Supersized sexism on indymedia

I was disappointed that a much-needed attack on McDonalds had degenerated into sexist fat jokes.

I thought the sacred principles of the anti-capitalist movement were about fighting oppression. Remember, sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism? I was taught rather brashly by a series of postings on New York City Indymedia that in fact, the most untouchable of heroes is Morgan Spurlock, director and star of the anti-McDonalds flick, Supersize Me.

It started with an email I got on a recent evening, with a request to post a review of the film that I wrote last June. Before receiving my response, someone had posted it, along with a tirade of vicious, threatening responses. I was called a “ball-chopping feminist” and told that I was my “own worst enemy.” It was shocking and frightening to see my full name and the place I live alongside such attacks.

My argument in the article was quite simple: I was disappointed that a much-needed attack on McDonalds had degenerated into sexist fat jokes and concerned that a lack of analysis of the politics of disordered eating would lead to morally judging people's health issues instead of building solidarity. I gave no personal information or testimony.

In the litany of responses that continued it was assumed that I weigh in excess of 300 pounds, and that I am a lazy, angry woman who can't get a man. I was accused of advocating unhealthy behaviour in the name of “fat pride.”

The reality of the situation is that I am a Toronto graduate student studying disability and public health issues from a social, rather than individualistic perspective. I have an opinion about a film. I did not suggest that it be burned. I did not make any personal judgments about the film-maker. I just really dislike the movie. It's not personal.

Since when has it become acceptable to attack women so viciously and so anonymously on ostensibly leftist websites?

In true defensive fashion, I was told that I just had no sense of humour and was “reading too much” into the images in the film. If we aren't meant to read the images, perhaps a radio-documentary format would have been more appropriate. It was explained in one of the postings that the poster was “superior” because those lazy, obese people re-elected George Bush. Apparently it's my fault that Bush won. These politics of division are not going to stop wars or Bush.

It was also suggested that I was wasting time on this issue while people were being killed all around the world. First of all, I wrote this last June; it didn't take very long. Secondly, it is possible to be an anti-war activist and write a film review. It's called multi-tasking.

Ultimately, whoever illegitimately posted my article to set me up for an Internet-flaying just proved my point. Giving confidence to moralistic anonymous Internet posters who think that they're superior to the “fat working class” is in complete opposition to building an effective movement. The same politics that blame people for their health problems took no pause in hauling out all the classic tools of sexism to attack me, not my argument.

The last post I read asked if I support national health care. It went on to say: “The poor go to the hospital and ditch their bills and the government pays the difference to keep the system running. That means we are paying for their unhealthy lifestyles.” Ahem, it sounds to me like some of these posters have more in common with the reactionary, sexist politics of the Republican Party than they do with the Left.

Study after study has shown that the single biggest indicator for heart problems and diabetes later in life is socio-economic status in childhood, not “lifestyle” choices. What we need to be fighting is poverty and oppression.

The single biggest cause of disability globally is war. Not food choices. My point is not that fast-food is anything but dangerous and disgusting, but that how we address these issues should be open for debate. Blaming the victim alienates us from the people we need to unite with to succeed in any struggle against corporations and war-mongering governments.

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