Fat-Shame, Get Fired

civil-debateAlan Linda was a columnist for a local paper.  Then he decided he would jump on the bandwagon of people who write fat-shaming pieces about sitting next to fat people on planes in his “humor” column. The paper apologized for having published the piece in the first place, and then they fired his fat-shaming ass.

Before 27 constitutional scholar trolls leave comments about “free speech,” let me remind you that “free speech” means that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.  It doesn’t mean that newspapers are required to publish harmful bigotry and bullying.  Nobody is guaranteed a platform for their speech, and nobody is guaranteed consequence-free speech.  So you can be a fatphobe, but if you wish to do it in writing, you may find yourself without a newspaper willing to help you get your message of weight-based oppression out to the masses.

In fact, we already acknowledge that there are constraints on free speech based on its effects, because if I yell “fire” in a crowded room where there is no fire, my speech can hurt people and I’m responsible for that. So too, articles that seek to perpetuate oppression are harmful,  so good for this paper for refusing to be used as a tool for oppression.

In terms of the ways that airlines and their passengers treat fat people, I’ve covered that here, here, and here, but the bottom line is that fat people deserve the same thing that everyone else already gets, which is transportation from one place to another in a seat that accommodates them.  If the fact that the airlines aren’t providing that inconveniences thinner people as well, then their problem is with the airline, not with the fat people (and tall people, and broad-shouldered people) who are not being offered the same service that the thinner people feel they deserve and should expect, but don’t think others should get.

The larger issue here is that bigotry and bullying – whether it’s in speech, or writing, or executive order – should not be tolerated.  The argument “I want to oppress you, and you don’t want to be oppressed. See we both have valid, differing opinions and we need to respect each other’s opinions” is bullshit.  “I like cherry ice cream and you don’t” are two valid differing opinions.  “I think that my rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and basic human respect are inalienable, but yours are debatable ” is just straight up oppression.

There is no way to have a civil debate about whether or not a group of people should be eradicated. There is no way to have a civil debate about whether we have the right to exist.  Nobody has the right to require fat people to debate them for our lives.

Key to this situation is that the author not only didn’t learn from it, or even attempt to offer an apology. Rather, “Asked to comment on his release, Linda e-mailed that he didn’t understand what the dispute was about.”

For their part, the paper did understand what it was about, and they released a statement to prove it:

Bullying others is not OK. Body shaming is not OK. Racist views are not OK. Homophobia is not OK. The list goes on, but you get the picture. Let’s debate the issues, not make personal attacks on people.

The Daily Journal is more than a newspaper. We are people — people who care about this community and we come in all shapes and sizes. Not one person here at the Daily Journal likes or agrees with body shaming. Ever.

It’s unfortunate that the paper published this in the first place (according to their statement the editor was out sick and the staff published it because it was a regular column, and they’ve taken steps to avoid this in the future) but I appreciate that they saw their mistake and took appropriate steps.

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26 thoughts on “Fat-Shame, Get Fired

  1. I think the newspaper should be named and held up as an example of how to be a respectable publication: Fergus Falls Daily Journal

  2. I read the actual column – he DEFINITELY deserved to be fired! In no universe could those words be construed as ANYTHING but hateful fat-shaming.

  3. Dear One,

    I wanted to “weigh” in on the issues you are so wonderfully discussing and in some instances attacking. Go Girl!

    As I enter my 79th year I am aware of how lucky I have been. I haven’t been under 200 pounds for most of my life, at least since I was 20 years old. My life has been exciting, fulfilling and I have traveled all around the world. I am loved and appreciated by my partner, children, grand-children and parishioners. The only comments about my appearance – is usually that folks “like my hat”.

    I am so sorry that other women of a lovely size are being harassed and bullied. Life is much too short to live in a place of negativity.

    Keep up your great work. You are admired all around the country.

    Love and Light,

    Rev. Doti Boon
    Center For Creative Living
    San Jose, CA

  4. Solid response from the paper: acknowledge the problem honestly, apologize for the harm (not just feeling sorry you hurt someone’s feelings) and provide a framework to avoid repeating the harm.

