“No Fat Talk” Week: Cutting Fat Talk from Our Verbal Diets

Sarah Seltzer

"Fat Talk" is a ritual with a special prominence between women, in groups or pairs, and makes it more difficult to have a rational, emotion-free relationship with diet and exercise. And that's why we need to get rid of it.

Have you ever stood around a box of cupcakes
or donuts with a group of female colleagues, friends, or teammates and engaged
in an orgy of "I shouldn’t"s, "I’m terrible"s, and "I’m
never going to fit into that dress"
es? If you live in America, chances are
the answer is yes. "Fat talk," light but loaded chatter about bodies
and food, has become a constant presence in our diet-obsessed culture.

The pervasiveness of this collective verbal tic gave rise to last week’s
"Fat Talk Free Week" a tradition started by the Delta Delta Delta
sorority as an outgrowth of their national eating
disorder awareness program
. The group has produced a widely-circulating
video
as well as a promise form which participants can sign,
beginning with the words: "Today I promise to eliminate Fat Talk from conversations with my
friends, my family and myself." It’s a pleasant contrast to the kind of
endless, impossible pledges that dieters make: "this week, I’ll eliminate
all unnecessary calories, or desserts, or bread, or eating after 5pm."
Indeed, instead of axing certain foods, we should all take a cue from Triple
Delta’s pledge and go on psychological diets in which we get rid of critiquing
our own and others’ bodies, buying and reading diet-oriented magazines, and
paying attention to diet ads.

But to do this, we’d have to switch both not only our entire mentality but also
our everyday habits. Because the examples of "fat talk" on the endfattalk.org
site include the kinds of phrases most people, even die-hard feminists, hear,
or say, everyday without thinking:

  • "I’m so fat,"
  • "Do I look fat
    in this?",
  • "I need to lose 10 pounds,"
  • "She’s too fat to be
    wearing that swimsuit"
  •  Even "You look great! Have you lost
    weight?"


To these phrases I’d add anything that associates food and
dieting with morality or obligation:

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  • "I shouldn’t eat this"
  • "This cake is evil"
  • "Oatmeal is good, and an omelette is
    bad."

 

Or…saying "I have to skip lunch today after dinner last
night." And fat talk is spreading by the same means as the movement
against it: Commenters on the internet have complained about fat talk
proliferating in cyberspace, on Facebook and Twitter in the form of constant
status messages from friends reporting on their weight-loss regimens.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the ritual has a special prominence between
women, in groups or pairs. It’s often a way of bonding at first glance
–"You hate your thighs?" "So do I!" But under the surface,
it often serves the purpose of reinforcing divisions and sometimes even a
pecking order among women. Oftentimes a woman complaining about her size around
her peers will only unleash their insecurities, and some women may even enjoy
that sense of control. When women announce that they hate their body types in
front of other women with the same body types, or shower others with praise for
being "thin," telling them they’re lucky or good solely based on their
genetic structure, it creates a dynamic of inclusion and exclusion that can
trigger eating disorders, or at the least, misery.

And in a culture obsessed with food indulgence and restriction as a sort of
constant sin and redemption parable, fat talk makes it more difficult to have a
rational, emotion-free relationship with diet and exercise–and that’s the kind
of relationship we need to be healthy. The irony is that by ridding ourselves
of the fat-talk mentality we’d actually find it easier to make choices, to
borrow a phrase from Courtney Martin
, that are based on our
authentic needs and cravings, rather than what we feel we should be doing. And if we listened to and valued our bodies’
needs, rather than our society’s demands, we’d likely treat our physical selves
more gently–less mindless eating and skipping meals, less obsessiveness and
guilt, and more normalcy.

But stopping fat talk is easier said than done, even for women enlightened to
its negative consequences. It’s hard to quit because it’s such a common,
knee-jerk instinct and because, as studies have shown, it feels
mandatory and expected in social situations
. As Jill Filipovic wrote at feministe:

I hate “fat
talk.” It makes me uncomfortable when other women do it…And yet I’m the
absolute worst when it comes to fat talk.

