Friday Feminist Fuck You: Regina Benjamin Fat-Haters

This week in the crusade against women of color in leadership positions we have people calling Regina Benjamin fat. Charming.

I haven’t done a video in a while (stage fright!) but I think the only way to reply to the fat-hate against Regina Benjamin is with a resounding “Fuck You!” Listen to me ramble. Transcript after the jump.


That last few weeks have shown us that when Conservatives are up against a wall they are very limited in their ability to combat with arguments so they focus on arguments that focus on characteristics and, when they can’t disqualify someone’s credit or merit, they make comments about them being fiery, as in the case of Sotomayor or they say they are fat which is the latest hee-haw over the appointee for Surgeon General Regina Benjamin who is by any accounts one of the most qualified people to be nominated for surgeon general. Given specifically the location that she has worked in and her personal and professional would make an amazing surgeon general and would definitely understand some of our most disenfranchised in need of healthcare and health advice.
So, naturally after her pic was posted multiple forums around the country have decried her body mass index as though this is somehow an indication of her lack of health and I think what is really sad about it is not necessarily that we have a superficial culture and we have a superficial online culture people say what they say, but there are news anchors that have also joined in on this..and they think that because she is overweight this disqualifies her for SG. Assuming that she is fat.
1. They have never met the woman, they have no idea.
2. Weight is something that is very subjective to a person. Alot of misinformation is out about what is considered obese, what is not considered obese and a lot of it is fat-hating and fat-shaming and it is to keep women complacent in hating their bodies and therefore not feeling good about themselves and not interacting with the world in effective ways. It is a means of social control and it is a means of emotional and psychological control that has wreaked havoc and terror on women across the country. So calling her fat is just an extension of this same sexist trajectory.
3. Finally, she is obviously extremely qualified and it is interesting because if she was a man no one would think to say she is fat because it is only women that are judged by what they look like and whether that is going to determine whether they are qualified to do the job, as opposed to men that are just evaluated in whether they can do the job.
So fuck you to everyone that has been fat-hating all week long on Regina Benjamin. She is awesome and I can’t wait to have her as part of this administration.

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118 Comments

  1. Brandi
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Why is there the assumption here that someone who disagrees with a particular post always is a troll? Aleks posts in the comments section frequently and provides thoughtful points. Yet he challenges something clearly wrong that you said, and you call him a troll and issue a passive-aggressive threat to ban him. That’s really unprofessional.

  2. dan&danica
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I really don’t get the comparisons to Koop as far as the discussion of weight goes. No blogs back then, no fat shaming obsession to the degree we have now. Of course people didnt talk about Koop as much. There werent 5 24-hour cable news networks and 5000 blogs to go over it with. If I remember right I think there some jokes made about his weight back then but all the late night jokes have kind of blended together in my mind. Anyone nowadays who was put up for the SG post would get a lot of static if they were “overweight”. Of course a woman would and is getting it worse than a man would but it would happen in any case. Seems to be some weird new sport we’ve all picked up on. When do the fat-shaming playoffs begin then?

  3. Abby B.
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    So every Surgeon General before now was a clean living non-smoking teetotaler, right? Because apparently, according to everyone I’ve been hearing, the only way to be a spokesperson for public health is by being a paragon of health yourself. The Surgeon General doesn’t actually speak, or use her or his experience as a doctor, or anything of that nature, she or he just stands up on a stage and shines a beacon of healthiness down upon the masses.
    (Also, not to derail, but I’m not going to reply to the many people on the thread I’d like to address, as they are apparently in the midst of conversations already, but a) I’m glad you’re voicing your concerns, and glad you feel comfortable saying them, but b) there is a method to constructive criticism, and it’s not being successful here. Instead of actually articulating your points (which, as far as I can tell, amount to taking issue with the amount of hyperbole used) your comments read like an attack. I don’t care if they aren’t actually an attack, because they read like attacks to me, and however upsetting I find it to read them on a site which is supposed to be a supportive community, I can only imagine how Samhita feels.)

  4. LalaReina
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    This guy came into a feminist forum on a discussion about women and societal body issues and made it all about how he as a man is mistreated. Amazing.

