Thus Spake Zuska

Okay, the actual story is this:

if you are an overweight woman you:

• May have a harder time getting health insurance or have to pay higher premiums

• Are at higher risk of being misdiagnosed or receiving inaccurate dosages of drugs

• Are less likely to find a fertility doctor who will help you get pregnant

• Are less likely to have cancer detected early and get effective treatment for it

And the story goes on to outline a whole host of reasons, some discriminatory, some actual problems caused by physical realities, why the above might be so. But before you get to any of that, you are greeted with the following:

i-c04c34cd5f4617b479258d4fde2718f3-t1larg.overweight.women.gi.jpg

just so you can be sure to remember that the world is staring at and judging you when you are overweight, young lady! No, we don’t need to see your head or even your whole body. Just the boobs and crotch – the pieces that define women’s worth. White women only need apply for our decapitated torso shot, please, even though the problems of access to adequate medical care and weight-related health issue are just as critical and maybe even more so for brown women.

CNN is basically re-reporting a story from Health.com, which is primarily aimed at women. That may explain why the story focuses on the problems being overweight causes for women, as if overweight men didn’t experience any issues with obtaining adequate health care. But what I find really interesting is comparing the photo that Health.com chose to illustrate their story, as compared to CNN. It’s this:

i-aba30e9f57e12b8afaa9a86203162a19-heavy-scale-150.jpg

First of all, the photo takes up a lot less real estate on the page than CNN’s photo does. It sits beside the story, instead of blaring across the top of the page as something you have to scroll past before you can get to the story. And finally, CNN’s photo says to the female reader “this is how the world sees all you fat bitches” whereas Health.com’s photo says something more like “you are taking control of your health”.

CNN, I wish you had shoes, because I really need to puke on them right now.

Comments

  1. #1 Intransigentia
    January 21, 2010

    Gah! As a woman much fatter than the ones generally depicted in such images, may I suggest an alternative to shoe-puking: I’ll put on a swimsuit and flipflops, buy myself an icecream cone, and wander around their office being happy and fat at them. I’m not sure what would do them in first: the horror or the cognitive dissonance.

  2. #2 IanW
    January 21, 2010

    They “cut off the head” to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit by their identification of the people in the photo. But you’re posting this like this kind of abuse is something new, Zuska. We all know it isn’t. And we see this category of abuse (not overweight torsos per se, but “pretty women” or salacious/genderist titles, blogs, comments, pictures, etc.) quite frequently in science blogs. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be called here, too.

  3. #3 TTabetic
    January 21, 2010

    Ian, perhaps you weren’t paying attention. Did you see Zuska’s comparison with the other photo? One that made a point more relevant to the article?

    It is very difficult to step outside oneself and try seeing things from a different perspective, but well worth it.

  4. #4 mpatter
    January 21, 2010

    That’s amazing. The text is basically the same, but inserting that picture changes so much the message that CNN intends viewers to *feel* after reading. It has the power to change the light in which people read the whole story.

    (Incidentally, isn’t it possible the woman on the right is black, by American standards?)

  5. #5 SharonC
    January 21, 2010

    Health.com needs their shoes puking on too. Or better, their scale.

    The scale! It shall judge you, women!

    Lovely. Not.

  6. #6 Brandon
    January 21, 2010

    In all fairness, CNN does the same thing to guys:
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/11/05/obesity.cancer.link/index.html
    There would probably be a male torso in your picture if the article weren’t specifically about women. I think the issue is more our general obsession with appearance than objectifying women in particular.

  7. #7 TTabetic
    January 21, 2010

    Are you certain about that analysis, Brandon? Because it assumes that men and women are interchangeable data in a story.

  8. #8 Zuska
    January 21, 2010

    And I’m thinking that for real equivalence, that d00d in the picture in the link Brandon provides would have to have some skin showing and we’d have to have his wanker region included in the photograph – and maybe have him not clad in something authoritative-looking like a lab coat or business shirt or whatever that is. Oh, yeah, and we’d need long-standing and widespread societal objectification and pornification of the dangly-bits region. Other than that, oh yeah, those two images are JUST like each other! hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

  9. #9 Michael Hawkins
    January 22, 2010

    It’s dishonest to say the point of the photo was to focus on the “boobs and crotch” as if that was the intent. It happens that the fattest part of people is precisely what CNN decided to show. Sometimes big butt shots are used for the same reason. CNN can’t control where all the weight goes.

