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Consequences
August 23, 2014 10:30 AM   Subscribe


 
I was curious so I dug up the original photo, and after hearing it described by her, I was expecting something much worse. I mean, I know people can be jerks on the internet and mock things like this mercilessly on "fail" type sites, but this doesn't look like a grossly obese person in overalls watching TV instead of using a treadmill. I guess for all the harsh things said about the photo, I expected the photo and juxtaposition in a gym to be more dramatic, and after reading this I could totally understand how someone without a TV might watch the end of a marathon in the middle of the night in that spot.
posted by mathowie at 10:43 AM on August 23 [37 favorites]


HA HA HA YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG HA HA HA!

...says the worthless shitsack on Ellen's mailing list.
posted by basicchannel at 10:54 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Oof. Pretty surprised Ellen sent this around. I had gotten the impression that she didn't really go in for being spiteful and mean to get her giggles? But I'm not really an Ellen show-watcher, so I guess I didn't know.

I'm also unsurprised at the revelation that this came out of Uptown. It's a neighborhood in Minneapolis that was full of struggling artists in the 80s and has pretty relentlessly gentrified. It's now principally comprised of 20-something white professionals making way too much money. Uptown bar close isn't as bad as downtown bar close, but the streets around here 2-3am are definitely awash in drunk assholes.

I hope this doesn't get to this woman too badly. =/

I am so looking forward to moving to NE next weekend, for many reasons.
posted by kavasa at 10:56 AM on August 23


I've never belonged to a gym that would let someone put a chair on a treadmill even in the middle of the night.
posted by birdherder at 10:57 AM on August 23 [35 favorites]


Good essay, thanks for posting
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:00 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]


How the original photo looks is really beside the point. I think one point is to get us to think about and perhaps empathize for one freaking moment with the subjective life experience and viewpoint and reactions of a person -- this one in particular, and her individual life story, but also any person, really -- who is made an impersonal object of entertainment, amusement, scorn, or ridicule. It's not harmless fun.

Words cannot express how much I loathe this idea that the general public is entitled to snap a pic of any stranger anywhere anytime without consent and do whatever they want with it. It's like the ultimate intrusive expression of The Gaze.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:02 AM on August 23 [123 favorites]


I am amazed that anyone could recognize her in that photo, except maybe if she wears overalls like everyday.
posted by aaronetc at 11:02 AM on August 23 [20 favorites]


Yeah, FelliniBlank, but how are you going to stop it? You can't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:03 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


There's a failure of empathy, or imagination, in thinking that a person with a chair on the treadmill must be really lazy (and must have no idea that if they would just use the treadmill instead of sitting on it, they would be less fat) that is, when you get down to it, the same failure that happens when people can't conceptualize that some people need wheelchairs but not 100% of the time, so when they're using a wheelchair they're just lazy... there are a lot of people (not necessarily along any political lines that I can see) who so heavily buy into the idea of an epidemic of fat and lazy Americans that they'll believe anything that confirms that. It's one of those ideas, like people buying lobster and caviar on food stamps, that is so powerful for the people who believe in it that it totally overrides the basic common sense that most people go to the gym to use it as a gym, even fat people, even if you don't see them working out right at that moment.
posted by Jeanne at 11:08 AM on August 23 [40 favorites]


Nope, can't nobody stop it. I can try to limit my own participation and exposure, though, and explain why. For instance, I'm not looking at this woman's picture because she didn't want it to be taken and doesn't want people to see it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:08 AM on August 23 [16 favorites]


I remember seeing that picture somewhere. I just thought, meh, she probably works there or she's waiting for somebody, which it turns out wasn't far off.
posted by Flashman at 11:10 AM on August 23 [8 favorites]


This situation seems very similar to that of Star Wars Kid. Fourteen-year-old SWK had borrowed a video camera from his school for a project, and among other things filmed himself using a golf ball retriever as if he were a Jedi knight. He returned the camera and tape, never intending anything to end up online. Classmates found it and uploaded the segment to Kazaa without telling him; it has since garnered just under thirty million views on YouTube and spawned hundreds of mashups and homages.

In an apparent first and only interview ten years later, he describes his world having "collapsed ... I couldn't help but feel worthless."

For many years Wikipedia has had an article about the incident, and originally, after intense debate on the article's talk page, the boy's name was not made part of the article, despite it being bandied in several media reports and therefore perfectly sourceable. This has struck me as one of Wikipedia's great moments -- showing more reflection, and compassion, than professional journalists. To be sure, the debate on the talk page was quite heated, but it was fascinating to see that editors who thought the name should be included respected -- and even helped to uphold -- the decision to omit it after it had been reached. Once SWK became an adult and spoke out, his name was added back in, and leads the article today.

For SWK, the treadmill user, and others in this position -- for whom embarrassment can happen even if Ellen DeG. doesn't circulate something to her mailing lists -- I'd love to see our social media and Web at large support "data genealogy." The idea would be that people could indicate when photos or other data was about them, and have an opportunity to add a comment to it in its metadata, perhaps including a means to reach them, without necessarily having to identify themselves to the public at large. SWK could make the case for not circulating the photo -- and anyone encountering it would have a moment to decide whether to respect that wish. Not everyone would, but many others might choose to move along, and if enough did, that could eliminate the virally-multiplying aspect of some of these situations. And at least everyone would be confronted with an ethical dimension to what otherwise feels like just forwarding something along that seems momentarily funny. I could see myself sharing the SWK video with others if it were unanchored from any context, and then choosing not to -- if not sending in a "hang in there" note -- if the fuller explanation were there.

Google News added such a feature for awhile -- anyone mentioned in an article, whether as subject or quoted expert, could be privileged to add a comment that would appear by the article when it turned up in Google News. Google actually went to the trouble of trying to verify that those wanting to add comments b/c mentioned were indeed who they said they were. I was sad to see Google abandon the feature later.

I know it's a cruel world out there, with uncountable trolls -- but/and that's reason to want to look at technological refinements that can help bring out and multiply the best in people, too.
posted by zittrain at 11:14 AM on August 23 [16 favorites]


Probably a stupid question, but I don't use treadmills very often - why doesn't the chair move?
posted by mannequito at 11:15 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Because the treadmill is not turned on?
posted by elizardbits at 11:16 AM on August 23 [12 favorites]


Not to deny the fat shaming or whatever but, what she was doing was pretty weird and attention grabbing.
posted by anazgnos at 11:16 AM on August 23 [38 favorites]


I guess there is a kind of innocuous "um, treadmills are where you walk, not where you sit" potential joke there; maybe that's how Ellen Degeneres was interpreting the "doing it wrong" element. Y'know, like a person roller skating on an ice rink or something.