  5. “Get it.” ? Some people are past it and our, or others, right to exist as we are, in what they perceive as their personal universe is always going to cause them irritation. I won’t say pain because it isn’t really pain they are feeling here. It is the bullies misguided attempts to convince themselves and others that their hatred is a public good and that they are “doing this to help you stop being, doing, saying, feeling, whatever it is that particular bigot/bully is upset about at the moment.
    What they can possibly hope for is to “get over it” and even that is unlikely, with humanities negative leans and desire to comment and criticize everything not OF THEM.
    When something really bothers you, what ever it is, you really need to look at it from the perspective of it being “your problem”.
    This is most obvious in any rant that involves: should, ought tos and the bullies all time favorite: for your own good.
    With the government and money tied up in issues of for your own good, bad things happen, like the Holocaust. With the final solution being perpetrated most heavily on those of Jewish decent, one must remember that the Nazi’s went for the “sick and mentally ill” burdens on society first, and simply, oh so simply rolled the Jewish population into the caste of the hopelessly diseased.
    In America now, fat people ARE the hopelessly diseased, intractable, offensive burden category of being (not people) in need of fixing, or removing (current gay Nazi Yani). And the cycle continues. For the moment, most people realize that when any person says an entire group of people need to be removed from humanity, they are not dealing with a particularly humane, sane, or even decent kind of person.
    “I hate you and want you to go” couched in concern for the greater good is the flip side as “I really care for you and want you to change” for me personally. Both the personal and social need a good kick in the ass of MYOB. And a reminder that someone else’s physical body IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS. Unless it is on top of you.Literally!

  6. Half the workplace wellness industry does this stuff routinely, fining people for their weights etc. This guy just happened to be more visible. It’s the only kind of discrimination that is tolerated by Human Resources. And they don’t just tolerate it. They actively promote it. They make it sound like the rest of the workforce is “subsidizing” fat people by paying more for their own insurance. And that happens to be a total myth. http://www.ajmc.com/journals/issue/2015/2015-vol21-n2/employers-should-disband-employee-weight-control-programs

    1. That is the opening…
      “You and people like You are costing us good people money!”… Next individual rights start seeming like mutate-able gifts that can be recalled at anytime and from anyone.

      1. That’s so unfortunate…because wellness is about so many things. We have a pretty solid wellness program that offers programs on financial and emotional wellness as well as physical wellness, and offers credit for completing activities (such as writing a will, visiting a financial planner, getting regular exercise, or reading a book about emotional well-being.) It gives everyone a chance to improve their health in the way they see best fit for themselves. (and it’s 100% voluntary. And yes, if you WANTED to lose weight, you could, but it’s not a requirement in order to qualify for all of the incentives. You can meet ALL the criteria and maximize the benefit no matter what your BMI is – because we recognize that different people want and need different things – so we offer choices.)

        1. This sounds great. I am always looking for good wellness programs, to hold up as examples that not all programs have to be bad. Would you be willing to either let them know I exist and would like to publicly compliment them, and/or just write to me (anonymously if you like) and let me know who they are. I can be reached at al @ quizzify dot com

  7. Ragen, speaking of people who should be fired, can you use your bully pulpit to go after this misanthropic fat-shaming idiot and this pathetic but widely read (by impressionable corporate wellness coordinators) “journal” ? He wants to charge employees for insurance per pound — really. Like they’re mailing packages or ordering lobster. He’s now editor emeritus, but still very influential in workplace wellness, and needs a dose of your medicine, as does this journal. https://theysaidwhat.net/2016/09/30/why-do-employee-wellness-industry-leaders-hate-employees-so-much/

  8. it’s nice that someone stands up to these body-shaming selfish people.we should all be given a chance to live our lives without people’s opinions making us feel less confident about ourselves.

  9. I should not have looked for articles on the firing – ugh. And the comments on some of the articles about that guy’s firing are just sick. One guy got a lot of upvotes with this absolutely disgusting declaration:

    “What’s wrong with fat shaming? It’s what we did with cigarette smokers. Calling someone “fat” isn’t dishonest — it’s “what they are.” Making them feel it’s okay to be fat is doing them a disservice. They’re killing themselves and annoying those around them. Just like cigarette smokers.”

