Heavyweight Criticism

Every one of us is prejudiced.

We form opinions about people, places, and things based upon prior experience, lack of experience, and information provided for us by others.  In turn these prejudices inform our preferences and speculations.

My childhood was spent in the northernmost tip of rural Los Angeles County. The people who lived there were mostly African-American, Latino, and Caucasian. What we didn’t share genetically, we made up for in poverty.

People of different colors weren’t considered strange, people with money were.

Acting like a high roller was actually a bigger faux pas than committing a crime.

We were getting along just fine…

…until the “Orientals” started showing up.

Nobody knew whether “those people” were Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bengali, or Indian.  Nobody really cared if they were Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Nung or Hmong.  Most everybody “liked it better when you could understand what people were saying” because “this is America after all.”

The prejudices revealed by the arrival of our new community members didn’t actually have much to do with race or religion… or the fact that they were upwardly mobile.  They had to do with a shared belief that people must conform to our standards to be accepted by us.

This wasn’t only true in my high-desert hometown was it?

Communities are made up of individuals, and nearly every individual likes certain kinds of people while distancing themselves from the people who don’t meet their criteria.

Our standards and preferences create standards of preferential treatment.

While we like to believe that our disdain for others grows out of moral high-ground, most often our disgust grows out of simple distaste.

When our individual preferences go unmet,

we express our dislike,

and make defenses on moral principle.

Which brings me to the “fat” news anchor and the email that caused a “news” uproar this week.

In case you don’t watch news magazines or info-tainment: a newscaster in Lacrosse, Wisconsin recently received an especially aggressive email that accused her of being a “terrible role model for young girls” because she was “an irresponsible local public personality”.

My Translation: “You make young women believe that it’s OK to be fat.”

The newscaster’s reaction was to respond to this emailer on air, confronting his mean spirited criticism and using it as an opportunity to teach the audience about 2012 new buzz-word: “bullying”.

There’s a lot of directions that this blog post can take at this point:

1.) Does America’s “war on obesity” give thin people a moral advantage?

-Because Meth will make you skinny really quickly.

B.) Does “concern for health” legitimize rude and impersonal criticism?

-Because I’m more prejudiced against meanness than I am obesity.

III.) Does taking air time to address your critics count as journalism?

-Because reading your personal email on the air isn’t the news.

Quatro.)  Is Bullying really an epidemic?

-Because there was a time when there were no rules against it.

5.)  Why does she care what this particular bully thinks?

-Because he doesn’t really care about her does he?

While I’m sure that the alternate universe version of myself is having a great time opining on number “B”, the real me prefers to focus on a not-so-subtle belief revealed by the prejudicial statements of emailer.

The offending complainer is correct in pointing out that the newscaster is overweight, she’s clearly heavier that the typical news anchor, but pointing out something we can all see  is about as helpful as announcing that a trout is a fish.

Where he goes especially wrong is in pretending that he’s actually trying to “help others” out of a supposed altruism.   See he never asked WHY she was heavier than the average “local public personality”.  Turns out that the anchor does exercise regularly, she also has a thyroid problem that makes losing weight difficult.

Someone who wants to helps asks questions about a problem, before offering to be a part of the solution.

They don’t assume laziness and gluttony while attempting to shame someone into compliance.

You might assume that the complainer is a muscular and fit man.  If so, you’d be correct.  He’s actually in really great shape.  It’s obvious that he also thinks pretty highly of himself.  High enough that his prejudices must be met in order for him to offer his approval.

People must conform to his standards to be accepted.

He isn’t truly concerned about the female anchor and he isn’t concerned about “young girls”.  He’s actually concerned that women might get the impression that not meeting his discriminating physical standards is acceptable.

Imagine how terrible a planet of big women would make HIM feel?

His preferences went unmet,

he expressed his dislike,

and makes his defense on moral principle.

 

In this regard, he not unlike most of us is he?
When self-centered prejudices dictate personal morality we reveal ourselves to be gods who must be pandered to in order to forestall the wrath that accompanies our ill-tempered displeasure.  This is an ugliness that selects outsiders for persecution while elevating those who join us in indulging our appetite for superiority.
 And it’s probably just as bad as being lazy and fat.
Authors note: Our city became a middle-class community after all of the hard-working, upwardly mobile, “foreigners” transformed the economy and medical community.

2 Responses to “Heavyweight Criticism”

  1. LDMartin1959 October 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Is bullying defined as, “anything that anyone says or does that offends me”, or is it “to treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner.” (The Free Dictionary.com) The problem with the back story is not that the letter writer was out of line to write what he did; the problem with the story is the societal redefinition of language and the resulting call of the writers words bullying. Inappropriate, yes. Unnecessary and uninformed, yes. But as someone who experienced my fair-share (and perhaps more) of bullying in my youth, I can say — not only based on the correct definition of the word but also from personal experience — that what the writer did was not bullying. Not unless you subscribe to the “anything that anyone says or does that offends me” definition. And if that is the definition, then even calling the writer a bully is…well…bullying.

    • Jon October 5, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      I will cross “writing Number Quatro” off my list;)

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