Log in

No account? Create an account
Not Getting It - Bending Reality to my Will — LiveJournal

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile
> My Website

October 6th, 2007

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
05:14 pm - Not Getting It

Sci-Fi’s (re)running their two-part miniseries The Legend of Earthsea this weekend. `Hm,’ I thought to myself. `Have I seen that? I don’t think I have. I certainly want to. But it’s opposite The Chronicles of Riddick, which I think I also want to see. I wonder if Earthsea is any good? I seem to recall hearing something about Ursula not liking it . . .’

Well, that latter is an understatement, to be sure. But I’m not moved to post because Hollywood failed to do a good job adapting a great literary work. That’s not news. No, I’m writing because I found an essay by Pam Noles by following a link from Ursula’s site, an essay entitled Shame, which says, among other things, “This I believe: If Hollywood has taken a groundbreaking, universally acclaimed, multicultural novel that has been in print for over thirty years and turned it into a white-boy romp, that is a news story. . . . If the genre news outlets exist to serve their subculture in a way more than pimping for the publishers and the production companies, the deliberate omission of characters of pigment in the Hollywood adaptation of Le Guin’s Earthsea is the sort of news story a genre news outlet should notice and write about. . . . The mainstream media broke this story, while our media played catch up by linking to Slate. What this says to me is My People Still Don’t Get It.”

She’s right. I read this and realized that I Still Don’t Get It.

I read Ursula’s original protest to the Sci-Fi production and was surprised to find that, of all the things they’d done to the story, chopping it up and rearranging the bits to all-but-obliterate the original story was not the thing that had upset her the most. It was the fact that they’d cast people with different skin color than the book’s characters had had.

I haven’t actually finished reading Noles’ essay yet, actually. I had to stop and write this right away, because her essay made it much clearer to me the distinction, and particularly the importance, between Getting It (Ursula) and Not Getting It (me).

What really molds my cheese about this is that I’ve been putting extra effort into Getting It for a bit over five years now, since falling in love with somebody of the same gender as I. Until then, I’d been sitting at the top of pretty much every list one would care to make of characteristics that can be ranked in terms of privilege and opportunity, through no fault of my own. White. Male. Anglo-Saxon/European descent. Protestant. American. Not overweight. Tall.


Wow, look at those dust bunnies in the corner. If I didn’t have this 500-watt light bulb over my head at the moment, I’d never have seen them.

OK, I have to digress for a moment. I was about to digress anyway, to do a little mini-essay on how strange it is that, all other things being equal, tall people will be paid more for doing exactly the same job as short people. It seems so absurd on the face of it; absurd enought that you might think it a joke, but it’s well documented that salaries increase by 1–2% per inch of height. Why this would be the case has always been quite mysterious to me.

Another mystery was why I look so good in my Matrix coat. Those of you who’ve seen my coat can vouch for the ‘looking good’ part; I constantly get compliments when I wear it around. But it occured to me to wonder “why?” Partly it’s the flowing billowy effect when I move, but why do we think that a coat (or a cape) that’s billowing is cool? We obviously do, or Batman wouldn’t have one. However, just being billowy doesn’t explain the reaction to my coat, or rather, me when I’m wearing my coat.

I now understand that the primary factor is simply that it makes me look even taller than I am. Eric overheard somebody at the Toronto WorldCon say (as I passed them in the hall), “He can wear that because he’s tall.” On the face of that, it’s ridiculous. A male friend of mine who’s shorter than average has a very similar coat that, like mine, was custom-tailored to his frame, and it looks very good on him. He can wear “that” without being tall, but it simply isn’t as striking or dramatic when he does it as when I do; because the coat’s style emphasizes height, and I have more height to emphasize.

Being thin makes me look taller too, of course. Last time we checked, I was the same height as my brother to within a quarter inch, but unless we’re standing right next to each other, people assume I’m taller because he’s proportional, and I’m not. That is to say, he’s right around the “normal” weight for somebody our height, and I’m around fifty pounds below that. Without the width, all that’s left is the height.

