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"When you’re a fat woman, taking up space is an affront to femininity."
May 14, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe

What that Louie episode got right and wrong about fat women. After Sunday night's airing of Louie, some thoughtful, angry, interesting articles about how the show dealt with the issue of female body-shaming have popped up. But should the issue of fat-shaming women really be brought up by men?
posted by Kitteh (126 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
There has also been discussion right here on MetaFilter.
posted by Etrigan at 10:26 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


The first time I watched the episode, I read Vanessa’s entire speech about the difficulty of being a fat girl as a female cri de coeur. The second time I watched it, after interviewing Baker and learning that she had nothing to do with the script, it seemed more like a male mea culpa.

Why let the screenwriter inform the impression? Can someone summarize what the second article is trying to say?
posted by MangyCarface at 10:27 AM on May 14


But should the issue of fat-shaming women really be brought up by men?

That's not remotely what the episode is about. Really. There's nothing at all in the entire episode about fat-shaming women. The "fat lady" is not shamed, or ashamed, ever.

It's about men's insecurities. It's about men.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:46 AM on May 14 [40 favorites]


I am having a some of difficulty with this--I am not sure a a man/men can accurately capture the feeling of a fat woman nor am I any more confident a woman/women can accurately capture the feelings of fatness in other woman/women. I would guess the experience of fatness is to some extent universal with in a relatively homogenous cultural subset and at the same time unique to the individual. I am more comfortable seeing the Louie CK and "Girls" episodes as very good pieces of entertainment, with good writing that lets us all experience our own feelings with out judging the writing or our own reaction. I have difficulty with any position that says this episode did not "get it", can't be done by a man, or misses the mark. It was entertainment and art not a scientific study on the experience of fatness.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:48 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I was unaware of the Louie thread in FanFare, but mostly because I am more interested in the issues the episode brought up than I am about the show itself.
posted by Kitteh at 10:51 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


There's nothing at all in the entire episode about fat-shaming women. The "fat lady" is not shamed, or ashamed, ever.

Louie rejects her, several times, and it's pretty clear that it's because she's overweight.
posted by Etrigan at 10:51 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Dunno about the fat-shaming question, but I do know the difference between demur/demure. I just wish more professional writers did. (First link, third/fourth paragraph. Aargh! Pet peeve!)
posted by heyho at 10:53 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Louie rejects her, several times, and it's pretty clear that it's because she's overweight.

That's far from fat-shaming. That's just being shallow. (And, TBH, I read it more as her coming on way too strong and him not knowing what to do with that.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:54 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Louie rejects her, several times, and it's pretty clear that it's because she's overweight.

Louie uses himself as a punching bag to explore his own insecurities and failures--generally ones that he believes are endemic to society or relevant to his audience. I think Sys Rq put it extremely well.
posted by jsturgill at 10:54 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


The xojane article kind of pissed me off. In a "You're not wrong Walter. You're just an asshole." kind of way.

TV land exists in this separate world where everyone defies the statistic that 69.0% of Americans are overweight (including the 35.1% that are obese). It's a land where people go to feel like they can identify with these people who are a media idealized version of themselves.

When shows like Louie go for Louie's insecurity about dating a "fat" woman it's not supposed to be realistic but unrealistically realistic. It's unrealistic for TV land. It's supposed to make people reflect in on themselves and identify parts of themselves that they really should look at, feel shitty about, and then determine whether they want to change this part of themselves. It's not supposed to reinforce the notion that fat women can't land skinny husbands. It's supposed to make shallow people think and take a good, long hard look at themselves and say "why can't I date a chick who's right in all the right ways and who's only flaw is they aren't how society says they should look?". It might make you feel like a shitty person but isn't that the whole point of art? To make ourselves look inward and actually notice and perhaps examine our evoked emotions for once?
posted by Talez at 11:07 AM on May 14 [24 favorites]


The featured confrontation scene during the date is inspired and one would have to be willfully obtuse to not understand it.
posted by planetesimal at 11:15 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


It's supposed to make shallow people ... say "why can't I date a chick who's right in all the right ways and who's only flaw is they aren't how society says they should look?"

Well, presumably not everyone watching primarily identifies with Louie in that situation. Some viewers look more like the actress and may be attracted to real-life guys who look like Louie.

So I guess the message to any single fat women watching is that they should say to themselves, "why can't I date a guy as enlightened as Louie, since my only flaw is that I'm not how society says I should look?" It just condescendingly reinforces that an overweight woman is "flawed" (who says!?) and that Louie is super enlightened man.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:17 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


The comments on the xojane article (the angry link in the OP) are interesting. Lots of personal stories from internet people who disagree with her take and felt the lady character captured their experiences extremely well.

I think there may be a disconnect present in real life that is also present in the show. Fat acceptance is a movement, but fat shaming is endemic. Even people who are cool, collected, and awesome can be shat on, fed up, and frustrated by how they are treated due to their appearance. The actor who wrote the article wanted the show to be about a proud, strong, beautiful overweight character, but the show was trying to do more than that: show a likable, awesome, empowered, attractive woman who is also shat on by the world all the time, in ways both big and small, because of her appearance. Both sides of the coin, and really what the show was trying to explore.

Life is complicated, and I think that any large person in American who only wants to talk about how their life is awesome and they are great and strong and not held back by their weight is only telling part of the story. I'm close friends with several large women, and they are strong, interesting, attractive people, but they also have moments of surprising vulnerability, or anger, or some other intense emotion, related to their size. I think it would take a lot to be a large woman and not have scars related to your size somewhere—beautiful women have scars because of their beauty, rich people because of their money. Why pretend that being overweight can only be a positive, empowering thing?

Her reaction to the script may have been strong in part because it worked against her narrative of self in a way that was fundamental and demanded a strong response. Or maybe her story of self had little to do with it, and the script just felt weak to her. Who am I to say? Interesting article and comments, though.
posted by jsturgill at 11:19 AM on May 14 [18 favorites]


It just condescendingly reinforces that an overweight woman is "flawed" (who says!?) and that Louie is super enlightened man.
That is pretty much the opposite of what I got out of the episode. For one thing, Louie (the character) did not seem to be a particularly enlightened man at all.
posted by dfan at 11:21 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


I meant Louie the writer in that instance.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:22 AM on May 14


So I guess the message to any single fat women watching is that they should say to themselves, "why can't I date a guy as enlightened as Louie, since my only flaw is that I'm not how society says I should look?" It just condescendingly reinforces that an overweight woman is "flawed" (who says!?) and that Louie is super enlightened man.

