Mandolin pointed this out to me: Rachel Moss, who attended Wiscon this weekend, posted a mean-spirited con report on the Something Awful forums. Moss’ con report consisted of photos of fat, female attendees, their faces covered by crude frowny-faces that Moss had drawn in, and text mocking the attendees.1
Moss has since posted an apology on her livejournal, and convinced the Something Awful administrators to remove her post. Rumor has it that Wiscon is considering banning Moss from attending future Wiscons. (Wiscon is an exceptionally fat-friendly convention.)
Although Moss’ post is no longer on Something Awful, the first half of her post was posted without her permission on “The Something Awful Sycophant Squad” forums – don’t click that link if you’re easily triggered by fat mocking. It’s not just Moss’ original post that’s bad; the people at the SASS forum searched flckr for more photos of female Wiscon attendees to make fun of. It goes on for four pages (and growing?).
Three things I take away from this:
1) It’s all about keeping deviant bodies in line.
Although the primary focus of Moss’ post is anti-fat bigotry, she seamlessly transitions into anti-trans bigotry, writing about a trans speaker on a panel:
“He” is a non-op transgendered person…a person who looks like a woman, talks like a woman, likes men, but says that I AM A MALE AND YOU WILL REFER TO ME AS SUCH. It’d be easier if he/she just drew on a beard or something. Geez. Try harder. [...] The transgendered she-he says that she-he brightens her day by walking through the park, sticking her-his fingers into flowers to use to pollinate other flowers that she-he likes.
Then, later in the SASS thread, the SASS posters mock photos of a disabled Wiscon attendee.
Why do these things go so smoothly together, like peanut butter and chocolate in a Reese’s commercial? I think that anti-fat bigotry, anti-trans bigotry, and ablism overlap in that all three bigotries are a sort of body fascism. Those who have what society considers the “default body” — by being thin, by being ablebodied, or by being born with genitals that match one’s gender identity — are considered superior to those without the default body, and have the right to mock inferior people with non-default bodies.
And, of course, men also have the “default body,” and women do not. So it’s not surprising that the anti-fat, anti-trans, anti-disabled bigotry in the SASS thread is also shot through and through with misogyny.
2) The anti-fat, anti-trans fairy strikes!
I was upset about completely different things which were completely unrelated, and my expression of that was DISGUSTING.
I find Moss’ formulation odd, because she views her post as an expression of “completely different things which were completely unrelated.” I don’t doubt that she was upset about unrelated events, but what she posted was, in fact, an expression of sneering, ugly bigotry. No matter how heartfelt Moss’ apology, it isn’t worth much to me as a fat person, or as someone with trans friends, unless Moss acknowledges that what she did was anti-fat, anti-trans bigotry.
3) This kind of shit does real harm.
Speaking from my own experience,2 Moss’ kind of anti-fat bigotry does real harm.
A while back, Sadly, No! posted a photo of a right-wing science fiction writer tabling at a con, making fun of how fat he is. Like that right-winger, I table at conventions, and that Sadly, No! thread – and thousands of similar
lame clichéd jokes3 – have invaded my consciousness. Although I’d prefer not to, I know some people will sneer at me just for appearing in public. I feel I can’t wear casual t-shirts to cons (even though that’s what most of my friends wear), because fat people are so easily seen as “slobs.”4
This is an additional barrier that fat people have to overcome. Some fat people sail blithely through it, and damn I envy those fatties. For some fat people, it’s a problem that keeps them from appearing in public, leading them to give up social contacts and important career networking. Most, like me, are somewhere between. Every time someone mocks fat people – and mocking the fat people at science fiction and comic book conventions is commonplace – it’s another data point telling fat people yeah, maybe they should stay home; yeah, they don’t dare dress like their friends because horrid, unruly fat bodies must be covered; yeah, it’s true, they are deviants. And it’s wrong.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this post,
Kate Moss has removed her apology and issued a statement of non-apology. She also released a “I’m not sorry” statement, but she’s now removed that, as well.
UPDATE 2: Tempest writes:
I was scrolling through the thread and looking at the pictures and, instead of being ashamed that I associate myself with such people (horrors!), I couldn’t help but think of how beautiful all those images are. They are pictures of beautiful women of all sizes smiling, having fun, loving where they are and what they’re doing. These are the poeple I go to WisCon to be around. And nothing those half-brained monkeys on that forum say can make me feel any different. You wanna call me out as a fat loser? You go right ahead. But it’s plainly evident that I not only have more class than you, I also have a better life and better friends. All the evidence I need to support that statement is my lack of time spent on the internet trolling for pictures of people I don’t know in order to make fun of them for arbitrary reasons.
Lesley at Fatshionista responds beautifully. Here’s a sample:
Take my picture, and post it online, in as many high-traffic spaces as you can muster. Identify me if you want. By name, by location, by employer. Surround that picture with vitriolic commentary about my body, my femininity or lack thereof, my perceived sexual habits, my self esteem. Laugh, and laugh, and laugh, that gut-rattling laughter of unmitigated cruelty, that laughter that comes from laughing at people who don’t know you’re laughing at them, who were going about their lives and made a target simply for not falling, unseen, unremarkably, into culturally acceptable slots – people who are targets simply for failing to be invisible. [...]
I am still fat, and I am still not sorry. And nothing you can say, nothing you can post, nothing you can do will change that. No matter how many times you try to humiliate me. No matter how much you want me to hate myself. Because it’s my fucking body. And I don’t owe you a damn thing.
And a wonderful response from “Purplefrog26,” who is one of the people whose picture Moss posted. It’s got a great photo of her, too.
And BadgerBag, whose photos appeared in the SASS thread, tries to find a way towards solidarity with Moss. Which I think is damned impressive of her to try — although Moss certainly isn’t making it easy.
- Although Moss obscured faces, she didn’t white out the people’s name badges. [↩]
- Although I’m fairly certain that many disabled and trans folks have similar stories to tell. [↩]
- See: “The Simpsons,” Comic Book Guy. [↩]
- Actually, I am a slob. But that’s not because I’m fat. Woody Allen once said something like “It’s true I’m a Jew. And it’s true I hate myself. But the two aren’t related.” [↩]