I wouldn’t have figured out that the coat’s magic is all about making me look taller if I hadn’t figured out why being taller’s such a big deal in the first place. That happened when I tried to find links to support the height salary bonus, and instead ran across a Seattle Times article that reminded me of the correlation between height and nutrition. Bam! Light bulb.

There’s also a salary bonus (and many other benefits) to being beautiful/handsome. And what makes people think somebody’s beautiful? Symmetry and proportion. What adversely affects a human’s symmetry and proportion? Genes, yes, but also nutrition. If you see somebody ugly (read: “asymmetric”), your brain whispers “poor nutrition” and “childhood disease” in your ear. Poor nutrition does more than make somebody less beautiful, though. It also makes them dumber, weaker . . . and shorter.

So everybody’s got a little voice in their head that says that if somebody’s tall and handsome, they’re also probably strong and smart. As it happens, recent research says that the voice is even telling the truth. The Case and Paxson paper reveals:

As early as age 3—before schooling has had a chance to play a role—and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests. The correlation between height in childhood and adulthood is approximately 0.7 for both men and women, so that tall children are much more likely to become tall adults. As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns....we find that the height premium in adult earnings can be explained by childhood scores on cognitive tests. Furthermore, we show that taller adults select into occupations that have higher cognitive skill requirements and lower physical skill demands.

The authors strongly imply that taller people earn more because they get higher paying jobs because they’re smarter and thus more qualified. I must say that I doubt that this adequately explains why taller people doing the same job get paid more; I think we still must look to a species-wide bias to make up the difference.

My, look at the time! So let’s get back to the original topic. No, no need to look back, I’ll remind you of where we were: “I’d been sitting at the top of pretty much every list one would care to make of characteristics that can be ranked in terms of privilege and opportunity, through no fault of my own. White. Male. Anglo-Saxon/European descent. Protestant. American. Not overweight. Tall.” And straight, until one startling day, when the love of my life walked through my door and suddenly I became a member of one of the most overtly persecuted groups in America: gay.

Now, understand I didn’t suddenly become gay. I had been, and still am, bisexual; more specifically, if I were going to make a list of the sexiest people I know, it would include both men and women, and I’ve known for much of my adult life that, if I ever found That Special Someone, that person could be either male or female. Since there are a lot more straight women than gay men, the odds seemed to strongly favor women, so that was what I was expecting, and when I would put effort into actually dating, I was dating women. So the rest of the world mostly just assumed I was a straight guy.

Meeting Eric didn’t change my personal sexual identity, but it sure changed my social one. “Bi” still isn’t a significant category (the LGBT acronym notwithstanding), and admittedly a monogamous bisexual is basically splitting hairs to draw that distinction, so to an awful lot of the people who knew me (including my poor mom), I basically turned gay overnight.

Unlike somebody who’d been born into a category that’s discriminated against or persecuted, I hadn’t grown up with the idea that random strangers might want to beat me up, or that I might be arbitrarily refused service, or fired, or insulted. That took a bit of getting used to. Not that I mean to whine; I still had all my other categories, and it’s much easier to pretend to not be gay than it is to pretend to not be black, for example.

On the other hand, when I proposed to Eric, Canada hadn’t set off the massive landslide of change with their explosive legalization of gay marriage, and I was looking at being gay in a world that had (and still has) hundreds of laws, rules, regulations, and protections to mitigate discrimination on the basis of gender and race, but almost none on the basis of sexual identity. My brother was quite incredulous when he learned that it was perfectly legal here in Washington, as well as most of the rest of the country, to fire somebody for being gay, or be denied an apartment for the same reason. (Of course, that changed about a year ago.)

So when prominent black leaders started insisting that the fight against discrimination against homosexuals wasn’t remotely comparable to their ongoing efforts against racial discrimination, I was astonished and insulted. I’d been supporting their efforts to not be treated as second-class citizens all my life; but they seemed to think it perfectly fine for me to be a third-class citizen. Discriminating against them is unjust, but discriminating against me is totally reasonable, because . . . what? Their ancestors were treated worse than mine? Because they have to be black 24/7, but “all” I have to do to avoid discrimination is lie to people? What could possibly be so much worse about their discrimination that it would be OK to discriminate against gays but not against blacks?