The message is, "I can't date a guy as enlightened as Louie, because this specific guy doesn't seem to want to date me for whatever reason he has." Flip the genders around and you've got an over-assertive guy who won't take no for an answer.
posted by jbickers at 11:24 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Gotcha, thanks. The convention seems to be "Louis CK" the real person (with an s) and "Louie" the character (with an e), so I got confused.
posted by dfan at 11:24 AM on May 14


There is a beautiful moment in Stefan Zweig's novel, Beware of Pity (recently reissued by NYRB Classics: honest to goodness, if you haven't read Zweig, get on it; he is marvelous) where the bumbling protagonist Hofmiller, who has, through a series of mishaps, found himself obligated to spend time with two sisters (one, Edith, is handicapped). He feels embarrassed one day and spends an afternoon playing cards in a cafe instead. Edith catches wind of this and confronts Hofmiller much in the same way that Sarah Baker's character confronts Louie -- with a lengthy monologue in which she lays into Hofmiller for lying to her about hanging with the boys, which I quote in part:
But do you think I haven't eyes in my head? Do you think I can't detect behind your character, your stuttering and stammering, the same horror and discomfiture as was felt by that one good woman, that one honest person? Do you imagine I don't see your embarrassed, dismayed looks when I pick up my crutches, don't see how you hurriedly make conversation so that I shan't notice?
Now Zweig had enough difficulties, what with being a Jewish man forced out of Austria by the Nazis and what with being one of the most popular novelists in Europe forced to uproot his entire identity (his biography ends sadly). But it never would have occurred to anyone in that cultural climate to suggest that Edith spoke for all handicapped people or that Zweig didn't have the right to write about this issue. It is truly disheartening to witness how one of the most meaningful efforts to depict weight and gender issues on television in some time is being diminished because some dimwitted jackanape at Slate twirling a ridiculously ideological and poorly constructed lasso over her head that utterly misses the point of narrative.
posted by ed at 11:29 AM on May 14 [13 favorites]


Is it as simple as another example of "the world only notices this thing which huge numbers of folks have been screaming about when a famous white dude says it"?
posted by emjaybee at 11:35 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


It's about men's insecurities. It's about men. which is one of the things I like about Louis CK. He filters a lot of the problems that are exacerbated by discussions which become "all about men" when they are not about the experiences of white men in America through the "white man in America" filter in a very fine way.

That's necessary to the conversation about problems in an INequal society, where the roots of a lot of problems are somewhere in the long-ago arranging of that society to suit the needs, desires and aspirations of white men.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:35 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


It is truly disheartening to witness how one of the most meaningful efforts to depict weight and gender issues on television in some time is being diminished because some dimwitted jackanape at Slate twirling a ridiculously ideological and poorly constructed lasso over her head that utterly misses the point of narrative.

Never have I seen "perfect is the enemy of the good" be such an apt phrase than the commentary. Instead of looking to discuss issues openly and honesty they look for flaws in an argument or viewpoint that means they get to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

If people keep alienating people who keep trying to make a connection with you, flawed as they may consider it, where the fuck do this first group of people think they'll end up? With a group of people with a "pure" or "correct" ideology? Jesus H. Christ.
posted by Talez at 11:37 AM on May 14 [20 favorites]


Is it as simple as another example of "the world only notices this thing which huge numbers of folks have been screaming about when a famous white dude says it"?

You think we're that stupid? Everyone knows about it. Everybody just says nothing about it. Everyone just doesn't care. Everyone struggles to empathize when they're being screamed at. Famous white dude forces his viewers to look at themselves and say "Look, I'm doing this behaviour and I think I'm a shitty person for it. Do you do this behaviour? Do you think you're a shitty person? So maybe it's time to be less shitty people?" is more like it.
posted by Talez at 11:39 AM on May 14 [35 favorites]


Never have I seen "perfect is the enemy of the good" be such an apt phrase than the commentary. Instead of looking to discuss issues openly and honesty they look for flaws in an argument or viewpoint that means they get to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I was just thinking exactly this. The "if you're not 100% right then you're 100% wrong" nonsense is kind of totally out of control.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:40 AM on May 14 [17 favorites]


If people keep alienating people who keep trying to make a connection with you, flawed as they may consider it, where the fuck do this first group of people think they'll end up? With a group of people with a "pure" or "correct" ideology? Jesus H. Christ.

What actually strikes me - as a person who grew up a woman and has been varying degrees of fat their entire life* - is that I am so fucking sick of the whole "well if you don't let other people speak authoritatively about your experiences, you will never ever have liberation, so take that!!!!" line. Frankly, I am indifferent as to whether non-fat-women talk about fat women's experience. I really, really don't care very much, and I don't especially care if cis people talk about trans people's experiences, or straight people about queer, as long as they're not stupid and vain about it. But whenever I hear that "ha ha you will never have a successful liberation movement because you are not letting in the straight men/cis people/white people like me" thing, it says to me straight out "here is someone who does not actually care very much about my wellbeing, because their first response to something said by people like me is to insist on arguing for their own centrality". It's not that I care if y'all talk about my experience; it's that you are so goddamn insistent on it all the time.



*Sometimes I think "fat" describes my gender and sexuality better than "trans" and "queer"; certainly, being fat has shaped my life far more and far more painfully than either.
posted by Frowner at 11:44 AM on May 14 [54 favorites]


Some of this criticism reminds me of the criticism leveled at Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for "Same Love," for having the temerity to write and record a popular song about being gay while not actually being gay themselves. I've noticed this has become a Thing in the past couple of years anytime that somebody gets attention for trying to stick up for an oppressed group of which they are not a member. The message to people like me (straight, white, cisgendered, able-bodied, non-fat, middle-class, etc., etc.) is to keep our mouths shut and try not to stick up for anybody different than us, because if we do a good job, we're going to get in trouble. That, of course, is a dumb message, and I'm ignoring it.
posted by waldo at 11:51 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


There are other ways to stick up for oppressed groups other than acting as their mouthpiece, waldo.
posted by blue t-shirt at 11:52 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


What actually strikes me - as a person who grew up a woman and has been varying degrees of fat their entire life* - is that I am so fucking sick of the whole "well if you don't let other people speak authoritatively about your experiences, you will never ever have liberation, so take that!!!!" line.

Nobody is trying to speak about your experiences. We're trying to fix the other half of the problem, the shitty attitude that men have and their unrealistic notion of society's "approval" of what a "good" woman should be. Honestly, nobody but us people who are trying to push care. We're trying to lead a very stubborn horse to water here and overcome decades of media subversion of societal ideas. As cis-white-straight-males we have credibility when it comes to tricking other cis-white-straight-males into realizing what shitty people they are. Accuse us of subverting your own experiences when we're here with the best of intentions only trying to be the reduction to your oxidation? What exactly are you trying to achieve here? Do you want us to just leave you alone to unproductively scream in a corner about how shitty society is?
posted by Talez at 11:54 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Some lovely ladies I follow on Twitter aren't mad at Louis CK at all about this, but they are bummed that when he talks about it in his show that people are more likely to listen to white cis male about fat girl problems than people who identify that way themselves. But at least it isn't like his fans who are now haranguing them with "WTF is your problem?? You should be grateful he's giving it attention!" sort of stuff I'm reading.
posted by Kitteh at 11:56 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


There are other ways to stick up for oppressed groups other than acting as their mouthpiece, waldo.

Of course, but I don't think that's relevant. "Acting as their mouthpiece" is not the same as saying something. Louis CK isn't being the "mouthpiece" of fat women. Macklemore certainly wasn't acting as the "mouthpiece" of gay people.
posted by waldo at 11:58 AM on May 14 [12 favorites]


But at least it isn't like his fans who are now haranguing them with "WTF is your problem?? You should be grateful he's giving it attention!" sort of stuff I'm reading

Sure. The entire white male hegemony will spontaneously wake up after becoming enlightened overnight. Or did you have a more productive solution than everyone pushing toward societal progress and just not acting like an asshole when they don't get it 100% perfect?
posted by Talez at 12:00 PM on May 14


Louis CK isn't being the "mouthpiece" of fat women

He wrote a speech for a fat woman to say about being a fat woman and is being lauded for it. That's pretty mouthpiece-y, to me.
posted by troika at 12:01 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


But wasn't the episode/speech about men's shitty attitudes toward fat women? I guess I think it's important for men to call out men for being shitty and ask them to reflect on their notions.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:04 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Sure. The entire white male hegemony will spontaneously wake up after becoming enlightened overnight. Or did you have a more productive solution than everyone pushing toward societal progress and just not acting like an asshole when they don't get it 100% perfect?