  5. irene
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    This is not so much a comment on this particular video, but I’m not sure where to ask this question: I am hoping that someone can help direct me towards some articles or books or blogs to read which more directly focus on this issue – fat hating or fat shaming. I am trying to discuss this issue with a guy i’m dating who just thinks there’s no excuse for people to be lazy enough to be fat and it’s such an innate quality in me not to judge anyone like that, that i didn’t even know where to begin. so if anyone could recommend some basic readings on these subjects, like 101 beginners so i can formulate some discussion points for him, I’d really really appreciate it.
    so sorry if this was not the place to ask for that or if i’m going off topic – i just need some guidance here.

  6. SarahMC
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  7. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    “Yet if I were a conservative, I could discredit this site pretty easily with those types of errors.”
    Exactly. Small stupid holes in an argument can destroy that argument if they are not mended quickly. Samhita has a lot of good things to say, she just needs to make sure she doesn’t throw random untrue statements into her stuff. It causes problems like this.

  8. insomniac
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I think it is interesting that out of everything Samhita said, the only thing you thought worthy of comment was a hyperbole. I also think it is very much a derail. At least if you had commented on the issue at hand, I would have felt that you were concerned about feminist issues. But all you seem to have zeroed in upon was that one sentence!
    I think there is a much higher expectation for women to conform to societal standards of attractiveness. Women are supposed to wear cosmetics to look professional. I don’t think the same applies to men, at least in most areas like medicine or governance.

  9. Ariel
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    When someone implies an action, the doer of said action takes on the same name. When you imply someone is teaching, would it not makes sense that you are calling him or her a teacher? Come on! Why must everything be spelled out? Aleks implied she was male-bashing so that implication can also extend to Samhita being a male-basher.
    And yes it was derailing because it was not talking about anything else in the video which is about fat-hating. These things are obvious and I shouldn’t be explaining them to you.

  10. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    This is sort of a FYI in ‘how to make a good presentation’. I took a technical communication class at school and I can already hear what the instructors would say about the way you presented yourself in this video. I say this because I want your videos to be the best they can be and I often see women(and men) make these mistakes when doing a presentation. Disclaimer-the presentations I did were for public speaking, but I am sure many of the same rules apply to video presentations.
    1-Watch your ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’. Verbal fillers do have a time and a place. They fill short pauses and help with consistent flow in the dialogue. However they are often overused and can make the speaker seem unsure and unconfident. (This was a killer for me when I took that class. I watched one of my recorded power point presentations and the ‘um’ tally was ridiculously high. I was not even aware I was doing it.)
    2-Rising Inflections. When used at the end of a sentence it makes everything said sound like a half question. This again makes the speaker seem unconfident. Also a twist on the rising inflection is what I can only call the ‘vally girl’. It is a certain tone combined with the rising inflection that makes the speaker sound like a ditzy teenage girl. ( I have spent years trying to banish this from my speach so I am highly aware of it in others.)
    3-Eye contact. Infrequent eye contact makes the speaker, again, seem unconfident. This does not mean you should bore a hole through the listener with your eyes. We all know how creepy it is to talk to someone who just stares. However occasionally looking away, but then quickly reestablishing eye contact makes the presentation seem more natural. I noticed that you spent as much time looking into the camera as you did away. This was very distracting for me.
    4-Correct information. Speakers who make false statements can be ripped apart by their audience. (Note to feministing readers-Engineering students are viscious)There was that one slip of the tongue that I won’t bother going into detail about. It has already been discussed at length.
    I don’t want to make this all negative. The good.
    1-Pace. Nice and even. Appropriate pauses, but no long awkward pauses.
    2-Enunciation and pronunciation. You speak clearly and correctly.
    3-Intelligence. You are obviously a very intelligent woman.
    4-Conviction. You strongly believe in what you are saying.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    To the menz:
    - no, this isn’t about you. Nothing, repeat nothing, on this site is about your life and situation, unless it’s about how the patriarchy brings us down (i.e., what men and their hired minions do to make us miserable). This site is about *women* and what *we* go through, not you. Get over it. Move on.
    - Dr. Benjamin doesn’t look close to a medical definition of obesity. She may be larger than a size six model but that doesn’t make her recklessly unhealthy, not by a long shot. Studies show some extra weight can actually prevent heart disease. Even if she were obese, *morbid* obesity may be a risk factor in certain illnesses, but so are a ton of genetic conditions, like diabetes. Would you deny a diabetic a health-related job?