The short answer is, of coures, “nothing.” That attitude is as big a pile of unsupportable bullshit as the attitude that if two people declare intent to spend the rest of their lives as a couple, they are entitled to thousands of special privileges only if they’re of different genders.

On the other hand, I try to avoid short answers that aren’t created from long ones, which is why, as I said many paragraphs ago, I’ve been putting extra effort into Getting It for a bit over five years now, since falling in love with somebody of the same gender as I.

I thought I’d been doing fairly well. I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the history of races in America, current issues of race, and other related material. My brother is a professor of cultural anthropology at a very respected liberal-arts college in the midwest, and I took advantage of that last Christmas to learn even more about how the experience of discrimination varies between different groups.

Maybe I am doing well. False modesty aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if I understood a lot more about what an average American citizen with very dark skin experiences than they do about an average gay American. Still, Ursula’s biggest complaint about the Earthsea miniseries is that they made almost everybody white, and I’m not only surprised by that, but don’t even realize that I shouldn’t be surprised until I read Pam’s essay. That’s pretty sad, and pretty embarrassing.

Overt persecution is so much easier to defy. If somebody says “we don’t allow your kind here,” then I can tell myself that they’re just a sad, pathetic person who is as much to be pitied as hated. “My kind” could be gay, or black, or asian, or female; the point is, I can defy it, even if (especially if!) just to myself, if I recognize it. The same is true if a movie’s Evil Villian is a shifty-eye Asian or a lesbian.

But “copper-red”-skinned Ged fell in love with Tenar, and Tenar’s a woman. Nothing wrong with that; some of my best friends are heterosexual. And, there is one black character (Ogion) on the “good guys” team in the televised “Earthsea.” But the “bad guys” (more accurately, the “outsiders” or “others”) in LeGuin’s story are the Karg, and they’re white. Tenar is of the Karg. In the miniseries, she’s played by somebody with a distinctly non-white (Asian) appearance.

Tenar’s a main character, so is Ogion; so there are representatives of these disadvantaged racial groups present. But the melanin-deprived hide is not the most common one on our planet, nor was it the most common in LeGuin’s stories. White folk are the most common type in Hollywood; I certainly expect most works coming from there to be predominantly white, just as I’d expect a movie from Bollywood to be cast primarily with Indians, even if the movie was about some space colony, or a remake of “1984.” But if Bollywood remade “Gone With The Wind” and everyone was Indian except the slaves (maybe they’re Chinese?), I don’t think I’d be the only one upset.

I’d sure like Hollywood to do a better job of casting multi-ethnically, just like I’d like to see a few more characters who just happened to be gay without it actually being some kind of plot point or intentional story element. But I don’t expect any particular production to make the extra effort to cast against the ratio of skin types showing up to casting calls.

“Earthsea” is different; the story specified racial types. Now somebody is intentionally ignoring the original work. Shame on them for being so lazy and/or for caring about the source material so little, that they couldn’t be bothered to cast it according to spec (and for butchering the work, of course).

Shame on me for not recognizing why that really was the worst part of what they did to it.

Current Mood: embarrassedembarrassed

(19 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 7th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
Excellent essay, Dave. May I link to it from my journal?

(Did you ever see, by the way, the essay I wrote about being straight and singing with SLGC?)
[User Picture]
Date:October 8th, 2007 05:18 am (UTC)


but of course you may, and yes I did, and very much appreciated it, I might add.
[User Picture]
Date:October 7th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
You covered a lot of ground here, prolly best to limit my comment to something applying to your main theme...