    And cutting off the faces? Really? Really? What an eminently silly issue to raise. There are obvious lawsuit concerns present. But let’s say that isn’t a factor. Are you suggesting CNN should show the full bodies, faces included, of these random women? Would that somehow be more dignified and less humiliating than likely never even knowing their bodies were used in a news article?

    You also raised the issue of Health.com’s image taking up less space on the page. So what? Are you suggesting CNN should start using smaller images overall? Are you only suggesting its pictures of fat people should be smaller? What does it matter if CNN wants to splash large images across its site?

    Finally, race is hardly the issue at hand, the connection you make to it is tenuous, and you’re clearly wrong to label the woman on the right as white. Her complexion is similar to Obama’s.

  10. #10 skeptifem
    January 22, 2010

    thanks for mansplaining for the benefit of my tiny lady brain. We just wouldn’t know what to think without dudes like michael h around! It is so nice to not deal with the stress of figuring out what is important to me.

  11. #11 csrster
    January 22, 2010

    http://images.google.com/images?imgtbs=ts&imgtype=photo&as_st=y&hl=en&safe=off&q=obesity+site:bbc.co.uk&sa=N&start=0&ndsp=21

    You can do some interesting research on this with google images. For example, the above shows all image-matches on “obesity” at the bbc. Superficially I don’t see any obvious bias in favour of, say, women’s crotchall regions, or indeed women in general. (The same search at cnn doesn’t give enough matches to be intersting.)

    My main problem with the cnn image is that those women don’t look particularly overweight to me – and pathologising normal body shape is a big problem, and one that affects women more than men.

  12. #12 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 22, 2010

    What an eminently silly issue to raise.

    HOLY FUCKNOLY!!!!!! It’s Mr. High-School Debate-Team Champeeeeeeen!!!!!!!

    Where the fuck you been, holmes!?!?!?

  13. #13 OleanderTea
    January 22, 2010

    And while we’re lobbing grenades….

    Why do we never see a well-dressed, well-groomed fat woman illustrating these “stories”?

  14. #14 PalMD
    January 22, 2010

    @OleanterTea

    But what purpose would that serve? Aren’t all women with a BMI over 30 fat milchcows whose only purpose is to reinforce certain ideas about women, health, etc?

  15. #15 wondering
    January 22, 2010

    Really Zuska? You think that a scale with accept/reject markers on them is acceptable? I can see your point in that it is better than the CNN picture, but given your overall point about being judged, I call that pic a serious FAIL.

    “Sorry young woman, you’re rejected!” is really not the kind of message any one should face.

  16. #16 Simba
    January 22, 2010

    It seems like a pretty standard illustration of an obesity article to me. They cut the legs for space and the head so that the person can’t be recognised. Most photos like this focus on the belly of the male (naked torsos for extra repugnance and vilification, especially if chest hair is present), the chest of the female, and the butt of both. Legs just don’t show fat as much, especially feet.

    It’s like in travel magazines- everyone in photos in those is either headless, facing away from the camera, an actor, or a journalist.

    I would be more worried about the issue raised by OleanderTea- it’s true, you very rarely see well-dressed, successful looking obese people in the media (or them doing anything but queing for food or standing on a sidewalk, but that’s probably because that’s where people are easiest to photograph anonymously).

  17. #17 Dick
    January 22, 2010

    Better to have their heads cut off. Heads on, only one or two bitchez are humiliated. Heads off, makes ‘em all feel squeamy. And that’s the ultimate goal, amirite?

  18. #18 PalMD
    January 22, 2010

    I love the rationalization…it’s kind of like yoga.

    They cut the legs for space and the head so that the person can’t be recognised.

    And why, exactly, do they need to amputate the legs “for space”? I post images quite a bit, and I’ve never needed to crop out body parts for space—only for content.

  19. #19 jc
    January 22, 2010

    *raises hand*
    pick me Pal!

    Answer: WIMMIN R TITZ ON STIKZ!
    silly monkey, only the tit-shaped fat is acceptable viewing manpleasure.

  20. #20 SKM
    January 22, 2010

    Are you suggesting CNN should start using smaller images overall? Are you only suggesting its pictures of fat people should be smaller? What does it matter if CNN wants to splash large images across its site?

    No, no, and totally beside the point.

