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Josh Fredman
I live on a remote mountain observatory, but I don't work there! I work for the Internet.
I live on a remote mountain observatory, but I don't work there! I work for the Internet.

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Meanwhile, over in the Department of Things They Said Fat People Aren't Supposed to Be Able to Do...this is absolutely awesome!

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In this week's special edition of "Curious Tale Saturdays," I write about a fundamental evolution in my worldview, and how the character Afiach Bard encapsulates this change. Join me as we delve into my philosophy, history, and very nature.

Also, check out the new look for the link. There's a picture, and the article, and everything. I updated the site to send Facebook all the correct information. I had to muck through the PHP for hours before figuring out the very simple change I had to implement to make this work. Going forward, I'll be able to have professional links on all my link shares.

Bonus: I also updated the PHP that I use for generating the markup on articles. Software changes at some point in my workflow over the past year were causing em dashes to appear as random Chinese characters and ellipses and accented characters to appear as unreadable.

Figuring all this stuff out, especially how to get the meta data right, was not easy. (It took all night!) With no one to help me I just had to wade through the PHP myself until I figured it out. Thankfully, Past Josh helped me out by leaving such good comments in the site's source code.

DOUBLE SUPER BONUS: Accompanying this week's Curious Tale Saturdays article is a link to a new entry on my journal featuring some of my music from roughly a decade ago.

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Also, sorry I've been away for so long. I really like G+ in principle, but no one friggin' uses it. =[

I may try to be more active here this year.

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This article is part of a series about gut health, but its relevance here is that it compares an erstwhile cultural obsession with constipation the same way we think about obesity today: Advances in biology led not only medical professionals but the public at large to assume that constipation was a major health problem, and they become so fervent about it that it rose to the level of a moral panic, exactly like the "obesity epidemic" of today--and with comparably vacuous and misguided scientific underpinnings.

I think it's useful to draw attention to other moral panics in history, as a way of putting the panic over obesity in context, as sometimes people may struggle to answer the question "How can it be a moral panic when there's such overwhelming consensus?"

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The "fat" in fat acceptance typically refers to body fat, but it extends sometimes to our ideas about dietary fat. In particular, dietary fat has long been viewed as a villain in our culture--and still is, despite a growing amount of evidence to the contrary over the years (with the exception of trans fats). In particular, saturated fat has been in the news again and again in recent years as new studies have found that it may not be as unhealthy as previously believed.

Here's a link to a story about a study finding that full-fat dairy correlated with lower rates of diabetes. Is a correlation the same thing as a causal mechanism? Obviously not, but if you're trying to build a better picture about which forms of dietary energy are healthier than others, I think this study counts as another grain on the scale in favor of the argument that, generally speaking, it doesn't make much sense to pit proteins, carbohydrates, and fats against each other in that fashion.

I am still bemused that, as hunger has been largely eradicated in America and most people no longer need to live lives of hard labor, and have thus "reverted" to the natural state of heaviness that has always existed for us in times of ease and plenty, our cultural response to this magnificent, hedonistic abundance of flesh has been revulsion, hatred, despair, and harassment. Maybe being thin is good if your ambition is to climb mountains or run marathons, but most of us have no desire to do anything more physically demanding than a day's hike in the woods. Given the almost universal human desire to eat, we should be just about as heavy as we are. That would be the best reflection of our desires: fat enough to show our love of food and culinary community, but fit enough to go about our daily lives. That our society has selected extreme thinness (for females) and preposterous muscularity (for males) as beauty ideals seems like a surreal joke. I say, if you've got a tummy, give it a squish and count yourself lucky and happy to live in an era when one of the greatest human driving forces--hunger--has been brought to heel, and all the pleasure that goes with its satisfaction is just a breadbasket away.

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When this kerfuffle erupted over the holidays, I was firmly on the side of the Cutes. I understand people being disappointed that their chocolate blobs didn't have sharper angles, but come on. Chocolate blobs are cute too, and it tastes just as good. You want fancy shapes, pay more money for hand-crafted chocolates.

Anyhow, I'm mentioning it now because I only just recently saw this image on a size acceptance blog. I think it's adorable!

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The same tribalistic elements of the progressive movement who want you to buy into their beliefs that your privilege makes you a bad person unworthy of having a voice have also had their usual, poisonous say about the fat acceptance movement--namely that finding fat people beautiful or connecting it to human sexuality is demeaning and objectifying unless you're a fat person yourself. It's not, of course, and here is an article with a much healthier point of view: It opens right up by noting that the fat acceptance and fat admiration movements are deeply intertwined and have always been that way. And it only gets better from there.