The
external pressure and the unthinking habit of fat talk create a ubiquitous and
poisonous atmosphere for women who would like to stop being in a constant state
of angst about their bodies. So the conscious group mentality of "End Fat
Talk Week" is an excellent way to start changing attitudes.

But even after the week is over, it’s not impossible to
keep the momentum going. Feminist critique of beauty and body-image norms, as Amanda Marcotte does here, and the language
and logic of the Fat Acceptance movement are a great avenue with which to
continue excising unhealthy ideas from one’s life. Feminists and FA advocates
describe making "peace" with their bodies, which is an incredibly
attractive phrase, and advocate cutting off sources of unhealthy anxiety like
women’s magazines and commercial diets.  Another, less ideological way to
move beyond the fat-talk mentality is to look around you and target someone in
your life who appears to be comfortable with his or her body, who enjoys food
without agonizing over calories, who never comments about weight as a
reflection of character, and who participates in physical activity for its own
sake, and pattern yourself after him or her.

At the amazing FA blog shapely prose, there’s a
200+ comment thread about the best ways to cope with fat talk, both your own
and more particularly in social situations. Some of the suggestions included
responding to those who label food "bad" with "it’s pizza, not
genocide"; saying "I hope not!" when someone says "you’ve
lost weight"; or asking bragging dieters "how are you feeling
otherwise?" to change the topic of conversation. Regardless of whether its
done with a snappy comeback, silent reflection, or a theory-laden lecture,
stopping fat talk in its tracks is one of the best ways to fight back against
our culture’s unhealthy norms for women’s bodies.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Victim Blames, Clinton Talks Subminimum Wage

Ally Boguhn

A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday found that 74 percent of registered women voters said they viewed Donald Trump “unfavorably.”

Donald Trump this week continued to defend his campaign manager after he was charged with simple battery against a reporter, and Hillary Clinton took on the subminimum wage.

“She Made Up This Story”: Trump Ignores Video Evidence to Defend Campaign Manager Against Battery Charges

Trump refused to back down from his defense of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after Lewandowski was charged with simple battery for allegedly forcefully grabbing and bruising a former Breitbart reporter at a campaign event.

Police in Jupiter, Florida charged Lewandoski Tuesday after reporter Michelle Fields on March 8 complained that he grabbed her by the arm, threw her off balance, and left bruises. Fields was attempting to ask Trump a question when she felt someone “yank her left arm,” according to the arrest report

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Fields later showed an officer “her left forearm, which revealed bruising from what appeared to be several finger marks indicating a grabbing type injury.”

In the weeks since the incident, Trump and Lewandowski have attempted to discredit Fields, calling her “delusional” and flatly denying an altercation ever occurred, though the Washington Post’s Ben Terris corroborated her account.

Video evidence of the incident appears to corroborate Fields’ account. Nonetheless, during an interview Wednesday on NBC’s Today Show, Trump claimed that Fields “made up this story.” He suggested she had provoked the incident. “She grabbed me by the arm, I didn’t even know who it was. But she went through Secret Service because they were surrounding me and we were walking out. And by the way she was asking me questions she wasn’t supposed to because the press conference had ended.”

Trump suggested he should press charges against Fields for what happened.

The GOP frontrunner cast doubts on Fields’ story, according to NPR, saying, “Wouldn’t you think she would have yelled out a scream if she had bruises on her arm?”

“What Donald Trump is doing fits the very definition of victim blaming, and it is not only unacceptable, it is actively dangerous,” Nita Chaudhary, cofounder of advocacy group UltraViolet, told the New York Times. “They are belittling Michelle Fields’s [sic] claim despite overwhelming evidence.”

“Comments like this essentially perpetuate violence against women,” Chaudhary added.

Trump’s campaign has been plagued by controversy over his treatment of women—and it could cost him votes. A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday found that 74 percent of registered women voters polled said they viewed Trump “unfavorably.”

Trump has been harshly criticized for lobbing sexist remarks at Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly throughout the campaign season, accusing her of being a “lightweight” with “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” after she questioned his disparaging comments about women during an August debate.

