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Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice published on 1 Comment on Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There’s no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It’s the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other’s choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It’s the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn’t object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O’Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I’d be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It’s as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game’s Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game’s creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity’s concept of coolness — that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness — entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who’s not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don’t try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn’t, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you’re still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it’s hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what’s shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card — the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" — signals that the game’s creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity’s treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn’t really know how to accommodate them — they’re comedy gold! I mean, really — can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he’d be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can’t really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before — ever! They’re just…like… wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity’s decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they’re not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator’s expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.

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This is not an Awkward Stock Photo!

This is not an Awkward Stock Photo! published on No Comments on This is not an Awkward Stock Photo!

Okay, so she’s in her underwear on a skateboard with no protective gear. That’s awkward. Other than that, though, this is a wonderful shot with an amazing-looking model who is clearly having fun. What’s not to love?

I don’t know why Shutterstock labels this as “Funny Overweight Woman Skateboarding.” Why is this photo amusing? Because she’s in her underwear? Because she’s having fun? Because she’s fat? And why do the keywords include “fatty,” “funny people,” “crazy” and “humor?”

Oh those hilarious fat people, thinking they can enjoy themselves! They should know that they’re supposed to be miserably ashamed of their disgusting flab and that they should go around completely covered in heavy, shapeless drapery all the time so that no one else has to see their grossness. Seriously…any fatty who thinks that anyone wants to see them in their underwear clearly has a mental illness.

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Goddamn it, Prudie!

Goddamn it, Prudie! published on No Comments on Goddamn it, Prudie!

Just in case you thought last month’s anti-fat advice column from Slate’s Dear Prudence was a fluke, here she is recycling the same rant for Valentine’s Day.

Letter writer: "I like this guy, but he’s gained 20 pounds in the past year, and he doesn’t brush his teeth before bed. I’m in the health industry, so I’m very concerned. What do I do?"

Prudie: "I see you’re worried about fatty there croaking from diabetes and you raising your kids alone. So give him an ultimatum: A) No kisses till he starts brushing regularly. B) Either he gets his fat ass to the gym on a slimming program and stops stuffing cake in his piehole, or you’re outta there. P.S. People without teeth are hilarious. Also ugly."

This response, like last month’s, reveals Prudie’s hangups and preoccupations. In both cases, she assumes that the fat people in question will, if they continue their current behavior, become shamefully disabled and eventually die, probably from complications from diabetes. Then their poor wives will be alone, so tragically alone, forced to raise the kids by themselves.

It’s so multiply offensive. In no particular order, there’s the clueless assumptions that fat people are axiomatically unhealthy. There’s the nasty, cruel jokes at the expense of people with disabilities. And there’s the heterosexist idea that a single mother and kids is not a real family, but something pathetic, unnatural and inadequate.

If Prudie really wanted to give helpful advice, she should encourage the letter writer to talk to her boyfriend and find out more about his childhood relationships to dental hygiene, sugar, diabetes and food in general. She should also ask him how he’s been doing in the last year physically, mentally and emotionally. The first subject could shed some light on why he has poor dental hygiene; maybe he never had toothbrushing habits modeled, or he’s scared of the dentist, or there was that one time his uncle called him Buckteeth, so he has really ambivalent feelings about his mouth in general. The second subject could provide context for his weight gain; maybe he’s feeling lethargic, or he’s lost his appetite, or his tastes have changed, or he’s eating in part due to boredom, anxiety or depression. Heck, maybe his thyroid’s off!

With this information, the letter writer and her boyfriend can, if they feel so motivated, better figure out the actual contributing factors to his poor dental hygiene and his recent weight gain, instead of attacking the symptoms. They can then consult the appropriate health care providers or social supports and work from there.

I know, Prudie; I know…that’s too much work. Far easier to focus on the symptoms and use emotional bribery to combat the eeeeeeeeevil fats.

Didn’t anyone tell you that ultimatums never work?

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Oh look — concern trolling!

Oh look — concern trolling! published on No Comments on Oh look — concern trolling!