But put a photo of a remotely non-emaciated woman anywhere online in any context, and it's going to be non-stop Hurf Durfapalooza from there on out. On a music forum I go to, the assembled misogynists last week were falling all over themselves to exclaim about the egregious ass-fatness of a Kardassian sister (the Kanye spouse one?), and she must weigh about 120, tops. (The amazing part is that the mods actually nuked the thread from orbit when I asked them to; usually it's all boyzone all the time).
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:21 AM on August 23 [14 favorites]


"Not to deny the fat shaming or whatever but, what she was doing was pretty weird and attention grabbing."

And..? I don't fault anyone that walked by for noticing, but what's the deal with deciding to stop and laugh in a big group? Or actually taking a photo and uploading it to laugh at more widely? Or being a host of a daytime talkshow and circulating it to your enormous email list? That's where you lose me.
posted by kavasa at 11:27 AM on August 23 [10 favorites]


It's a funny picture. Surely it's possible to see the humor in it without judging the woman in the picture or endorsing the uncountable number of idiotic comments it inspired.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:29 AM on August 23 [25 favorites]


But put a photo of a remotely non-emaciated woman anywhere online in any context, and it's going to be non-stop Hurf Durfapalooza from there on out.

Oh, pictures of thin women get Hurf Durfed, too, usually in the form of admonitions to "eat a sandwich" or in comments about how skinny women aren't sufficiently fuckable because they (we) don't have enough to hang on to. This is totally not to diminish the hideous levels of fat-shaming that go on in our culture, but just to say that -- depressingly enough -- pretty much any woman who isn't a bikini model gets shamed about her body for not fitting an impossibly narrow standard of beauty.
posted by scody at 11:29 AM on August 23 [18 favorites]


Not to deny the fat shaming or whatever but, what she was doing was pretty weird and attention grabbing.

For sure. And honestly, even though I generally work at the empathy/imagination thing, I probably would have noticed it and thought it was funny too. There really is something hilarious about sitting on a piece of exercise equipment.

I sometimes wonder if what's missing is an understanding that We're All Doing It Wrong at one time or another (some of us repeatedly) -- that instead of looking at That Fool Other we should have in mind that most of us are a well-timed camera shot and a little perspective from our 15 minutes of internet fame in the ongoing human comedy.

(As an example -- gyms themselves may be Doing It Wrong. It's arguably equally ridiculous that we have TVs in the gym at all, or that we have rows and rows of exercise machines disengaged enough from any other purpose that we seem to need TV or podcasts or some other mental chewing gum...)
posted by weston at 11:32 AM on August 23 [11 favorites]


Heck, even the super-duper conventionally attractive timeless beauties get taken apart like a Mr. Potato Head.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:33 AM on August 23 [8 favorites]


I am amazed that anyone could recognize her in that photo, except maybe if she wears overalls like everyday.

We only have her word for it that anyone really did.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:36 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Surely it's possible to see the humor in it without judging the woman in the picture or endorsing the uncountable number of idiotic comments it inspired.

The fact that the woman in the picture did not want the picture distributed, and does not herself find it funny, kind of trumps how funny you may think it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on August 23 [29 favorites]


I'm surprised & disappointed that Ellen Degeneres would engage in fat-shaming lulz.

The obvious takeaway here though, is to be a slender, wealthy white American male, & to never, ever go outside. So. Many. Assholes. out there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:39 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Parking a chair on on a treadmill at the gym and watching by the author's account several hours of TV is a pretty obnoxious thing to do.
posted by humanfont at 11:42 AM on August 23 [38 favorites]


The treadmill thing is odd and out of the ordinary, drunk idiots will take photos and mock those who are different. This doesn't mean that we can't pause and think about how our words can hurt others. She wasn't harming anyone or denying them use of the treadmill in the empty gym, leave her the hell alone, drunken idiots.
posted by arcticseal at 11:47 AM on August 23 [16 favorites]


Surely it's possible to see the humor in it without judging the woman...

Indeed. And no, I don't think her wish for the photo not to exist is any kind of trump card. It's unfortunate the photo exists despite her wishes, and it's unfortunate she was (apparently; I'll take her word) somehow recognizable. But things can be unfortunate without requiring remedy. We can care about how people feel, and acknowledge those feelings as valid, while still maintaining that not every bad feeling requires some counterbalancing action. The kids who took the photo may have been jerks (again, taking her word) but looking at the photo itself, there are a lot of reasons to laugh that have nothing whatsoever to do with her size or weight, up to and including, "lol I would totally do that."

I don't use treadmills very often - why doesn't the chair move?

An older treadmill would have. Newer ones tend tend to be tighter and will move only if they are turned on. The logic, to my understanding, is that this helps to prevent accidental injuries. And yes, I'm surprised she was allowed to set a chair on a treadmill. Unless it's your treadmill that's kind of a jerk thing to do. I'm sorry her gym was a "crappy little storefront" but your membership fee doesn't entitle you to abuse the equipment that other people are also paying to use.
posted by cribcage at 11:50 AM on August 23 [22 favorites]


humanfont - are you somehow under the impression that there's a huge line for the treadmill at a 24/7 gym at bar close time?

sing or swim - I understand why people think it's funny, but I also think you have to do some fundamentally shitty stuff in order to choose to stop in a group to laugh at her, take a photo without her knowledge or permission, upload that photo, or distribute it. There's plenty of really funny stuff in the world without choosing to ignore another human's internal existence and wishes.
posted by kavasa at 11:51 AM on August 23 [12 favorites]


Photographing someone inside a gym is a jerk thing to do, but if that gym is in full view of a public space, then it's a totally legal thing to do. So, just something to be aware of if you work out at a storefront gym/yoga studio/whatever.

