Blogging When the Gulf is Drowning

From Debbie:

I got up this morning knowing that one thing I was supposed to do today was write for this blog. And the internal conversation went something like this:

“How can you write about body image when people are starving and drowning? You don’t do enough; you’re just a privileged little snot!”
“But body image matters too.”
“Not as much as human misery!”

This kind of internal conversation can go on ad nauseam (sometimes literally). I’ll spare you.

Anyway, here’s where I wound up.


The disaster that is Hurricane Katrina is in some ways a “natural” disaster. So is the disaster that is the December 2004 tsunami,

In other ways, the results are engineered, human-made, some intentional and some unintentional, some cruel and some thoughtless. So many other disasters are nearly 100% engineered and human-made, like the disaster on the Baghdad bridge, like the lives of the homeless I pass on my way to work. The social choices that lead to this all can be at least partially explained in one sentence.

We do not, as a society, show respect for individual lives, choices, needs, and values.

In our essay for Familiar Men, Richard Dutcher and I wrote (in part) about how you can frame the world’s issues in any number of ways, putting masculinity/gender in the center, or class, or race and ethnicity, or age.

You can also frame the lack of human respect in any number of ways … and body image is one of them.

One thing we all have in common is that we all live in our bodies. Any strides we can make toward appreciating that commonality, toward valuing our bodies as part of our respectworthy, respect-needing, vital humanity are strides toward facing natural disasters with compassion and intention, toward valuing each one of us as “a piece of the continent, a part of the whole.”

So even when bodies are floating, people are desperate, and government madness is turning away needed aid from other countries, even now, this work still matters. As does (thank you, Vicki) the taste of a fresh orange.

One thought on “Blogging When the Gulf is Drowning

  1. I’m more self-centered than you are. In spite of all the tragedy in the world, I still have to live my life with all of its petty or not-so-petty concerns. I can watch babies crying next to dead bodies and still worry about gas prices going up. If I thought that not worrying about gas prices would rescue even one of those babies then I might feel bad, but I haven’t gotten the impression that life works that way.

    When I see people starving and without water in New Orleans, I wonder what would happen to me, or how I’d behave in this situation. Would anybody share food with a fat woman when resources are this scarce? I look like I could survive, but as a diabetic I’m not sure for how long. I still remember how they talked about the fireman who died trying to save a “fat” woman in a wheelchair during 911. She died as well, but that didn’t didn’t stop her getting blamed for his death.

    I saw a fat woman being carried in a harness. She was smaller than I am. Could they have taken my weight? Would someone like me be too afraid or too ashamed to even bother trying to be rescued?

    Body image and size issues would probably be front and center for me had I been trapped in New Orleans. They might even mean life or death immediately. And I have little doubt that there are people like me in this way, down in that nasty water in New Orleans.

    Maybe feminism wasn’t of immediate concern to anybody in the Superdome while women were getting raped, but it should have been.

    The work matters, and not just when times are good. Maybe it matters even more in times like these.

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