  12. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Note: I don’t want people to accuse me of being patronizing. I simply saw some very common mistakes with visual presentations in the video and I thought my tips would be helpful. This is constructive criticism.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    To the menz:
    - no, this isn’t about you. Nothing, repeat nothing, on this site is about your life and situation, unless it’s about how the patriarchy brings us down (i.e., what men and their hired minions do to make us miserable). This site is about *women* and what *we* go through, not you. Get over it. Move on. Or more appropriately: go to a men’s website where you can discuss men’s lives. This isn’t it. Surprise!
    - Dr. Benjamin doesn’t look close to a medical definition of obesity. She may be larger than a size six model but that doesn’t make her recklessly unhealthy, not by a long shot. Studies show some extra weight can actually prevent heart disease. Even if she were obese, *morbid* obesity may be a risk factor in certain illnesses, but so are a ton of genetic conditions, like diabetes. Would you deny a diabetic a health-related job?

  14. Kathleen6674
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Kate Harding has a book out now, too :)

  15. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Yes, aleks obviously implied she was a male-basher with that “weird male-bashing” remark. I was not arguing with you there. I was critiquing you for your use of male-hater. Future note: please repond to the criticism you actually receive and don’t restate a moot point. That seems to be a common problem on this site and it is endlessly annoying. Now, aleks did not say “male-hater” anywhere. In fact the only place I see the word hatred is when someone else (YOU) misquotes him. In one comment he said, “…ignorance and contempt for men.” The next commenter (YOU) changed that to, “…contempt and hatred of men.” Why did you feel the need to misrepresent his argument by changing ignorance to hatred. Ignorance is not an insult, it is simply means a lack of knowlege. Okay, I take that back. Ignornace can be an insult, but it is nothing when compared to Hatred. Hatred is an ugly word and should not be thrown around carelessly. You could imply that by saying “weird male-bashing” he also meant male-hating. You could imply that sure. But it is not terribly honest and makes for poor argument.
    I asked you before. “Why are you implying that he “derailed” the comments because he is a fat-hater?”
    Again, you didn’t exactly answer my question. You said ,”And yes it was derailing because it was not talking about anything else in the video which is about fat-hating.” Okay you think he is derailing because he is not talking about the main content of the video but a single factual error within that video. I disagree about it being derailing, but I can understand your reasoning. You still did not answer my question. I was asking about the fat-hater part. You have once again implied some disgusting behavior on his part-fat hating-because he won’t give up on the now infamous ‘male-bashing comment’. Despite the fact that he has written repeated about how he agrees with everything Samhita said in her video except her one INCORRECT remark about men. IMO I think he just wants an apology, and honestly so do I.
    You then said to me, “These things are obvious and I shouldn’t be explaining them to you.” I feel the same way about you. Take an argumentative writing class and learn a few things.

  16. Ariel
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Grow up.

  17. magi
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I think the problems is they’re both right. Dr. Benjamin is being unfairly treated because she is a woman. Her weight would be a non-issue if she were a man. Although it is something to keep in mind that the whole thing was brought up as a publicity stunt to advertise a less then stellar business. It is as simple as that, sadly.
    As for the other issue, since I do not wish to derail anything. I would, however, like see a separate discussion thread for it, because I think there is something interesting worth talking about.

  18. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Victory! Nothing to say except a childish dig at me. **Now excuse me while I do a silly little jig** ;)

  19. Mammal
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    No shit! What’s up with that nonsense?

  20. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Ooh. Good idea. Would it be possible to start another thread on the other issue? I know a lot of people want to focus on the fat hating of Dr. Benjamin but certain people, myself included, can’t get over the other issue and want to discuss it.

