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IMPORTANT EDIT: A savvy commenter politely reminded me that the MFA program at University of North Carolina Greensboro has produced some excellent authors of note, including NC poet laureate Kathryn Byer, Kelly Link, Steve Almond, Julianna Baggot, former NC poet laureate Fred Chappell, and Randall Jarrell. This commenter also made a point that bears repeated: “OSC certainly doesn’t represent the views of most GSO writers!”

I used to live in Greensboro, North Carolina, not far from the man himself, so although I appreciate the coverage at Feministe and The Slog, it is not news to me that Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe.

I used to occasionally read his “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything” column in ridiculous, bigoted Greensboro weekly The Rhino Times (I generally picked it up to read “The Beep” which served as a good reminder of political views of most of my neighbors, lest I get complacent and let down my guard). I read Ender’s Game because aside from O. Henry, Greensboro isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of literary accomplishment so I thought I should probably familiarize myself with the region’s more famous authors. And you know, whatever, it was alright. Not the best book I’d ever read, although it is where I learned the word “hegemony,” which really came in handy when writing about various forms of institutionalized discrimination for law school papers, so I guess I should be grateful for that.

So but anyway, I knew Orson Scott Card was a hateful homophobe because of Donna Minkowitz’s kind of heartbreaking Salon interview with Card from 2000:

“I find the comparison between civil rights based on race and supposed new rights being granted for what amounts to deviant behavior to be really kind of ridiculous. There is no comparison. A black as a person does not by being black harm anyone. Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted. And the idea of ‘gay marriage’ — it’s hard to find a ridiculous enough comparison. By the way, I’d really hate it if your piece wound up focusing on the old charge that I’m a homophobe.”

“What old charge?” I’ve never heard of it.

“It’s been raised before. It’s been circulating on the Internet for a long time. It’s really just one of those annoying things that happens. It’s really ugly!”

As the rest of Minkowitz’s article (and this recent piece in which Card basically accuses J.K. Rowling of stealing from Ender’s Game to create her Harry Potter series then goes on to pat himself on the back for not suing her, thus proving that she is a greedy bitch, or this one in which he whinges about his neighbors being mean to him because of a computer glitch that left his sprinklers set to water his lawn daily during a terrible drought while he was out of town) shows, not only is Orson Scott Card a hateful homophobe, he’s also a complete jackass.

So, in summary, if you really want to read Ender’s Game, get it from the library or buy it second hand, because otherwise, you will be serving to enrich Orson Scott Card, who is a hateful homophobe.

You know those days when you wake up and think, “I just can’t do this today. I can’t take one more day as a walking, talking fat-bodied political statement and I can’t cope with the misogyny and racism and ablism and homophobia and transphobia and capitalism and hate and greed and pollution and noise and assholes because it’s hopeless and we can never change anything ever”? I have those days sometimes. But from now on, instead of despairing,* I will call those times Teaspoon Days:


KNEEL BEFORE THE POWER CARDIGAN

Thanks to Melissa for the concept and Faith for the execution. And how pants-wettingly great is it going to be the first time I’m out and about and run into some other awesome person wearing a teaspoon? Because I’ll know that whatever I’m feeling, be it despair or the will to keep on fighting, I am not alone.

*Okay, I will probably despair some, too, but whatever this jewelry can’t fix, I will treat with beer.

Lauren Williams at Stereohyped linked to a story on NPR that asks whether “fatism” is indeed more widespread than racism:

A new report in the current issue of the International Journal of Obesity suggests that weight discrimination is on the rise.

“Overweight women are twice as vulnerable as men, and discrimination strikes much earlier in their lives,” the report states.

The reason used by some to justify the bias: weight is modifiable, race isn’t.

So does this reasoning have any merit? If you believe that weight is modifiable, it seems like it would. But I call bullshit.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that weight is modifiable. Take me for example. When I was 17 I started my first “successful” diet and lost 60 pounds; I’ve not stayed at a stable weight since. For almost 20 years I have been either losing or gaining weight, living in a state of constant weight (and wardrobe) fluctuation. So, is weight modifiable? Mine sure is. I don’t even know if my body has a set point, much what that set point could be because I’ve never given my body a chance to find it. Now that my brain has decided that being fat is okay, I am both fascinated and terrified to see what my body ultimately makes of this information. But that’s beside the point, which is that sure, technically weight is modifiable.

But it’s not modifiable in any controllable way. I can set my sights on a particular weight and throw all my energy into getting there and maybe I will, but probably not (in all of my weight’s amazing malleability I have never achieved a “goal weight”). Even if I get close, I have proven time and time (and time and time) again that any weight below 200 pounds is unmaintainable for me without untenable sacrifice. Modifying my weight is less about a precision manipulation and more about setting forces in motion and hoping for the best. So how modifiable is something that we can change, but only with intense effort and never permanently and never in a focused and specific way? Not fucking very.