Guin isn't the only one to see their works receive such treatment. One of the main problems with the film version of 'Starship Troopers' is the fact that, while the main character in the novel was Filipino and the novel featured inter-racial romance, Paul Verhoeven changed the casting to a blond kid from Buenos Aires as part of his intentional twisting of the story into an indictment of conservatives by conflating them with war-loving Nazis.

Mind you, I see nothing wrong with picking on conservatives. But (leaving aside arguments about Heinlein's actual politics) this certainly wasn't even remotely what the novel was about. So in this case you have a character's race being changed, not to appease those who don't want to see colored lips meeting white ones, but rather to poke them in the eye. That still doesn't make it right, but it is interesting that the motivation was different.

Of course there are plenty of other reasons to dislike the movie version 'Starship Troopers'...
[User Picture]
Date:October 8th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)

Reference links

So, out of curiosity, how many people actually follow some/any of the links embedded in the essay? How useful is it for me to include those links, or are there others that I didn't include but should have?
Date:October 9th, 2007 06:15 am (UTC)


A fascinating essay. It tempted me to risk being late to work to finish reading it but I persuaded myself it would still be on my screen when I got home.

None of the links in the "Not Getting It" essay worked for me. Though the links below in one of your entries from Japan worked just fine.

Mark Haggerty
[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2007 12:19 pm (UTC)

Re: links

LiveJournal had added some kind of coding doo-doo to my links when I uploaded it, which I have now cleaned out.
[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
I've been getting a little more sensitive to this stuff since coming in contact with the Seattle School system.

I was recently treated to the spectacle of earnest (rich, white) people talking to the new (black) Superintendent of Schools about how those poorly-performing (black) schools in "Southeast Seattle" (apparently a PC-way of specifying "predominantly minority") need "more parent and community involvement", so they can be just as good as the (rich, white) schools in "Northeast Seattle". (Thanks, Supreme Court - not!)

Me and my kid's teacher (the only African-American on the teaching staff) shook our heads at the nice (rich, white) people. It's just not that simple, for families who are economically disadvantaged, not to mention other problems disproportionately suffered within those communities, to drop everything and "volunteer in the classroom", or even "help their kids with homework". And no amount of well-meaning urging from the nice (rich, white) folks is going to fix that.

And there is legitimate debate about whether it falls to the schools to take up all the slack for kids in less-advantaged circumstances. But, if not the schools, then who? Do we have any other solutions? Should each community create their own? Or should it be on a city-wide, statewide, or national basis? Where does the funding come from? Etc. Our society has lots of big questions to work on, just to give all kids a decent start in life.

The most practical suggestion anyone made was that the PTAs should somehow pool a part of their fundraising, and put it into a foundation which could give grants to the schools with unmet needs. The disparity in "voluntary" funding is pretty stark. Examples of Seattle PTA budgets: Laurelhurst $200k+/year, View Ridge $125k, North Beach (Crown Hill) $50k, an unnamed "Southeast Seattle" school $5k.

African-Americans should stick up for other minorities, but they are very focussed on social injustice at a level that (to them) just feels more basic - they don't see their children being given equal opportunities, and therefore losing out for their whole lives. . .

As I said, ::sigh::

It wouldn't be so hard, the whole equality thing, but there are primal forces at work . . . our tribal us vs. them survival mechanisms, the rejection of the "other", everything that goes with being power-hungry and irrational as a species. :(
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Oh my ears and whiskers.

There are more problems, challenges, opportunities, and issues in schools than I could ever hope to write about, even if that's all I ever did. Although as you astutely noted, race is so often a red herring in these cases. It's fundamentally about being poor, not about being black or Hispanic or whatever. This is America, so it's easier to move to a different economic class here than just about anywhere else in the world, but easier does not mean easy, so most people will be about as poor, or about as middle-class, or about as [fill in the blank,] as their parents. If your parents arrived from Mexico with nothing to their name but a border-crossing debt, or your parents' parents' parents were themselves property; odds are good you're poor too.

