Friday, June 08, 2007

Time For A Beth Ditto/Dan Savage Feud

Dan Savage, who’s column and podcasts I generally enjoy as entertainment, has a bad history however whenever he opens up his mouth to comment about fat girls. But this time I think he might have taken on one “big” girl too many

Confidential to Beth Ditto: In New Musical Express you're quoted as saying, "If there's anyone to blame for size zero, it's not women. Blame gay men who work in the fashion industry who want these women as dolls." That's bullshit. If you want to blame something for size zero, Beth, blame cheap and abundant food. When food was scarce and most poor suckers were starving to death, fat bodies were the beauty ideal and skinny girls were oppressed. Now that food is plentiful and most dumb motherfuckers are eating themselves to death, skinny bodies are the beauty ideal and fat girls are oppressed. File it under "What goes around comes around." But take heart, Beth: Food may soon be scarce again, thanks to climate change, and fat girls will rule the runways.

And, Beth, if gay men had the power to dictate beauty ideals to impressionable straight men, we wouldn't order boys to lust after women—big or small, dieting or diabetic. We'd order them to lust after cock, Beth—big and small, dockable and undockable. (emphasis mine)
I think Ditto’s point has some merit. Designers hate designing for anything other than perfect bodies. Just watch the “everyday women” episode of Project Runway. And there are many different sources which will point out that the way food is sold and packaged in American society is designed to create fat people. We've gotten fatter because our society and culture have colluded together into making people fat, not because we're suddenly less dumb than we used to be.

Also “what goes around comes around?” Isn’t that what you say when someone gets what they deserve? What did fat or skinny women (in the distant past or present) *do* to deserve such treatment? (Gosh Dan, all those 17th Century peasant women are sorry they didn’t realize how they were fucking things up for the 21st century women!)

Normally when Dan makes harsh comments about fat women, it’s attacking the anonymous readers of his column. But this time he’s taking on someone with as much celebrity juice as himself (if not more). Beth, I hate to say it, but you gotta take up this feud for every woman out there who looks like yourself.

(Full disclosure: Over ten years ago I was Dan Savage’s radio intern. Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy his column and still find him a bit of a jackass whenever he talks about fat women.)


Anonymous said...

"Normally when Dan makes harsh comments about fat women..."

I've read that column (in print and online) several times, and I don't see any harsh comments about fat women. Not one. I do see him contradicting what Ditto said, but it was not harsh, merely contrary.

NewsCat said...

Hi Bubba,

I almost added this anecdote to the post but then I realized without being able to back it up, it was really bad hearsay...especially when you can read what I refer to in his first book. (Which I lent to a friend years ago).

Anyways around 1997, when I first started reading his column Dan had a bit of a dust-up over something he wrote involving fat women. I don't have the original column, but I know it's in his first book which is collection of columns. He responded to someone's letter and then ANOTHER writer, a woman, says something like 'big smooches because you didn't say the woman had to lose weight." Or something like that.

Dan then responded in his column that "well sorry I guess I wasn't clear enough...she does need to lose weight." (I’m paraphrasing.)

I think this goes one for about 2 to 3 columns where he posts responses. Then, finally, he ends the feud with as much of an apology as he can muster and prints a woman telling him off "what do I need to apologize for, for being unhealthy? I'm not." By letting her get the last word and pre-facing it with a pseudo-apology I always thought that was his way of admitting he was wrong without actually admitting he was wrong. was my big beef with him over that...when he printed that dust-up in his first book, HE LEFT OUT HER LETTER AND HIS PREFACE! It was really self-serving that he reprinted everything but that. I was sort of peeved because I really remembered the incident.

In his other book "The Kid" Dan also "humorously" admits to being afraid of being fat but hoping the excuse of the baby would allow him to become fat.

Yes it's a joke. But I saw a kernel of truth that Dan is somewhat privately disgusted by fat people. He innately sees them as lazy, dumb, assholes stuffing their faces. Ewww gross! It's not about whether or not he's sexually attracted to fat people (he's clearly not, and wouldn't be attracted to any woman anyway) but he's kind of just generally disgusted by their appearance and finds it a reflection of a character flaw. Fat=lazy. Or something like that.

Mostly he keeps that attitude to himself. But every once in a while in his writings it comes out. I think his remarks to Beth Ditto are a reflection of this attitude I've observed over the years in his writings.

However...side note. The woman who became co-host of the radio show I interned on, was a rather large woman and clearly a friend of his. So I'm certainly not going to claim he's not personal friends with fat women. Just that when he writes about them, he betrays a certain attitude.

Jessica B. Burstrem said...

I got here via your link on Feministing. Really, probably both of them are wrong. Instead, you're closer to right-on when you point out that there are multiple causes of the supposed obesity epidemic (although when I see that term applied to the likes of, say, the latest American Idol winner, I begin to wonder whether it might actually be another fear-mongering media invention). I talk about blame for obesity in a post on my own blog: (Check out the fourth-to-last paragraph if you're in a hurry.) Anyway, I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing. Best - j

Anonymous said...

Dan savage would instruct men to lust after cock. Not men, but cock. This is because Dan is not only a fatphobe, biphobe and misogynist, but also despises gay trans men and wants to distinguish us from the cis men, gay or straight, whom he adores. He doesn't love men, he loves penis, and he is disgusted by people who dares to love and be turned on primarily by a person instead of whether they were born with dangle bits or not. Also, gay men like Dan savage are responsible for all of us who aren't cis men to feel like we are inferior. Beth is right on for pointing the finger at the fashion industry. Hey gay men, since your eye is on the precious third leg which makes all without one so gross, stop being involved in the fashion industry. Stop telling women how to dress or how much to weigh. Everyone who isn't a cis man gets it: you think all of us are disgusting,in much the same way that straight cis men find you.