Incidentally, my gym is not in public view, but for various reasons, often has visitors and tourists walking around snapping photos. They rarely ask or even kind of acknowledge that you're there. I don't really care if they take mine, but it is odd how disconnected they are from the situation and people around them. That's kind of how things have become in this Instagrammed world -- they're not seeing another person, just how many likes and retweets like they will get.
posted by retrograde at 11:52 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Parking a chair on on a treadmill at the gym and watching by the author's account several hours of TV is a pretty obnoxious thing to do.

She said that she watched 80 minutes of TV while she worked out and then some unspecified amount after that. At like 2 am or whenever bars close in Minnesota. Why is that obnoxious when the gym has the TV on 24/7 anyhow, unless there was a big queue of insomniac Minneapolitan treadmill users waiting for her machine?
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:52 AM on August 23 [17 favorites]


>The fact that the woman in the picture did not want the picture distributed, and does not herself find it funny, kind of trumps how funny you may think it is.

No, I don't think it does. It seems to be a picture taken in a public place, of a person whose identity is not revealed in any way, and whose identity is irrelevant to the thing that makes the picture funny. If it was distributed along with a caption which said "(photo subject's name) LIVES IN (city, state) AND IS FAT AND STOOPIT HAR HAR", I would agree that that was bullying, and was mean and abusive.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:54 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Oh come on. It's like a Far Side cartoon. It's a weird, weird thing to do. It's kind of funny.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:54 AM on August 23 [30 favorites]


It's both a funny picture AND rude to laugh at people who can hear you doing it. That's always a possibility when you're laughing on the internet.

Or, in other words, if people don't want to be criticized for laughing at someone else on the internet, maybe they shouldn't do it where we can all see them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:57 AM on August 23 [34 favorites]


I'm surprised & disappointed that Ellen Degeneres would engage in fat-shaming lulz.

I've seen that photo before, not as a part of "LOL at the fatties!" humor (which is absolutely a thing), but more as a "people doing things oddly or wrongly." The humor of that photo is not her weight (in fact, is it possible to even tell what gender or shape the person is?), but rather using a treadmill to sit and watch TV.

At least this lulz photo doesn't show her face, unlike the thousands of more mean-spirited photos that show a person's identity in high-res.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:57 AM on August 23 [9 favorites]


It would be nice if more people were aware of the backstory behind this photo on Ellen and the George Takei disability- shaming meme, in order to convey the importance of context and empathy. Between shit like this, the GoFundMe "bounty" comments, the twitter attacks on Robin Williams' daughter, the vitriol and threats directed at any women who comments on tech or gaming culture - I'm close to done with the whole "people" thing. I feel like our sense of civility is taking a major hit because people seem to think that the internet=omniscience. I know it's true because I saw it online, and I know exactly how to interpret what I've found!

Having to physically face the people you're attacking or mocking requires you to accept that they might punch you in the face. But now, you can destroy a person's life without leaving your damn chair. I'm reminded of Louis CK's bit about road rage. As horrible, horrible, horrible as the Westboro church is, at least these cretins took the effort to put on pants and go outside. But otherwise, may they rot in some other afterlife than the one they believe in.

In other news, I am old and grumpy, and you kids today can stay on my lawn as long as you mow it.
posted by bibliowench at 11:57 AM on August 23 [26 favorites]


Why is that obnoxious when the gym has the TV on 24/7 anyhow, unless there was a big queue of insomniac Minneapolitan treadmill users waiting for her machine?

Because of just world bias

IOW, I'm considerate so it couldn't happen to me, and now the world feels more controllable and less chaotic and stressful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:58 AM on August 23 [19 favorites]


She wrote it was a five hour marathon and suggested watching many episodes. Each episode is 60 minites. So 80 minutes would be 1 and 1/3 episodes.
posted by humanfont at 12:05 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


take a photo without her knowledge or permission, upload that photo, or distribute it. There's plenty of really funny stuff in the world without choosing to ignore another human's internal existence and wishes.

Yeah, kavasa, but come on. It's a funny scene, especially when unexpected. It would make me laugh, and she doesn't even register to me as 'fat person.' It's a chair on a treadmill.

Is the answer, "never post funny snapshots on the Internet, unless you have signed model releases?" It's unfortunate that she felt bad about the photo. It's especially a problem that no photo with a recognizable woman in it can be posted on the Internet without mean judge-y shaming being inevitable. But the shamers are the ones to blame.

I mean, I guess I get the point, but. I take her word for it that the people who took the photo were mean about it. I'm just imagining if it had been me. I might post something like that to my facebook, never intending to make her feel bad or anything. It's the Internet. I don't even know her. How's that going to get back to her and make her feel bad?

Clearly it did, though, and I'd feel bad about that. But really? Choosing to ignore another human's internal existence?
posted by ctmf at 12:07 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


I feel like people are completely misunderstanding what's going on. There is no malice in people laughing at that picture, and there was none intended in the Takei case.

The fundamental misunderstanding is that it's about the actual person in the photo. It is not. The person is merely a stand-in, an archetype, a notion - nothing else. They embody a concept. The concept is what's supposed to be funny. It's a joke - when you tell a joke, people don't assume that the person in the joke is some specific individual who is getting hurt; the aim is to set up a situation and the humor resulting from it.

People laugh at an actor slipping on a banana peel. And here comes the misunderstanding brigade "how can these assholes laugh - don't they realize that serious concussions and injuries can result from banana peels?!!" "The inhumanity of it all - what about the fruit workers who work with bananas every day!".

It's not meant to be real. It's a joke. It's an abstraction. The actor is not to be pitied - the actor is just the tool to elicit laughter. It's not about the actor. It's about the concept, the situation visualized, the setup and the humor that results. It's not meant to hurt the actor. It's not meant to hurt the people in the photos.

It's not meant to attack specific people - this "fat" woman. That disabled woman. They're actors to the audience - that's how it's taken. You're laughing at the concept. At the joke. Jokes are not "real". They're ideas. That's what those photos are - humorous ideas. Not my cup of tea, and pretty low-brow, but not mean-spirited or made in bad faith, either by Ellen or by Takei.

"You're doing it wrong" - the concept, not the reality of that particular woman. "Look how alcohol can motivate - miracles result" - not "that specific woman is merely faking a disability".