And even if every neighborhood had 'affordable housing' (which, of course, it doesn't), people want to live among other people like themselves; people with whom one has some culture in common. If you grew up eating Chicken Adobo, learning Tinikling-style dance, and listening to your parents speak Ilocano now and then, you're simply going to be more comfortably living around other Filipinos, no matter what your racial background is. (Nevertheless, it's very probably one with medium-brown skin and straight black hair.)

Perfectly reasonable and understandable behavior, but it has really unfortunate side-effects on schools. I think it's a very good thing that there's widespread acknowledgement of the idea `I and my kids benefit when somebody else's kids get a good education'. We definitely don't have much agreement on how to accomplish that, due in no small part to the fact we haven't even figured out a workable definition of "good education."

You say "African-Americans should stick up for other minorities, but . . . they don't see their children being given equal opportunities, and therefore losing out for their whole lives. . . ." True, although I think some members and organizations of that community are hampered by trying to apply racially-based solutions to economically-caused problems. (Ahem. Some of them! I'm not saying, nor intending to imply, that blacks (whether African-American or not) do not still deal with problems related to their race or apparent race, nor am I saying that there aren't plenty of people (of a spectrum of races) who do "get it.")

So I don't mind if any particular African-American doesn't 'stick up' for gays. I do mind if they actually contribute to their persecution or oppression! Thank you, Rev. Jackson, who said "No slave was ever enslaved because he was gay."

Fortunately, people like Keith Boykin disagree with him: "If the civil rights movement was just about black folk getting our own, then it was a colossal waste of time....There's no virtue in black people positioning ourselves at the top of the hierarchy of oppression. It matters not which group is most oppressed, or which is first oppressed, or whether they are identically oppressed. What matters is that no group of people should be oppressed.... I don't expect everyone to agree with [proponents of gay marriage], but I don't expect them to be against us either."

[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC)


Although the rhythm of the mini-essay to which this is an addenda dictated that it end where it did, I did find a particularly good article and discussion about this issue. I thought the comments posted by "JR" about 20% of the way down the page were particularly insightful. JR states that he can see this issue from two sides:

As a child of an interracial marriage, I have to imagine the likelihood that same-sex marriage partners of today would view the prohibition against their union as an act of violence, as surely as my parents would have when viewed it when they got married. . . .[However, ] I worry that these well-to-do gay-rights advocates will blithely pick up the civil-rights analogy and then discard it as they efficiently work their way towards full exercise of their class privilege. . . . It's that horrible feeling of being used, let's just put it bluntly - everyone else comes in here and dines out on the struggles of black folks, AND we are called upon to embrace them with open arms and unconditionally - and then they proceed to forget all about us when they get theirs.

From this poster I also was inspired to consider the interesting usage "intragender marriage."

Other commenters are more, er, amusing: "In my experience, gays are nothiing[sic] but right-wing hacks in drag. It is comprised of a bunch of rich white men who but for their sexuality would be a republican and opposed to everything we represent."

I think that speaks for itself.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Addenda.

Interesting article, and thanks for the link!

Also, thanks for the thoughtful reply. . .

Being brought up liberal, there are all kinds of things that I idealistically thought we'd all gotten over by now. . . I remember that my 3rd grade teacher had a black husband, and it never made any sense to me that there was some "big deal" about it. And now, most places, there wouldn't be.

I am thrilled that Nora is growing up knowing "Dave and his husband" and "Lauren and her wife". It at least feels like progress. Or the potential for progress? Many things will only change generationally, as folks who grow up with new "conventional wisdom" become the norm . . .
Date:October 10th, 2007 06:12 am (UTC)

Not getting it either

Dear Dave,

Delightful essay! My reaction and reflections upon SciFi's Earthsea, LeGuin's reactions, and Noles's essay were much the same as yours (other than issues of height, for obvious reasons), but I never thought to write about it, and if I had I would not have been as entertaining as you are here.

Well done.

Yours truly,
Rick Marshall
Date:October 13th, 2007 05:02 am (UTC)

Thanks, Dave!

