Article for Discussion

I saw this link on Twitter from Rachel over at The-F-Word.

The article is “Which is Worse These Days:  Being Called Fat or Whore?”

It seems almost impossible for people to talk about their food without invoking a larger meaning. I do not know anyone for whom food is simply sustenance. And perhaps it has always been this way; a cellular mechanism designed for survival in lean times. The colloquial term for this is food porn. And our infatuation with it is growing. If the proliferation of food blogs is any indication, then food has become the new sex and our obsession with regulating food, the new national religion.

Mary Eberstadt of the Stanford-based think tank the Hoover Institute, has noticed this change but in addition to the deifying of food she adds the secularization of that other great appetite: sex. In an interesting switch, food and sex have completely reversed their roles in society. And all within only a matter of two generations.

Think of it: what if humans were given access to limitless food and sex. The bottomless cup of hedonism, if you will. What does common sense dictate that we would do? Most would think we would become unrestrained in both areas, succumbing with equal glee to both gluttony and promiscuity. Yet for the first time in history we have a very large society in exactly this situation and the answer is not what anyone expected.

Eberstadt illustrates her point by using the example of Betty, a 1950’s housewife, and her contemporary granddaughter Jennifer summing up their attitudes by saying, “Betty thinks food is a matter of taste, whereas sex is governed by universal moral law; and Jennifer thinks exactly the reverse.”

The second link, the one in the block quote, goes to the full article talked about in the first link (and is written from a decidedly and unabashedly Western viewpoint, but also the author states she’s talking about more affluent Western nations).   She takes an arbitrary fictional example, but it’s not so far off from people I know (both people who grew up in or were adults in the 50’s and people who grew up in the 90’s are are adults today).

It makes interesting claims about the juxtaposition of the immorality of sex (pre-70’s) to the immorality of food (now).  While I don’t agree with everything that’s written, it’s definitely food for thought.

8 Responses

  1. Actually, to me personally, it doesn’t matter if I’m called either of those terms. I do happen to be fat and I’ve claimed that term as a way of making it less stigmatizing for other people (the more it’s used as a factual descriptor, the less stigma it has). As far as being called a whore, I’ve been called worse things in my life, so name-calling isn’t something to which I pay much attention any longer (other than to think the person calling names is probably an ignorant ass). It used to hurt to be called nasty names, but I learned that once I considered the source, it lost the power to hurt me and I can ignore it (and I’ve been told I don’t have a “conventional” morality, that I’m a moral person by my own standards, not necessarily by society’s standards, and that isn’t a bad thing). So for me to say that food or sex (or anything else) is immoral, well, that’s not something I’m going to do and I’m not going to accept that kind of judgment from the people in my life (and if they don’t agree with me, fine, but keep your opinions to yourself and I’ll keep mine to myself).

  2. Very interesting post. What a change in just a couple generations.

  3. I’ve been called both, at different times and at the same time.

    My usual response to one of these is, “If I were a whore, I’d be bringing in a lot more money.”

    I’m still trying to reframe ‘fat’ as a mere descriptive term. “I am fat, and I also have green eyes. You’re point?” Repeat as needed.

    I do think that the moral polarization of food (and exercise) is one of the worst willfully ignorant constructs of the 20th Century. And while I don’t mind the deregulation of sexual behavior, I kind of liked it better when it wasn’t so blatantly displayed. Dunno if that makes me a prude—I think it just marks me as the mother of two young daughters . . .

    • I’m still trying to reframe ‘fat’ as a mere descriptive term. “I am fat, and I also have green eyes. Your point?” Repeat as needed.

      Depending on the situation, I still like the “Yeah, so? I’m fat, but you’re an asshole,” response. Because, usually the people making the “you’re fat” statement in a derogatory way are assholes.

  4. Your point, not You’re point.

    Sorry—another reasoned argument destroyed by grammarfail . . . :^P

  5. I’ve been called both. On the internet. By the same person. Who is a perfect stranger.

    I happen not to be fat. Nor am I promiscuous.

    And it stung. I think a large part of it is that it’s still not accepted in our culture for women to be either fat or overtly sexual. I think a larger part is that I personally feel as though I should be able to control how information about me is presented and disseminated. I want to be able to present myself accurately and I have trouble not taking it personally when I’m misrepresented, especially with a malicious purpose.

    Of course, he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew it was going to hurt me to talk negatively about my sexuality. He knew it was going to hurt to refer to me as fat. He did it with the intention of demeaning and demoralizing me.

    • One of the problems I’ve found, especially on the internet, is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t feeling.

      If you respond in the negative to somebody saying “you are fat and ugly and your mother dresses you funny”, the response is usually “Methinks she doth protest too much!” Yet if you don’t respond, and don’t give them the attention they are craving (because they know or at least are hoping they are pressing buttons) they’ll then say it MUST be true because you aren’t even bothering to deny it.

      It’s hard to let things like that go, because of course you want to be represented correctly.

      The way I’ve come up with is to say once whatever the facts are, and then refuse to respond any more after that. That way, I get my side out, and people can believe what they want.

      It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s what I try to do. 🙂

      • I just want to add that I think the internet tends to breed assholery in the worst kind of way to begin with. In my experience when you then say “hey, knock it the fuck off” or “hey, that was a low blow” about ANYTHING, be it your opinion on the moon or your catnip loving lizards or your fat ass it automatically becomes all about your “feewings” which of course to any troll invalidates your argument. Nevermind that pointing out that someone is being an asshole is a perfectly rational and reasonable thing to do.

        This is also why I tend not to frequent forums where this sort of douchebaggery is acceptable. My recent delves into feminism and FA and my work on my self esteem have not been enough for me to feel ready to fork over the hard won and still somewhat fragile bits of self-worth I’ve discovered in myself and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some douchehound skip over all that in order to make me feel like crap.

        Anyway, to the article, this goes along with a lot of what I’ve been hearing people say about supposed “health” as the new religion and food purity as the new sexual purity which I fully agree with. I think today it’s still in a lot of ways worse to be called a whore instead of fat, especially since in our oversexualized culture we tend to assume that everyone’s having sex by default so to be called a whore you MUST REALLY BE A TOTAL SLUTBAG. Which is of course ridiculous (not to mention an argument completely based on subjectivity). However, when I was younger I often felt that I would have gladly forked over my virginity for supposed “whoredom” if it meant I could shed my extra pounds as well. So I’d agree that it definitely looks as though we’ve moved to “fat” being the worst derogatory term for a woman.

        It’s true you need to consider the source when getting called this bogus bullshit to begin with, but I’m also in the camp of saying there’s not a damn thing wrong with being hurt when someone’s being intentionally hurtful. It doesn’t make you weak or stupid or overly emotional or any combination of the above, it just makes you human. Trolls wouldn’t spew their hateful bile if it wasn’t meant to hurt. And there’s nothing wrong with calling them out on their bullshit either, however, oftentimes that does prove to be more trouble than it’s worth.

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