Here's an excerpt:

"I seriously hope that one day, things like "fat sex" or naked fat ladies won't scare the shit out of so many people. I hope that I can have a conversation with someone about the pleasure you can feel when you embrace your fat body in the bedroom without them blushing. I hope that ideas of "fetishism" and non-cookie cutter sex broaden to a point where we can be accepting of those whose kinks differ from our own. I hope that fat women who dare show off their rolls via utterly beautiful, important nudity aren't slut shamed for it. I hope that individuals who find empowerment, sexual gratification, and/or pride in gaining weight aren't deemed lepers and pariahs."

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An opinion piece in the New York Times:
Yes, I'm Fat. It's OK I said it.

I posted the following commentary in my journal, but obviously it has a place here too.

“Fat derangement syndrome” is a real thing. As the author’s protagonist learns, in her novel, “a person can never simply be fat; a fat body always needs to be fixed.” There, as in the real world, whenever a person says something that deviates from that social commandment, there is a certain subset of the general population who utterly and absolutely lose their fucking minds.

You know the anti-GMO people? The anti-vaccination people? The anti-circumcision people? The chemtrails people? The anti-EMF people? The Gamergate MRAs? The anti-Israel people? All of them have the same underlying condition: derangement syndrome. They are pathologically incapable of being open-minded or even tolerantly neutral on the subject of their respective obsession. They cannot process contrary evidence. They cannot muster an impartial mindset for the consideration of alternate views. In derangement syndrome, the victim loses their powers of individual thought and becomes a mindless part of an inevitably hateful, moralistic mob.

The author of the NY Times essay once went to an event at the Sydney Opera House called the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the premise of which is to challenge people’s accepted notions surrounding the important issues of our time. Essentially, read “Dangerous” as being dangerous not intrinsically, but to people’s prejudices and lack of thought. A festival of mind-opening. And even here, at such an event, where people are explicitly attending with the expectation of being challenged to open their minds, there was that cadre of people in the audience who just could not escape their derangement.

I am reminded of an interview on NPR where a researcher, who had debunked various claims against “GMO” food, asked an anti-GMO bigot—who had refused to accept these findings—what it would take for them to change their mind: The answer was “nothing.” No, it was worse than that: Not only did they say that nothing would change their mind, but they also said that they were smart enough not to trust scientific studies.

There are many popular arguments in anti-fat bigotry, the biggest of which by far is the claim that being fat is inherently unhealthy, full stop, and always needs to be “fixed.” But it’s not true. It’s wrong on so many levels, the most important of which is that, even if being fat were inherently unhealthy—which it’s not, as proven both by samples from the general population and by the growing body of medical literature on the subject—it would never justify the hatred against fat people that it is nevertheless invoked to justify.

Fat bodies don’t need to be fixed, not usually and never inherently. Anti-fat bigots are deranged. They’re the ones who are unhealthy, who are costing society with their reckless behavior.

So what are we to do? Sadly, diseases of social derangement don’t simply disappear overnight. If the conditions are right, they can persist indefinitely, across the generations, for thousands of years. The victims are generally a lost cause: Individual rehabilitations are sometimes feasible, but the best we can generally hope for is to neutralize people’s risk as transmitters of the disease. In other words, an anti-fat bigot is probably always going to be an anti-fat bigot, but it is possible to change the circumstances of their life such that their anti-fat bigotry becomes less of a priority to them.

From there, the bigots can only be replaced. That is to say, general change is required. Many bigotries can only be overcome by a society when the bigots themselves die off and are not replaced.

Therefore, we must focus on building awareness in the people who don’t have fat derangement syndrome. We must continue to be vocal to them about three things: that being fat is generally fine and is never grounds for degrading somebody’s humanity, that anti-fat bigotry is evil, and that a healthy consideration of the physical issues surrounding fatness (health, economics, the environment, etc.) looks nothing like the hateful tirades that the bigots indulge upon.

Fat derangement syndrome is bigger than all the other derangement syndromes I listed. There are more anti-fat bigots out there than there are anti-vaccine ones, or anti-Israel ones. And they are more virulent, and they benefit from far more cover and legitimization by our unwitting traditional media, and by our anti-fat prejudiced social mores in general. And, as is often the case with bigotry, there is an intersection with sexism that makes anti-fat bigotry even worse for females. Because of the prevalence of fatness in the modern world, and because of the extreme hatefulness our cultures channel against fat people, fat acceptance actually is one of the big issues of our time. It probably doesn’t seem like it to you, because it’s not so evidently high-stakes as things like climate change or religious fundamentalism. But to the untrained eye the patterns of the big picture can be misleading, and when you get close—when you get into the area of people’s everyday lives—you begin to realize that the psychological toll and social corruption that occurs because of anti-fat bigotry is much more harmful, to far more people (at least in the developed world), than, say, climate change or religious terrorism.

And if you are open-minded about this, that should cause something to click in your head.
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