Props to you for this honest essay. Those who consider ourselves part of the "smart kids" group (myself certainly included) don't admit nearly often enough that there are important intellectual issues that we want to understand but don't quite "get" yet. It's both interesting and inspiring to see you working through one of yours--particularly since it's one of mine as well.

For all I have fought and ranted and carried on about various forms of discriminatory language throughout my editorial career, I know I spot language that excludes or denigrates groups I identify with much more quickly and thoroughly than language that targets groups I don't. It's a constant battle to keep educating myself about the things I don't "get" yet. And the more I learn, the more I realize how little I do "get."

[User Picture]
Date:October 23rd, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
I think that Chris Rock had said it best in one of his comedy routine some seven or eight years ago, in which he had stated how each group - whether by race, nationality, sexual preference, religion, etc. - always seem to believe that they are more prosecuted than the others.
[User Picture]
Date:October 24th, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)

I quite agree

Interesting post, and good on you for continuing the hard work of linking oppressions - as they say, as long as one of us is oppressed, no man is free. I especially respect you for doing it despite having so many ways you can "pass" and not think about it, if you wanted to (as you said). I had a couple of thoughts....

1) Whether or not a monogamous bisexual is splitting hairs to define that way or express those thoughts is debatable. What people identify as, indeed, what they will cop to in front of other people (much less in the privacy of their own minds) can be earthshaking.

2) I'm still not sure I agree with your assessment about height and nutrition. If people responded positively to people eating well, they'd love fat people, and we both know they don't. (BTW, please just say "fat" instead of "overweight"; one is simply descriptive and the other is relative and judgmental.) I think people respond to height because they respond to power, so a guy standing over somebody awakens all their buried "love the alpha dog" genes. In the same way, people respond to fat people in a certain way in a society where people are in danger of starving (so weight shows affluence and power enough to eat well) and another in a society where what shows affluence and power is to have the leisure to work out, not spend long hours at a desk job, and not eat cheap carby food to get by. Whatever is harder to attain tends to carry the cachet, because the attraction hangs out with the power.

One thing I can't fit into the picture, exactly, is the finding that people have instinctive strong revulsion toward the "grotesque" - a distortion of the human form, whether it's in terms of missing limbs, non-symmetrical shapes, size, etc. Height doesn't seem to work that way though, at least anecdotally; tall tends to trump short in attractiveness at all sizes. I suppose it might kick in at the extremes, but someone has to be REALLY tall to get to that point, I think.

3) Overt persecution is so much easier to defy - yes, very true. It's a lot harder to see what's missing from what's in front of you than to see something obviously wrong (ask any editor). It's also a lot easier to justify complaining about; if you say to somebody, "Look at this assholish behavior," they're a lot more likely to say, "Oh yeah, you're right!" than if you say, "But where's the X, I think it should be there," which will often get eye-rolling and people asking if you always have to make trouble when there "obviously" isn't any. And the more you hear that, the harder it gets to speak up at all.

4) Thanks for the link to the "Shame" essay; it was great on its own, and I definitely found it resonant as well.

Hmm, maybe if I'm going to write long screeds, I should put them on my own blog occasionally. ;-> But then, I get a lot more tired of listening to myself....
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)

Re: I quite agree

WingedElephant said
I especially respect you for doing it despite having so many ways you can "pass" and not think about it, if you wanted to (as you said).

Thanks. Some years ago, the black pastor of the church service I was attending did an incredibly gutsy thing, and had our (very well mixed) congregation spend the entire service talking about race/gender issues. We all were invited to stand up and talk about what bothered us about the current situation. The most valuable thing that I learned was from a mixed (Hispanic and other) single mother. We talked a bit more after the service because it was so important to me to understand her position, which was that she had no problem with the idea that some people were lucky enough to have more opportunities than others. No, it wasn't "fair," but life isn't fair.

What really pissed her off was privileged individuals who didn't take advantage of that privilege. WASP males, say, who would act as if everybody were equal, and not use their extra opportunities to do something about it.