Whoa, your weird aggression about this is sort of freaking me out.
posted by Kitteh at 12:05 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


He wrote a speech for a fat woman to say about being a fat woman and is being lauded for it.

Or you could say that he wrote a speech for a fat woman to say about how society treats fat women.
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Frowner puts it beautifully. Tumblr puts it concisely.

~
Female Comic: Being a woman is kind of a nightmare sometimes!
The General Public: *crickets*
Louis CK: Being a woman is kind of a nightmare sometimes!
The General Public: *standing ovation* *balloons drop from ceiling* *Louis CK elected President of Comedy* Hahaha that is SO TRUE! I’m so glad this guy gets it! Have you heard his bit about how it’s ok to say faggot?
~

I thought the episode was good TV. But the conversation surrounding it is hyperbolic and a little bit silly in ways that are imporant to recognize. Fat women's lives get a lot more attention when they're framed to provoke self-reflection in white men.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:06 PM on May 14 [33 favorites]


Or you could say that he wrote a speech for a fat woman to say about how society treats fat women.

Well, you could, but he's still doing it from the perspective of a fat woman.
posted by troika at 12:09 PM on May 14


Female Comic: Being a woman is kind of a nightmare sometimes!
The General Public: *crickets*
Louis CK: Being a woman is kind of a nightmare sometimes!
The General Public: *standing ovation* *balloons drop from ceiling* *Louis CK elected President of Comedy* Hahaha that is SO TRUE! I’m so glad this guy gets it! Have you heard his bit about how it’s ok to say faggot?


FWIW, that exact double-standard is explicitly brought up in the episode.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:09 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Fat women's lives aren't only interesting & worth talking about to the extent that they provoke self-reflection in white men Metafilter.
posted by iamck at 12:10 PM on May 14


Frowner puts it beautifully. Tumblr puts it concisely.

I guess by this logic, Louis C.K. gets unfair praise for having cured Tig Notaro's cancer.
posted by 99_ at 12:11 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I think his intended audience is other men, and isn't that what we should be encouraging? Men challenging other men on their dumbassery? I've certainly seen people say on mefi that men should call each other out when they hear comments that further misogyny and rape culture. That seems to be what is happening here.

It is definitely unfortunate that many men are more willing to listen to other men than they are to listen to women, but that's where we're at and Louis CK should use that privilege to make things better.
posted by desjardins at 12:13 PM on May 14 [47 favorites]


Whoa, your weird aggression about this is sort of freaking me out.

It's frustrating when you're trying to show people (not you) how they're being an asshole, trying to get them to stop being an asshole and then be told your doing it wrong or doing it disrespectfully or we're not allowed to because showing someone that something that is obviously assholish is speaking authoritatively on behalf of someone that we don't know, experience or have felt pain for.

We don't expect you to be grateful or give us a cookie. Just to stop picking us apart when we're trying.
posted by Talez at 12:14 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Geez, doesn't he know you're only allowed to write characters that are exactly like you in every way? First rule of fiction.
posted by the jam at 12:16 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


The comparison between Louie and Lena Dunham is particularly interesting to me. When Girls did that episode where she has a day-long fling with a really handsome man, I recall that one of the big reviews I saw about it was that it was SO UNREALISTIC because HE WAS SO OBVIOUSLY OUT OF HER LEAGUE and it must have been, like, A DREAM SEQUENCE. I remember reading that and being a little bit gobsmacked that the reviewers could be so ossified in their imaginings of who could hook up with whom within the context of a generally-realistic narrative.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:18 PM on May 14 [24 favorites]


Geez, doesn't he know you're only allowed to write characters that are exactly like you in every way? First rule of fiction.

No, no--if you do that and you're white male, you're contributing to the under-representation problem. So basically, just don't write.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:19 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I wonder what would happen if Amy Schumer put her hand up and said "I secretly wrote that speech"?
posted by Talez at 12:21 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


(Sorry. That was just pointless. Please don't think I'm making any point beyond, yeesh, it's not going to be possible to please everybody ever.)
posted by saulgoodman at 12:22 PM on May 14


I'm not sure this is a conversation worth taking that much farther, but I do think it's possible to see the Louis CK episode as some good TV that basically has its heart in the right place, while ALSO recognizing that from the perspective of someone like Kath Barbadoro, the Tumblr comedian I quoted (who covers a lot of the same material and gets way, way, less positive attention for it) the hugely enthusiastic reaction to the episode would be really frustrating and just another reminder that the world is pretty shitty to (and quick to overlook) fat, funny ladies.

I honestly don't see why those two perspectives should be difficult to reconcile. It's a huge leap from acknowledging Kath Barbadoro's perspective to saying "White men are BANNED from talking about fat ladies' experience; we're not allowed to write about anyone but ourselves, stop picking us apart or else progress will never be achieved," because that is simply not what is happening here.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:33 PM on May 14 [14 favorites]


Flip the genders around and you've got an over-assertive guy who won't take no for an answer.

That's pretty much my take on it. Her being fat was the excuse she was using for being overly aggressive. As far as I could tell, her weight wasn't the primary problem. You can't always get what or who you want, for any number of reasons. However, she thought she'd found a situation where she could shame a guy into dating her despite his lack of attraction to her.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:40 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I think the really depressing thing about this situation is all the men who are put off by overweight women who are thus getting really defensive about this fictional scenario written by a man.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:43 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


it was SO UNREALISTIC because HE WAS SO OBVIOUSLY OUT OF HER LEAGUE

I remember the reviews for that episode being mixed, just like this one.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:45 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I think the question of representation is important and very real.

But separate from that is the very real social phenomenon the scene attempts to portray, that of many (but by no means all) men having wildly different standards for whom they objectify than they do for themselves. Women do it too, but it's clearly more overtly a male thing in our society.

But it's totally fair to say that the problems of representation (of the way he wrote her role) outweigh that point and make the whole episode too flawed.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:48 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


It's a pickle: If you want to write about non-trivial human issues effecting people who don't share your own background, you expose yourself to risk of criticism on the one hand by putting yourself in the position to be accused of putting yourself up as "a mouthpiece" speaking about experiences from a perspective you can't personally claim to have had (for example, I could probably defend writing about image issues related to weight as a man because I had weight problems in childhood and still struggle a bit to maintain healthy weight from time to time; but could I ever defend writing from the POV of an overweight or obese woman? Not really. Not without at least opening up the possibility of being accused of condescending if I tried to tackle touchier social justice themes.) On the other hand, if you only write about what you personally know directly, you open yourself up to criticisms of not writing for a wide enough audience and mishandling issues of representation. I'm not complaining, just pointing out that it can be a difficult needle to thread, and odds are, you're probably going to rub somebody the wrong way eventually but that's just a cost-of-doing-business.

I agree with others above, though, that I would imagine Louis's intended audience here are other men like himself, who may not even reflect on their attitudes about women's bodies very often in general and who are typically only ever going to see much more chauvinistic attitudes reinforced among their peers. I mean, seriously, among men in private, attitudes on this subject are about as bad as they could get, really, and have been for as long as I've been old enough to be privy to adult conversations. I honestly don't think Louis cares so much about how much attention he personally gets for being "enlightened." And it's not like those other female comedians trying to get traction on these issues don't have a point.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on May 14 [8 favorites]


As with last week's "Model" episode, it is really interesting to read so many differing, often contradictory interpretations of what this episode was about. To me, the argument about whether or not Louis CK is qualified to authoritatively write about the experience of living as an overweight woman in the US is something of a red herring, since my own reading of this episode is much closer to Sys Rq, in that this was an episode about a specific type of male insecurity as seen through the show's main character, Louie (with the Vanessa character serving as a very well acted plot device to explore the topic), not a definitive declaration of "This is what life is like for every fat woman in America as told by the world renown expert on the subject, Louis CK".

