I recently wrote about this awful post from Thus Spake Zuska (“Zuska” is Suzanne E. Franks, an engineer and scientist). It’s centered on this image from a CNN story about problems obese women face while trying to get medical care.
[The above image is shown] just so you can be sure to remember that the world is staring at and judging you when you are overweight, young lady! No, we don’t need to see your head or even your whole body. Just the boobs and crotch – the pieces that define women’s worth. White women only need apply for our decapitated torso shot, please, even though the problems of access to adequate medical care and weight-related health issue are just as critical and maybe even more so for brown women.
There are some inherent problems in this post, ones Franks refuses to address because her feminism, which has obvious value, has taken her off the deep end. First, the image doesn’t focus on “boobs and crotch”. It focuses on the most obese areas of two obese women. The mid-section is often the focus in these sort of images, but sometimes butt shots are used to show the fatness of people. But does anyone believe Franks wouldn’t have objected to those sort of images?
And has Franks not seen the average TV news report on obesity? When it’s about men, these same sort of areas become the focus. When it’s about Americans, the focus is again the same but with both sexes shown.
What is being muddled by Franks’ deep-end philosophy is that this is not an objectification of women: it’s an objectification of fat people. She has no standing to raise concerns here based upon her sex. As a human she has standing because it can be argued that objectification is always bad, but that goes beyond being male or female.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that Franks is inanely trying to bring race into the equation by calling both of the above women white. The one on the right clearly is not white; she has the skin tone of Obama. Even in the comment section of her post, Franks won’t acknowledge this error (which was noted by both myself and another person).
CNN is basically re-reporting a story from Health.com, which is primarily aimed at women. That may explain why the story focuses on the problems being overweight causes for women, as if overweight men didn’t experience any issues with obtaining adequate health care.
The story does not suggest overweight men don’t experience difficulty in obtaining health care. It specifically talks about studies on women’s health care. Those can probably be generalized to overweight men, but that would be going beyond the source material. This is just an instance of Franks trying to find sexism where it doesn’t exist (what with her deep-end mentality).
But what I find really interesting is comparing the photo that Health.com chose to illustrate their story, as compared to CNN. It’s this:
First of all, the photo takes up a lot less real estate on the page than CNN’s photo does. It sits beside the story, instead of blaring across the top of the page as something you have to scroll past before you can get to the story. And finally, CNN’s photo says to the female reader “this is how the world sees all you fat bitches” whereas Health.com’s photo says something more like “you are taking control of your health”.
Okay, so here’s what Franks has told us: 1) Her opinion about website aesthetics not only matters but is somehow relevant. 2) Health.com’s picture is far more acceptable even though it says “accept” and “reject” based upon weight.
To be fair, Franks later goes on in the comment section to point out that she did not actually read the scale. But let’s just pretend it was a normal scale with straight forward numbers. Is that really better? In that it does not objectify obese people, maybe. But that isn’t Franks’ ‘point’. She believes it’s better because it doesn’t objectify women. Of course, that was never the point of the image, and I’ve already shown that female-ness isn’t the concern but rather obesity (as can be seen all the time in news reports; coverage of obese people is equally objectifying towards men and women – Franks just wants to see sexism where it does not exist; it’s pathetic).
But the most interesting thing of all this comes from the comment section. I responded there but again and again I get accused of “mansplaining” and only making my points from a male perspective. I guess it is inherently male-y to point out where the fattest part of humans tends to be. It’s male-y to point out that people are being objectified, not a particular sex. And most of all, it’s male-y to ever disagree with a deep-end feminist about sexism. But I’m the one being sexist, right? I’m the one making accusations based upon sex, right? I’m the one who is stereotyping a person because of his/her chromosomes, right?
Finally, of interesting note is that Franks’ comment section had been completely open until just today. Comments yesterday did not require her approval. Now they do. It will be interesting to see if my latest comment shows up at all now.
Update: Franks has since made a new post on another topic, indicating that she has logged in. My comment has not appeared. I take this as evidence that she is unable to defend her position.
Also, on a final note, I defended myself against criticisms of “mansplaining” and other non-sense by pointing out my assumption that I was reading a post from a man (I can’t “mansplain” to another man, I presume). It’s true that I often assume I’m reading writing from men on the Internet, but that’s simply a product of the fact that the main blogs I read are by men, not to mention the fact that most blogs are by men anyway. This is an explanatory claim, not a normative one, and should be understood as such. But that isn’t the whole truth. I said I hadn’t noticed Franks’ picture on her front page while reading her post. I actually did see it, but I still thought I was reading a post by a man – just one with long hair. That isn’t to say that Franks’ appearance takes away the value of anything she has to say; it doesn’t. I knew I was in hostile, deep-end territory, so any comment on the appearance of anyone* was likely to be taken drastically out of context. But to repeat the point I was making, I thought I was reading a post by a man. This effectively defeats the silly claim of “mansplaining”.
*And by “anyone” I mean only women since these people are sexist in that way.
Double Update: My post finally has shown up – well after this post.