  21. Jessica
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    People focusing on Edwards hair was an attempt to feminize him – so…yeah.

  22. Jessica
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Is this comment for real? Is this whole bullshit critique for real? Sami is being a lot kinder than I ever would have been. People are tearing into her for a pretty innocuous comment. For people who have all the helpful “advice” on how to be super duper perfect, go get your own blog. Jesus.

  23. Jessica
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Sami has handled the “critique” perfectly. The first comment was a nasty-ass “stop making stuff up.” That’s not a critique, and we all know it.

  24. canary
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    She is 100% correct, if it was a supposed “over weight” man there would be no question about whether or not he qualifies for this position. Stop being naive, we live in a soceity were women are suspected to be attracitve and skinny, and if they’re not they have no place to be in the public spot light

  25. denelian
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    do us a favor.
    go and find instances of random Media Pundits talking about how “hawt” a white male politician is. find us examples of journalists bashing white male politicians fashion choices. find us examples of the media critiquing white male politicians weight.
    did you find *anything* like this, at all, aimed at male politicians? aimed at straight white men at all? there *might* be some critism of white straight men not making any effort on the appearance at all (along the lines of “didn’t he wear that exact same pair of ratty holey dirty jeans for the past three days?”), there *might* be some critism of white straight men taking effort with their appearance (“doesn’t he look “metrosexual” – i thought only gay men used hair gel!”)
    but i cannot think of a single fucking instance where a media representative said something along the lines “Look how overweight Senator X is! how unhealthy, he’s 20 pounds overweight, this *obviously* means he cannot do his job and is just a lazy, piggish slob”. i cannot think of a single fucking instance where a media representative has said “Look at this nominated Person X, look at how ill-fitted his suit is, look at how the color doesn’t really match his complexion, and look how it shows his ankles! this *proves* that he is unable to dress himself, which means he is incapable of doing the job of X that he has been nominated for! and possible also means that he is a gay man!” (as sooooo many people accused Hillary Clinton of being a closet lesbian because of how she dressed and did her hair)
    you will *NEVER* find and *entire* political column devoted to talking about how “hawt” or “fugly” a male politician is, never ever hear a fucking discussion on how a male politician (or nominated candidate) is overweight and is therefor not qualified for a position.
    in case you missed the point, women who want to work in the public sphere, as politicians, journalists, or in cabinet-type offices like Surgeon General are *FIRST* torn apart for their physical appearance – they have to conform to a certain type of beauty standard if they want even a bare chance of attaining the position without the media attempting a character assassination of them.
    men do *not* suffer through this. men do have to conform to certain standards of dress, but those standards are themselves not as repressive as the standards that women must work under.
    and acknowledging the fact that men who work in the public sphere do not go through the same shit, and/or comparing how men are treated to how women are treated, are NOT “attacks” on *MEN*. they are attacks on the PATRIARCHY. which needs to be attacked, dismanteled, destroyed.
    which, by the way, is not at all the same thing. hating the patriarchy is not the same thing as hating men. wanting to do away with patriarchy is not the same thing as wanting to do away with men.
    but men who feel that hating the patriarchy and wanting to get rid of the patriarchy are attacks on MEN need to examine their privilege. closely.

  26. puckalish
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Not really a victory, considering that “contempt” is a synonym of “hatefulness.” I can understand your responder not taking the time to check out the thesaurus for this one, but it’s kind of common sense. Using the words “contempt for men” and “male-bashing” makes it pretty clear that aleks was putting forward that Samhita is a man-hater. You could say, no, aleks was saying that Samhita is a male-basher and holds contempt for men, but that’s definitely putting too fine a point on it. Look up “contempt” in the MW11… it’s defined as “the act of despising.” Do you know what “despise” means? Come on…
    Contempt, in a thesaurus, has “hatefulness” listed as a “related word…” should I really go on?
    Albeit, sure, if you want to be a stickler about it, maybe it’s better to quote folks word-for-word, but in English, as it’s commonly used, it’s not out of this world to conflate the sentiment aleks expressed to be that Samhita hates men. It’s really not a stretch at all.
    And if that’s the entirety of your argument, well, I’d also agree that “Grow up” is a reasonable response.

