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Letters to the Editor 

Letters from January 31, 2001

Weighing in on Fat

If we had a spine, we'd argue: Peter Byrne's article demonstrates the need for the anti-discrimination laws we now have in San Francisco ("As a Matter of Fat," Jan. 17). His diminutive attitude toward the seriousness of size acceptance reflects a spineless sidestepping of the central issue. Discrimination is unacceptable. Byrne builds his argument on three platforms. First, fatness is unhealthy and mutable. He can find no solid footing in terms of how unhealthy or how mutable being fat is, since fatness is unique in measurement and effect to each individual. Whether 30 percent or 80 percent of a person's proclivity for fatness is genetically defined, it is clear that fatness is in the genes.

Second, Byrne writes, the law is not enforceable. Most laws that challenge existing paradigms have to struggle in the courtroom to take root. And this law is not just for fat people.

Lastly, Byrne says that small businesses will capsize under the weight of the changes they may be required to make. [But] size activists would be unlikely to request a complete retrofit of Chinatown and Polk Street. As [fat activist] Marilyn Wann said, it is as simple as having a few chairs without arms and maybe one checkout aisle in each store widened.

It is exactly Byrne's kind of spin that keeps the supervisors in most cities from taking a stand on this issue. Fortunately for all of us, Tom Ammiano and the San Francisco Board are made of sterner stuff.

Tish Parmeley
North Beach

Angry reader. Celery stick. Now all we need is a Bloody Mary.: Where does this Byrne fellow get off? [He says,] "While it may be self-evident that some fat people are subject to some degree of social scorn and unfair treatment ...." Some degree of social scorn, my fat ass. I have been invited to job interviews only to be denied an interview at the door. I have been overlooked for job promotions and told to my face that I couldn't be ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada simply because I was too fat. Didn't matter that I had good marks and glowing recommendations from three churches. I have been ignored in coffee shops, glared at in derision by men, and have had people on the street call me fatso. Do I know these people? No. Have I done anything to provoke these attacks? No.

Now I see this Byrne fellow attacking fat people. How dare you condone his disgusting, discriminatory, and simply wrong views. Here are a couple of my facts: I'm 42 years old. Blood pressure is 120/60. Heartbeat is 60. Blood glucose and cholesterol are well within normal limits. I swim three times a week, I walk 40 minutes a day. I weigh 420 pounds. Stick that in your celery stick and eat it.

Catherine O'Connor
Cookstown, Ontario, Canada

If they need self-respect, maybe stop calling them "lazy, unmotivated, fat people": After reading "As a Matter of Fat," I have come to the conclusion that these fat activists have given up on themselves. I used to be a fat person (50-plus pounds overweight), and all I did was get motivated, quit my bitching, and get off the couch. I learned about my body and what foods are the best for my type and started slowly with exercise. I have lost all the extra pounds and have gone from a size 10/12 (I'm 5 feet, 3 inches) to a 2/4. So to all you lazy, unmotivated, fat people: Don't tell me or naive, impressionable kids that it's hopeless and that one should just resign [oneself] to a life of heart disease, inactivity, and loneliness, because it's not. These people need to get some self-respect, because we all know they are unhappy with how they are currently existing.

Michelle Jones
Hayes Valley

Mallomars and morality: Do you seriously think if being fat was a choice, it is one that I or the rest of the 55 percent of the American population would make? I have been fat my entire life. At 46 years old, I remain the same size I was in high school. Yet my lifestyle has become increasingly healthier. Countless times I hear, "You eat healthier than anyone I know." When I take a bite out of a cookie, it is a moral issue. When a thinner person takes a bite out of a cookie, it's eating.

I, as a fat woman, will never get ahead in the world because I'm cute and sexy. Instead, I will have to do my work and then some so I can just get noticed, much less praised or rewarded.

So I invite you to share your secret of how I'm to change my life to fit into this world. Because I would love to be a size 12, 10, 8, 6, 3, 0 ... stop me when I become the morally correct size, will ya?

In some ways I apologize for my sarcastic attitude and in some ways I don't. I have never been apologized to for being harassed while walking down the street, for a teacher's thoughtless comments, for the laughter you think I do or don't notice, for writers who forget I'm a human being. Because living in a fat body in this society has given people permission to hurt me at my core of humanness.

Toni Carridwen

As a matter of choice: The article implies that being fat is a choice. It also implies that if one chooses to be fat, then one should just deal with the consequences; i.e., being discriminated against. I certainly don't have all of the facts about whether fat is a choice or not. But isn't it my right to be fat if I choose? And if I choose to be fat, does this give someone the right to discriminate against me? If I choose to be Jewish, gay, unmarried, or fat, isn't that my right? There are laws to protect me if I am discriminated against for being Jewish, gay, or unmarried. Why not fat as well?

The truth is I have lost weight, I have kept it off, I am active, and I eat healthy and live a healthy life. And I am fat. Should I be discriminated against, even though I have met all of the requirements of your article?

Tina Walker
Sun City

A dieter's tail: This heavily weighted article force-feeds the same old mantra that the media and big businesses need us to believe to stay in business -- "fat is not an immutable condition." If I have faith and believe that I can't be happy unless I'm a certain weight for my height, I can spend a lifetime spending money on products and specialty foods that may do more harm than good in the long run.

If I weigh 270 and lose 5 to 10 percent of my body weight, according to nutritionists and physicians, I'm better off. Well, guess what -- I did my part, so I'm healthier. But I'm still fat! I'm supposed to devote my life to a vicious circle of never-ending 5 to 10 percent marks? My life's too short to be miserable chasing my big tail.

Size discrimination is real. And it's so pervasive that it must be addressed for its own merits.

Name Withheld
Abington, Penn.

Frat Boys Are People Too

Though it's not always obvious: You must be kidding me. Are the straight white people complaining again ("Forgive Me, for I Live in the Marina," Postscript, Jan. 24)? Sheesh, I figured they had enough entitlement to last them until next year. I mean, come on, Dubya's on their side, so I guess they won't be harassed for that much longer. But no, we have to hear them complain that there are actually nonconformist, interesting, creative, open-minded citizens in San Francisco. That's the funny thing about stereotypes, sometimes they're dead-on. Frat boys' opinions are rarely enlightening, trust me; I've talked to one too many at parties. Geez, what a bore.

C. Daly
San Francisco


In a film capsule review of Snatch, SF Weekly incorrectly identified the character of Bullet Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones). He was a henchman of Avi (Dennis Farina).


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