    You could answer some of your many questions for yourself by reading the post more carefully.

  21. #21 Michael Hawkins
    January 23, 2010

    thanks for mansplaining for the benefit of my tiny lady brain. We just wouldn’t know what to think without dudes like michael h around! It is so nice to not deal with the stress of figuring out what is important to me.

    What in the hell are you going on about, skeptifem? My post had nothing to do with a male point of view. The only piece pertaining to sex (to which I responded) was the point in the original post which claimed these women were being objectified because of where the image focuses. That’s a rather bad point and would have gathered the same response from me if the image had have been of two men with their crotches in the shot.

    Really, how is your post not sexist? I’m a man who disagrees there is sexism present thus I’m sexist, too? All comments I make must be condescending? And no women could ever hold my position that it makes sense to photograph the fattest part of a person’s body for an article about obesity? Why not just address my actual point rather than focusing on my sex?

    HOLY FUCKNOLY!!!!!! It’s Mr. High-School Debate-Team Champeeeeeeen!!!!!!!

    Where the fuck you been, holmes!?!?!?

    Phew. I hadn’t read where you dared to say “fuck” on the Internet for quite some time, so I was worried you weren’t so edgy anymore.

    No, no, and totally beside the point.

    You could answer some of your many questions for yourself by reading the post more carefully.

    Okay, if the point isn’t that CNN should start using smaller images overall, then explain this quote:

    First of all, the photo takes up a lot less real estate on the page than CNN’s photo does.

    If the answer is “no”, then there is no reason for making that first point. If the answer is “yes”, then the question leads directly to why it would matter. This obviously is not besides the point. It was one of the points the original post raised. “…the photo takes up a lot less real estate…than CNN’s…” Okay, so what? Why is this important? Or is it just random criticism like when two junior high kids have a disagreement and one decides it’s suddenly pertinent to criticize the other kid’s choice of clothes as ugly?

    Christ. Does anyone have anything substantial to add besides “I disagree with you” (or for the even less high-minded among us, “fuck”)?

  22. #22 OleanderTea
    January 23, 2010

    @OleanterTea

    But what purpose would that serve? Aren’t all women with a BMI over 30 fat milchcows whose only purpose is to reinforce certain ideas about women, health, etc?

    Posted by: PalMD

    No, no, no, Pal, that’s only a part-time job, and it doesn’t provide health insurance! The economy being what it is, I had to take a primary job to keep me in Velveeta and Twinkies (and insurance to pay for the Lipitor and beta-bockers…).

  23. #23 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 23, 2010

    Does anyone have anything substantial to add besides “I disagree with you” (or for the even less high-minded among us, “fuck”)?

    I am willing to add that you are a pedantic douchebag who either is too stupid to understand simple concepts, or is a disingenuous lying asshole.

  24. #24 stripey_cat
    January 23, 2010

    Michael H – mansplaining is a term coined for when men step in to tell women why their emotional response to something is wrong. From a male perspective. In general, it’s *very* frustrating to be told “you shouldn’t feel threatened/belittled/whatever”.

    I’m not saying whether what you said about intent was right or wrong (I’ll keep that opinion to myself), but you did then go on to assume that the lack of conscious intent removed any responsibility for the response provoked. If I knock someone over because I’m not looking where I’m walking, I have to apologise. If an article is accompanied by a photo that makes people angry or uncomfortable, the journalist needs to consider why.

  25. #25 Michael Hawkins
    January 23, 2010

    stripey_cat,

    I should point out first that I had actually assumed this post had been written by a man simply because more men seem to blog than women (and maybe that’s because I mostly read PZ and Jerry Coyne). I didn’t happen to take note of the picture of Suzanne on the side.

    But even had I seen her picture, it wouldn’t make a difference because I wasn’t explaining anything from a male perspective. The picture is of the fattest portion of the body. It makes sense to show that in an article related to obesity. If there is any complain to be made, it’s from the standpoint of an obese person (or, alternatively, someone who is concerned with self-esteem). I don’t see the sexism issue (even if PhysioProf FUCKING does! Edgy!).

    I don’t understand the accusation that I was trying to explain away an emotional position. I’m sure emotion played a role, but I viewed the post as an argument, something with substance (not that emotion is inherently devoid of substance necessarily). I responded to specific points that were raised: the focus is on boobs and crotch, race has a role in this, the size of the image itself. I certainly wasn’t talking down toward any women. And aren’t you assuming that as a man I am devoid of appealing to emotion? I find this ironic since I’ve been accused of this several times on my own blog in relation to posts ranging from a disdain for alternative medicine charlatans to posts supporting civil rights for gays.