Now, that's not to say that there aren't morons who actually laugh at the "fat" person, or think that most people in wheelchairs and who can still get up are "faking it". But back in medieval times when there were travelling morality theater plays from village to village, it happened that in some places never exposed to plays before, actors who played villains were attacked and even killed by the audience. So, ignorant people exist, and assholes exist. But these photo jokes were not meant to cater to the ignorant and the assholes, even if there are such in the audience (unfortunately).

There is plenty of nasty and wrong humor - racist jokes come to mind - where the intent is clear, to laugh at the "other". This is not such a case, seems to me. But that's just my take.
posted by VikingSword at 12:08 PM on August 23 [57 favorites]


Man, look at that cool dude sticking it to the man, improvising on the spot and not caring about them damn gym rules!

Oh, it's a woman? LOL she's fat.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:12 PM on August 23 [22 favorites]


>I also think you have to do some fundamentally shitty stuff in order to choose to stop in a group to laugh at her

The vast majority of people seeing this picture on the internet are not laughing AT HER, and don't know or care who she is. Humor is funny because you recognize yourself in it, usually ruefully; what's funny about this picture has nothing to do with the woman in it.

Here's us--all humans:

1. (watches television)

2. Uh-oh--getting a bit of a spare tire; better get some exercise.

3. If only there was something with which to occupy my mind while I'm on this damn treadmill. I know--we could put a TV up there!

4. (watches television)

It's funny. We are, all of us, funny. Anybody who uses the picture to bully the woman in it, or any particular person, is indisputably an asshole. By all means let's not be bullies, but let's also not insist that people mustn't laugh at things that are funny. There's middle ground.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:12 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


How's that going to get back to her and make her feel bad?

Why wouldn't it? Does she not have the internet? Is that the assumption? It's a poor assumption.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:14 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Yeah, you don't have to make it illegal. It's not illegal to, say, go around talking shit to babies either, but it's frowned upon enough that it doesn't seem to happen very often.

I'm thinking that if I walked up to a baby in a stroller and called it an ugly dumbass or something, people wouldn't be encouraging me. And I'm not going to try it, so NO DARES.

Because we live in a society where that's not OK.

When People of Walmart was newish, there was a thread about it on a forum I posted to, and I actually managed to shut it down just by pointing out that some of the people in those pictures looked not OK. Like, mentally ill maybe, maybe sick, or maybe just having a really bad day.

There was one in particular, of an older man walking through the parking lot, shirtless and with his pants hanging a little too low. His head was down, he had his arms crossed in front of them, and he clearly seemed to be in some sort of distress. And instead of doing something to help him or even just try to talk to him, someone took a picture of him and put it on the internet. And that person was an asshole. Maybe a dyed in the wool asshole, maybe just a kind of self-centered kid or something, but regardless: Asshole move.

I've found that, when you point it out, raise the possibility that things aren't as they seem, and try to get people to think of the subjects as human beings, the vast majority will stop. The ones who are persistent sometimes persist for a while. Maybe they're sociopaths, maybe just singularly dull and unimaginative and lacking in experience with life. But it doesn't matter. They stop, too, once they stop getting positive reactions.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:15 PM on August 23 [56 favorites]


There's middle ground.

Does the middle ground shift based on whether people think the person in the picture is a man or a woman?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:15 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


The fundamental misunderstanding is that it's about the actual person in the photo.

I am sure that is of great comfort to the person actually in the photo! Wait, no, it probably doesn't mean jack shit to the person plastered all over the internet.
posted by winna at 12:16 PM on August 23 [24 favorites]


How's that going to get back to her and make her feel bad?

Why wouldn't it? Does she not have the internet? Is that the assumption? It's a poor assumption.


Well, I'm not exactly George Takei with my follower count. I suppose it's possible that one of my facebook posts could "go viral", just damn unlikely. It would be the first time ever and completely not what I was going for.
posted by ctmf at 12:18 PM on August 23


I am sure that is of great comfort to the person actually in the photo! Wait, no, it probably doesn't mean jack shit to the person plastered all over the internet.

Well, if people are not actually laughing at her, I don't see why she should care any more than if someone snapped a picture of her in a hat in order to illustrate the hat - she's merely a model. It's not personal.
posted by VikingSword at 12:19 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


The person is merely a stand-in, an archetype, a notion - nothing else. They embody a concept.

How on earth is that better? To have her humanity reduced to a "har har, fat people are dumb" joke? Is she supposed to be comforted by us saying "don't take it personally, we've just chosen an image of you to represent this mean but maybe funny idea about fat women/dumb women"? Really?
posted by daisystomper at 12:19 PM on August 23 [25 favorites]


It's obnoxious to do something like this because it creates a situation for employees who have to wonder about if they should ask her to stop, if they'll get in trouble if they don't, etc. I've worked retail, so I try to have a sense of empathy and I don't do things like this because it makes someone's job harder. This is like if a paying customer bought some clothes, and then plopped down in the store to finish their book. Have some common sense.
posted by skjønn at 12:20 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


How on earth is that better? To have her humanity reduced to a "har har, fat people are dumb" joke? Is she supposed to be comforted by us saying "don't take it personally, we've just chosen an image of you to represent this mean but maybe funny idea about fat women/dumb women"? Really?

First of all, as has been pointed out, it's not about the "fat" - it's about the chair on a treadmill. That's what's incongruous and funny (for values of funny).

Her humanity is no more reduced in this case than an actors humanity is reduced to the role played, or a magazine's model is reduced to just the dress they're modelling.
posted by VikingSword at 12:22 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Well, if people are not actually laughing at her, I don't see why she should care any more than if someone snapped a picture of her in a hat in order to illustrate the hat

It is personal. It is about her to her. That was the entire point of the article, that she is not a "floating head" whose body can be mentally detached from her for our evaluation. She is that body. She is that hat. And that photo was taken for the purpose of mocking her body and therefore her.
posted by daisystomper at 12:22 PM on August 23 [14 favorites]


It is personal. It is about her to her. That was the entire point of the article, that she is not a "floating head" whose body can be mentally detached from her for our evaluation. She is that body. She is that hat. And that photo was taken for the purpose of mocking her body and therefore her.