This rhetoric led the Our Principles PAC, a super PAC formed by former Mitt Romney staffer Katie Packer, to create an ad highlighting direct quotes the candidate has made, including using terms directed at women like “bimbo” and “fat pig.”

Clinton Speaks Out Against Subminimum Wage

Clinton condemned “legal loopholes” that allow employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage during a Monday campaign stop in Madison, Wisconsin.

“When it comes to jobs, we’ve got to figure out how we get the minimum wage up and include people with disabilities in the minimum wage,” Clinton said in response to a question from an audience member about the candidate’s plan to address rights and job opportunities for disabled workers.

“There should not be a tiered wage, and right now there is a tiered wage when it comes to facilities that do provide opportunities but not at a self-sufficient wage that enables people to gain a degree of independence as far as they can go,” Clinton continued. “When people talk about raising the minimum wage, they don’t always talk about the legal loopholes that we have in it and I want to get rid of those and I want to get rid of that for people with disabilities too.”

Some employers are able to pay those with “a physical or mental disability” less than the minimum wage, or the subminimum wage under the Federal Labor Standard Act (FLSA). According to the Department of Labor, “Employment at less than the minimum wage is designed to prevent the loss of employment opportunities for these individuals.”

Disability rights advocates say that the policy has led to the exploitation of many of these workers.

Ari Ne’eman, co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, told the Huffington Post that Clinton’s comments were “game changing” for the issue. “To see a major presidential candidate take a stance on this is a very significant step,” Ne’eman said.

What Else We’re Reading

Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during a town hall event that women who receive abortion care should face “some form of punishment” if the procedure is outlawed, then backtracked amid criticism. But as Irin Carmon wrote for MSNBC, “Women are already being prosecuted for having abortions” in the United States.

Trump’s comments on punishing women who have abortions shines an “accidental spotlight on one of the most inconvenient truths of the Republican platform,” explained Jessica Valenti for the Guardian.

“I wear that as a badge of pride. I’m not going to apologize to anyone,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in response to criticism of his calls to “patrol and secure” U.S. Muslim communities.

Politico’s Rachana Pradhan and Paul Demko ask where Cruz’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is. 

The Iowa Supreme Court will decide whether the state will restore voting rights to more than 20,000 ex-felons in the state.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: New Lies From Fiorina, Trump’s Wife Is ‘Into’ Women’s Health

Emily Crockett

The biggest campaign news on reproductive rights this week continued to be Carly Fiorina, who doubled down on the biggest lie she has told so far.

The biggest campaign news on reproductive rights this week continued to be Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina Repeated Her Biggest Lie of All 

Last week, we went over how Fiorina has doubled and tripled down on her description of a nonexistent scene from one of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos attacking Planned Parenthood.

“Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” Fiorina said at the second GOP debate.

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This week on NBC’s Meet the Press, Fiorina defended the part of her description that was the least factually defensible.

“That scene absolutely does exist, and that voice saying what I said they were saying—‘We’re gonna keep it alive to harvest its brain’—exists as well,” Fiorina said.

This is categorically untrue. There is no voice, or any other source or quote, saying anything of the kind in the videos created and released by CMP, a front group that has worked closely with Republican legislators.

One conservative media report claimed that Planned Parenthood’s “media allies” are lying, and that the video Fiorina referenced does in fact exist.

The truth is that while there is a CMP video that Fiorina seems to be referring to, she is describing a scene in it that does not exist—namely, the made-up scene in which somebody says a fetus has to be kept alive to harvest its brain.

It’s true that the video contains a stock image of a “kicking” fetus that appears to have a pulse. It also contains a first-person narrative, with no video to back it up, of harvesting a fetal brain. But the rest is fiction. Fiorina’s description makes it sound like someone from CMP captured undercover video of Planned Parenthood doctors dissecting a still-living fetus, and intentionally kept it alive for organ harvesting. The image is as barbaric as it is fictional.

What’s more, the full video of the “kicking” fetus was released this week. It comes from an anti-choice image library, and it’s almost certainly not an abortion, according to medical experts. It was probably filmed illegally, and possibly not even in America or in the past decade.

