Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fair and Balanced - Some thoughts on research and media

This started out as a comment on Fierce Freethinking Fatties - this post in particular Fair and Balanced, but I soon saw that it was becoming a post in itself, and was going to end up hijacking any comment thread that followed. So here it is, on my blog, as an explanation for why I have a problem with research, and a real problem with the media. I can remember a time when a reporter wrote an article/story and followed the rules I was taught in every writing class I ever took - every story should contain a Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How in order to be complete. Most of the articles I read in the news now don't come close to containing all of those prerequisites. Most of the news today is slanted/biased, it's not objective, it's trying to press some agenda for some group or other, and it's more interested in headlines and making money than it is in actually informing the public. It's all about soundbites and what will bring in the readers, even if it's just for that one item - who knows, maybe another one of those soundbites will capture readers' attention for the 10 seconds it takes to read it and move on to the next item. That's not informing us, that's not educating us about what's happening in the world and what it means for us.
After 50+ years of being told I'm fat, in a tone that makes it perfectly clear that being fat is not acceptable, and when, for the first 18 years of my 60 years of life, realizing that I wasn't actually fat at all, yeah, I get pissed when science is used to beat me over the head and tell me how unacceptable and unworthy I am. When you've been hearing that shit for as long as I have, it's really difficult to find the energy to dig deep enough to find what's under those headlines that people beat me (and other fat people) over the head with all the time. When every commercial tells me I'm disgusting, lazy, ugly, useless, dirty, stupid, and a worthless piece of shit, which, by the way, just reinforces everything my mother used to say to me, it's difficult to even want to dig deep enough to find out what those studies really said, especially when some of them are so poorly designed in the first place - whether that's because the researchers didn't care, were biased, or had a specific agenda in mind, or whatever other reasons there may be. So the healthy skepticism I had when I was younger has turned into cynicism and anger. I think my anger is justified - after all, 50+ years of being treated like shit, not only by people who don't know me, but by family, who were supposed to love me and support me, simply because they "think" I'm fat (whether I was or not), well, that anger is damned difficult to get over and it bleeds over into too many areas of my life, my writing included.
I don't have a problem with science itself. My problem is with the people who use science. Everyone has biases and prejudices about one or more areas, some of them are conscious, some are not. Those biases/prejudices are sometimes reflected in their work, whether it's running a business or doing research. The conscious biases/prejudices can be controlled for, if the researcher is honest, but the unconscious ones creep in and skew the results. Data is left out that should have been included, data that should have been left out is included - that skews the results, whether it's intentional or not. So it's not really science itself with which I have a problem, it's the researchers who use that science to continually browbeat people who don't conform to the "norm", whatever that is (and the "norm" seems to change every few years, depending on what society thinks it should be, which has no place in research, imo). It's the media who have forgotten how to research their news articles before they publish them with whom I have a problem. It's society which says how you look is more important than who you are with whom I have a problem.
I just don't have the energy, the ambition, or the time to devote to digging that deeply into research studies to find out every reason why they say what they say. I'm intelligent, but I don't have the formal education to understand the science behind those studies. I had one year of science in high school, one year of higher math (algebra), and the college education I have was to either become a mechanic or do data entry (not a lot of math or science required for either of those career paths). I spent two and a half years trying to get an AAS, and had to drop out because raising a child alone, working, and going to school was more than I could handle at the time (not to mention that trying to do all of that while dealing with an abusive mother and a really dysfunctional family didn't help matters any). To be honest, most of the education I have is from the voracious reading I've done all my life - I've learned more from the over 20,000 books I've read in my lifetime than I ever learned in school. But that doesn't replace a college education in science, statistics, math, psychology, sociology, etc. So while my life experience and the knowledge I've managed to glean on my own enable me to look at a study and say "There's something wrong here, this doesn't make sense", I just don't have the necessary educational background to be able to articulate that in ways that are accepted by people who do have that background. And I'm coming late to this FA/SA/HAES battle (I've only known about it for the last 7 years), so I'm also trying to be an activist while dealing with several health issues that affect my memory, energy levels, and ability to get things done in a timely manner. So when people look at my blog posts and point out my deficiencies, they're not telling me anything I don't already know, and it just seems like another attack, another way of telling me that I'm stupid, another way of telling me that I don't matter, that my opinions don't matter. All of which I heard from my mother and other family members for the first 40 years of my life (until I told them all to eat shit and bark at the moon, that they were no longer my family if they couldn't respect me or my boundaries).
I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to think that maybe I should just quit blogging about the things I'm passionate about if they involve research or science. Maybe I should stick to blogging about surviving abuse, about books, about the things I do know quite a bit about and leave the science and research to others who have more time, more energy, and more ambition to do the deep digging than I have. I really appreciate the fact that Shannon took the time and did so much work to explain the research behind that news article - "Fat and Fit - A Myth?". I just can't do that, so any posts I may do about research that slams fat people are not going to be that in-depth - I just don't have the spoons to do that much work on a post (and if I try to spread it out over the course of several days, my train of thought gets derailed, never to get back on track in a manner that makes any sense).
Thanks to those of you who took the time to read this, I hope it explains some of the reasons why my blog posts don't "measure up" for some people.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mobility Scooters Increase Ability to Get Out And Participate in Life!