Then she's insisting on making it about her, even though people explicitly are not laughing at her. We laugh at a comic's pratfall, we don't laugh at the comic. A comic who thinks they're laughing at him personally, is choosing to willfully misunderstand the situation - or is confused.
posted by VikingSword at 12:24 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I wish I could tell her that I saw that photo and a lot of people laughed at it but it was ruefully because we all do the same thing. Cable around here is expensive, most people I know don't have it. During NFL season I know several of my male coworkers go and pedal very, very, very slowly on the recumbent bikes while watching the game. It's a running joke: "going to work out?" "Yep, three quarters at least". During the World Cup, people weren't even pretending to work out, it was a non-bar place they could go at lunch and watch the games.

So even though I know a lot of people laughed at her body type, I thought what she' was doing was funny because we've all done it. Just none of us has the guts/ chutz pas/ clulessness/ whatever to change back into street clothes and actually drag a chair over to the treadmill.
posted by fshgrl at 12:26 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


it's not about the "fat" - it's about the chair on a treadmill. That's what's incongruous and funny (for values of funny).

From the article:

"OMG, I'm surprised she's not eating a stack of Big Macs."

“Wait, are you sure that’s a woman? Are you sure it’s not a farm animal?”

“Hey, at least she burned a few calories dragging the chair onto the treadmill.”
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:28 PM on August 23 [25 favorites]


Also I just looked at the photo again and she's quite an average body type for the part of the US I live in. She certainly wouldn't stand out at my gym, which is on third locals one third fitness model and bodybuilder types and one third powerlifters.
posted by fshgrl at 12:30 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


From the article:

"OMG, I'm surprised she's not eating a stack of Big Macs."


Blast it out to 50,000 people and you'll find a certain percentage of ignoramuses and assholes and people who don't get it, and you can pick those out to quote. Sad, but that's life, in any field. Fortunately the vast majority get it.
posted by VikingSword at 12:31 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Nice No True Scotsman there, VikingSword.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:32 PM on August 23 [22 favorites]


It's how you choose to see it. I'm trying to see it as I believe it to be. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Ellen and Takei are assholes who like to laugh at fat or disabled people. It does not conform to the reality as I see it.
posted by VikingSword at 12:35 PM on August 23


So wait, as long as your intentions are good, or neutral, or non-malicious, the amount of damage your actions do to others is immaterial? People walking around the world going about their own business are not actors. They're not pretending to dramatize some concept for your entertainment. Are you seriously saying that after reading about how shitty it made this actual, real person feel to be laughed at by a million people, you feel 100% fine about joining in on the yuks?

I used to briefly date this guy who had a habit of pointing out "weird" or mockable things about total strangers as we walked down the street. Sometimes it was behind their backs; sometimes they could tell what he was doing. We were sitting at a minor-league ballgame once when he actually elbowed me and then pointed and laughed at a larger-than-average man sitting a few rows in front of us. When I told him to stop acting like a puerile fucking jerk, he was completely mystified about why I would say that.

Like bibliowench, I am a grumpy old fun-hating crank, but on the upside, at least I successfully learned from my mother when I was about six that pointing and laughing at and mocking people different from you is rude and cruel. It's still rude and cruel even if the person never ever finds out. And we all do rude, cruel, thoughtless shit sometimes, me included, but to do it consciously and blithely and dismiss it as all in good fun? Ooooo, if my reanimated mom were here, or better yet, my scary auntie, she'd knock some people right into next week and ground you until you're on social security.

Is this some Ask vs. Guess-type cultural thing, or a regional/generational thing, or differing moral philosophies, or what?
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:39 PM on August 23 [58 favorites]


Does the middle ground shift based on whether people think the person in the picture is a man or a woman?

Again, humor is funny to the extent that you recognize yourself in it. It doesn't matter in the least who the person in the picture actually is, or what the gender of the person in the picture is.

How on earth is that better? To have her humanity reduced to a "har har, fat people are dumb" joke?

That's not the joke. If it were a picture of a person with a lean, muscular body using a piece of exercise equipment as a TV chair, it wouldn't change the joke at all.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:40 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I can walk very well on my own, but when I go out shopping, I use one of the provided motorized sit-down carts. Why? Because my heart condition makes me dizzy to the point of nearly fainting if I walk farther than 50 yards and I don't think Food4Less wants its already short-staffed people carrying a passed-out 280-pound guy from the dairy case to the front of the store. Still, every time I stand up from the cart to reach for something on a top shelf, I expect someone to shout out "hey, Lardo, just too lazy to walk the aisles for yourself?" or, even worse, to take a pic to be posted on the Internet with a similarly hateful caption. Such are the dangers of living one's life today.

Still, I never would've put a chair on a treadmill, even in the old days when I could do a mile at a slow jog on one. But the absence of any other people on the adjacent machines negated the "fat slob taking up space where somebody could've been exercising" interpretation for me - or anyone smarter than Ellen DeGeneres' staff. Again, that's how it works today. So much resentment from people so privileged.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:40 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


Kind of reminds me of the hipster with the typewriter thing too.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:42 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


If she put the chair next to the treadmill there would be no joke. I'm 99% sure she put the chair on the treadmill because she had to be that close to plug her headphones in so she could hear the show. But it's still funny, and it would be funny if it were a supermodel or an Olympian doing it.
posted by fshgrl at 12:45 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


God, this is the fakest thing I've read in a very long time.

None of it makes any sense. Not that she would be recognized by people, not that she decided -- ha ha -- to put a chair on a treadmill to watch the rest of a marathon (because, uh, why not, you know go home and watch the rest of it?), nothing.

My guess: someone wanted to make a point about fat shame and internet "you're doing it wrong" culture, and so used this photo to do it.

Thanks, interwebs, for providing an endless stream of gullible people.
posted by gsh at 12:46 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


It is about her to her.

Sure, and that is understandable. But it brings us back several decades to the original pejorative of political correctness, the idea that someone's feelings have been hurt, and therefore we must change something. Nope. People will suffer hurt feelings. Offense will happen. It is always unfortunate but only sometimes requires change or is wrong.

A handicapped person standing from a wheelchair to reach for a bottle of olive oil would not have been funny. But alcohol? Yeah, that's pretty funny. It has somewhat to do with societal perceptions of handicaps and wheelchairs, it has a lot to do with the societal role of alcohol, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the individual person depicted in that photo. Ditto here. If the chair were beside the treadmill, or if the person were folding origami instead of watching TV, the photo wouldn't be funny. But the chair is literally on the treadmill, and television certainly packs its share of societal meaning. That's the humor.