    But I guess the best question I could ask here would be, Why is my perspective male? Aside from the physical reason it must be so, what parts of what I said are male-y? Why couldn’t a woman make the same arguments?

    As for intent, it does matter. In addition, I don’t think apologies must always be forthcoming because of offense. Look at Kurt Westergaard’s cartoon of Mohammad with a bomb on his head. He has nothing for which he should apologize. No one has a right not to be offended. That said, I don’t find the above image offensive anyway, but if I did, it would be in regard for obese people in general, not specifically obese women or simply women. I mean, come on. If the article was about women’s healthcare in general and it showed a picture of two average women without their faces or anything, then yeah, there’s a good deal of objectification. But let’s use some context. It’s an article about fat women. The picture shows the fattest part of two fat women. Seems fair.

    I am willing to add that you are a pedantic douchebag who either is too stupid to understand simple concepts, or is a disingenuous lying asshole.

    I’m trying to have a discussion. Your unsupported declarations aren’t helping and, frankly, I’m getting all cut up with your edgy vocabulary.

  26. #26 Zuska
    January 24, 2010

    I’m going to try explaining this to you and hope you will try very hard to understand. You are engaging in a very typical sort of behavior that is generally displayed, for the most part, by men, who do not have even the most rudimentary understanding of basic feminist theory, when they read blog posts written on topics relating to gender.

    Your continuing insistence that the “fattest portion” of the body MUST be shown to illustrate an article about obesity in women is, at best, demonstrative of staggering obtuseness. For example, alternatives could include a picture of someone’s fat ass, no? Or some thunder thighs? Or hey, let’s try thinking way, way outside the box. Now work with me here, because this is going to require a real leap outside the narrow confines your mind has been working within. What if you chose a picture of two women, one in a white lab coat with a stethoscope, the other nicely dressed and groomed, but okay, let’s let her be a little overweight. Make it clear that Lab Coat is a doctor consulting with her patient. Now why couldn’t that be just as good an illustration for an article that is not about obesity, mind you, but about how being overweight impacts women’s access to adequate health care and good treatment from their doctors? I’d say it’s a helluva lot better choice than objectifying women’s bodies in the tiresome way it’s always done.

    And if you are not familiar with the concepts of objectification of women’s bodies and the male gaze, then I really suggest that you do a little googling and reading before you go blathering on here again about how you are not a wankerly d00dly d00d, even though you totes assumed I was a d00d, because, you know, you usually read d00ds, and who would expect women to be blogging, even when they post their pictures and names, because PZ is a guy. There are so many levels of FAIL in your comments I can’t even believe I’ve responded to you, but, what the hell, it’s worth a try. My suggestion now is go read everything again and try, really try, very hard, to think about where you are missing all the points.

  27. #27 Zuska
    January 24, 2010

    Also wanted to say to all my readers: I am totally going to have to get reading glasses. I was not able to make out that the scale in that Health.com picture says accept/reject till it was pointed out by Wondering above…squinting very hard I could finally read it. Sigh. I so do not want to get bifocals but it may be time…

  28. #28 LQ
    January 24, 2010

    I think both pictures are horrible; the scale is judgmental and obnoxious, and I am sick of candid photos of overweight women (they look particularly bad when the photos we generally see of women are so overgroomed and photoshopped). They accompany every article about Why Americans Eat Too Much Garbage and irritate the heck out of me because I do not eat like the typical garbage-swilling American but I look like that anyway.

    I’d rather see a photo of a professionally-dress, well-put-together plus-size model looking outraged at a letter from an insurer. THAT has a lot more to do with the news article. Doesn’t it?

  29. #29 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 24, 2010

    I viewed the post as an argument

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!! High-school debate team champeens crack me the fuck up!!!

  30. #30 Michael Hawkins
    January 24, 2010

    It’s incredible how sexist you’re actually being towards me.

    Would another picture have been better? Maybe. Is the one above specifically an objectification of women. No. It’s an objectification of obese people. You have no particular standing here as a woman. That isn’t what this is about. Take this picture. The article is about a particular family. Despite the fact that you refuse, in your own sexism, to acknowledge all the issues, this image can be used to specifically support a topic raised at least twice in this comment section: legality. You can clearly see faces here because CNN has the right to show them.

