I don’t like big butts and I cannot lie.
If that makes me guilty of assophobia or flabbism or whatever the current term is, so be it. I can’t pretend that the thought of all that jiggly, cellulite-dimpled flesh waddling through the streets and demanding extra seats on airplanes doesn’t leave me a tad squeamish.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m perfectly willing to admit that my discomfort stems, at least in part, from the panic that arises when I picture my extremely average-sized manhood disappearing like a shrimp into the gaping maw of a hungry blue whale. What I don’t understand is why this is a problem. Why should I have to hide or apologize for what is, in the end, a matter of taste?
Why should I feel any more guilt for my preference than I do for thinking artichokes are the world’s stupidest vegetable, for hating The Arcade Fire, or for gleefully awaiting the day that purse dogs finally make their way on to the endangered species list?
Welcome to life in the 21st century. No sooner does one tiptoe through the minefields of racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism than some new sensitivity is claiming its place in the increasingly labyrinthine hierarchy of the victimhood.
As noted yesterday in Street Carnage and around the Web, a Memphis professor of photography is raising quite the kerfuffle with an art project that consists of her surreptitiously photographing people who have ridiculed or expressed discomfort with her appearance. In other words, her work is an attempt to humiliate and embarrass the people who have humiliated and embarrassed her.
To be clear, the people in the photos aren’t lobbing Chicken McNuggets at Ms. Morris Cafiero’s head or dancing in a circle around her singing “Fatty, Fatty two-by-four/couldn’t fit through the bathroom door.” In fact, in most of the photos it isn’t really clear whether the grimaces and pained looks on her subjects’ faces are a reaction to her size or her straight-out-of-special-ed fashion sense and apparent lack of acquaintance with the implements of modern-day coiffure, both of which are well within her control, assuming her weight is not.
Either way, what does it matter?
Like everyone else who didn’t grow up in a bubble, I’ve been made fun of all my life. In the second grade, I talked so much that the teacher trained the other kids to chant “Shut up, Robbie!” whenever I tried to speak in class. When I peed my pants on the way home from Cub Scouts or tripped over my own skipping rope in gym class, people taunted me for weeks afterward, and let’s not even talk about that time (OK, times) I got so drunk I shit myself. I’ve been mocked for being poor. Later, when I made a little money, I was mocked for being an arrogant, money-flashing richfuck. And like Ms. Morris Cafiero, I’ve had my own body issues. The difference is that when I put on weight, people have not only made faces behind my back, they’ve called me Cartman and Doughboy and asked if I’m pregnant while patting my stomach in front of my colleagues and coworkers.
Have my feelings been a little hurt at times? Sure, but I took it as a sign that I needed to toughen up a little and maybe get back to the gym, not a golden ticket to the land of self-righteous whimpering. Is it childish and cruel to belittle your fellow human beings? Of course. But as a not-so-wise man (AKA my father) once told me: If you’re waiting until everyone in the world stops being an asshole so you can be happy, you’re just a fat, stupid loser who’ll never accomplish anything, never mind a feature on Salon.com and 58,000 Likes on Facebook.
Like everything else he ever said, he couldn’t have imagined how wrong he was.