Friday, October 29, 2010

Stuff Progressives Do: Use Very Edgy Rhetorical Devices (That Marginalize the Marginalized)

[TW: Suicide, body shaming]

So, many of you probably know that it's not my favorite when members of one oppressed group minimize the experiences of oppression that other groups face. I am no longer surprised by the phenomenon of, say, white LGBTs being racist, black heterosexuals being homophobic, or atheists being Islamophobes, but to me it is always particularly disappointing.

As members of groups that are in some way marginalized, shouldn't we know better?

That's why I was disappointed to see Rob Tisinai at gay blog Box Turtle Bulletin (BTB) minimize the experiences of fat people for purposes of making an edgy, shocking rhetorical device for gay rights. This isn't a post about whether Tisinai is a bad person or had evil intentions. Indeed, I appreciate much of his work, as well as the work of the other BTB contributors. As bloggers, we all make mistakes (except for me, j/k!) and many of these are a result of our own privileges and zeal for a particular cause.

In short, in order to make the point that Linda Harvey says "terrible things" about gay kids that lead to feelings of shame, Tisinai wrote a post called "Michelle Obama Bullies Overweight Kids To Death" and listed some bulletpoints of "terrible things" the First Lady has "said" about overweight kids.

The "catch" though is that as Rob claims, just kidding "the First Lady doesn’t say of the overweight all the terrible things [Ms. Harvey says] of gays." And thus, the First Lady doesn't actually shame fat kids, unlike Ms. Harvey, who does shame gay kids.


Except that the First Lady's "anti-obesity" campaign does actually shame fat kids (and adults). As Shakesville's Melissa McEwan has written:

"'Obesity' simply defines fat people in a way that most other physical differences (rightly or wrongly) called disease don't.

I am a fat person; being fat is a defining part of who I am because fat-hatred is something with which I contend on a regular basis—and my reaction to it determines how I am perceived by the world.

That's not something over which I, or any fat person, has any control.

And as long as we are externally defined by our fatness, 'anti-obesity' is, quite literally, an attack on a part of us, on us.

'Anti-obesity' will remain functionally indistinguishable from 'anti-obese person.'"

So, she writes, perhaps a better campaign would look more like an "anti high-fructose corn syrup" campaign or an "anti feeding families shitty food is cheaper than feeding families healthy food" campaign. (See also, this). I, and several other commenters at BTB, left comments indicating something along the lines of how Tisinai's post seemed to minimize the experiences of fat people with respect to body shaming and how the post wrongly suggested that the First Lady's "anti-obesity campaign" doesn't shame fat people.

Tisinai edited his original post at BTB and, unfortunately, all of the comments have gone missing (he later added the critical comments in the comment section of his revised post). Unfortunately, this is how Tisinai chose to characterize our constructive criticism, prior to letting readers read the criticism for themselves:

This is revised version of an earlier post, which some people found offensive. I try not to worry about offending people (I hate this increasingly popular notion that to offend someone is to do them harm), but in this case the rhetorical device seemed to overshadow the point itself.

Other (presumably gay) commenters chimed in that the original post was "really cool," that "some people just don't get satire," that "this hyper-political correctness correctness is stifling far too much creativity," and that the original post was "in no way offensive."

Ah yes, the trusty old the critics are just too stupid, uncool, politically correct, unfunny, unfamiliar with literary devices, and over-sensitive to understand the great myssssssstery of the genre known as satire bit, a fun response that always elides the fact that a substantive criticism was made in addition to the one about people's feeeewings. When I said that Tisinai seemed to be suggesting that his critics were "just being over-sensitive, hyper-politically correct ninnies," Tisinai evidenced an unfamiliarity with the rhetorical device known as hyperbole and responded "That’s so far away from what I said that I’m not even sure we can communicate."

He then went on to clarify that he did, in fact, intend to be dismissive and that he wasn't worried "too much about offending people."

Like I said.

Discussions of the rudeness-erasing-rhetorical-device known as I Hate Hyper-Political Correctness aside, the substantive criticism rendered was that a rhetorical device that implies that fat kids aren't regularly shamed by society and public figures is ineffective and inaccurate because fat kids actually are regulary shamed by society and public figures. Thus, to use such a rhetorical device further marginalizes fat kids and minimizes their experiences with harassment and shaming.

So, on that note. I am led to wonder how these same Expert Satirists feel about Mike Adams' recent edgy, shocking rhetorical device over at Townhall:

"Officials on college campuses across the nation are alarmed at a wave of recent suicides involving Christians who have been harassed by homosexual activists. The main stream media isn’t covering the story so, as usual, I have taken it upon myself to do their jobs for them. None of the following eight cases have been covered by any of the three major news networks."

Except, just kidding! Ahahahahahahahaha:

"These eight cases are all true except for one thing: The Christians who were bullied by gays and gay activists are all still alive. Not a single one has committed suicide. That is because they have centered their lives around Jesus Christ, rather than their sexual identity. And no amount of bullying can change my mind about that."

See how edgy, cool, and fun it is to Make A Shocking Point on the backs of marginalized individuals?


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