This gem is from Monday’s Dear Prudence, a trove of crap:

Letter writer: "I’m in my late 20s with a husband and a young daughter. My husband, who has a familial history of thyroid problems and high blood pressure, has gained nearly 100 pounds in the five years we’ve been married. He has developed liver problems and high cholesterol, OBVIOUSLY because he’s so disgustingly fat.

"I exercise and eat healthily and encourage him to do the same, but he resists, calling me a nag. He’s a grown man, but I’m so concerned about his health that I refuse to treat him like an independent agent. How can I further insult him by infantilizing and objectifying him?"

Prudie: "Fat people are gross. They’re also stupid lazy slobs who don’t eat right or exercise and can’t perceive that their fat is killing them. KILLING THEM I SAY!

"Oh wait…you had a question there. I strongly recommend going to a ‘bariatrician,’ a.k.a. someone with lots of letters after their name who gets paid handsomely for bullying people into losing weight and supporting the lucrative, ultimately futile diet industry.

"I also recommend even more nagging and shaming. Project for your husband a future in which he lurches from health crisis to health crisis and where you have to take care not only of your daughter, but also his fat lazy ass. That should motivate him into the spiral of shame and self-hatred that makes people lifelong devotees of the ‘bariatric’ industry.

"Good luck…you’re gonna need it. At the rate your husband”s going, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up wheelchair-bound, never to walk again, because he’s such a tub of lard. Then he’d be fat and disabled, and that would just be…[ralllllllphgack].

"Excuse me. On second thought, forget the ‘bariatrician’ and the extra nagging. Just do the world a favor and put him out of his misery now. Poison his cupcakes."

What a sad, bitter, lonely, empty life she must lead to be so full of hatred toward fat and/or disabled people.

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Weight loss for the bride to be

Weight loss for the bride to be published on No Comments on Weight loss for the bride to be

The New York Times has an article about women going on crash diets in preparation for their weddings. This, of course, represents nothing new or even unusual. It's still sad, frightening and self-hating, though. The women interviewed internalize a cultural hostility toward women and toward a diversity of body sizes, shapes and masses by literally cutting themselves down to a societally acceptable size. Like the horrible "giving away of the bride," which transfers ownership of the woman from her father to her husband, these wedding crash diets and other modern traditions for heterosexual marriages literally diminish participants and bodily reformat them into transactional currency to be objectified. "The greatest day of one's life," indeed.

P.S. Diets don't work anyway. At least 95% of people who diet gain the lost weight back.

P.P.S. Don't even get me started on how this article [along with so many other articles in the NYT that concern women, queers and trans folks] appears in the Style section. We're not good enough for the main paper?!

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit. published on No Comments on Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I’ve collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order…here they are…
Continue reading Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Repartee to bigots??

Repartee to bigots?? published on 1 Comment on Repartee to bigots??

On this thread on Dances With Fat about LGBT ally George Takei’s fat phobia, commenter Saffie brings a possible retort for people who stick their noses in and offer bigoted, shaming comments about her fat body:

My favorite response?

  • “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry for your loss.”
  • “What loss?”
  • “Seems like your parents weren’t around to teach you manners. I just thought you must have lost them at a very young age.”

Recognizing that not everyone is raised by their parents and it’s not appropriate to bring up parental death to strangers who may have had parents who died, I would change this conversation as follows:

  • Bigot: [stupid comment]
  • Person: I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • Bigot: Bzuh?
  • Person: You seem to have tragically lost your manners. My condolences.


Fat LHFers

Fat LHFers published on 5 Comments on Fat LHFers

On the subject of fat dolls, D7ana informs me of Play Along’s 2007 Tracy and Edna Turnblad dolls, which were actually fat, not to mention really cute. I do like regular Tracy’s ’60s flip, as well as her big smile, but I don’t want to get a doll without a character. That being said, I clearly need more fat people in LHF.

I count the following characters as fat: Andrew, Rori, Justine and Margie. Gemini might also be fat, but it’s difficult to tell what’s going on underneath her incredibly baggy clothes.