If she is offended, the first-line response is sympathy, because it's understandable why she would. If she is still offended, the second-line response is to console her why the humor is not, in fact, about her. And if she still can't get over it, then yeah, the ultimate response is telling her to get over it—not to tell everybody else in the world to stop laughing at the funny photo because a person felt bad.
posted by cribcage at 12:49 PM on August 23 [12 favorites]


It's how you choose to see it. I'm trying to see it as I believe it to be. Maybe I'm wrong.

Yes, you are. Now you're just backtracking and dodging. You just told everybody that there's the correct interpretation of the situation ("it's not about the "fat" - it's about the chair on a treadmill") and when faced with direct contradictions, you declared that if somebdoy disagrees with you they're just nitpicking and looking for exceptions ("you'll find a certain percentage of ignoramuses and assholes and people who don't get it"). No True Scotsman it is. A classic, even.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:49 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


People laugh at an actor slipping on a banana peel.

Paraphrasing from vague memory, but according to one definition comedy is when somebody slips on a banana peel. Tragedy is when I slip on a banana peel.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:51 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


> I've never belonged to a gym that would let someone put a chair on a treadmill even in the middle of the night.

> None of it makes any sense. Not that she would be recognized by people, not that she decided -- ha ha -- to put a chair on a treadmill to watch the rest of a marathon (because, uh, why not, you know go home and watch the rest of it?), nothing.

From the article:
And so I went to my gym, the Snap Fitness on Lagoon Avenue in Uptown—which, if you've seen it, you know is basically a crappy little storefront. The selling point, however, is that it’s open 24 hours, and I'm a night owl, and I am poverty-stricken and don't have TV at home; I mean, I have a TV, that exists as a horizontal surface to set things down on, but I can't afford cable—so I got in the groove of treadmilling late at night, while watching television.
I'm guessing to cut costs, the staffing in the middle of the night is minimal, maybe even remotely monitored in the off-peak hours. And as she mentions, she doesn't have cable at home, so she can't go home to watch the rest of the episodes. RTFA.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:51 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


She presents this essay as an onstage comedy/drama routine in this video.
posted by fivebells at 12:51 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


The story as it originally ran at Story Club included the picture, as well as video of the author telling the story. I found it by clicking the link to the author's name in the posted link.

http://www.storyclubmagazine.com/stories/is-this-you-amy-salloway
posted by themanwho at 12:53 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Apparently the pictures were taken from the street? Or have I misunderstood? Maybe gyms shouldn't have windows like that or you should be aware that whatever you're doing is public?
posted by Segundus at 12:53 PM on August 23


So wait, as long as your intentions are good, or neutral, or non-malicious, the amount of damage your actions do to others is immaterial?

Let's flip the question: do funny things stop being funny as soon as they're used with malicious intent? Let's say you think the Monty Python Silly Walk sketch is the funniest thing ever. I show it to somebody with a disability and say, "Haaa, that's how you walk!" Their feelings are hurt. Is it now no longer okay to find the sketch funny?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:00 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


If it were a picture of a person with a lean, muscular body using a piece of exercise equipment as a TV chair, it wouldn't change the joke at all.

Except that the muscular person would clearly know how to use some sort of exercise equipment, so it wouldn't be quite the contrast to a person in baggy overalls and some sort of large long-sleeve shirt and maybe even boots, all clothes that one does not wear on a treadmill, or generally wear while working out in a gym.

The image is full of thematic juxtapositions, which can be seen as humorous. To be honest, I didn't even notice the pigtails, but thought it was some young guy in frumpy clothing, not someone who was overweight.

> Apparently the pictures were taken from the street? Or have I misunderstood? Maybe gyms shouldn't have windows like that or you should be aware that whatever you're doing is public?

It was "the middle of the night," and she had worked out there before. Plenty of gyms have big, visible windows for people who work out to show off that they're working out (or to show off that there is gym equipment that you, the casual passer-by could be using). I'm assuming there generally wasn't much foot traffic at this time of night, but instead of leaving earlier, she stayed later, to when the bars were closing, because she wanted to watch some more House episodes, as she had no cable at home.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:02 PM on August 23


I feel like people are completely misunderstanding what's going on. There is no malice in people laughing at that picture, and there was none intended in the Takei case.

I feel like you are misunderstanding that we understand humor and don't need you to explain it to us.

By the way, Amy, the woman in the photo, understands humor as well. She's pretty well established in the Twin Cities comedy community.
posted by maxsparber at 1:03 PM on August 23 [23 favorites]


And if she still can't get over it, then yeah, the ultimate response is telling her to get over it—not to tell everybody else in the world to stop laughing at the funny photo because a person felt bad.

I'm not sure the author, or anyone else is telling people to stop laughing or presenting this as some "X must change! there ought to be a law!" situation. Nobody is trying to infringe on the god-given right of the people to life, liberty, and the distribution of stupid jokes. I mean, yeah, I'm doing my semi-serious judgy thing above, but it's also interesting to consider the different perspectives on this type of meme, private life in public spaces, the aggressive dimensions of humor targeting gender, appearance, disability, differing codes of civility, etc.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:06 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


I feel like you are misunderstanding that we understand humor and don't need you to explain it to us.

Where was this proven?
posted by deathmaven at 1:09 PM on August 23


Where was this proven?

I dunno. You could read the site. A lot of people commenting on this thread have a pretty good collection of hilarious comments on MetaFilter.
posted by maxsparber at 1:11 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


It baffles me how many people seem to think that taking pictures of strangers to publicly laugh at is anything other than weird, creepy and socially inappropriate. Deliberately setting out to take a picture of any stranger, for any purpose, seems to mark you out as a fucking weirdo to me.

But plenty of people seem happy to endorse these voyeuristic freaks because the result gave them a chuckle when it came up in their Facebook feed. It strikes me as really rather pathetic.
posted by howfar at 1:12 PM on August 23 [49 favorites]


The principle that doing anything is okay as long as it's funny is ethically moronic. If you are defending this by repeatedly stating that it's funny or explaining the joke, you're functioning on the ethical level of a 6 year old.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:16 PM on August 23 [32 favorites]


Deliberately setting out to take a picture of any stranger, for any purpose, seems to mark you out as a fucking weirdo to me.

What? "Deliberately setting out to..."?

