2.12.2011

Dan Savage. Again.

Ooooooooh. That explains all my stat hits relating to Dan Savage hating fat people.

Dan Savage has called for a ban on fat people marrying. Satirically, I guess, but he betrays a deep misunderstanding of what satire is. Some days I wonder if the world would be a better place without Jonathan Swift if only because there would be fewer assholes emboldened by an incomprehensible misreading of "A Modest Proposal". Swift's famed satire about eating Irish children made sense because Swift was, in fact, Irish. Had his writing career been instead made up of regular bouts of Irish baiting and anti-Irish demagoguery, the work would take on a different tone. Something would-be satirists like Savage often miss. Using your established hate to make a satirical point doesn't actually make said satirical point. It just reminds people of your established hate.

If the point is advancing the cause of gay marriage, why try to do on the backs of fat people? How does one have anything to do with another? You don't make a point about why gay marriage bans are bad by bashing fat people. You just end up bashing fat people.

I fully support marriage equality. It is a tragedy that we deny such basic rights to people because of their sexual orientation. I am proud to live in a state which has recognized this. I am proud to have friends and colleagues who were legally able to celebrate their love with marriage. My straight marriage benefited from gay marriage in a purely utilitarian manner due to an utterly fantastic wedding planner who started her business to meet the needs of gays and lesbians when they won marriage equality here. She was able to help my wife and I put together a wedding that represented our values and our wishes in a way I cannot imagine a planner accustomed to traditional ceremonies could have. Not only do many of us fat people support marriage equality, there is a dirty little secret Dan Savage wants to ignore.

Many fat people want to GET gay married. I know some. Fat people are not the enemy of gay marriage. They are beneficiaries. Fat people who get inadequate medical care because they can't go on their loved one's insurance. Fat people who become at the mercy of other people's desires for their health because their partner's aren't allowed to represent them to doctors. Fat people who want to be mothers and fathers but face extra hurdles in adoption.

Dan Savage, as usual, thinks he's being witty and daring by going after fat people. That by perpetuating hatred for fat people, he avenges hatred for gay people. Really, he's just acting as enforcer for the status quo. The same cultural status quo that demands gays and lesbians be denied their basic rights also denies fat people their humanity. The same culture which demeans him for being gay, stigmatizes me for being fat. Shame on anyone who trades off this culture of hate and bigotry. Doing so to fight a culture of hate bigotry doesn't make it okay. It just makes it a joke.

Here is a great piece by Lindy West at Dan Savage's home publication taking him to task. Living 400lbs has done a great job, too.

20 comments:

Kelly Hogaboom said...

"Dan Savage, as usual, thinks he's being witty and daring by going after fat people. "

Right. So edgy and funny to hate on fats! Or actually, very typical, played-out, dangerous & bad for public and private health, and - to lots of people with perfectly robust senses of humor - unfunny.

I like your points about satire too. Great post!

SoyShake said...

I actually am interested in reading what Dan Savage wrote (just to know what I'm reading about on these blogs) but when I hear stuff like that I really really don't want to give them pageviews.

Brian said...

In brief Soy, he responds to a stupid attack on gay marriage with a stupid attack on fat people. Some anti-gay bigot justified a gay marriage ban because gay people have a lower life expectancy. Dan responds with the usual "Fatties gonna die" health nonsense, ostensibly to show that this reasoning is flawed. Except, he satirized the complaint by making an ACTUAL attack on fat people.

Meowser said...

Swift's famed satire about eating Irish children made sense because Swift was, in fact, Irish. Had his writing career been instead with regular bouts of Irish baiting and anti-Irish demagoguery, the work would take on a different tone.

Ummm, yeah, no shit. Kind of like The Producers and "Springtime for Hitler" wouldn't have been funny coming from a gentile comedian. (As a Jew, I know that Jews make more Nazi jokes than pretty much anyone, because, well...we've earned it.)

Anyway, I too refuse to give him the clicks, but for cat's sake...are all the fat people he knows straight? Really really? I'm sure he knows a lot more people than I do, and even *I* know plenty of fats who are (or would be if presently unattached) at least as likely to wind up with a same-sex life partner as an opposite-sex one (shit, I used to be MARRIED to one), and some who are WAY more likely to do so.

Fat Grad said...