Either way, it wasn’t taken by CMP, and there’s no evidence that it was taken at a Planned Parenthood facility.

A person could have watched CMP’s misleading video and mistakenly assumed that the footage was taken at Planned Parenthood, so Fiorina could perhaps be forgiven for the first half of her quote. But the same simply cannot be said for the “keep it alive” part of her quote, which has no basis in fact and which Fiorina is repeating as true regardless.

…and Another Lie for Good Measure 

As if that weren’t enough, Fiorina seems to have made misleading statements about whether Planned Parenthood has denied allegations of illegal activity.

“Why is it Planned Parenthood cannot and will not deny late-term abortions are being performed for the purposes of obtaining brains and other body parts?” she said Friday at a town hall in South Carolina. “Because it’s happening. It’s happening.”

On Fox News Wednesday, Fiorina said: “Up until this point in time, not only am I not lying, but Planned Parenthood has not, will not, cannot deny that this is happening because it is.”

As it happens, Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest made a similar-sounding claim at a recent House hearing. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly and categorically said that the claims in the CMP videos aren’t true.

Just in case that wasn’t clear, Planned Parenthood Action Fund Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens sent Fiorina a letter on Friday:

Several times this week, you have claimed that Planned Parenthood has not denied your baseless, outrageous, and totally false claims about “harvesting” body parts of fetuses for sale. Wednesday night, you said that Planned Parenthood “has not, will not, and cannot deny that this is happening, because it is.”

This statement is completely false.

Planned Parenthood has been clear and unequivocal that these claims are untrue. In fact, we have, can, and will continue to say that this is untrue – and have said so to you directly. In letters to you over the past two weeks and in public statements for the last months, we have said that these claims are false, but you continue to say otherwise.

In other news…

Trump Says His Wife Is Into “Women’s Health Issues”

Trump’s daughter Ivanka has been seen more often on the campaign trail than his wife, Melania, and the media has taken notice. Responding to a question about whether his fourth wife would be seen more often, Donald Trump said he thought she “very much” would.

He added: “She’s very much into the whole women’s health issues.”

It’s not clear what Trump meant by that—whether or not Melania supports reproductive rights, and how her interest in the issue might be used to help sway mostly anti-choice Republican voters.

Trump has been criticized by the Republican establishment for having held pro-choice views, and he recently acknowledged that Planned Parenthood has “positive” sides to its work. But it hasn’t seemed to hurt him so far.

Cruz Is Getting Ignored by Republican Leadership

Ted Cruz has made his outspoken, virulent criticism of Planned Parenthood, and of Republican leadership, a central part of his 2016 campaign appeal.

But in the Senate, Burgess Everett reports at Politico, Cruz’s Republican colleagues are getting tired of his game. They denied him several routine procedural chances to rock the boat on a vote to fund both the government and Planned Parenthood.

“Republicans have grown tired of Cruz pushing proposals that he knows McConnell and other Republicans will never back, like defunding Planned Parenthood in a spending bill, then criticizing McConnell for not taking up the plan even as he uses the fight to bolster his presidential campaign as Washington’s consummate outsider,” Everett writes.

Rubio: Republican Establishment “Never Even Tried” to Win Planned Parenthood Debate

Marco Rubio told NPR this week that the Republican Party “never even tried” to “make the case to the American people over a sustained period of time” that Planned Parenthood needed to be defunded.

“They didn’t think they could win the public debate, and so they never even tried,” Rubio said. “If [Obama] ultimately vetoes it, if ultimately we don’t have the votes, that’s one thing. But to basically wave the white flag weeks in advance…that is inexplicable.”

Given that Rubio said in the same interview that he didn’t prefer to see the government shut down over the issue, it’s unclear what would have satisfied him.

Both the House and Senate took multiple votes on defunding the organization. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) both oppose Planned Parenthood, but didn’t want to seek a government shutdown precisely because they knew they didn’t have the votes and that Obama would veto it.

Meanwhile, right-wing media skewered Rubio for not showing up to vote against the Senate’s continuing resolution to fund both the government and Planned Parenthood.