You've never seen something you thought was amusing, and then told a friend about it later? Maybe even said man, I wish you'd seen it! Well, now we all have cameras in our pockets all the time.

I'm not saying everyone's fair game for being photographed at any time, but having the urge to capture it and show a friend doesn't make you a "fucking weirdo."
posted by ctmf at 1:20 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Yeah I am not really down with this idea of surreptitiously taking pictures of people and posting them online for laughs or finger pointing. Just not at all. I know someone who, while she was pregnant, was posting pictures on Facebook of men on the subway sitting in front of her while she was standing. She got a lot of thumbs ups but it made me uncomfortable. You really never know what the whole story is, and it might be kind of funny in the moment, it is just not worth it. Too bad you missed a cool or funny thing to share. There's loads of other funny and cool things.

This is perhaps why cats are so popular on the internet. We make merciless fun of them and they have no idea and will never object.
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:25 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


The principle that doing anything is okay as long as it's funny is ethically moronic.

It would indeed be. It strikes me as a little bit six-year-old-ish to draw that meaning from what people are saying in this thread, but hey, agree to disagree.
posted by cribcage at 1:28 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


It baffles me how many people seem to think that taking pictures of strangers to publicly laugh at is anything other than weird, creepy and socially inappropriate. Deliberately setting out to take a picture of any stranger, for any purpose, seems to mark you out as a fucking weirdo to me.

But plenty of people seem happy to endorse these voyeuristic freaks because the result gave them a chuckle when it came up in their Facebook feed. It strikes me as really rather pathetic.


I wouldn't go so far as to call the posters "voyeuristic freaks", but howfar's comment really puts a new light on this for me.

That is, for the first time in human history photographic anonymity can be rapidly undone due to interconnected data networks. Random strangers can be doxxed, hard-to-identify individuals can recognize themselves, people who want to hide can be outed, etc. While all of these things have always been possible, the magnitude and rapidity of such deanonymizations (identifications) and the ability for third parties to see the reaction of deanonymized photographed/depicted subjects is historically new.

Absent alongside this Internet-enabled deanonymization is a global culture that discourages the use of photographs of "anonymous" strangers (for whatever reason whether humorous, ennobling, malicious, etc.).

I do believe such a circumspect attitude would make sense in most cases.

However, in this *particular* case there is the unavoidable fact that equipment is being used in a relatively novel/unusual way (that probably violates terms of membership, etc. etc.) so such an attitude, even if held by the photographer, would yield (in this future universe) to the desire to document the "novel/unusual" use of furniture, exercise equipment, and entertainment devices.
posted by mistersquid at 1:30 PM on August 23


I mean, I guess I get the point, but. I take her word for it that the people who took the photo were mean about it. I'm just imagining if it had been me. I might post something like that to my facebook, never intending to make her feel bad or anything. It's the Internet. I don't even know her. How's that going to get back to her and make her feel bad?

Okay, you took the step of imagining how it would feel to take the photo.

I invite you to take the step of imagining how it would feel to BE the person who had a photo of themselves spread around the internet without your knowing it. Doesn't even have to be about a "fat " thing, in fact, let's assume someone caught you scratching your nose at a stop light, and from the angle it looked like you were picking it.

And it gets submitted somewhere with a caption about how you were "mining for gold" or something, and a couple years later it's on Reddit and people you know on Reddit start emailing you links and asking, "dude, is this you? That's gross!"

How does THAT feel now? Still funny?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:31 PM on August 23 [17 favorites]


It was a pretty funny episode of Seinfeld, so yeah, I would laugh about that.
posted by PugAchev at 1:42 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


In many MeFi discussions, the phrase "don't read the comments" is heard. That's what went wrong here, really. The photo was posted on places where comments collected. I think jeff-a-matic's comparison to The Far Side is apt. The situation is almost identical to Larson's School for the Gifted cartoon. Someone is doing it wrong.

The sad fact is that people believe they have a license to be cruel when the typical social restrictions of having the other person directly in front of us no longer exist. Had the photo been of a man, there would have been more comments about his (lack of) intelligence than his body image, I suspect, but they would have appeared nonetheless.

I don't have any solution to offer, but I do think it's possible to appreciate something as situationally funny without being personal. What made it personal was the comment section of the sites where it was posted.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:43 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


"My guess: someone wanted to make a point about fat shame and internet "you're doing it wrong" culture, and so used this photo to do it."

This is amazing. "I might feel bad if this were true, so instead I will be highly convinced that it's instead a convoluted fake situation some lady made up to feel righteous, because that is so common."

And for people that don't know: Snap Fitness and 24/7 Fitness are little unstaffed storefront places that are just everywhere in the twin cities. I assumed they were a national thing, but maybe not? You get a little swipe card or prox keychain thing and you can go work out whenever you want for a lot less money than a standard gym.

I also thought it was funny that ctmf said this:

"But really? Choosing to ignore another human's internal existence?"

Which was immediately followed by VikingSword saying this:

"The fundamental misunderstanding is that it's about the actual person in the photo. It is not. The person is merely a stand-in, an archetype, a notion - nothing else. They embody a concept."

So, yeah, what I said stands.

If it helps, I chose kind of a weird way to say what I meant, which was that the picture-taker didn't spend the 2 seconds to think "she probably wouldn't want me to take and upload this picture." Much less the further 2 seconds it would take to think "huh, I wonder if there's a story behind why she's doing that?" Because it is odd and, it turns out, people basically always have some kind of a reason for the things they do. Sometimes those reasons are bad, but it's a pretty safe assumption that no one puts a chair on a treadmill because that's how they think it works. So if you see that and the only thing you can think of is to laugh, you're honestly being pretty lazy.
posted by kavasa at 1:43 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


What? "Deliberately setting out to..."?

You've never seen something you thought was amusing, and then told a friend about it later? Maybe even said man, I wish you'd seen it! Well, now we all have cameras in our pockets all the time.


That second paragraph does not at all elucidate your bequestionmarked confusion. The fact that you had the camera in your pocket doesn't make framing up the shot and taking the photo accidental or involuntary or anything other than a deliberate act. Distributing it to other people or posting it to a public forum also requires one or more further deliberate steps.

