Tag Archives: hatred

New Year’s Resolutions: Lose Fat Hatred

Laurie and Debbie say:

Happy New Year!

We’ve been big fans of s.e. smith at This Ain’t Livin’ for a long time, so it’s great to have such a timely post to write about. In the maelstrom of New Year’s resolutions, she wants us all to remember:

Fat hatred kills. It kills every day in insidious, sneaky ways, and every January, the dieting resolutions are a reminder of how fat hatred kills, by creating such intense social pressure to lose weight. Some of the people pushing their bodies in the coming days and weeks may push them too far. Some people consumed in self hate may turn to more aggressive measures when their weight loss doesn’t go fast enough, like eating disorders and excessive exercise, or invasive surgical procedures to completely reroute their digestive tracts so they can’t absorb nutrients properly.

Others may push the people around them into bad places; the parent who stresses out a teenager, for example, with constant dieting and exercise talk and statements about how fat is disgusting. The ‘pacts’ to lose weight in the new year where people may become competitive, or may goad and push each other into dangerous activities. When one partner loses more weight more quickly than the other because of quirks of biology, metabolism, life, bodies, it suddenly becomes a measure of personal worth instead of a fact of life. The person who keeps the weight off by force of will, by radically cutting calories and exercising aggressively, becomes a figure of hatred and envy while the person who gains the weight back is ‘disgusting.’

Read the rest; it’s all this good.

It got us to thinking about several things: first of all, how New Year’s resolutions have a tendency to be slightly disguised lists of what we don’t like about ourselves. The whole standard list of resolutions–not just “lose weight,” but “cleaner house,” “more organized,” “finish my novel” and so many more–are really rephrased self-criticisms. They sound all virtuous and improving, and it’s a little too easy to ignore the ways in which they encourage us to undermine ourselves.

Second, the specific “lose weight” resolution has a nasty unintended consequence. Because losing weight, and keeping it off, is so extraordinarily difficult (and for some people, impossible without major intervention), it’s a resolution with an especially high failure rate. (Don’t believe losing weight is difficult? See this recent article, or Gina Kolata’s brilliant Rethinking Thin, among many other sources.) Resolutions to do things that actually affect your health and can be not only easy but pleasant, like eating more vegetables and getting more exercise, are a lot more effective in improving your life. Since the giant cultural push is to frame those things in terms of “losing weight,” people who don’t succeed at weight loss are more likely to go back to junk food and couch surfing because they feel like failures, while they might actually make real change if they picked more achievable goals.

Finally, s.e. smith is so articulate about how fat hatred kills that she doesn’t have to move to the next step: hatred kills. Being hated and oppressed is a key factor in life expectancy, health, and quality of life. And hating isn’t good for a person either. Fat hatred doesn’t just kill because it’s fat hatred; it kills because it’s hatred.

France Is Banning the Niqab for the Worst Reasons

Debbie says:

Now that the French Senate, as well as the lower house, has voted to ban the niqab, and French president Sarkozy will surely sign it into law, it’s a good time to point out Chiara’s very strong post at Chez Chiara on the political background of the niqab ban. The niqab is the full face veil worn by some Muslim women, where only their eyes show. By next month, it will almost certainly be illegal in France, and local jurisdictions are already fining women who wear it.

While France has a long tradition of laicit&#233 (which is not quite the same as our “secularism”) the ban on the niqab stems at least as much from far-right persecution of Muslims, for which the French invoke both the medieval history of the crusades and the 20th century history of the Nazis (apparently some French people have forgotten that their grandparents were victims of the Nazis).

a halal (religious Islamic bakery) in Lisieux, France with Islamic hatred slogans and a Nazi swastika painted on the wall

Here’s Chiara:

It is important to be clear–about what is being proposed, by whom, and why, in the French context specifically–before jumping on the French “Ban the Burqa” bandwagon. This ban is against wearing the face veil any time anywhere in public–not just in public institutions, banks, government offices, or police stations, but walking down the street, going to the neighbourhood park, window shopping, giving the baby a stroll, taking out the garbage, anywhere. Transgressors are subject to fines, and then further legal penalties.

The ban was originally proposed last June 2009 by President Nicholas Sarkozy. From the right to the left, all pundits and politicians consulted by their supporting newspapers then stated that this was an election ploy on his part to garner votes from the far right in order to assure his own (more centre right) re-election, and a majority Parliament, which would then include a Prime Minister on the right as well.

This manoeuvre of course makes Sarkozy more beholden to the far right who have a clear agenda against immigrants, Muslims, Arabs and Africans; and, think they should all be “sent home”, even though by now Maghrebi immigrants recruited in the 50’s and 60’s (government planes were sent to villages in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, to hire labourers for France by the plane-full) have 2nd and 3rd generation descendants. They also believe that children born in France to Arab/African-French citizens have no right to French citizenship.

This, of course, mirrors far-right hatred of Islam in the United States and the rest of the western world, although it takes its own shape in every country.

It’s very common for Western feminists to have complicated reactions to the niqab and other forms of religious headscarf. It’s a complicated question. Here’s how I feel:

1) Many women wear the Islamic veil out of their own examined choices and their own beliefs. While some women may be forced into modest dress by a patriarchal society, there’s no way to tell by looking at a woman what her motivations are, and it’s not my (or your) business to try. The right to choose one’s own clothing extends to the right to choose religious clothing–although France has issues with crosses and Jewish yarmulkes, along with headscarves, nonetheless the freedom to observe one’s religion is a key freedom and should be supported everywhere.

2) Extremist hatred of Islam (and all hatred of Islam), like any other kind of bigotry, cannot be tolerated by our governments, let alone supported. Just as we in the U.S. must work to get past vile concepts like “anchor babies” and the completely inaccurately described “Ground Zero mosque,” the French also have obligations to each other. When hatred is allowed to thrive, everyone is in danger. Sarkozy is allowing himself to get in bed with hatred, and you always wake up changed when you do that.

3) Because Muslim women dress in ways that visibly mark their religion more frequently than Muslim men do, this ban unfairly targets women and young girls and is, in and of itself, a sexist law.

No one in the U.S. should be patting ourselves on the back about this one; it’s worth looking at from here as a cautionary tale, not as grounds for superiority.

Thanks to delux_vivens for the pointer.