What I found most shocking about this episode is how fresh and unique it felt, considering the subject it dealt with (men holding the attitude of "I don't want to date this [overweight, not conventionally attractive] woman because dating her would mean I'm the type of guy whose choices are limited to [overweight, not conventionally attractive] women") is so pervasive at least to my own experience that I'm actually surprised this isn't a well-worn topic in fiction. The Louie perspective in last night's episode felt very authentic, if also unflattering.
posted by The Gooch at 12:51 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


Is there a transcript of the scene at the end that's stirred up so much grar? It seems like a lot of the reaction is to the specific dialogue in that final scene. I won't get the new season of Louie for a while yet, so I haven't actually seen the (potentially) offensive bits.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:56 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Here you go, saul.
posted by Etrigan at 12:59 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


There was a Sex and the City about this exact same question, does anybody remember that? It was the episode "Secret Sex,"where one of Carrie's friends is having hot sex with a fat lady but he's ashamed to be seen with her in public, so he only takes her out to this one out-of-the-way Chinese restaurant, and never on any 'real' dates. And then Mr. Big takes Carrie to that same restaurant and she's certain it's because he's ashamed of her, but then it turns out that phew, no, he's not (unless maybe he is?) and we never hear anything more about the fat lady. I think the suggestion was that we were supposed to pity the guy who was ashamed of the fat lady because he was going to die alone and miserable and pursuing unattainable hotties forever, but I can't really remember.

Point being, that episode aired over a decade ago, and it made most of the same points the Louis CK episode did...(men are ashamed to be seen with fat ladies in public, and that is bad for the men, because they will never find happiness!) but I guess it wasn't targeted at men in quite the same way, either.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:10 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


One difference between Louie and the other shows, aside from the gender of the viewpoint character, is that pretty much every episode of Louie is a Very Special Episode.
posted by jsturgill at 1:18 PM on May 14


What is is about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that's just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.

How is that fair? And why am I supposed to just accept it?


This is not addressing the "fat women" issue, which is complex in ways that I can't begin to have a valid opinion about. But - I'm trying to put my finger on why her monologue (not really hers, written by Louis CK, I guess) rubs the wrong way for me. It comes across as the sort of sad sack "nice guy" rant we're so used to telling men to get a grip about. And I don't think it works well in either context. I definitely have had moments where I felt the same - that I'm not attractive, don't have love in my life, women don't want anything to do with me, whatever - and the answer that I give to myself tends to be something like 1) pull yourself together, 2) nothing is accomplished by that line of thinking, and then 3) if there's anything that's grossly unfair in life, it's the love and romance and finding a partner thing. It really is just "not in the cards" for some people, for whatever reason. And maybe we just need to make our peace with that, because things are shitty all around in that department and people rarely make sense. None of this is addressing the issue of how obese people and especially obese women are treated in society, which is deeply cruel and unjust. But the speech still didn't "quite get it" from my point of view, because it confuses a righteous frustration with something more desperate and repelling. "I'm a good person, so I demand you to love me" is something that I try to be harsh about in myself, because no one owes me or anyone else love, and that's a toxic attitude to have for yourself and for others. I wish Louis had given this actress carte blanche to write her own monologue instead of putting words in her mouth, because it's hard to parse what reads as authentic and what reads as Louis transferring his own pathologies onto a character we're (I assume) supposed to sympathize with.
posted by naju at 1:48 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


So one thing I find uncomfortable about the "but if the same situation played out with genders swapped, she would be a guy who's super aggressive in an uncomfortable way!1!1!1!! So she was wrong!1!1!1!!" line of argumentation is that the social position of the person being aggressive is in fact an important element of how we assess aggression, and being a fat man, all else being equal, puts you in a different and on the whole more powerful social position than being a fat woman does. You can't have "the same situation with genders swapped," because swapping the genders changes the situation.

I'd explain how this works, but the entire episode1 was about explaining how this works, so, yeah.

1: Consider, for example, how the very first scene has Louie telling a joke about how women have to be really good at rejecting men because of the potential for getting killed by a man you've rejected.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:50 PM on May 14 [19 favorites]


That sounds fair. I've only read the monologue, so maybe I'm missing a major part of this.
posted by naju at 1:56 PM on May 14


I wish Louis had given this actress carte blanche to write her own monologue instead of putting words in her mouth, because it's hard to parse what reads as authentic.

Well, here are some words, out of her mouth, about the scene:

"So it was hard to do something that was so specifically about weight. But to me, being a fan of the show, knowing how things are handled on the show and the way he framed it so beautifully, this was the time to do something about weight."

[...]

"And I said, “I just want to tell you I love your show so much, and this part is so beautiful … ” and then I felt myself tearing up and I was like, Do not cry in front of Louis. He will think you are super-weird. So I kind of just trailed off and walked away. Which is also fitting for Louie."
posted by 99_ at 2:01 PM on May 14 [8 favorites]


I changed my mind, my concerns aren't really valid.
posted by naju at 2:05 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


It is definitely unfortunate that many men are more willing to listen to other men than they are to listen to women

I would reformulate that as Louis communicates the issue in a way that his audience will understand. He can do this because he shares a social context of male privilege and can cast the issue in those terms. It succeeds for the same reason John Scalzi's metaphor---a SWM is playing life on the lowest difficulty setting---does.

When doing a translation, it's usually best to use someone who's first language and culture is the target language, rather than the source language. This can seem counter intuitive: why not use a translator who can grasp the subtleties of the source language best? It turn out however, that understanding the target translation language give a better result.

Does that mean men should speak for women? No. It just means that men can be very effective at explaining problems to other men in ways and contexts that will work for that particular audience.
posted by bonehead at 2:19 PM on May 14 [15 favorites]


I thought one of the most telling parts of the episode was when she is talking to Louie in the club and walks away, and Louie's friend whose name I forget (but who is a short, plain, balding man, far from conventionally attractive in every respect) is behind them and says "yuck!" to Louie about her.

I loved the episode, it was truly inspired (I love Louis CK and he regularly surprises me, but that episode was really thoughtful even by his high standards).
posted by biscotti at 2:21 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Oh, MetaFilter. Don't ever stop finding fault with your own allies.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:34 PM on May 14 [16 favorites]


There needs to be a word for the kind of statement which, though meant sarcastically or facetiously, if said in earnest would represent a significant improvement in the speaker's reasoning.
posted by emmtee at 3:02 PM on May 14 [20 favorites]


Waldo - I kind of did a double-take at your message, because I followed your support of your late friend and colleague in the news media, and have much respect for the loyalty you showed him. Your actions, which I am so sorry you had to take, epitomize the right way to stick up for someone.

It's when someone expresses an inappropriate need for centrality, as someone says, that it's an issue. For instance, my husband expresses frustration with sexism against women (and occasionally, men). But women on women sexism/aggressiveness? Does he need to insert himself into that conversation ("As a man, I think xyz")? No. But his speaking as a man about male sexism? Absolutely crucial.

There's no need for me to constantly reflect on my whiteness, when talking about racism. There is definitely a time and place to talk about whiteness, or my specific ethnic experiences, just as long as I know that time and place is not "always".

Unfortunately, I think some people who are genuinely trying to get the marketplace of ideas and stories opened up to everyone, get burnt out to the point where, they do push allies away, they fall prey to the same sweeping generalizations they profess to be against.