  27. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    I know the troll term is being thrown around and I’m probably risking a short-term ban, but I think that that one sentence is important, especially considering that no one here is questioning the entire content of the video. We all agree that fat hate is wrong; we certainly all agree with the message that it should stop.
    However, there was a blanket statement made which doesn’t even imply that men aren’t judged on appearance. It’s a pretty important misstatement to point out, even if both you and Samhita disagree. It’s obviously important to a lot of people here that it be addressed.
    I’m in no way asking for YouTube perfection. Being on camera is very difficult, I’ve done it. But acknowledging when something may not have been said in the best way is actually something this community prides itself on through our commenting process. I’ve been called out many times for single sentences I’ve put and had to make corrections or clarifications.
    I don’t understand why this is different, or why his critique is less important.

  28. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    Sexist statements against anyone is a feminist issue.
    He also said he had nothing else to disagree with.

  29. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    And I would call it a critique because there was not this issue when we here were called “Pearl Clutchers” by an understandably frustrated and upset POC about 6 weeks ago. It inspired posts in the community (which I know does not necessarily reflect your views as editors) about silencing tactics and how to see “beyond the anger” and “to the argument.” The difference here is that this is an angry man talking about a blanket statement about his gender.
    Please advise.

  30. electrictoaster
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    “Engineering students are viscious”
    There are 2 ways to mentally correct this spelling error and I think my brain made the wrong one. xD

  31. insomniac
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    He didn’t say that in the first post, Gular. He only deigned to make that part of his post after Samhita agreed that men have pressures to look good too.
    Yes, sexism is a feminist issue. But don’t you see, this is a bit like what happens whenever trans issues are brought up or weight as a feminist issue is brought up. Some cisgendered or non-overweight person Always takes over the thread. That is what this seems like to me. Samhita is told to rehearse and polish her draft before doing the video, but it would have taken aleks a minute to think about the issue at hand and make a comment about it too.
    I don’t think aleks even did it consciously. I have seen his posts on other threads and agreed with some of them, but just like Samhita exaggerated a sentence that became sexist, I think aleks derailed a thread making it about the menz.

  32. insomniac
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    I don’t know Gular, I don’t think you can compare the anger of a POC with the anger of a man. The anger is coming from totally different places, imho.

  33. puckalish
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    People disagree all the time. When someone starts off by saying that the OP is “making stuff up,” it raises suspicion.
    When the OP then responds with a recognition of the commenter’s argument (that men are under social pressure to look a certain way) and the commenter bounces back with a charge that the OP is “male-bashing” and has displayed “ignorance and contempt for men,” it starts to stray into the realm of controversy for controversy’s sake… Taking what could be a valid critique and making it wholly overblown and inflammatory kind of rings of the textbook definition of “troll.”

  34. Dawn
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    Ok.
    It’s true that both men and women are judged on appearance. It is also true that young looking, attractive men have an advantage over older, not-so attractive men. So Aleks & co. you are correct.
    However, I think it’s also an issue of dominance, subject and object. (cis)Men are the dominant gender here in the United States: they make the rules, they make the most money, and own most of the property. Women, considered property to be consumed, must appear attractive; a woman’s success is based on her looks. The way in which men experience discrimination, while unfortunate, is not the same as women.
    In our society (within the U.S.) women’s value depends on her age, body shape, and race. Donald Trump is not a handsome man, but he still has value. When people talk about Trump, they respect him for his empire (for lack of better word). Yes, they make fun of his hair, but his looks have never kept him from being successful. He doesn’t have to change. On the other hand, Oprah Winfrey’s whole thing is about her appearance. If she looked less than fabulous, then she would undergo heavy criticism.
    Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jessica Simpson experienced harsh criticism from the media based on how they looked. They didn’t even gain that much weight (not at all!)Rarely does the media chase men for baby bumps or weight gain. Plus it doesn’t affect their careers. Look at John Travolta, Jim Belushi, and other large bodied actors. Travolta used to be thin and a dancer; he actually became more successful since his weight gain. Even better, look at porn. Ron Jeremy is still in porn with small, sexy women.
    So while American men struggle with the importance of their appearance, their suffering is nothing compared with women.
    Men have the privilege.
    So when Regina Benjamin gets attacked for her weight and there are allegations about her being unhealthy (something that wouldn’t come up as much if she were slender), there are several things at work, I think. She’s a black woman who is not young and thin. I’m a black woman who is overweight and all I hear about are how unhealthy big black women are. I carry the weight (no pun intended, well yes it was, lol) of this stereotype. Big. Unattractive. Unclean. Lazy. Always eating fatty foods. You should see how these women are depicted in reality shows on TV or in TV sitcoms and movies.
    When they received Regina Benjamin’s picture, some people may have thought, “Who is this big fat black woman to tell me about what’s healthy???”
    If she was a large white man (like Surgeon General Koop) the attacks would not have come so quickly, if at all.
    So my opinion is that the fat attacks are based in both gender and race.