I have immense respect for her and her position. So the very fact that I can "pass" in so many ways means I have a greater obligation to speak out. An obligation to her, and to everybody else whom Fate did not provide as elevated a soap box as I have been.
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC)

Re: I quite agree

What really pissed her off was privileged individuals who didn't take advantage of that privilege. WASP males, say, who would act as if everybody were equal, and not use their extra opportunities to do something about it.

That's one of the best things I learned out of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," in which he says the same thing - he found it especially annoying when privileged people threw away privilege to try to "live like the people" or something, to "honor" them. His point (as you said, kinda) was that if they really want to help, they should use privilege to take the message and do the work someplace that those people can't go.

That's a fascinating book that I highly recommend, by the way; Malcolm X is such an icon that a lot of people think they know about him, but the evolution of his thinking about racism was much more complex and interesting than *I* ever knew, at least.
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)

Re: I quite agree

WingedElephant said

Whether or not a monogamous bisexual is splitting hairs to define that way or express those thoughts is debatable.

Oh, it certainly is, but I wanted to at least acknowledge the debatability. Most of the time, when it's even relevant, it's relevant only in a functional sense, and (again, in a strictly functional sense,) a monogamous bisexual isn't.

On the other hand, I know from personal experience that it can make an enormous difference to (for example) a heterosexual female if she's sharing a friendly couch with a gay man or a bisexual one. Less than five minutes after I corrected her perception of me, she'd relocated to a different piece of furniture. {rueful chuckle} (Oh, and I was single at the time, too.)
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)

Re: I quite agree

Finally, WingedElephant said
I'm still not sure I agree with your assessment about height and nutrition. If people responded positively to people eating well, they'd love fat people, and we both know they don't.

True, but I didn't say the response was to "eating well" per se, but to various physical cues that are indicative of good health. Adequate nutrition, especially in childhood, is an important factor for growing up with a healthy appearance, but it's the appearance that triggers the response, not the (sometimes impossible to evaluate) actual physical/biochemical status of the person.

Conversely, even if a fat person is, by all reasonable medical evaluations, in good health, people still have an instinctive negative reaction because the deep down lizard brain says that they don't look healthy. Society has managed to defy these biological predilections before, and there's certainly every reason to believe that fat discrimination can be reduced (I don't think any form of discrimination rooted in biological/genetic causes can ever be entirely eliminated), but, as with gay/straight bias and skin color bias, if (as I believe) the bias against fat people is based in biology, it's going to be very much an uphill battle to get people to recognize the fundamental nature of the discrimination and to understand how subtle and pervasive the bias is going to be.
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)

Re: I quite agree

Conversely, even if a fat person is, by all reasonable medical evaluations, in good health, people still have an instinctive negative reaction because the deep down lizard brain says that they don't look healthy.

I don't understand why you'd say that at all. Healthy animals are bigger and often fatter. They're the ones who have the power (stamina or aggressive) to get enough food in a competitive ecosystem (and, possibly, not had to run it off trying so hard to eat). Logic would dictate that those would be desirable mates in evolutionary terms, and from what I've seen, larger animals do have mating advantages in many cases. This is the argument you're using for tallness, and I don't think the "lizard brain" is that sophisticated - big is big. I think if you posit it vertically, you have to consider that it might also apply horizontally. It's possible that you could make more of a case in terms of extreme fatness, but I don't think the patterns of prejudice map to that logic - there's a whole lot of bigotry about people who are mildly to moderately fat, more than would make evolutionary sense.

Also, as I think I mentioned, in societies where people are living more on subsistence, where they're more likely to starve and have to work harder for food, fatter people are considered attractive mates. They are more likely to have the extra strength and reserves for successful childbearing, and/or they demonstrate the ability to get enough resources together to support a family (or they graphically represent their family's relative wealth and survival success). It's usually in the more technologically advanced and financially affluent societies that thinness is prized; in fact, there are many cases where emergence of a fashion for thinness has corresponded pretty directly with an increase in affluence. I think there are probably sociological reasons for this, but I think it's more complex than biology.

> Go to Top