In aggregate, we see a lot of white people, especially white men, who still control the entertainment landscape, making themselves central to the narrative. I don't believe Louis CK is one of those ostensibly liberal guys who are secretly vested in the world not changing too much, or too fast. (Aaron Sorkin, though...) But there are enough of these guys with power that many activists overreact at whoever's within reach.

I especially can't believe the mileage of this stupid idea that people shouldn't write the experiences of people who are different than them. Fortunately, this idea's currency didn't stop Shonda Rhimes, a black woman and single mother, who has never been a doctor, from writing a ambitious, childfree, Asian-American character like Christina Yang.

Now, actually, as far as my experience as a fat girl, the people who have given me the most crap about it are not men at all. Other women. Seeing what our colleagues said to a friend who had weight loss surgery was amazing - they talked to her as if her life now was going to be PERFECT and her life before had just been a joke. This was someone who was already gorgeous, a motorcycling bad ass, and yes, men hit on her even when she was very overweight. After the surgery, none of our male colleagues volunteered that now she'd have a special life with lots of sex and adventure, like the women did.

Horrible as it is, it might be that Louis CK, as a male writer, would show more sensitivity to this topic, than some women writers would. Pretentious illiterate, your discussion of the Sex in the City episode makes me think that.
posted by mitschlag at 3:25 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


bonehead, well put. That's what I'd been trying to summarize into a comment in my brain.
posted by knownassociate at 3:48 PM on May 14


I get tired of the persistent notion that being an obese man does not come with any societal stigmas. I cannot speak to the experience of being an obese female, but I do know that as an obese man you are generally expected to be two things: 1. Jolly and 2. Asexual.

If you do not conform to those two notions, it makes people very uncomfortable. No one wants to think of the fat man having sex, let alone actually be getting hit on by one. And an angry or sullen fat man is something that people laugh at and give a pithy reply of "Do you need a cookie?"

I wish I could say that I was okay with myself before I went from Morbidly Obese to just barely on the Overweight side of the BMI scale. But the only thing that made me able to function in the world as the person people expected me to be was to drink. Hard. I became the drunk jolly hard partying fat man because it was the only role that people would let me have. The irony being that when I lost all the weight, I stopped drinking and found that I had so built my world around drinking and drinking related events that for all intents and purposes I lost all but a single of my old friends. All others, I found I had absolutely nothing that kept us socially glued aside from drinking or wanting me around because I was an amusing drunk hard partying fat man.

As far as relationships go, I would swear at the time that fat girls had it a lot easier than fat guys. There are lots of men who have a personal preference for larger women. Women on the other hand, at least in my experience, have a universal distaste for the mere idea of being as much as flirted with by a fat man.
posted by mediocre at 4:03 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Metafilter was the fat-hatingest place in the world, we're talking only a couple of years ago. Matt Howie admitted that Metafilter didn't do obesity well. And now you're all: I don't think Louie CK has the authority to discuss this issue. You guys crack me up.
posted by chrisgregory at 4:14 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Eh, individuals are posting here, not a site.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:21 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


People, and culture, change.
posted by jessamyn at 4:29 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


(also, worst in the world was way overstated. It was bad, like discussion of feminism was and still can be bad, but from my fat person view it was always a culture that makes an effort on being civil and reasonable even when people fail at it.)
posted by Drinky Die at 4:42 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


escape from the potato planet: "Oh, MetaFilter. Don't ever stop finding fault with your own allies."

The problem, in general, is not the allies. It's the underlying power structures of society and the audience that mean Louis gets props for his self-referential and understanding of the situation while fat women still get shit for saying the same thing. It's not specifically about Louis, it's about the audience, it's about the critics, it's about the response that says "hey, dudely dude agrees with you!" like that's the achievement you need - which it is - without engaging critically with exactly why it is I need dudely dude to come on board before being taken seriously.

And of course the usual suspects of "but ur allieeeeeeeeees" and "eat your own" and "finding too much fault on language". Because here's the kicker - if we just sweep it under the carpet, we get more shit and get shoved out of our own fucking movements. See: second-wave feminism, third-wave feminism, civil rights, anarchism, socialism, a billion little movements and organisations around the world.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:06 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


I especially can't believe the mileage of this stupid idea that people shouldn't write the experiences of people who are different than them.

I'm not sure if this was in response to my comment, but: I was just pointing out that he was writing from the perspective of a fat woman, which puts him in the position of being a sort of mouthpiece. Not that he shouldn't do it, just that it puts his voice above that of actual fat women (if it wasn't in response to my comment...nevermind. Though it's probably helpful for me to clarify my thoughts anyway).
posted by troika at 5:07 PM on May 14


No one has a monopoly on speaking the truth. You don't have to be a victim to speak about victimization. What gibberish.
posted by shivohum at 5:07 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


You don't have to be a victim to speak about victimization.

True as far as it goes. You do have to be victimized before you can speak about victimization from experience, though.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 5:17 PM on May 14


I think people are missing a key part of this. Louis CK can get away with criticizing white men because he is (or presents as) one. It's a basic fact of comedy, not to mention tact and charm; you can get away with criticizing your own group in ways other people can't.

It's also worth noting that he is Latino, a Mexican immigrant with a Jewish grandfather who won an Emmy writing for the Chris Rock show. He knows a thing or two about othered people.

Kath Barbadoro complaining about white men is complaining, not self-critiquing, and that's a basic difference. Barbardoro is also just not as accomplished a writer or comedian (few people on earth are).
posted by msalt at 5:25 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


The comparison between Louie and Lena Dunham is particularly interesting to me. When Girls did that episode where she has a day-long fling with a really handsome man, I recall that one of the big reviews I saw about it was that it was SO UNREALISTIC because HE WAS SO OBVIOUSLY OUT OF HER LEAGUE and it must have been, like, A DREAM SEQUENCE. I remember reading that and being a little bit gobsmacked that the reviewers could be so ossified in their imaginings of who could hook up with whom within the context of a generally-realistic narrative.


Yes, that episode of Girls -- as most of them -- was just fantastic. Louie on the other hand may not have jumped the shark yet, but IMO it's not as sharp as it used to be. The opening comedy bit in that episode is lame, and the rest of it -- leading up to that date -- comes across to me as self-indulgent. It's not enough just to portray what (us) fat guys do (huge Indian meal followed by huge diner meal, 'bang bang'), show stunned reactions of wait staff, and leave it at that. It starts to feel a bit lazy.
posted by anothermug at 5:33 PM on May 14


Women on the other hand, at least in my experience, have a universal distaste for the mere idea of being as much as flirted with by a fat man.

Women do not have a universal anything.
posted by sweetkid at 6:39 PM on May 14 [21 favorites]


Women on the other hand, at least in my experience, have a universal distaste for the mere idea of being as much as flirted with by a fat man.

If you use a phrase like "in my experience," then you do not get to use a phrase like "universal." And instead of using your situation to empathize with fat women who feel that they're stuck in a similar role to your former role, you use your "experience" to decide that, nope, fat women are just whiners, fat men have it worse. This is part of the problem.
posted by pineappleheart at 6:49 PM on May 14 [26 favorites]


I really like the term intersectionality, even though it might be overexposed at the moment. It's really highlighted how there's two paths of response to finding out that people in a class you're not are suffering or oppressed. One could take the non-intersectional approach: "Nuh-uh! You can't be oppressed because look at all the oppression I'VE got!" Or one could take the intersectional approach: "you are oppressed and I am oppressed and it is possible that despite our respective oppressions not being the same, perhaps they share a common root." One of these paths can maybe allow us to work together to allieviate our sufferings. The other can make us feel pleasantly aggrieved and put-upon (and don't for a second think that feeling aggrieved isn't a pleasure - umbrage is a hell of a drug to take), but doesn't really produce much.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:16 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


I get tired of the persistent notion that being an obese man does not come with any societal stigmas.

