Mallorie Nasrallah

Mallorie Nasrallah is an active atheist who recently had the gall – the god damned gall! – to say that other people do not speak for her. While anyone who has wasted their time reading the feminist shell games that have dominated the atheist community as of late knows, there have been a lot of accusations that there is some especially awful stuff that happens to women at atheist conventions and atheist websites. Sometimes this is true. Other times, such as when Rebecca Watson faced the horror of being asked a question, saying “no”, and having the guy take “no” for an answer, it is not true. The latter is the case most of the time. Mallorie recognizes this:

For as long as I can remember I have been welcomed in to communities which were generally considered “sausage fests”. If not for the constant noting of this fact I would have never noticed. You guys were always just
my friends.

As I’ve gotten older these subcultures have become more vocal about wanting to include more women, the discussion has become “how can we make the community more welcoming to women”.

As a woman who has been here all along this is distressing to me, I love you guys for who you are, from my table-top strategy gaming group though my political debate forum right in to the skeptical community. You have never been anything but awesome and welcoming. Who made you think you weren’t?

I am here, in my various communities because I like you guys, and I like the basis of the movement. The idea that you have to set time aside to cater to me, because my vagina imbues me with some special needs is becoming increasingly insulting. These communities are about our minds, not our genitals and as far as I can tell my mind is just like yours.

The point is obvious. Her experience has been horribly misrepresented by the feminists faction of the atheist community. They aren’t interested in presenting reality but rather an agenda-driven account of what is happening. Again, look at the Rebecca Watson case. A man asked her back to his hotel room. He did so in an elevator, indicating to me that he was likely too nervous to ask the question in front of a bunch of people and the elevator was his first chance. He should have re-thought that one, if only because it makes for an awkward situation, but regardless, when Watson said “no”, his response was effectively, “Okay”, and that was that. Not a bit of sexism or misogyny to be found anywhere. Any reasonable person – and that includes Mallorie – will recognize the facts as such.

I am writing about this for two reasons. First, I want to once again express my exacerbation at this conflation between atheism and feminism. Neither one has anything to do with the other. Moreover, “new atheism” is about the evils and harm of religion. That needs to be the primary focus. If other people wish to focus on feminism, do it elsewhere. Second, Friendly Atheist linked to Mallorie’s Facebook profile. (Mallorie responded in the thread and did so by logging in via her profile.) I sent her a message saying she did a good job on the article, and then I sent a friend request. She accepted. From what I’ve read (most of which is public anyway), she hasn’t gotten much professional publicity from this. That wasn’t her intent at all, plus her profession is photography so this sort of topic isn’t going to help much anyway, but I figured I would do what I could to promote her work. It actually is of a pretty good quality. Take a look here and here.

I’m glad we have voices like Mallorie’s. Strong women who don’t want special care taken for them is exactly what the rhetoric of the feminist movement is seeking. It just so happens that it is those outside the movement who recognize how to achieve this.

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The burden of fitness

I have written a number of times recently about the problem of obesity. It is a public health crisis that needs to be addressed, of course, but my focus has been different. Whereas the fact of being fat is a bad thing from a public stance (and a private stance for those who are, indeed, fat), it is not a moral issue. Where morality does play a role, however, is in the lack of an honest effort to be healthy. I call this the burden of fitness.

The first things which come up when I start making this argument are whining about how I’m not sensitive to how difficult it is to be fat, how hard it is to eat healthy for the poor, and why I think it is okay for me to impose my morality on others. To address them for the nth time (not that most people are interesting in understanding this argument): the burden of fitness one person bears will be different from the burden another person bears. A fat person cannot be expected to run 5 miles with any bit of ease or even regularity. A poor person cannot be expected to eat the best foods possible. They still need to do what is within their power to be as fit as possible, but I fully acknowledge that their power is limited. (None of this, of course, addresses the millions and millions of Americans who are fat and relatively wealthy and/or relatively able.) And on morality, I don’t want to impose my morality on anyone. That doesn’t mean that I can’t hold a moral position on the matter. After all, if it is wrong to intentionally and willingly mistreat a human body, I don’t see why that logic should not apply to one’s own body. The only difference comes when the issue of societal enforcement is addressed. Clearly a person’s autonomy is the biggest factor there.

Now that I have that out of the way, it is because I see people as bearing a burden of fitness that I fully support an effort in Georgia to aggressively go after the issue of childhood obesity:

“Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid,” read graphics of a TV ad in which a young girl tells of how she doesn’t like going to school because she’s bullied over her weight.

It is part of a video and print campaign to combat childhood obesity in Georgia, which has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation…

“We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there,” said Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Some people are naturally worried that this will stigmatize fat kids, but I think that worry ought to be secondary. First of all, fat kids are becoming the majority. There is no more “the fat kid” in class. The article has been changed to “a”. Being overweight still brings with it unfortunate mockery, but today’s environment cannot possibly be anything like that of years past. Second, none of the efforts thus far have worked. Coddling fat people and telling them to be proud of their bodies is detrimental not only to them but to society in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. We need this new approach.

But let’s not lose sight of things here. As I said, one’s burden of fitness will change under different conditions. That is, context matters. Poor or disabled people bear less of a burden. Children, then, must bear little to no burden, depending on age. They don’t control what food is bought for them, nor should we expect them to be well educated on health or even have great foresight on the matter. That is why this campaign is also targeting parents:

The organization also made a point to specifically target parents. One TV spot shows a child looking miserable and asking his mother “Mom, why am I fat?” His equally overweight mother sighs and looks ashamed.

Good. Adults are to blame for virtually every case of obesity in America. It is their responsibility to do a better job. If that means guilt-tripping them into action, then so be it.

Something has to be done. Even for all the people who don’t see how morality factors into this (not that anyone ever addresses that argument), it cannot be denied that there are important issues at stake here. The nation is on its way to overwhelming healthcare costs, even as we improve our ‘system’. Our productivity has to be impacted. Even our ability to respond to natural disasters is impacted – how much clean up effort can be had from a person carrying an extra 100 pounds? We have to do something to get people moving again. The health of the nation clearly depends upon the health of its citizenry.