    And why not thighs or buttocks? How about this? But wait! It’s a woman in the picture. It must be sexist. And do you really expect anyone to believe that you wouldn’t claim* sexism if the picture showed a shot that included the butt?

    Was I wrong to assume I was reading a post by a male? Clearly. Was that assumption crazy sexist? Of course not. Most bloggers are male. Furthermore, I acknowledged that my assumption was partly based off anecdote and personal sampling bias. I don’t see why you would attack me for explaining that. It isn’t like I said it was good that the few blogs I read tend to be written by men.

    But I still haven’t seen where anyone has shown why my response is inherently male-oriented. Why couldn’t a woman point out that the image is intended to objectify obesity? That’s the obvious point of using that picture. Take LQ’s post above. It’s impossible to tell if that’s a he or she, but it doesn’t matter. The point being made is that plenty of news stories are accompanied by images of overweight people made to look as disgusting as possible. That is where the objectification lies and that is where qualms should be raised. Stop trying to find sexism.

    *I was going to say “cry” because I often use that term (regardless of gender) when someone’s point turns from something of value to something of whining, but then I realized you probably would say I was demeaning your gender (as if men don’t cry).

  31. #31 jc
    January 24, 2010

    aaaaand BINGO was his name-o.

  32. #32 IanW
    January 25, 2010

    @TTabetic: Have you ever tried stepping outside yourself to the point where you don’t smugly assume you know everything about a complete stranger to the point that you feel confident that you can correct them on what you arrogantly perceive to be their shortcomings?

  33. #33 Nick42
    January 25, 2010

    I’ve been exposed to the theory of feminism via ScienceBlogs and other sources. I’ve read about objectification of women and the power of the male gaze. Such things have allowed me to perceive gendered situations I hadn’t before.

    Yet reading these comments I can only come to two conclusions:

    A member of a privileged group is not allowed to disagree with a member of a unprivileged group without gendered insults.

    Sexism is whatever a woman subjectively feels it is and objective evidence has no bearing on the matter.

    It saddens me to see that when this blog’s conclusions were challenged in a respectful manner, the response was basicly:

    Shut up, you’re just a man

    Even if men and women are treated the same, it’s still sexism because of the history of unequal treatment.

    This was just an emotional outpouring, so the conclusions don’t have to be true and/or men are not allowed to comment on it.

  34. #34 mpatter
    January 25, 2010

    @Nick42, possibly* it had to do with things like this from Michael H:

    “It’s dishonest to say the point of the photo was to focus on the “boobs and crotch” as if that was the intent.”

    I fell into this trap, here, pretty recently. The CNN employee might not have intended to be degrading, but the choice of picture is still totally congruent which an all-pervading social bias that gives women less respect than men.

    *I say possibly because I might have totally misunderstood all the posts.

  35. #35 mpatter
    January 25, 2010

    Also it’s true to say that Michael’s misunderstanding stemmed from ignorance of what feminism is about. And he coupled it with accusations of dishonesty etc, from the start.

    So the worst you can really say is this blog is unfriendly to the defensively ignorant.

  36. #36 Nick42
    January 25, 2010

    @mpatter

    It’s not just the response to Micheal, there were similar, but less vitriolic responses to the other commenters who disagreed with Zuska. I’ve seen the same response many times to others who disagree with a post about feminism – dissent must mean that either you know nothing of feminism or you’re disagreeing just to be an asshat.

    I’m sure that people who discuss feminist theory on the Internet have to deal with lots of ignorant comments. But I still don’t see how Michael’s posts have betrayed any misunderstanding of feminism.

    This is unless the theory of feminism includes the idea that treating men and women exactly the same (showing them in the same pose) still constitutes discrimination based upon the history of mistreatment of women. Maybe that’s the case – the last couple of sentences from Zuska’s comment on the 21st seems to imply that it is so.

  37. #37 Michael Hawkins
    January 25, 2010

    I fell into this trap, here, pretty recently. The CNN employee might not have intended to be degrading, but the choice of picture is still totally congruent which an all-pervading social bias that gives women less respect than men.