But even if weight is arguably modifiable, even in a grossly imprecise way, the modifiability justification falls short. Under US law, deafness is a disability and discriminating on the basis of deafness is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But deafness is also modifiable in some instances with cochlear implants. Should it be legal to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for a deaf employee who is eligible for a cochlear implant but refuses to get one? Religion is a protected class under Title VII, making it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of religion. But religion, as important is it is to many people, is not a genetic trait and so is 100% modifiable. If scientists suddenly discovered a quick and easy gene “therapy” that would change a person’s race, should racial discrimination suddenly become legally acceptable? Relying on modifiability as a justification for weight-based discrimination is convenient, but ultimately unsatisfactory.

Not to mention that the underlying legal philosophy used to justify the bias basically says “Here is an acceptable way to be. You don’t have to be this way, but if you chose not to be, you have to face the consequences.” Who is defining acceptable? And how are they defining it? And who died and made them boss, anyway? What we end up with is anti-discrimination law as a tool of social control – conform or you’re fired, fatty.

But not only is this whole “if you can change it, we can discriminate against you for it” explanation pretty bogus, as Tara at Fatshionista explains, this line of thinking (and the report Lauren linked) fails to consider the complex intersectionalities at play here too. Lauren addresses this at the end of her post when she asks: What if you’re black, a woman, and obese?

Despite the assumptions underlying Title VII and related case law (very little of which was written or interpreted by non-white non-men (I don’t know how many of these white dudes were fat, though)), apportioning discrimination neatly into buckets labeled “gender,” “race,” “color,” “nationality,” or “religion” is impossible. Generally under US law, if you are a black woman who is passed over for promotion in favor of white women and black men, you’re SOL; the employer promoted other women and the employer promoted other black men so under the law? No actionable discrimination. When a report like this suggests (or when the media interprets a report like this to suggest) that “fatism” is more widespread than racism, it is saying that it’s possible to cleave fatness away from race, to say definitively that if an employer discriminatorily fires a fat black woman, it’s because she’s black. Or fat. Or a woman. But not some combination of the three. Consider fat and disability in the same framework. Is an employer illegally refusing to make a reasonable accommodation under the ADA if it could cheaply widen an existing ramp door to allow a fat person who needs a large size wheelchair to access the building but refuses to do so?

Is there a point at which the modifiability justification and the shortcomings of anti-discrimination laws at addressing intersectionalities come together? I was hoping to find that when I started writing but it’s getting late and I’m not there yet so I open up to you, dear readers. I think this is an important conversation to have. I chose to post about this here instead of commenting on Stereohyped because I wanted to think about this using FA principals as a given rather than getting bogged down in “fat is unhealthy/losing weight is easy and awesome” debate and, ultimately, not getting anywhere new.

ETA: I was fixin’ to climb into a nice warm bed with a nice warm dude and two nice warm cats when it occurred to me that I should make a very important clarification. I AM NOT asking whether “fatism” is more prevalent than racism. That question, in the parlance of the internet, is made of fail. I am talking about modifiability as bias justification and intersectionality. I also don’t mean to limit the discussion to race, gender, or disability – that’s just what came out when I started typing. Okay go.

I got a free subscription to Newsweek the last time I gave money to Chicago Public Radio. I don’t care for Newsweek, and there is no room in my life for a weekly news magazine, but I thought, “Eh, fuck it. Maybe I’ll read it in the bathroom.” Mostly, though, I flip to whatever, if any, front cover article catches my fancy and then throw it out, waiting patiently for my gift subscription to run out.

With the arrival of the October 29, 2007 issue, I’m finally moved to cancel it. The headline reads “The Most Dangerous Nation In the World Isn’t Iraq. It’s Pakistan.” Pictured under this headline is the typical representation of Middle Eastern men in the news – an emotive, bearded, brown-skinned mob with arms raised, mouths open, looking both dangerous and supliant at the same time. In the middle of this group of “[s]tudents chanting anti-American slogans at the Red Mosque in Islamabad” is a man looking directly at the camera, his snarling features distended in rage, his hand reaching toward the camera like a nightmare man reaching out of the cover. Reaching right. for. you.

Give me a fucking break.

Look, is Pakistan the Most Dangerous Nation In the World? I don’t know. But I’m sure as hell not going to look to Newsweek for anything resembling decent, reasonable coverage of the issue. Not the Newsweek that is willing to manipulate its cover photos to achieve a certain emotional effect, which is what I strongly suspect is going on here.

This cover isn’t up on their website yet (linked above), but check it out at your local newstand and let me know what you think. Regardless, I’m canceling my subscription. Even if I didn’t pay for it, I don’t want to boost the circulation numbers of a magazine that would pick such an absurdly incendiary photo, manipulated or not, to illustrate a cover story about a scary Middle Eastern nation. We really don’t need any more war mongering in this country.

Please, please let this be fake.

I have so much to say about this but I’m still too hungover right now. But check out the testimonials. They’re terrifying.