I got the genius idea last night to make ZaeZae fat, or, more specifically, to try out my new fats-sculpting technique on her: namely, adding fat to a headsculpt, rather than carving fats out of it, the way that I did with Margie. Adding fats to ZaeZae’s head won’t be a problem, although she will require a complete repaint to blend the Sculpey-colored fats in with her skin tone. Making her body fats may be more difficult, as she is currently on a stalk-like articulated Barbie body.

I also got the genius idea this morning to sculpt fats onto my forthcoming Alicia doll. Her default Martha Jones body is more robust than an articulated Barbie, so this might be easier than enlarging ZaeZae.

EDIT: Making fats for Alicia may be easier than making fats for ZaeZae, as Alicia’s neck connector is at the base of her neck [rather than under her chin], allowing me to make chin fats that will not impede her neck articulation.

Because fat is a contagious creeping crud. [Also…I want this doll.]

Because fat is a contagious creeping crud. [Also…I want this doll.] published on 5 Comments on Because fat is a contagious creeping crud. [Also…I want this doll.]

Latinworks made a series of ads for, each depicting sedentary, fat versions of childhood toys, surrounded by the detritus of junk food. The tagline is "Keep obesity away from your child." Yup…because we all know that fat is a horrible contagious disease invading from outside, and body shape and weight have nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with sitting around and stuffing your face, and, with enough willpower, you can enforce skinniness! Besides its misinformed, moralizing scare tactics directed towards weight, the version below the cut also features a problematic reshaping of a fashion doll body, a plastic icon already well analyzed for its vexed cultural messages. Nasty, misogynist, anti-fat piece of drivel.

I do want that doll, though, as well as some of the fat little Playmobil pirates seen in another ad in the series. This series makes me think that I should try again to make a fat doll. My first fat doll, Margie, came out pretty well, but I couldn’t sculpt fats on her because I didn’t have the right modeling compound. Now that I have some Sculpey, I can add fats to a doll’s head and body!   Continue reading Because fat is a contagious creeping crud. [Also…I want this doll.]

Fat doll

Fat doll published on No Comments on Fat doll

One thing that pisses me off about 1:6 dolls is the lack of variety in body shapes. In terms of easily available bodies for fems, you’ve got the Cy Girl shape [curvy, busty and hippy], the Barbie shape [scrawny and pointily boobular] and the Obitsu shape [slim and roundedly boobular]. However, the average woman is pear-shaped, therefore best approximated by a wider Cy Girl pulled down by gravity. Thus, I have no average-shaped women in my cast, though I do like to make them meaty and broad in the beam by using CG bodies as a base for most.

Not only do I have no really average-shaped women in my cast, but I have no fat women! I mean, God forbid that anyone make a doll with a double chin, wide neck, saggy tummy rolls, massive thighs and jiggly upper arms! I would totally get one.

Since no company I know makes fem dolls with realistic fats, I have to make one myself. She’s going to be a minor character, Absinthe’s sort-of foster mother, Margie, a mortal Native American hairdresser whose last name escapes me at the moment, but it’s something French-Canadian, I think.

I’m thinking that I will use a male body, probably a Dragon one, for the base, since that will provide some bulk across the chest, arms and legs. I’m also thinking that her breasts and her fats around the upper arms, upper legs and torso can be created by cotton batting. The cotton batting will create the appropriate girth, while also being compressible and thus poseable.

As for Margie’s head, I’m looking for a headsculpt that’s full and round already. CG02 [Jet/Kat/Sky] is a possibility. Mattel’s Rosie O’Donnell doll is also a possibility, but I really don’t like that stupid smile of hers. I’m sure there are some male sculpts that could work with a little carving. [I swear…so many of the male sculpts have HUGE schnozzes.]

Incredibly anti-fat, anti-happiness ad for Realize Gastric Band

Incredibly anti-fat, anti-happiness ad for Realize Gastric Band published on 11 Comments on Incredibly anti-fat, anti-happiness ad for Realize Gastric Band

From Shakesville, Paul McAleer of Big Fat Blog posting…This horrid TV commercial on the Realize Gastric Band site equates the controversial stomach reduction surgery known as gastric banding with happiness, success and fulfillment. It does so with dramatized examples of 1) a fat man playing with his karate-learning kidsy and 2) a fat woman slow-dancing with her [also fat] romantic partner. The fat man in 1) says, “I want to watch my little warrior do karate” or something very similar. The fat woman in 2) says, “I want to kiss him [romantic partner] under the Eiffel Tower.” 