    I can agree that sexism is still a problem even if it isn’t intended. In fact, it probably comes in that form quite a bit of the time. But for this picture I feel that in addition to it not being intended to be sexist that it also is not sexist. As I pointed out earlier, the mid-section is where the fat is. Besides that, just watch any news report on obesity in America and you’ll see that general area as the focus for both men and women. The objectification is of the obese, not a particular sex.

    And thank you for putting in some substance.

    mpatter,

    I think a disservice is done to feminism when the goal almost seems to become a stereotype. The fact that I must be “mansplaining” simply because I’m a man is sexist in itself and it’s that sort of stuff that makes for caricatures of feminists on bad sitcoms. Every image of a woman who is not professionally dressed or which shows something below her shoulders is not de facto sexist.

    And thank you for adding a little more substance as well.

  38. #38 mpatter
    January 25, 2010

    My guess* is, if you asked a proper feminist commenter (as opposed to a tagalong like me) why a hostile tone is necessary to dispense with , they would say something along the lines of: “We’re sick of some d00d derailing our every conversation and telling us we’re deluded, without knowing even the basics of the feminist POV.”

    It must be a bit like creationists in an evolutionary biology forum. The same tired arguments in every thread, which all of the regulars have heard and dismissed a long time ago.

    Feminism might be more normative than biology, it’s a social science and a suggested system of morals – so you can discard the lot of it, as long as you’re perfectly happy with a world where 50% of a human race gets crapped on for no good reason.

    *I may stand corrected very soon.

  39. #39 jc
    January 25, 2010

    mpatter, you beat me to the parallel with religious nutters. The same pages out of the Derailing for Dummies manual are used by creationists when they quote Mark, Matthew, Luke, and Bible boys for WhyThingsAreDoneTHISWAY and why thoooooose *unenlightened lost souls* are Rong.

    When a creationist comments on PZ’s site that s/he regularly hangs at the Creationist Museum, get your egg timer.

    I have no idea what a ‘proper feminist commenter’ is. One who sees the gender smog in a thread?

  40. #40 mpatter
    January 25, 2010

    @jc, yea, that definition sounds right. Though I was also thinking “someone who hasn’t had their ass handed to them as recently as I have”…

  41. #41 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 25, 2010

    I think a disservice is done to feminism when the goal almost seems to become a stereotype.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just when I think high-school debate-team champeeeeeeeen of the WORLD can’t get any funnier!! You’re the fucking BEST!!!!!

  42. #42 Michael Hawkins
    January 26, 2010

    Thanks for bringing the edginess back to this thread, CPP.

    mpatter,

    I’m not willing to dismiss all of feminism, or even most of it. It’s a philosophy which has a deep value and addresses a ton of legitimate issues. What I am willing to dismiss, however, is the deep-end of the philosophy where people are only interested in becoming caricatures of feminists. I mean, come on. “Mansplaining”? Really? Really? This is a perfect example of the sort of trivialization that crops up so often when one side is unwilling to have a real discussion. The negroes were uppity. Women who wanted to vote were hysterical. Atheists are militant. Gays are just being dramatic. And men are just mansplaining. This rubbish has no value.

  43. #43 mpatter
    January 26, 2010

    negroes
    women
    atheists
    gays
    men

    name the odd one out

  44. #44 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 26, 2010

    I’m not willing to dismiss all of feminism, or even most of it. It’s a philosophy which has a deep value and addresses a ton of legitimate issues.

    THANK FUCKING GOD!!!!!!!!! I have been getting e-mails all fucking night from every fucking feminist on the planet worrying that they were gonna just have to shut the whole fucking thing down.

  45. #45 IanW
    January 26, 2010

    You know what’s missing here is the real issue: why does CNN need any picture at all? I don’t see how the picture of what are apparently a woman’s feet on a scale is any less obnoxious than overweight female torsos.

    Is CNN’s audience so bereft of reality that they need some sort of illustration to indicate what overweight is? They can’t figure it out for themselves? Can CNN not simply post an article discussing the issue without a meaningless illustration to go with it? This is symptomatic of a web that’s becoming all-too-much about glitz and less and less about substance.

    It’s not just “overweight” that gets an icon to dumb it down to the lowest common denominator, either. News web sites simply cannot publish a page without an illustration, even if the illustration contibutes nothing; even if the illustration is practically irrelevant to the meat of the article. And that’s what it’s about – meat. We have to have our pound of flesh illustrated, don’t we? The BBC news site is just as bad, as is USA Today, etc. It’s not just CNN: it’s web culture, and it’s focused on women because women are boxed that way by society. Does society really care about an overweight man? apparently that’s not a problem, but the overweight woman….