    How do you rationalize with someone who thinks that letting fat people feel ok about themselves is “doing them a disservice”!? That’s just insane …and seeing how many upvotes he got, it seems like there are a lot of people with that same view. How do you talk to someone with a view that twisted? How do you get someone who thinks like that to see how truly messed up and sick that is?

    1. Not that fatphobia isn’t omnipresent (or I wouldn’t be more uncomfortably familiar with Marie Osmond’s voice than anyone born in the decade before Götterdämmerung ought to be), but when I see a recognizable talking point with a whole bunch of upvotes, I tend to think it comes from a board dedicated to that belief – one member posts the talking point and all the others upvote it to the top of the page.

      Not that it matters. I still think the fringe “fatties are EVIL! Convert them or destroy them!” rhetoric isn’t significantly different in practice than the more mainstream, “Oh, you poor widdle stupid animal-baby, come here and let thin and righteous mummykins *cure* you.” They just end up doing the same physically detrimental things for different reasons. My body isn’t going to check before it goes into a catabolistic state and starts breaking down my bone, muscle, and brain matter whether or not the person who put me in that situation *meant* it to happen.

    2. Would it help to show research that weight loss treatments almost never work? Even if you can’t change their opinion that fat is harmful, there is no reliable way to make fat people not fat.

      1. And even if there were, it would take a lot of time to achieve.

        Meanwhile, quitting smoking cold-turkey is really hard, but it’s really possible, and people do it all the time. Moreover, they quit smoking with other treatments, such as nicotine gum, patches, or “vape” substitutes. Thus, a smoker can instantly become a non-smoker. A fat person can NEVER instantly become thin.

        They’re comparing apples to asparagus. I mean, it’s not even fruit, for crying out loud!

        1. To me it’s not even anywhere near the same thing – it’s like comparing apples to pigeons. Comparing smoking to being fat makes no sense. Smoking is a behavior, being fat is not a behavior.

          1. You’re right. Apples and asparagus are both foods.

            Smoking is a behavior, and fat is a state of being.

            Although, you can eat pigeon.

            How about comparing apples to granite? Nobody eats granite.

          2. Same thing. As far as these self educated busybodies are concerned a fat body is the result of behavior.

            1. Even if, for the sake of argument, any given person’s body were a result of their behavior, *the body itself is still not a behavior,* and cannot be stigmatized, mistreated, or banned as a protest against a behavior.

              1. Unless you impinge on their sacred seat space on an air plane then they get all huffy about their rights to not be in contact with you. Usually loudly expecting everyone to agree with them. I think some people would take it deeper than that. Not to go off bent here, but they may see fattness as more than a personal failing, a moral retribution. ie ugly body ugly soul. People think all kinds of stupid stuff and then blame you for it. Wouldn’t matter if it didn’t affect literal life concerns like health care, employment and safety. I have had men make physically violent motions at my body. Pretending to punch me in the gut at times. Not saying anything, just the movement, out of no where. It is soo bizarre. I really wonder, if that was done to an African American co worker or a handicapped person, would this person feel as entitled to this silent protest of my physical being? or be fired for it. You know I was younger then, I wonder what would have happened if I had gone to PR with it?

  10. How do we change people’s minds? About anything? I’ve been looking and haven’t found any answers. All I’ve discovered is once people’s emotions get engaged, reason goes out the window.

  11. I was accosted on a plane once in similar very manner to the original author. I was in my 50s and it still broke my heart. I was that everyone in the entire section was staring at me as if it was my fault that this person had to share a seat aisle with me. Trust me, we were both uncomfortable but at least my skinny seat mate was the size the seat was designed for. She didn’t take that into account at all before deciding to call me names and question my “food choices.”

  12. Along with the fact that you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater (especially if there is no actual fire), you also are not allowed to give speeches that incite to riot, murder, and other violent crimes.

    Yes, “free speech” can, in fact, be criminal, when it endangers other people. And body shaming DOES endanger other people. If you tell a fat person that they don’t deserve to live, and should go kill themselves, and THEY DO, that is criminal!

    And yet, people will say just that, all the time. It’s sickening.

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