I think you are misreading people if you feel that was what people are saying here. I also think you are being misread when people suggest you were saying women are just whiners.

Overweight men and women in general share some things in common, and they differ in some ways too. Focusing on what women face in society in a particular discussion on that subject is not an invalidation of what men face. It's just not the focus of the conversation.

The Scalzi metaphor was mentioned above, and boy do I hate that one more than any other social justice trope. It relies too heavily on the idea of having it either easy or hard, and ignores that sometimes for different people things can be difficult in unique ways. That kind of thinking is how we get to these sorts of miscommunications.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:37 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I was waiting for someone to bring this up. The Vulture piece infuriated me, though not for the same reasons as anyone else. (So did the XOJane piece, but forget it, Jake, it's XOJane. I mean, it literally has a paragraph speculating whether Sarah Baker's character was bipolar -- OMG how TERRIBLE, right? -- and ends in "BARF." It can fuck off.) Specifically, this part did:

I was bothered that he took this previously badass woman, a fearless street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, and turned her into a pathetic showcase of hidden weaknesses just looking for the right man to unleash her unhappiness upon.

I'm not a fearless street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm. Most days it takes a lot of work to be something other than a fearful bed-dwelling human. I would venture that most women are not fearless street-walking cheetah with hearts full of napalm, because women are humans, and human nature is to be vulnerable and sometimes frustrated and sometimes feel like shit, particularly when there are societal forces conspiring to make you feel like shit, which is the entire point of the monologue. I'm not as big as Sarah Baker is (I look a lot like Mindy Kaling, actually, which made it fun to read all the comments on the AV Club piece talking about how gross she looks), but I'm big enough that there are huge swaths of that monologue that I have lived and relived with entirely different people. Most women I know who fit the description, so to speak, feel similarly. (A comment on the XOJane piece saying as much got over 500 upvotes. In comments sections, that's, er, big.) Ultimately I don't care whether it's Louis CK talking out his ass, because he hit on something that seems pretty accurate to me.

It's not all accurate, of course. At one point Baker's character says women can get laid whenever they want. And I don't care that her character says it, she's a fictional character who's delivering a frustrated rant, not writing a social justice thinkpiece. But it bothers me how many of the thinkpieces have taken it at face value. I'm a woman, and if I could get laid anytime I wanted, I'd get laid a hell of a lot more often than I currently do. The Vulture piece goes on to argue "fat girls fuck" -- which is great, but some don't. Like, virgins exist! Dry spells exist. Sexless relationships exist, men cheating on their girlfriends/wives when they put on weight exist (jesus christ, do they exist), going to bars and not going home with anyone is a situation that exists. And the more a woman weighs, the more likely such situations are to exist. Can we just say that? Or does that make us "pathetic showcases of human weakness"? Four years ago I would totally have said "I just want to hold hands," because I hadn't even gotten to do that because of how few guys were attracted to me. According to the Vulture writer, saying this makes me "an anemic fourth grader who doesn’t know what dating or sex even is." It's eerie how much these articles are proving the monologue dead-spot-on-correct. There are issues of representation, but there comes a point where the discussion stops being "it would be awesome to ever see positive representations" and starts being "this character is not a preternaturally confident Strong Female Character, therefore she is pathetic," which quickly turns into "this woman and everyone like her in real life, who's ever anything but preternaturally confident against all odds, even in a moment of weakness, is pathetic." (Needless to say, this only ever happens with women.)

Basically, any mindset that looks at a woman lots of people clearly relate to and sees only a "pathetic showcase of human weaknesses" or "an anemic four-year-old" is never going to be anything but disgusting to me, sorry.
posted by dekathelon at 8:16 PM on May 14 [24 favorites]


I mean, he wrote a 'fat woman' character and gave her things to say - because he lives in a world broader than a middle aged guy's apartment and wants to engage with that world, and endeavors to do this with imagination and empathy, - but he's always writing from his perspective and doesn't pretend to do otherwise. I mean here, as ever, he takes pains to situate himself both as an author (Louis) and proxy (Louie) for the part of his audience (and himself, probably) he's calling out. This character, the model in the last one, homeless guys in earlier episodes - they're all necessarily partial and necessarily understood through Louie. I think he wears authorship mostly well. The last scene might have erred on the side of didacticism and so rung a bit hollow, butI mean, I've heard actual people say similar things. I agree the response, as described by geek anachronism, is the main thing, and if Louis'done his bittoo move things forward that way, I'm not going to hang him for it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:16 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


The Scalzi metaphor was mentioned above, and boy do I hate that one more than any other social justice trope. It relies too heavily on the idea of having it either easy or hard, and ignores that sometimes for different people things can be difficult in unique ways. That kind of thinking is how we get to these sorts of miscommunications.

Have you actually read the thing? Scalzi puts a lot of effort into pointing out that his metaphor isn't as simplistic as you're making it out to be:
Likewise, it’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn’t change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


The xojane piece annoyed me in the same way I was annoyed a few years back by the "these movies aren't good because the lead characters didn't choose to have abortions" criticisms of "Juno" and "Knocked Up". Certainly not everyone has to love this episode (or those movies), but criticizing it because it wasn't an entirely different story with a totally different plot altogether just doesn't seem like a fair critique.
posted by The Gooch at 8:38 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Yes, I have read it and gone back and forth with him personally at least once I can recall on Mefi. I don't want to get into a derail on the details because this thread isn't about that. That snippet does not really address the core of my issues with it.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:53 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Louis CK was elected President of Comedy? And look at me here! I lost my key fob to the Fiat and was housebound in this musty mountain cabin for weeks! I couldn't vote unless the bears formed a caucus, and nobody wants that to happen again. I'm just glad that ugly campaign is over, and we can get on with our lives and leave serious matters like comedy to the ruthless tin pot dictators who rule the Comedy Hellscape. I guess that's politics for ya.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:13 AM on May 15


Wow this episode was hard for me to watch. I'm ashamed to admit that all I could think the first time through was to compare myself to the actress to reassure myself that I'm not as big as her. It's the self-inflicted version of the "oh you're not fat! really!' reassurance he tries to give her. I was shocked at how I could relate to almost everything she talked about and completely agree about the cognitive dissonance from people telling you you're not one of "those" fat people... but I still couldn't keep from doing it to myself.

Parts of her monologue were a bit much for me just because of the context - I don't like the assertion that fat women are unlovable, even when it's purportedly delivered by a fat woman (but written by Louis CK of course). The callout was great but the idea that literally all men feel this way is part of the problem - plenty of dudes are self-assured enough that they don't need to treat their female partners as status symbols (as she asserts in her speech, but which isn't demonstrated by the episode). I wish that the episode had demonstrated this disparity by letting her date somebody who was secure with himself (I actually had high hopes when Dave Attell was so kind to her) and letting Louie figure out why this other guy wasn't threatened by the "damage" her appearance could do to his status. It's easy to second-guess of course, I just wish they'd found a way to make their point while giving her dignity and showing that she's lovable instead of taking it away from her so that her unlovable abjection can make Louie feel bad.

After some reflection, what bothers me about this episode is that they say all sorts of great things about how fat people don't deserve to be treated like second-class people, but they end on sort of a glib "yup, sucks to be you" note. Louie's holding her hand, sure, but it's out of pity and so that he can convince himself he's a good person, not because he's stopped being embarrassed of her. I don't think that more pity is what fat people need.
posted by dialetheia at 10:24 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


The callout was great but the idea that literally all men feel this way is part of the problem...