  46. #46 Vicki
    January 26, 2010

    Ian–

    And an illustration that completely misses the point of the article, at that. Given what the article actually said–despite being undercut by interspersed links to weight-loss tips–a better illustration would have been a fat woman bleeding to death while a doctor stood by, with a speech bubble saying “You wouldn’t have this problem if you just lost some weight.”

  47. #47 GR
    January 27, 2010

    “Mansplain” = excellent, wonderful, marvelous, new-to-me word! Thank you!

  48. #48 GR
    January 27, 2010

    Sorry – commented to wrong post! (Or perhaps just wanted to block my fat-girl fury at the above nonsense-as-usual.)

  49. #49 skeptifem
    January 27, 2010

    “mansplain” is a perfectly good work. When you have had so many conversations where some dude pulls you aside to inform you of the dominant perspective of society as if you could live in it unaware. It is a “Just to let you know, here is my opinion as a man, and I hope that clears some things up for you!” conversations. I almost never see dudes approach each other with the paternal bs women get when they have opinions. A mansplainer graces you with his wonderful enlightening presence in order to get this whole feminism thing straightened out, and he is much more of an expert on what women should do/think/care about than you. He can tell women the difference between important feminism and trivial feminism, despite not being someone who gets the shit end of sexism on a daily basis.

  50. #50 Lee Bradley
    January 28, 2010

    I am posting here because of the article on mansplaining, which has several links to the comments in this article. Both articles relate to sensitivity, but from different perspectives.

    The mansplaining article relieves the stress of Zuska at the expense of men who are not mansplainers. The fact that comments are being deleted or moved is especially insensitive. Ideally, the article should have been reworded in a manner that was gender-neutral and it should have encouraged free discussion of the matter at hand.

    The CNN article makes money at the expense of women who are overweight. The fact that the photo was of just of the breasts and crotch was especially insensitive. Ideally, the article should have covered both men and women, and given readers the tools they needed to fight weight problems.

    I firmly believe that “mansplaining” is a term feminists should be fighting against, not encouraging. Just like the term mansplainer is gross misrepresentation of a man, the CNN photo is a gross misrepresentation of a woman.

    These commenters are venting, like you. It’s really annoying that I can’t reverse what some of them have said. I apologize for their rash words.

  51. #51 feministwhore
    January 28, 2010

    “I’m not willing to dismiss all of feminism, or even most of it. It’s a philosophy which has a deep value and addresses a ton of legitimate issues.”

    Well there’s your problem right there, the singularity thing. If you learn the many different feminist philosophies, you could reject bunches of feminisms, embrace bunches of other feminisms, and the bonus is you’ll sound like you have a clue what you are talking about. I think they call that a win-win.

  52. #52 Zuska
    January 29, 2010

    Yes, but isn’t it such an immense relief to have a big manly man brain weigh in on the value and legitimacy of feminism as a philosophy? Of course you can’t take my word for it, I’m just a woman, and a caricature of feminism at that, as noted mansplainer Michael Hawkins has pointed out elsewhere, but maybe you can ask him whether or not what I am feeling is actually a sense of relief. He would know, I’m sure.

  53. #53 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 29, 2010

    The mansplaining article relieves the stress of Zuska at the expense of men who are not mansplainers. The fact that comments are being deleted or moved is especially insensitive. Ideally, the article should have been reworded in a manner that was gender-neutral and it should have encouraged free discussion of the matter at hand.

    WHOOOOOOSH!!!!!! SPLAT!!!!!!!

  54. #54 Endor
    January 29, 2010

    “The mansplaining article relieves the stress of Zuska at the expense of men who are not mansplainers.”

    Oy. Ever heard the phrase “If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it?”

    If the mansplaining shoe doesn’t fit, Lou, don’t wear it.

  55. #55 John
    January 29, 2010

    I opine that the images are deliberately evocative. Few actually read scientific journals. Journals sometimes change the behaviors of a few, but not general populations. Finally, the “reject/accept” scale is inherently more condescending and offensive. i.e. In network product testing, rejection is reserved for defects which cannot be corrected. Perhaps it is more inappropriate to consider women products incapable of controlling their behavior. CNN takes the opposite approach. They are deliberately evocative. Time didn’t take pictures of people donating money in the U.S. for Haiti relief. They drew attention to the disaster in Haiti to evoke horror at a tragedy because emotions compel people to action. There were two page spreads of looters gunned down in the streets, bodies being burned on makeshift pyres, and the presidential palace in shambles.