This is a very eloquently written post, as always. Savage's hatred of fat people is what drove me away from his column, which is a shame, really, because his understanding of sexuality is frequently spot on. Doesn't he realize that not only are many fat people lgbt, but also many fat people actually have sex and could benefit from reading his column? It is always disturbing when people who are oppressed try to escape their oppression by placing the burden on someone else.

Michelle said...

Dan Savage is an asshole. It's the only explanation I've been able to come to after all these years. Your points about Swift are right on.

Also? If one knows what ACTUALLY GOES ON IN THE WORLD with fat people -- having their children removed from the home, being denied adoption, being denied IMMIGRATION to certain countries to join up with their thin spouses, a fucking piece of stunt legislature proposed to ban fat people from visiting restaurants -- then, actually a "ban on fat marriage" starts to sound a lot less absurdist/satirical and a lot more like maybe just the next step in the logical progression of the neo-eugenic agenda.

Brian said...

Quite right, Michelle. Like most "edgy" fat bashers, Dan Savage has constructed some alternate version of reality where attacking fat people is an act of defiance and putting us in our place. A reality where fat people are coddled and powerful and his dehumanizing treatment of us an act of courage in the face of dominant forces. Its a common theme among progressive fat hate. They shoehorn their adherence to the status quo into their ideology by just imagining some very different status quo where fat people have it too easy and need to be taken down a peg. That fat people suffer countless indignities, including some all too familiar with gays and lesbians who have their own injustices in the worlds of health-care, immigration, adoption, etc, well, it just doesn't exist in the world created to fuel their hate.

Arkveveen said...

Great post. But I wonder if the idea of 'fight fire with fire' applies with this fool; I keep hearing about him all over the fat acceptance community, he sure must be a ridiculous person!

Sleepydumpling said...

Sigh... when I think of Dan Savage and the whole "It gets better" project, I want to ask him "It gets better for who?" Because his willingness to engage in fat bullying (even if he's trying to be edgy and satirical) means that it really doesn't get better for fat people. And ESPECIALLY fat gay people.

It's just a huge double standard that we keep seeing trotted out time and time again.

Moose said...

I always love the "everyone knows being fat is unhealthy" argument. But using it for a step-stool for gay marriage rights is a new and bad twist.

Since there is the "everyone knows" that gay men are more likely to get AIDS, shouldn't we ban gay male sex to stop the spread of AIDS? Oh, wait, that's bigoted? Based on bad science, you say? Really?

Gee. Imagine that, commonly held beliefs that "everyone knows" are based on bad science. Who would have thought! [/sarcasm]

Also, I echo what Sleepydumpling said. It's not ok to bully gay kids, but, hey, the fat ones are still ok to target? Where are all the videos telling fat kids that they don't have to kill themselves. Because you know it happens.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he was being serious.

Brian said...

Congratulations, Anonymous, for missing the point.

The issue isn't whether he seriously wants fat marriage to be banned. The issue are all the bigoted things he said about fat people in his satire which he did mean. The issue was making a satirical point by trading off an unrelated bigotry he holds. He may not have meant it when he suggest fat people not be allowed to marry, but he meant all of the reasons he suggested for why they shouldn't be allowed to marry.

"It was satire. And it was true" are conflicting defenses. The second exposes the first.

Anonymous said...

sorry, you're right, that was a little too flip. but paragraphs 4 and 5 really read as if you're rebutting the idea that savage was actually anti-fat marriage. ('I fully support...' through '...hurdles in adoption'.) either way, they don't really seem tied to any point savage actually made.

your post doesn't really touch on this specifically - what are the bigoted things he said in that post? i'm not challenging you here, i'm new to this dialogue and i'm not familiar with the background. was it the social costs and 'contagious' parts?

when you say "he meant all of the reasons he suggested for why they shouldn't be allowed to marry", what do you mean?

i've read back on your blog a bit, it's really interesting. i think you make a lot of very interesting points that are sometimes weakened by what feels like over-strong rhetoric, strawman arguments, and putting words in people's mouths/assigning negative intent. i dunno. think about it.

Brian said...