  35. LalaReina
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t get the criticism of Samhita at all. I don’t think a “fuck you friday” commentary is some academic excercise, I see it as an editorial coming from the heart and the gut.

  36. Naught
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    The only reason this was more than the first comment and Samhita’s reply to it is that she never admitted that she said one incorrect thing in one line. The lame ban threats, accusations of trolling, and ad hominem attacks didn’t really help matters.
    And yeah, the first comment had a negative tone. Plenty of people have politely restated the same point. The fact that the first person to say it, said it rudely, doesn’t completely invalidate it.

  37. nikki#2
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    oh no I hate it when I do that! My bad.

  38. EndersGames
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Words matter. Language matters.
    We know that heavier men and women earn less income, but this effects women more. We know that physical attractiveness has a roughly equal effect on hiring rates for men and women. We know that both men and women reported feeling judged on their appearance/weight at work, but women report this more than men. We know that large percentages of men and women are dissatisfied with their weight, but that more women are dissatisfied. We know that men are ridiculed for not appearing strong or dominant, while women are ridiculed for appearing strong or dominant. We know that height has a roughly equal effect on the salary of men and women.
    Aleks was completely in the right in calling out the language used by Samhita. There is an important difference between saying “Women are often judged more harshly regarding their weight” and “Women are judged on their appearance and men are not”. Samhita’s choice of words brought focus on an issue deeply affecting the lives of many women but did so by using language that minimized and trivialized the problems faced by many men. This was unnecessary.
    I was disappointed in the knee-jerk reaction of editors. This entire thread could have been avoided if Samhita had simply responded “Oops, my bad, my words implied that I believed men face few pressures, I meant to say that women face more intense scrutiny of their weight/appearance”. Instead she denied every saying that men face no pressures and then went on to make excuses for her wording (I was tired! only one take!) as opposed to just admitting her wording had been a problem and vowing to be more thoughtful in her language choice.
    BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ ARGUMENT AGAINST ALEKS: Like the word “troll”, the “what about the menz “critique is overused. If Aleks had objected to Samhita saying that women are judged more harshly regarding their weight and then started a discussion on men, this would be both a derail and a “what about the menz” distraction. But Aleks objected to Samhita minimizing the issues faced by men rather than accurately describing them. This is objection is desirable, particularly on a site devoted to understanding how gender systems are formed and maintained and affect the behavior of women, the behavior of men, and the behavior of men and women towards each other. I understand that MRAs try to derail conversations with inappropriate insertions of the male experience, but that doesn’t justify sweeping the legitimate insertions and objections under the rug.
    WATCH YOUR TONE ARGUMENT AGAINST ALEKS: I would have phrased my objection to Samhita’s comment differently, probably in the dry academic speak used above. But emotional responses to a perceived slight can be valuable, they can be more likely to be heard. Aleks was clearly upset by the way Samhita minimized the issues faced by men, particularly because it was completely unnecessary to do so.