    As regards to the flame thread which followed, perhaps a more appropriate discourse, if discourse were in fact the intention would have been:

    Zuska: I feel slighted, was it your intention to be condescending?
    Michael Hawkins: No, this is merely how I break down arguments as a result of either training or inclination. I apologize for any insult offered, either explicit or inferred.

    Comrade PhysioProf, you are not the real Slim Shady. Please sit down and shut up.

  56. #56 Endor
    January 29, 2010

    Shorter “John”: My Manly Meat Stick of Knowledge(tm) knows all! It decides who can speak and what they can speak about! Why are you all laughing at me?!?!?!

  57. #57 meerkat
    January 30, 2010

    If you think of the “accept/reject” label on the scale as indicating the result of the woman’s application to insurance/fertility treatment/cancer screening/other things fat women aren’t considered worthy of (such as jobs and raises), then it’s a very appropriate picture for the subject, because that’s kinda exactly what is going on.

  58. #58 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 30, 2010

    Comrade PhysioProf, you are not the real Slim Shady. Please sit down and shut up.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

    WHOOSH! SPLAT!

  59. #59 claire
    January 31, 2010

    One of the latest posts from Post Secret struck me as pertinent to this discussion: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_a7jkcMVp5Vg/S2T-Z2OUjGI/AAAAAAAAK9U/wmPmLnrMCfQ/s1600-h/NEWS.jpg

  60. #60 Stray
    February 1, 2010

    I gotta agree with John on how this thread went down. I thought MH made some decent points at the beginning but the constant refusal to just acknowledge other points of view showed a lack of understanding in how normal conversations/debates should go, and definitely had sexist overtones, especially at the end (sorry, bud, but men don’t belong in the same category as minorities. People may be mean to you but that’s not the same thing as discrimination. You’re not invited to that club, be thankful.)

    The defenders (of the original article) also seem to have a tendency to not explain the point and just be mean to people they disagree with. Some logical explanation goes a long way, guys/girls… though a few people did explain and made some really good points, which were unfortunately ignored by MH.

    Ah well. Such is the internet.

    As to the original post, I agree that the image (both images even) could have been chosen with much more compassion in mind. News agencies do “cut heads off” for anonymity/legal purposes, but if they spent a bit more money either composing or buying stock images such as the one suggested above (a doctor and overweight patient) instead of taking free pictures of random people off the street, it’d go a long way to make their point in a more sophisticated and less insulting way.

  61. #61 nicole
    February 1, 2010

    Mansplaining is so very very real! It is very difficult for a person in a position of privilege to really relate to a person in a position of less power. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have an opinion if you are in a position of power, but it does mean that you have to acknowledge that your opinion is inherently less informed as a basic result of different life experience.

    That image was horrendous and the scale one was pretty terrible too. It was insulting and condescending because it was only of fat poorly dressed white-ish women, because it only showed their sexy bits, and because it was inflammatory and it was clearly DESIGNED to be inflammatory. It was inflammatory for the gender issue reasons, for the obesity issue reasons, and because of the size and location of the image etc. As a graphic designer I can promise you that while they may have budget and legal restrictions for images to contend with, no one accidentally crops a photo like that and sticks it at the top of the page all big like that without realizing that they are doing it to be incendiary.

  62. #62 Jennifer
    February 5, 2010

    Well, there is something worse than mansplaining, and at the time when I was youthful and naive, I fell victim to it. What happens is that the mansplainer, instead of just splaining, goes this far: “Look — here is a loose thread in your argument! It would be negligent of you not to give that thread a hefty pull and see what comes of it.”

  63. #63 Cara
    March 17, 2010

    I firmly believe that “mansplaining” is a term feminists should be fighting against, not encouraging. Just like the term mansplainer is gross misrepresentation of a man, the CNN photo is a gross misrepresentation of a woman.

    These commenters are venting, like you. It’s really annoying that I can’t reverse what some of them have said. I apologize for their rash words.

    Late comment, but here it is: Who asked YOU? And how dare you traipse in here and apologize for someone else?