I posted last year about getting a mobility scooter (I bought the Pride Maxima). We ended up buying a hydraulic lift to get the scooter in and out of my minivan (I have a 2008 Kia Sedona). That lift was well worth the money, let me tell you. I've used my scooter more in the last 4 months since we got the lift than I did in the whole year I had the scooter before we got the lift. We had ramps to load/unload the scooter (before we bought the lift), but I couldn't help DH push the scooter up the ramps, over the lip at the back of the van, or into the van (the scooter bottomed out on the lip and the wheels were almost useless for moving it until you got it all the way in the van). And getting it out of the van was just as bad.
I researched lifts online and the one we settled on goes in the back of the van. We lost the use of the third row of seating, but we seldom used it anyway (and it's stow'n'go seating, so we didn't have to take the seats out of the van, just folded them into the floor and had the lift installed on top of them). DH loves the lift and says we should have gotten it at the same time we bought the scooter (I agree). It's so easy to use, and I can unload and load the scooter by myself, which really increases my ability to go places alone that I normally wouldn't be able to (on bad days, I can use my scooter for doctor appts, and I couldn't do that before the lift).
Since we've gotten the lift, I've been able to go shopping at the malls in St Cloud - and yes, one of them does have mobility scooters that you can use, but you have to be able to walk to customer service, which is not anywhere close to the mall entrance. Kind of defeats the purpose of having scooters for disabled customers, if you ask me.
I've also been able to use my scooter when stores that have scooters have all of theirs in use (WalMart, I'm looking at you, you never have enough scooters available on weekends). I used my scooter this weekend when Sauk Centre had its Sinclair Lewis Days. I used when we went to watch the parade (it didn't go by our house this year). I used it when we went across the street to the park for the craft show and sale on Saturday, and again on Sunday when we went to the car show and to watch the water show, put on by the Twin Cities River Rats.
we're going on vacation in September, to Norfolk, VA, and plan on visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I'll actually be able to see it because I'll be able to easily unload my scooter. I'll be able to go to the base exchange with DH, and anywhere else he wants to go. I don't know where else we'll be sightseeing, but I'll actually be able to sightsee without being in excruciating pain.
The freedom that this gives me is exhilarating, and I highly recommend anyone who is hesitating on getting a mobility scooter to go ahead and go for it, whether it be a new one or a used one (depending on what you can afford or if you have insurance that will pay for one). I found out that if you buy a new vehicle, some car companies will give you a discount to have a lift installed. Of course, this assumes you can afford to buy a new vehicle (goddesses know I can't afford one).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I'm A Fatty - Some thoughts on the issue:

I've been doing a lot of thinking today about Fattygate and how it affects the FA/SA community. I've come to the conclusion that, while discussion and disagreement can be a tool for growth and learning, this whole kerfluffle seems to be on the edge of being a divisive force that isn't going to promote anything, let alone growth and learning, or tolerance.
I think I've made my position clear on how I feel about the word in question, with my comment:
For me, personally, whether “fatty” is offensive or not depends on the context – who is using the term, how they’re using the term, why they’re using it that way, etc. What offends me the most about that term? The fact that people use it as an epithet, as an insult, to hurt people. And that offends me about every word that can be used to insult/hurt anyone.
Yes, I’m fat, so I could be called a “fatty”. Big fucking deal. Anyone who would use that term to hurt me is someone that I could give a shit if they live or die. Because the people who know me and love me wouldn’t use that term for me, and everyone else? Can eat shit and bark at the moon for all I care.
I’ve reclaimed a lot of the words that fat people find offensive simply because I’m a perverse bitch who loves the look of confusion and shock on someone’s face when I use those terms to refer to myself. It’s like they’re thinking “WTF?! She’s dissing herself, that’s our job to dis her, she can’t do that!” My take on it is that if you think you’re going to insult me by calling me a fatty, calling me a fat ass, calling me a bitch, calling me a whale, or whatever insult you can come up with that means I’m fat and opinionated, guess again. It ain’t happening. If I don’t know you and you’re rude enough to try that shit with me, you’re going to get called on it and then I’m going to walk away from you like you don’t even exist. Because I don’t know you, don’t want to know you, and don’t give a rat’s ass about what you think of anything. And it’s not my job to educate you on manners, your parents should have done that when you were a child.
I’ve probably used the term “fatties” in a blog post or two (or however many) because it’s a shorthand way of saying fat people. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but when I’m blogging, collectively calling fat people “fatties” isn’t meant to hurt anyone, it’s meant as a way of collectively referring to fat people without having to use the awkwardness of typing fat people numerous times. I’m using it, not to say that being fat is bad, but to say that “Yes, we’re fat, we’re here, get used to it, and learn to deal with it. We’re not going away, and we’re going to be more and more in your face demanding the rights you don’t think we deserve.”

For me, it depends on the context with which "fatty" is used, ie Fierce Freethinking Fatties is a title that I see as being a sarcastic comment on how those who hate fat people don't see us as fierce in any way, or that we're fully capable of debating anything intelligently. But for someone I don't know or someone who isn't part of the FA/SA movement to call me a "fattie/fatty", well, they have no right at all to do so. Just like those who think it's cute to call me Mare (I'm not a fucking horse, thank you very much) or Mary - excuse me, that's not my name and if you can't call me by my name, I refuse to talk to you/pay attention to you. Oh, and if you can't figure out how to pronounce my name from its spelling, you can ask, there's no shame in asking how to pronounce an unusual spelling (I've been called everything from Marlene to Marrilen to Marilyn because people can't figure out that Mariellen is pronounced MaryEllen).

Just as some added perspective on this issue of reclaiming derogatory terms for marginalized groups of people (and I realize not everyone feels this way), a lot of people in the LGBTQ community have reclaimed the word "queer" as their own, even though it's been used as an insult for a very long time ( I think the quote I saw was "We're here, we're queer, get used to it" or something similar).
Personally, I could care less what terms people use to define me because how *they* define me doesn't matter a rat's ass. What matters is how *I* define myself - I've said I'm fat, and I've used the term DEATHFATZ many times to describe my size simply because I've been hearing for the last 35 years of my life that my fat is going to kill me - you know, death walking, looking for a place to happen (thus the DEATHFATZ terminology). I don't know who coined the term originally, but I've claimed it as mine because I like the shock value it has for *normies* - you know, those people who aren't fat and are supposed to be the ideal we're striving to attain all our lives. And I've claimed several derogatory words used as insults against fat people simply because of the shock thinner people express when I use them to describe myself (it's okay for them to use those words about me but I'm not supposed to use them about myself? Give me a fucking break, assholes).