The Man-Signal!
posted by Etrigan at 10:34 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Ha, that's a great cartoon! I just mean in the sense that it reassures men who feel this way that it's "normal" and that most men feel the same way - which is what perpetuates the fears about being seen ending up with a fat girl and all your male peers judging you for it. Somehow this episode managed to normalize that behavior on some level ("I was right, other guys do and will judge me for dating fat girls!") while simultaneously showing how fucked up it is.
posted by dialetheia at 10:38 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


That Man Signal comic is heuristically valuable. Anyone who's interested in understanding human behavior knows it is true that not all men are _______ (fill in the blank, but in this case, "obsessed with their partners being under 130 lb"). In this case, being aware of that is key to understanding what we're actually talking about, since the obsession with small women is not so much gendered as it is very, very culturally specific. But someone who's primarily interested in scoring internet points knows posting the comic is a good way to score favorites, even if it obscures the issues under discussion. It's a great sorting mechanism.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:44 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Anyone who's interested in understanding human behavior knows it is true that not all men are _______

Even the people who talk about how "the idea that literally all men feel this way is part of the problem" (emphasis added in case you missed it the time I quoted it), even though no one has said anything like that?
posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on May 15


Did you miss the part where I clarified what I meant about normalizing those beliefs?
posted by dialetheia at 10:53 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Anyone who's interested in understanding human behavior knows it is true that not all men are _______

Then it's weird that people say it all the time, isn't it? Like, predictably in every single thread here, or other discussions on and offline about gender dynamics. Always. Forever. Like you'd think "Well people know that by now, of course that's not literally true." So why the devil's advocate approach like it's some sort of bully pulpit or as if you're speaking truth to power? It's really weird. Sorting mechanism indeed.
posted by jessamyn at 10:53 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


But someone who's primarily interested in scoring internet points knows posting the comic is a good way to score favorites, even if it obscures the issues under discussion

Also, someone who seems primarily interested in obscuring the issues under discussion is usually the kind of person who brings up "scoring internet points."

Because of course people don't have genuinely held opinions, they just want favorites.
posted by sweetkid at 10:55 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


Because I don't think people know that by now. Or rather, they don't talk as though it's the case, and as always, talking creates thought. Again, if you're going to talk about men's reactions to weight, it's really important to remember at all times that you're talking about a single cultural group. Talking as though it's some larger truth about gender relations is as accurate, and as useful, as yammering about how Muslims Are Terrorists.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:56 AM on May 15


Goddamnit, I had no intention of getting my heartfelt comments miscast as some "not ALL men" political point in either direction. All I was saying is that the man-held perception that most other men feel certain ways about e.g. women's weight is exactly what perpetuates the cycle of fucking fat women in private and ignoring them in public. The social perception of how universal that is in our culture is exactly what perpetuates that sort of behavior, and I felt like this episode strangely strengthened that perception, not weakened it. That's all. Sorry if I (god forbid) used the phrase "all men" when trying to discuss very widely-held beliefs in our culture, I will try to avoid that insta-derail in the future.
posted by dialetheia at 11:00 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


For more on the cultural specificity of men's judgement of their ideal partner's weight, here are some studies showing how much preference, and self-evaluation by women, varies by culture, region, and even the man's own financial status. Louis CK is certainly aware that his preferences have a great deal to do with his being an upper-class urban caucasian, but many of those commenting don't seem to.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:23 AM on May 15


I can't wait to find out whether posting a comic or posting some studies scores more Points!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:53 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


I'm betting the snark beats both of them!
posted by Drinky Die at 12:02 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I'm not sure the "not ALL men" framing is even appropriate in this case (although I understand it's quite a hot-button phrase right now) because we're talking about a phenomenon that derives its power from those very perceptions of universality. I'm not sure how we can get past that to convince men that dating fat women isn't an instant threat to their status without somehow dismantling that perception of near-universality of preference to begin with. The logic that Louie's trying to call out goes, "he's with a fat lady, but he must have had to settle for her because men prefer thin ladies, therefore he must have failed in some way to have to settle and end up with her".

The problem in this case is people who think "all (normal) men" want a certain things, and that therefore divergence from those desires and outcomes means unflattering things about your social status. The episode posited that the extent to which men treat fat women like shit is a function of what they think it says about their status, and the extent to which men believe that other men (and women, I guess) are judging them for the weight-status of their partner is a function of that perception of universality.
posted by dialetheia at 12:10 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Talking as though it's some larger truth about gender relations is as accurate, and as useful, as yammering about how Muslims Are Terrorists.

That's a great comparison. Next, tell us about how anti-masculinity is essentially the new slavery.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:12 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure this is really apropos of much, but I recalled this morning that this is also the story line between Archer and Pam in Archer. She's the best sex he's ever had, but he can't be with her in public because she's Pam - the fat, gross HR woman.

I think I didn't realize just how much of a trope/phenomenon this was, or if I did I didn't reflect on it much, until Louis pointed it out, so for that at least I'm glad.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:44 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


So if one had a 101 level question about this not ALL men thing that is not concern trolling, but didn't want to derail the thread, one could maybe MeMail someone, or...?
posted by ODiV at 2:13 PM on May 15


I'd be happy to answer questions over email or MeMail if it's helpful.
posted by jessamyn at 2:18 PM on May 15


It's not a 101 issue, really, it's actually pretty nuanced because it's hard to talk about things that are experienced as being ironclad social norms without also talking about the actual extent of universality of those norms. Look at the thread about gender expression - people are trying to say that "really, not all men feel comfortable with masculine social norms!", arguing with people who assume those norms are nearly-universal, in an effort to lessen the stigma and perception of "abnormality" for those who do not fit well in those narrow categories. Should I go in there and argue with them that they shouldn't be talking about what most or all other men feel because it implicitly assumes universality and that is problematic in other contexts, so they shouldn't do it at all?

I'm a woman and a rabid feminist, and I still think there's a fundamental difference between positing that "not ALL men" do [x] in the service of deflecting personal criticism, which is obviously super annoying and problematic, vs positing that not all men do [x] in the service of attempting to de-normalize a behavior or preference that is experienced as nearly universal in our culture and which harms everyone. I do not think it's helpful to police people for doing the latter by claiming that they must be implicitly supporting the former.
posted by dialetheia at 2:46 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


dialetheia is right, and I apologize for being overly picky in dismissing her "literally all men" comment. She was aiming at the idea rather than positing it as a reality.
posted by Etrigan at 2:49 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Thanks Etrigan, I appreciate that. Thanks for a thought-provoking exchange.
posted by dialetheia at 2:51 PM on May 15


Louie's holding her hand, sure, but it's out of pity and so that he can convince himself he's a good person

I thought it had much more to do with the second - grudging recognition of hypocrisy, being embarrassed, scoring good-guy points, wanting to appear as though he's taking on the challenge, etc. More of an ego thing. Which is consistent - would you have had him all of a sudden flip a switch and go, "oh you know, what, you're right, you've completely persuaded me into arousal"? There was just the one episode.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:22 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Well, but the issue wasn't actually arousal. Louie the character doesn't specify, but since Louis CK the writer made a point of having her say that it wasn't at all difficult to get guys to sleep with her, I interpreted that monologue and her rebuke of Louie as being specifically targeted at that stigma of ending up with someone fat and having them be your public partner, not about arousal.