  39. EndersGames
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Words matter. Language matters.
    We know that heavier men and women earn less income, but this effects women more. We know that physical attractiveness has a roughly equal effect on hiring rates for men and women. We know that both men and women reported feeling judged on their appearance/weight at work, but women report this more than men. We know that large percentages of men and women are dissatisfied with their weight, but that more women are dissatisfied. We know that men are ridiculed for not appearing strong or dominant, while women are ridiculed for appearing strong or dominant. We know that height has a roughly equal effect on the salary of men and women.
    Aleks was completely in the right in calling out the language used by Samhita. There is an important difference between saying “Women are often judged more harshly regarding their weight” and “Women are judged on their appearance and men are not”. Samhita’s choice of words brought focus on an issue deeply affecting the lives of many women but did so by using language that minimized and trivialized the problems faced by many men. This was unnecessary.
    I was disappointed in the knee-jerk reaction of editors. This entire thread could have been avoided if Samhita had simply responded “Oops, my bad, my words implied that I believed men face few pressures, I meant to say that women face more intense scrutiny of their weight/appearance”. Instead she denied every saying that men face no pressures and then went on to make excuses for her wording (I was tired! only one take!) as opposed to just admitting her wording had been a problem and vowing to be more thoughtful in her language choice.
    BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ ARGUMENT AGAINST ALEKS: Like the word “troll”, the “what about the menz “critique is overused. If Aleks had objected to Samhita saying that women are judged more harshly regarding their weight and then started a discussion on men, this would be both a derail and a “what about the menz” distraction. But Aleks objected to Samhita minimizing the issues faced by men rather than accurately describing them. This is objection is desirable, particularly on a site devoted to understanding how gender systems are formed and maintained and affect the behavior of women, the behavior of men, and the behavior of men and women towards each other. I understand that MRAs try to derail conversations with inappropriate insertions of the male experience, but that doesn’t justify sweeping the legitimate insertions and objections under the rug.
    WATCH YOUR TONE ARGUMENT AGAINST ALEKS: I would have phrased my objection to Samhita’s comment differently, probably in the dry academic speak used above. But emotional responses to a perceived slight can be valuable, they can be more likely to be heard. Aleks was clearly upset by the way Samhita minimized the issues faced by men, particularly because it was completely unnecessary to do so.

  40. Naught
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Well said.

  41. EndersGames
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    But this largely misses the point of the objection made by Aleks.
    The argument is not that men’s body image issues are the same as women, or as pervasive on average.
    The argument is that the wording in the original post not only minimized men’s body image issues and appearance-related issues, but rendered them as non-existent. The wording you use here is similarly problematic: “So while American men struggle with the importance of their appearance, their SUFFERING IS NOTHING compared with women.” (emphasis mine).
    This is not only a false statement, it also raises the issue of which men you are talking about. Gay men report greater, the same, or fewer appearance related pressures than heterosexual women depending on what types of pressures you are talking about (e.g., lower eating disorder rates, similar body dissatisfaction levels, greater reports of feelings about their bodies having a negative impact on their sex life). Similarly, in some arenas, heterosexual men vs. heterosexual women’s dissatisfactions are a matter of degree as opposed to being qualitatively different.

  42. insomniac
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Actually, isn’t Samhita’s response to aleks exactly what you said?
    “I don’t think I am making stuff up and I would never deny that there are pressures on men to look a certain way.I am talking specifically about women in the public eye, how women look wrt to work and to politics. They are always judged by the public and news media for how they look. ”
    vs.
    “Oops, my bad, my words implied that I believed men face few pressures, I meant to say that women face more intense scrutiny of their weight/appearance”.
    I don’t see much difference in what she posted and what you suggested. She could have been more explicit and said that she had made an erroneous statement, but she did explain herself there. I don’t understand why that is ignored.