Is it really going to matter 6 days from now, 6 weeks from now, 6 months from now, 6 years from now that certain people don't agree over the usage of a word? Fine, one person doesn't like that word applied to her and thinks it's not good to apply it to all people that it could describe. Those are her feelings and she's entitled to them, as is the person who thinks the word has been/could be an insult but could also be reclaimed so it's no longer an insult, and uses that word to describe people as a group. This has escalated beyond a conversation about a word, its meaning, and its usage. It's degenerated into name-calling, fighting, and passive-aggressive bullshit.
How in the hell are we supposed to get respect from the rest of society when we can't even show each other any respect? If I got my knickers in a knot every time someone called me out over something I said or the fact that I didn't wholeheartedly agree with them, I would have very few friends (and no family at all, let alone a husband). One of the things I happen to like about the internet is that I'm so wordy that it takes me a while to type a comment and that gives me the time to think about what I'm saying, why I'm saying it, and am I taking it too personally? I don't know how many times I've gone to type a comment on a topic and ended up deleting it because when I read it over (to check for typos, to see if I've said everything I wanted to say in exactly the way I wanted to say it), I sounded like an asshole (yes, I use the Asshole Rule from Fierce Freethinking Fatties to rate my comments, and if I look at my comment like someone else wrote it and it sounds asshole-ish, why then it is an asshole comment and I delete it). That's why you'll see that I've "liked" a lot of posts on Facebook, but I haven't commented on them (I haven't figured out how to comment without sounding like an asshole, and if I can't contribute something constructive, I'd rather keep my mouth shut).
My main problem is that I really don't understand people and why they do the things they do. I never have, and I've been a tactless fool for most of my life - it took me years to figure out that when someone told me I looked nice, I shouldn't say "I should, I slept with curlers in my hair last night and it took me an hour to do my make-up and another hour to decide what outfit to wear." And yes, I have made comments like that when I was complimented on my appearance. It took me years to figure out how to interact with people and not piss them off right away. And I've never gotten over the fact that I just generally don't like most people, don't want to be around them, don't want to talk to them, don't want to deal with their bullshit.
Back 17 years ago, when Pat was still alive, I didn't have a job, I lived alone in an apartment, and she was the only close friend I had. I had acquaintances, people I knew, but we didn't go out shopping together, or have dinner out together, or just get together at one another's homes. We saw each other in passing and I liked it that way. The only time I left my apartment was if I needed to get groceries or pay bills, unless Pat called me and said "Let's go somewhere and do something." or "Come on over, we'll play video games and watch MTV." If it hadn't been for Pat, I would have been a hermit and been completely happy. I had my books, cable TV, my crafts (counted cross stitch, soft-sculpture dolls that I made), my sewing, crossword puzzles to work, and the ironing and mending I did for other people for spending money. I didn't need anyone to make my life complete, as far as I was concerned, my life was complete and I was happy with it that way (can we say semi-hermit?).
I have a few friends on Facebook, most of whom I've never met in real life. While we seem to connect online, I sometimes wonder how well we'd get along in the meat world if we ever managed to meet. I've had a few people un-friend me on Facebook and I have no idea why - one of the many drawbacks to Facebook is the fact that you can un-friend someone with no explanation. I mean, I know why my sister-in-law un-friended me - I told her to "eat shit and bark at the moon" and "fuck you". I know why my niece un-friended me - she worshiped the ground my mother walked on and I thought my mother was an abusive bitch and blogged about it (heaven forbid I should talk about any of that and tarnish her sainted grandmother's image .... roflmao).
All of this is to say that I really don't understand why people get their knickers in a knot over things that aren't really all that important in the grand scheme of things. I mean, really, how much damage is it going to do to anyone if some of us in FA/SA refer to ourselves and fat people as a group as "fatties"? If we really want the rights we deserve, we need to keep fighting to take the stigma away from those words that people hurl at us as insults, especially when they aren't offensive in any other situation. If you look at the meaning of "fatty", this is what I found in the online dictionary:

fat·ti·er, fat·ti·est

Containing or composed of fat: fatty food; fatty deposits.
Characteristic of fat; greasy.
Derived from or chemically related to fat.

Informal pl. fat·ties

A fat person.

So yeah, I'm a fatty and anyone who doesn't like it can lump it.