I get what you're saying, I didn't expect him to turn on a dime and fall in love with her. I just really wish he'd written it so that it didn't end with the begrudging handhold that does absolutely nothing for her (and probably hurts her even worse, really, knowing how forced it is) and is all about serving his self-perception as a good person without doing any of the actual hard work of examining those dissonant and hurtful attitudes. She's very kind to let him get away with it, really. That's what I meant about feeling like there was a sort of glib "wow, it sucks to be you even more than I thought, that's really sad that not even a loser like Louie will date you, we should feel very sorry for this person" tone to the ending. I'm still glad he made the episode and I'm not mad at Louis CK at all - this episode was a step in the right direction - I just absolutely hated that in the end, she just had to settle for his terrible begrudging handhold. She doesn't need to end up with Louie, but she deserves better than that.
posted by dialetheia at 4:20 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


"Female Comic:
Being a woman is kind of a nightmare sometimes!

The General Public:
*crickets*

Louis CK:
Being a woman is kind of a nightmare sometimes!

The General Public:
*standing ovation* *balloons drop from ceiling* *Louis CK elected President of Comedy* Hahaha that is SO TRUE! I'm so glad this guy gets it! Have you heard his bit about how it's ok to say faggot?"

-- 100yearsoflolitude
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:02 PM on May 15


Actually that aspect of patriarchy (that people'd rather care about what a dude says about ladies rather than what a lady says about ladies) strikes me as, unfortunately, a decent reason for feminist men to actually say true shit about ladies.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:09 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


positing that not all men do [x] in the service of attempting to de-normalize a behavior or preference that is experienced as nearly universal in our culture and which harms everyone.

Yeah, exactly. So much of the episode, including the other comic's throwaway "yuck" is about white, upper-middle-class urban people imagining their microculture's standards as "normal". That "yuck" would get incredulous stares less than 2 miles north of the show's locations.

Well, but the issue wasn't actually arousal. Louie the character doesn't specify, but since Louis CK the writer made a point of having her say that it wasn't at all difficult to get guys to sleep with her, I interpreted that monologue and her rebuke of Louie as being specifically targeted at that stigma of ending up with someone fat and having them be your public partner, not about arousal.

That's an important distinction, especially since Louie (like Archer) is so much about how Louie's personality is the biggest obstacle to his own happiness. There's people's internal sexual preferences, and then there's the external shame of being seen with someone who doesn't meet the culture's beauty ideal. The former seems hard for an individual to change, but it's so incredibly culturally specific (even by urban vs. rural), that maybe it's not so rigid as it might seem. The latter is... Well, as Dan Savage says:

Do you know why you dismiss the girls you find attractive—girls who are not, by your dick's definition, unattractive in the least—as... "fat, ugly, hick girls? For the same reason, BATL, that you've ruled out the possibility of ever having a relationship with a fat girl: You're a cowardly, hateful piece of shit.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:19 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I just really wish he'd written it so that it didn't end with the begrudging handhold that does absolutely nothing for her (and probably hurts her even worse, really, knowing how forced it is) and is all about serving his self-perception as a good person without doing any of the actual hard work of examining those dissonant and hurtful attitudes.

What makes you think it was begrudging and that he hadn't examined his dissonant and hurtful attitudes? It looked to me like he wasn't saying, "Oh, okay, loser. I'll take pity on you and hold your hand," so much as he was saying, "Huh, you're right, that sucks. I was being an asshole, and you're pretty cool, and I'd like to hold your hand and look like a couple."
posted by Etrigan at 8:41 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Vox wrote up a pretty decent 101 explainer of the 'not all men' thing today.
posted by naju at 8:47 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]


What makes you think it was begrudging

Mostly just that she had to basically shame him into it, and I got the feeling he only took her hand so he wouldn't feel like a horrible person, not because he felt any differently about her. I could be wrong, maybe the rest of their date went great, or maybe he'll at least have a less shitty attitude with other women in the future, but I just felt so bad for her having to take his hand knowing that she had to talk him into it.
posted by dialetheia at 10:33 PM on May 15


I saw it more as Etrigan did. It wouldn't make much sense for CK to make that episode otherwise, or at least not as earnrstly and artfully as he did. As a friend remarked, many episodes of Louie are essentially after school specials for adults.
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:35 AM on May 16


Well, discussing the Vox article is a derail, but since the link to the Vox article hasn't been deleted, I guess it's been judged an acceptable derail.

What a silly article. A defense of saying things that are false. What's amazing is that the writer has the temerity to insist "But pointing out individual exceptions doesn't help us understand or combat behaviors that really are mainly committed by men, from small things like interruptions up to domestic violence and rape." When the statistical fact is that those behaviors are committed by a minority, then understanding (and therefore combatting) those behaviors can only be done by understanding what makes that minority unusual, rather than what they have in common with the majority that doesn't do those things. That's why the "Muslims are terrorists" comparison is perfectly cromulent. If you're trying to understand something unusual, you need to look at what's unusual. If you focus on the thing that isn't unusual, you're not trying to understand, you're just trying to score points against a group you dislike.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:18 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Finally got around to watching "Louie" on Netflix. It's not surprising I love the show -- being a divorced, middle-aged comedian, I could kind of identify -- but I'm impressed by how much integrity it has. Really great work.
posted by msalt at 7:23 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


As for what all this has to do with Louie: The assumption of everyone in this episode is that men don't want to be seen with large women. But that statement is untrue. The truth is "White, upper-middle-class, urban men don't want to be seen with large women." If you just want to see the episode and think "That's so sad!" or "That makes me so mad!", and you're part of the same demographic, then it's not really important to understand how circumscribed the show's world is. But any larger understanding of the phenomena kind of requires that awareness.

A few years ago, my social circle shifted so that I was spending a lot more time in majority-black gatherings. Having come from a largely white world, it was genuinely shocking how different assumptions and behavior around weight and desirability were. Where I'm from, large women (and to a lesser extent, men) dress modestly, don't show too much skin, and when they're looking for mates, they emphasize verbal dexterity rather than sexuality. And suddenly, none of that was the case. Everywhere I looked, large women were wearing outfits that emphasized and exaggerated the volume of their bodies, dancing in a way that made the jiggly parts jiggle, and expecting that this display would bring the boys to the yard. And it worked! Those women were not just attracting men, they were very publicly prized. And the women who were closer to the Louie standard of beauty were the ones who emphasized their intelligence or earning capacity in an effort to be desirable. It was eye-opening to be reminded that many of the gender behaviors I had grown up with weren't just culturally-circumscribed, they were confined to a few blocks.

So if you're going to talk about what the hell is wrong with these men that they don't want to be seen with a woman who's great in every way but/and has a high BMI, the question you're really asking is "What makes these white, urban, upper-middle-class men so different from men of other races, classes, and regions?"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:25 AM on May 16 [5 favorites]


This post made me realize Season 4 was even running!
Watched the episode under discussion, found the scene in question terribly romantic.
posted by yonega at 8:06 AM on May 17


ThatFuzzybastard: Now that you mention it, it may be a socioeconomic class thing--the whole middle-class striver mentality found within certain pockets of the middle and upper middle class. Like, they're striving toward a sort of idealized, romanticized vision of what they're lives should be, and one of the implicit virtues they're striving for is a certain unrealistic ideal of physical fittness and perfection.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:16 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: Yeah, except that it's more an upper-middle-class thing than lower-middle-class, and the latter is the group that's more inclined to striver behavior. I think part of it is the urban upper-class American's obsession with control; it's a class that's built an ideology around managing risk, choosing experience, "hack your life", using drugs but not going "off the rails", not dealing with anything unanticipated. And fatness is regarded as the visible symbol of failure to control your body.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:37 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Ugh. Sorry. "Their lives," I meant. Pet peeve.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:28 PM on May 18


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