinny models are under attack by the fashion industry, as are certain actresses who are being called anorexic by the press. But forgive me. Speaking truthfully of dead socialites isn’t really allowed either, is it? O.K., so Helen Mirren, who would later play a British royal, got away with saying about the public response to Princess Diana’s death, “I didn’t see it as grief,” but as “addicts having their drug taken away.”

But when the Australian author and commentator Germaine Greer astutely suggested that Steve Irwin, the much mourned crocodile hunter of Australia, was responsible for his own death because he got too close to wild animals, she suffered a severe lambasting.

One Australian politician was so outraged he labeled her stupid.

John Kerry got similar treatment last fall when his “botched” joke suggested that hard-working students don’t end up in Iraq, even though many people do see the military as a last resort for people whose options don’t always include a college education.

And Gwyneth Paltrow had a lot of backpedaling to do last month after being quoted in England saying that the British are more intelligent and civilized than Americans. She also said that instead of talking about work and money, the English converse about interesting things at dinner parties, and that London is not as hectic as New York or as vapid as Los Angeles. Hard to disagree.

But that doesn’t mean that she’s allowed to talk like that.

Posted by aalkon at January 14, 2007 8:38 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Actually, a lot of size acceptance advocates encourage the use of the word "fat" to describe fat people. It's the fact that the word has become more of an epithet than an adjective that causes offense.

The late famously thin socialite once caused a public furor when she quipped that she “loathed fat people.” So why should this be more acceptable than saying, for example "I loathe black people" or "I loathe Jews"?

Posted by: deja pseu at January 14, 2007 7:27 AM

I don't think Bob is saying this is acceptable or not; merely comparing it to attacks on extra-skinny models and actresses (that have gone on without much complaint from anyone for quite some time). FYI, Kate Moss is merely quite thin, not anorexic, as she has a .69 waist-to-hip ratio (a sign of fertility...and not surprisingly, she's given birth).

I loved Helen Mirren more than I already do for that remark about Princess Diana above.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 14, 2007 8:01 AM

I'm at a loss for why anyone would 'loathe' fat people as a class. This is indeed stupid. Although I do loathe the apellation 'big beautiful woman,' as though someone is by default beautiful since they're fat. I'll decide who I think's beautiful, thanks.

BTW, Kerry botched the joke, allright, but he wasn't suggesting that those in Iraq were high school dropouts or whatever, he was talking about our president, who landed those guys in Iraq, and who, indeed, couldn't operate a chair lift without assistance.
It was immediately spun by the White House as an attack on the troops, because, come on, gotta come up with some distractions while we cut veterans' benefits.

Posted by: Cat brother at January 14, 2007 8:24 AM

> she has a .69 waist-to-hip ratio


Posted by: Crid at January 14, 2007 8:51 AM

Yeah, Mirren was right on the money with that one.

I have just as much of a problem with people who say "I hate skinny people" as those who say they hate fat people. I've known a couple of thin women who hated their bodies too and who tried in vain to gain weight. Some models DO engage in extremely unhealthy behaviors to maintain a skeletal appearance (smoking, drugs, starvation diets) so I don't think we can pretend that everyone who marches down a catwalk is "just that way naturally". And while I find Ms. Moss to be probably one of the most gorgeous women who has ever walked the earth, she's had her share of unhealthy behaviors. (and I'd love to see her lose 165 lbs instantly by dumping the loser husband.) But I do think imposing a BMI standard to runway models is a bit ridiculous.

Can we just drop the judgments about body size altogether? Be attracted to whoever you're attracted to, but have a little respect for the rest of humanity, 'kay? Let's quit using appearance as some kind of moral barometer.

Posted by: deja pseu at January 14, 2007 8:55 AM

Let's quit using appearance as some kind of moral barometer.

Well, except when you're "sharing" my seat on the plane instead of buying two for yourself.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 14, 2007 9:37 AM

Hmmm, Amy, I hope this wasn't a cynical attempt to get another century-long post...

Well, 'judgement' is one of those weasel words that can mean whatever you want it to. If you mean, "Let's not think that being fat makes you a bad person," I agree, with caveats as to if/how your significant others do/will have to take up your slack as you age. And, what Amy said. Your rights, and your plane seating, end where someone else's begin.

The health concerns attendant to being obese are not so much 'judgements' as medical observations. It is unforgivably rude to say something like, "You know you're going to die early, keep on like that," but you can't stop making people think it, until obesity has no negative health effects.

I would totally hire a monstrously fat accountant, carpenter, lawyer, whatever, because their body size has no bearing on how they do the job I hired them for. If I ran a fat-loss clinic, I wouldn't have a fat person up front, any more than I'd have someone smoking at the front desk of a smoking-cessation clinic.

As you said, let's all be attracted to whoever we're attracted to. But this certainly is a judgement, and we're free to be into certain body types (psst, there ARE other choices besides runway models on one hand, obese on the other). If your current body type doesn't get you dates with those you're attracted to, you may consider changing it, or re-configuring your standards.

Posted by: Cat brother at January 14, 2007 9:52 AM

psst, there ARE other choices besides runway models on one hand, obese on the other

But people in the middle usually aren't targets of "loathing" based on their size which was what I was addressing.

Posted by: deja pseu at January 14, 2007 10:09 AM

And then there's the other side of the equation where people are too chickenshit to even open their mouth, let alone put their foot in it, for fear that someone might be offended or take it the wrong way. I think we should start including some sort of "Your momma" classes as part of our standard curriculum in this country so everyone can have their skin properly thickened for smooth operation in a full free speech environment. Emphasis on touchy-feely political correctness tends to the opposite.

I still remember when I was in 1st grade, the teacher asked us what we might do if we saw a vicious tiger out prowling the streets. I said we could shoot it. Then little Mr. Sensitive right after me said we could hit it with a tranquilizer dart and take it back to the zoo, and everyone spent the rest of the class enthusiastically nodding and kissing his ass because it was such moral win-win. I should've punched the little bastard in the face. How many women and children have to die while you're out farting around, trying to find a tranquilizer gun, so you don't have to get your precious little soul dirty, you selfish brat? Probably the next Neville Chamberlain.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at January 14, 2007 11:19 AM

I love all you people.

Spy magazine once took a picture of Nan Kempner's knobby stalks and accused her of putting on a show with "knee puppets."

Posted by: Crid at January 14, 2007 12:27 PM

I loved them. Spy used to be across the street from a NYC apartment I lived in (on Houston Street). My favorite was when they called Donald Trump a "short-fingered vulgarian."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 14, 2007 4:26 PM

"Well, 'judgement' is one of those weasel words that can mean whatever you want it to."


And I'd rather squish myself naked into a fuggy sauna with BOTH Orson Welles and Ken Tynan for a one hour conversation than enjoy 10,000 hours of chit cat with La Moss.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at January 15, 2007 9:46 AM

Well, obviously.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 9:50 AM

In a small comment, it wasn't the fact that Germaine Greer said Steve Irwin got too close, it was the manner in which she said it. Of course, take into account that her goal was to be as attention-getting as possible, and she got what she wanted. Very "Ann Coulter" of her, I thought.

Posted by: CornerDemon at January 17, 2007 2:34 PM

Steve Erwin DID get to close to the stingray! Isn't that obvious?

I think I would want Kate for the naked sauna and Orson for the chit chat.

Posted by: winston at January 19, 2007 9:23 AM

Leave a comment