The commercial goes on to tell viewers how the Realize Band can help them get what they want. “Ask your doctor if bariatric surgery is right for you,” the voiceover encourages. The commercial concludes with how wonderful the Realize Band is, especially since you can track your success and have a support group. Incidentally, “tracking your success” is accompanied by a picture on a user’s computer screen of a line graph showing a steady trend downward. We also see an animated female morphing from fat to less fat.

This ad is offensive for so many reasons. Where do I start?

1. The fat man and fat woman who have exciting goals in life do NOT have to undergo bariatric surgery in order to achieve them. In fact, bariatric surgery has nothing to do with their goals, which are about the people they love. Being fat does not impede one’s ability to love, support and show affection for one’s loved ones. Being less fat is not necessary in order to truly prove one’s devotion to another person.

However, the commercial for the Realize Band obviously wants to encourage potential consumers that, if they really loved their families, they would undergo controversial, risky and damaging surgery. In this way, the Realize Band perpetuates the old chestnut that a person’s weight/physicality/shape/size represents a moral issue. According to this commercial’s subtext, being fat is a deep personal failing and horrible vice.

2. I object to ads for medical procedures that motivate the consumer to say, “I want this product. Doctor, give it to me!” While I’m all for being an aggressive, assertive, inquisitive consumer and searching out a range of treatment options for any condition, I do not think that people who suggest treatments they have seen on TV are truly being informed consumers. As I illustrate in point 1, TV ads such as this one for the Realize Band work in impressions, rather than information. Realize Band’s commercial here exploits feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame to motivate people to use its product. Feelings of personal worthlessness stemming from emotional manipulation never make a good basis for choosing a particular medical treatment.

3. The concept of “tracking your success” gives the false impression that the Realize Band will have a wholly beneficial effect on one’s life, which could not be further from the truth. Gastric reduction or bypass surgery creates a host of health effects in those who have it. 

–For example, since one’s stomach has been drastically reduced and/or routed around, one loses the ability to easily absorb nutrients and minerals. One can’t just take supplements to combat these deficiencies. Anemia may result from iron deficiency. You may need intravenous iron infusions for the rest of your life.

–One’s stomach often becomes much more sensitive to spicy, hard or dense foods. One may get bad heartburn or what the business likes to call “productive burping.”  Actually, “productive burping” isn’t just about embarrassing noises emanating from your gut; it’s about throwing up. Gastric bypass or banding surgery increases the chances of the survivor throwing up a whole lot. 

–If a survivor of gastric surgery throws up a lot, stomach acid flows frequently across the teeth. Like people with bulimia, survivors of gastric bypass or banding may suffer rapid degradation of their dental enamel. This is not the picture of an unqualified success.

4. While the Realize Band commercial shows a picture of “success,” i.e., steady weight loss, in the form of the downward trending line graph and the shrinking woman, the story is rarely this straightforward. Gastric bypass or banding surgery often results in an initial weight loss. However, very few people keep off all of the weight that they shed. In fact, they may slowly gain it back. For example, one study associates laparoscopic bands, like the Realize Band, with “inadequate weight loss” and “uncontrollable weight regain” in some patients.  Another recent long-term study of people who have had gastric bypass surgery found that about half of participants regained weight within 2 years after their surgery. A study with a 10-year perspective on gastric-bypass survivors notes, “Significant weight gain occurs continuously in patients after reaching the nadir weight.” It is very rare for a person who has had gastric surgery to go from size 22 to size 12, which it looks like what is happening in the commercial’s illustration. 

5. The fat man and the fat woman look perfectly happy as they are. Maybe if they stopped internalizing the medical community’s hatred of their shapes and realized that their size does not limit their capacity for humane, compassionate, joyful existence, they truly would reach their stated goals.

Stupid, insulting ad.

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