Well Glee‘s pretty much gone to blehh this season. I’m sure there are a zillion other reasons, (too many underdeveloped plots, too many underdeveloped characters for starters), but the thing that’s ticking me off at the moment is the extent to which they have rotted out on the really challenging plotline they teased us with at the beginning. It looked, for a few minutes, like they were going to take on size prejudice the same way they took on homophobia, and to lesser-but-still-emphatic-and-sensitive degrees, class issues, race, bullying. But, no, they used Marley’s (beautifully cast and played) mom as a jumping off point for Marley’s being extra-susceptible to bulimia via the one-sided bitch-baby Becca, plowed through the bulimia without doing anything meaningful or useful with it, have ignored the issue of Ricky’s size entirely, and then crowned it all by having Rachel’s I”m-about-to-make-a-huge-mistake-by-doing-a-topless-scene dream sequence consist of having all the crew turn out to be fat men taking their shirts off. So I’m done. When the giddy, occasionally oddly profound, often smart not-so-guilty pleasure just flops about plot-wise and starts actually abusing its fat characters, it’s time to turn the dial.
Meanwhile, over on xojane, there was an article about the new trend in plastic surgery–labiaplasty (this is called money-farming–you know, when doctors invent a condition they can charge you the earth to “fix”–in this case, the “condition” is having lady parts that don’t look like a Barbie doll’s or an 11-year old’s). What’s relevant is that the physician’s (and I use that term very lightly) description of a “bad” happy place was all about using the word “fat.” However could we have guessed? I believe absolutely that there are plenty of moral plastic surgeons out there who do very often important work putting people back together in many senses and situations. And I believe people have the right to do all sorts of things to their own bodies if they have the time and money, though much of the voluntary stuff saddens me because it’s a function of women buying into standards of “normal” and beautiful that are a function of male cultural dominance and male insecurity–which stinks and is repugnant. But, whatever. What I find completely vile and reprehensible is a (still male-dominated) medical specialty essentially inventing income-generating (gotta get the Bentley detailed, dontcha?) surgeries they can sell to women by virtue of unequal power relationship they already have with patients by virtue of sometimes legitimately earned medical authority. It’s a criminal breach of trust as far as I can see. Not to mention that the sentence “No, you’re fine as you are, I don’t see the point in your paying me stupid amounts of money to perform unnecessary surgery on already very delicate parts of your body” seem to not exist in the vocabs of many plastic surgeons. I understand the point of doing things that make you feel better–I might, in different economic circumstances, think about a little work around my eyes and maybe a bit under the chin. It would be about making the face in the mirror look more like “me” to me. I get that this is all a very complicated issue, and a set of mostly specifically First World questions in the first place. But I object strenuously and, I believe, properly to this notion that there is a single standard of beauty, and I am profoundly repulsed by the notion that it has more to do with a grotesquely proportioned plastic doll or a pedophilac-obesession with little girls. And I am especially repulsed by the fact that plump should be the definition of problematic/ugly for that part of the body. We will pass over in silence the fact that this is just the First World version of female circumcision.
Speaking of really lousy doctoring: there was a story on Notes From the Fathosphere in which a young woman recounted a situation in which, on the basis of both medical experience and considerable research, she suggested to her doctor that some of her symptoms indicated a serious neurological condition, only to have her vile asshole of a doctor poke her belly and tell her that any problems she has were caused by her fat. He eventually gave in to her repeated requests for testing for the neurological condition, making jerkily condescending comments all the while. Turned out that she was right, and his criminal footdragging meant that she ended up with nerve and brain damage from the condition she knew she had in the first place.
I hope she sued his sexist, size-ist carcass for serious money.
So many issues here. It’s impossible not to believe that he was particularly putrid to her because she was not only fat, but female. There’s enough anecdote and research out there to give my supposition serious substance, and also to make further discussion of it not really necessary.
But what really struck me about it was the classically abusive nature of the doctor-patient relationship in the first place. I’m betting that he didn’t suddenly turn into a brutally incompetent creep with this set of symptoms. I’m betting that he’d been an abusive, sexist, fat-hating jerk from close to the get go. And she stayed with him. For all the exact same reasons that abused wives so often stay with their monstrous husbands: she didn’t deserve better, he didn’t really mean to be a murderous bastard, she must on some level deserve the abuse, and so forth, and so on, including the despondent belief that there probably isn’t a better doctor out there. And because some man (often the father) taught her that that is how men and women interact. God almighty.
Being female is dangerous in this world. Being fat is dangerous in this world. Being fat and female is damnably dangerous in this world. I shudder to think of what it’s like to be fat and female and minority of any sort. I don’t believe that men are inherently beast-oid, but I do believe that systems that train them to be especially arrogant can very often bring out the least facets of their characters. So doctors need to be much more, not much less careful of their arrogance (some of it necessary and beneficial–for surgeons, for instance, but much of it malignant and dangerous as hell). Med schools need a “How Not to Be an Asshole.” class. Probably every year.