Yes, it was the social costs rhetoric, Anonymous. You are obviously new to this, but that doesn't put the onus on me to hand-hold this. His rhetoric is deeply stigmatizing and deeply bigoted. While I get that a lot of people feel entitled to these prejudices, I am not inclined to give power to that entitlement. Nor does Dan Savage when he responds to similarly entitled anti-gay rhetoric. I don't care that Dan Savage feels entitled to not be called out as a bigot when he promotes fat hatred. I am under no obligation to honor that entitlement. Its not putting words in his mouth or assigning negative intent. There has been no substantive denial or reversal from Savage or his defenders. They feel entitled to think of their prejudices as facts. As do most bigots. The cognitive dissonance many seem to be having with the objections from fat activists comes from this. "Yes, but you are horrible" is not a retort we should or can treat with respect.

Anonymous said...

hey man, come on. i was asking for clarification of a point, not hand-holding. that's not fair. that was a legitimate question.

this is kind of what i'm talking about. you're absolutely right that i'm not familiar with your arguments. i didn't know that the social costs of obesity statistics were debated and that dan's referring to them here was bigoted and promoting fat hatred, and from your post, i never would have known. i guess realistically, this is your blog, you're writing for yourself, and you don't need to explain to me why you're upset about something, but.. i dunno. i think accusing someone of straight up bigotry is pretty serious and could use some citations and backing up.

i also really shouldn't have included that last paragraph without including examples.
"Dan Savage, as usual, thinks he's being witty and daring by going after fat people. That by perpetuating hatred for fat people, he avenges hatred for gay people " reads to me like putting words in his mouth and thoughts in his dead, and assuming negative intent. i don't know dan, so I don't know if he was thinking that or not, but it's not in the text, and i think extrapolations like that weaken your (legitimate) basic argument of "what dan said was shitty and made me feel shitty".

the entire "dialogue with a troll" post is a straw man argument. i'm not saying people don't say those things, and i'm not saying that misunderstanding of the fa argument (willful or otherwise) doesn't play out very similarly to that, but do you see why it's less convincing to out debate someone you made up? i think you have strong convictions about very real issues that obviously affect you at a personal level, but i think (and I may be wrong!) that your methods of argument can be alienating and distancing to people that don't already agree with you, which doesn't benefit anybody.

for the record, i like dan savage a lot, but i think he can definitely be kind of a dick. i don't feel that the 'ban fat marriage' post cast fat people as the enemy, BUT i think he could've known it'd hurt feelings and maybe shouldn't have done it. a lot of commenters said smokers would have been a better population, and i agree.

i dunno. i think i'm handling this poorly too by letting myself get so worked up over things like this. the issue isn't really you, this is the tone of the general level of discourse, and it was set a long time ago. maybe nevermind, i guess.

Anonymous said...

(also, i've read and re-read this a couple times, and i don't think my text comes off as snarky or sarcastic, but if it does, that's really not the intent. we both know how well tone conveys over the internet. and i know it's obnoxious, but sorry about being anonymous. job requirement.)

Kelly Hogaboom said...

@Anon
Dan Savage has a history of saying lots of bigoted things, about a handful of groups, but if you're looking for his record on fats it's easy to find. Kate Harding posted a few: http://kateharding.info/2011/02/14/sweet-jesus-again/

Brian said...

If only there was a term for people who chastise others under the pretense of expressing concern about their tone.

wriggles said...

Not entirely sure why I'm bothering but for the record Savage talks about "repeatedly debunked stat to justify banning gay marriage: gay people have lower life expectancies than straight people."

He then goes on; "The haters use these false stats to argue against our right to be at all."

Then; "Iowa should ban fat marriage." He didn't bother with a stat he simply asserted;

"The social costs of Iowa's obesity epidemic are pretty staggering—and those costs include including premature death and lower average life expectancies for Iowans."

Oh sorry, is that satirical? Meaning isn't this the usual hackneyed tripe we get from bigots expecting to swallow it whole because our loathing wants it to be true, so bad?

(Just like for gay (men) people? Lesbians of course live longer and are also fatter on average than gay men.)

If so, apologies, but I think he meant it as read.

Iowa has the 6th highest life expectancy of any state in the USA according to this. You may note 6 places higher than Colorado which he linked to as the only state with a rate under 20%.

The last stupid paragraph is what he believes. He satirizes only his hypocrisy in using exactly the same techniques and bankrupt attitudes he is being made victim of, against a group he feels merits it.

Check out his hate dealingly condescending follow up for confirmation.

wriggles said...

Sorry, here's the first link.

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