  43. EndersGames
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    So getting back to the main focus of this post…
    The focus on her weight is absolutely ridiculous. Why can’t people get it through their heads that obesity does not cause health problems (unless you get to the very upper ranges)?
    What I would like to know is how this news coverage of her nomination is causing further prejudice against the obese. It is forcefully saying that weight should be a consideration when hiring a person for a job.
    It’s been a bad week of obesity related news focus. For example, and article celebrating the fact that a woman was able to lose enough weight in order to be eligible to adopt a child.
    http://www.gnn.com/article/woman-overcomes-obesity-to-adopt-child/583497?icid=main|htmlws-main|dl1|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gnn.com%2Farticle%2Fwoman-overcomes-obesity-to-adopt-child%2F583497
    And an article focusing on Serena Williams weight
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090720/zirin
    That is the height of insanity – she is a world champion athlete at the top of her game and people are still criticizing her weight. That deserves it’s own feminist fuck you.

  44. puckalish
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    yeah, insomniac, this is kind of what blows my mind. folks are continuing to derail and blast Samhita, suggesting that she say something almost identical to her first response in order to have a “valid” analysis in their eyes.
    mind you, after she responded with her statement that “I would never deny that there are pressures on men to look a certain way,” aleks went on to say she was “male-bashing” (which is fucking ridiculous even if you accept the specious argument that she was intentionally diminishing men’s appearance issues) and displayed “ignorance and contempt for men.”
    i am just kind of blown away by the level of discussion on here right now… that folks give a great deal of weight to shaky and intentionally flame-fanning arguments such as aleks’s (that Samhita is “male-bashing” and holds men in “contempt”) while completely ignoring Samhita’s actual statements… made most crystal-clear by a couple of posters (ie, EndersGame) suggesting Samhita say just about exactly what she said in her first response.
    i mean, don’t y’all feel at least a little ashamed? if not, please point where aleks is right that Samhita is bashing men or holds men in contempt… ‘cos i’m just amazed – amazed – that y’all want to pick nits about Samhita’s phrasing, but let aleks’s ridiculous assertions go unchecked.
    finally, Samhita never said that men aren’t judged based on their appearance. she did say that only women have their competence judged based on their appearance. in her first comment (before any of y’all started posting, except for aleks), she softened even this perspective. so, um…
    and, insomniac, i think i do kind of understand why these cats are so selective in what statements they recognize… but i think it’s too big a can of worms to open up right now.

  45. EndersGames
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you – her first response could be intrepreted as implicitly acknowledging that face appearance scrutiny, or interpreted as her failing address the fact that she had made a poor choice of words and framing in her video.
    I think Aleks 3rd response was potentially antagonistic because of the not so subtle insinuation of dark anti-male sentiments swelling in Samhita’s heart, but I don’t think Samhita dealt with the overall critique well with comments like
    >>
    and
    >>
    It was that series of comments denying/excusing her original problematic claim that motivated me to write this post rather than continue my habit of reading the posts and arguments rather than posting. After dismissing his/her concern raised in the first post, she then managed to pack a “watch your tone” and “what about the menz” into one sentence.

  46. Eurekamoment
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  47. Javalover
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    First off I agree Regina shouldn’t be disqualified from the job based on her weight. Having said that some other things you say in your video blog are not completely true. You mentioned Conservatives at the beginning of your blog attacking peoples characteristics. I’m sure they do, but most of Regina’s attackers seem to be mostly Democrats and people in special interest groups that want to put a stop to obesity. A stand in for the Bill O’Reilly show even interviewed a woman who was the spokesperson for one of these groups and actually defended Regina!!! I know that these special interest anti-fat groups would have bashed a fat male nominee just as much a female nominee.

  48. katie80andstuff
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Gee, then I sure can’t wait to read the blog you two Perfect Feminists (TM) put together in the time you have when you’re not working full time. Hopefully you will have kind readers who are tactful enough to fact check all posts and point out every error you make as well!

  49. LalaReina
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I think if a man came into this forum in GOOD FAITH they would come with knowledge and understanding as allies rather than as nitpicky victim wannabes.

  50. katie80andstuff
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Stop with the goddamned derails. Your concerns were addressed immediately by Samhita, who acknowledged that men also face some degree of pressure based on appearances. Your refusal to let it go is what makes it trolling.
    For the record: Feminism is about equality, yes, but seeing as how it is WOMEN who bear the brunt of oppression in a patriarchy, it is their concerns and issues that will be addressed and discussed first.

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