Just in case this needs to be explained to anyone, if you surreptitiously record the audio of the conversation of some strangers you have snuck up on—yes, even in public!—and broadcast that to your friends, that is also creepy. (And "but what they were saying was extremely unusual!" doesn't make it less creepy.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:44 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


"The situation is almost identical to Larson's School for the Gifted cartoon. Someone is doing it wrong."

Just to belabor my point: a second's reflection would really wreck this train of thought. We all push on pull doors sometimes because we don't notice the sign or whatever, but we don't sit there for ten minutes heaving at it. No one puts a chair on a treadmill for fitness reasons. It does not happen ever. So if you see that picture and don't wonder what's going on, that's on you.
posted by kavasa at 1:46 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


OK, so I think if AskMe ever comes up with the Definitive AskMe Relationship Questionnaire, one of the questions should be:

You are somewhat self-conscious about x attribute (insert personal value for x, for example being full-figured), in part because it gets quite a bit of negative media/ internet attention. One day, your partner (friend, parent, kid, etc.) sees you doing something that is arguably funny, but that also possibly highlights x attribute (for example, sitting on a treadmill while watching TV). They start laughing, others around start riffing on attribute x. You get really upset. Here is how things go down with your partner (friend etc):

a. They instantly apologize. They empathize with your point of view and see why their action may have hurt you. Later they may explain what non-x part of the situation they had found funny. At this point you yourself may see the humour in the situation. You might discuss the fact that you are very sensitive to things that bring up attribute x, because of personal history, media bombardment, whatever, they themselves might mention their own vulnerabilities (for example, the fact that they are balding, developing a beer gut, whatnot), and so on and so forth. End result: more nuanced mutual understanding, more mutual respect, more intimacy, more support, more happiness.

b. They apologize. You sulk. They feel miserable. You sulk some more and have a go at them etc. downward spiral.

c. They apologize, but it was the others laughing about the shitty thing, so you should get over it, ‘cause they were laughing about a good thing, so there.

d. They tell you to get over it,that they are entitled to find things funny when they ARE funny (and most sane people would agree)/ that you should not take it personally, it’s all a bit like actors in a comedy who slip on a banana peel etc.

At least one of the above would be marked as an abort-mission type of red flag in interpersonal relationships. And I don’t really understand why people interacting on the internet should be any different in this regard – if it would be shitty to do something to someone in your drawing room, why is it OK on the internet? In real life, if anyone is har-har-har about someone else’s vulnerability, wouldn’t we feel that they are an ass? If someone did something like this to another person in our house, if we saw the discomfort, would we not step in? I don’t get it! Why is the injured person the one to be dismissed and put in their place, rather than those people who act jerkishly? Why expend so many comments on justifying why it’s OK to hurt a person for the sake of 5 seconds of hilarity, rather than go and bombard shitty commenters with protests? Especially since dealing with the nasties nets a benefit for humour, too – people are less hurt by humour that is also kind, so, in the absence of turds, the actual funny side floats to the top.

*****

I also find the impersonality argument rather baffling, as in, I don’t get it at all.


Well, if people are not actually laughing at her, I don't see why she should care any more than if someone snapped a picture of her in a hat in order to illustrate the hat - she's merely a model. It's not personal.

Her humanity is no more reduced in this case than an actors humanity is reduced to the role played, or a magazine's model is reduced to just the dress they're modelling.


Let me insert an analogy here: let’s assume you’re an actor who gets paid to play a role; in one of the scene I, playing opposite you, have to slap you. To maximize realism, the director insists on a real slap, so your head really flies, your eyes water, you see stars for a moment etc. You agree, ‘cause you get paid, or you chime with the director’s vision and approach, whatever. All the while, you know that I, personally, have nothing against you – in fact, once the show is over, we may go grab a drink together.

Contrast this with the following: you are walking down the street. I, a stranger, come up to you and slap you really hard in the face, so you head flies, your eyes water, you see stars for a moment etc. Then I say: “Don’t take this personally; you are just a stand-in, an archetype, like an actor in a play. Now, please go about your day and don’t do like medieval village idiots who confused the morality play villain with a real villain. Remember, I was slapping the archetype, not you the person, who is in actual fact utterly indifferent to me. Good day, sir, and thanks for being a good sport.”

Is the contention that this would be OK with you, since it would not be personal?
posted by miorita at 1:46 PM on August 23 [17 favorites]


How does THAT feel now? Still funny?

Well, I'm kind of with mistersquid that the interesting problem here is the massive scope of something going viral on the internet and the rapid doxxing, etc.

To answer your question, I actually am pretty easy-going and don't have a problem laughing at myself. I'm having a hard time putting myself in Amy's place because my reaction would be completely different. I would think the photo is funny, too, because of how it looked, while I'm ok with knowing the "rest of the story" myself. And I know people who know me would be doing it out of good-natured ribbing. Similar things have happened to me when I've been caught in the background of video clips doing something derpy. (Though not nose-picking, thankfully.)

Being on the internet-at-large changes it all, and I'm not saying it doesn't. What I am saying is that it's human nature to want to share funny anecdotes with your friends. Now there's facebook/twitter/what-have-you that makes it easy to do that. That also sometimes means that "sharing something with your friends" can get out of hand and reach a much wider audience than you intended.

So what I object to is the hyperbole in insisting that the impulse to take a photo and share with friends inherently means you're a bad person.
posted by ctmf at 1:47 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


It was "the middle of the night," and she had worked out there before. Plenty of gyms have big, visible windows for people who work out to show off that they're working out (or to show off that there is gym equipment that you, the casual passer-by could be using). I'm assuming there generally wasn't much foot traffic at this time of night, but instead of leaving earlier, she stayed later, to when the bars were closing, because she wanted to watch some more House episodes, as she had no cable at home.

Yeah, but no. She was in a window on to the public street, and she put a chair on the exercise treadmill and sat down to watch television?
posted by Segundus at 1:48 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I'm split on this issue.

On one hand the picture is freaking hilarious. There are just so many absurd aspects to it. If I was walking down the street and saw this through a window I'd chuckle pretty heartily.

But...

It is pretty anti-social to take pictures of strangers (doing strange things) and then post them on the internet. I've thought about this, as I like to take pictures of graffiti on old buildings. I come across a lot of homeless people and homeless camps. I find them to be really interesting visually, but I refrain from taking the shots. It feels like I'm violating someone's privacy.

Between these two positions I feel like this shouldn't have happened, but since it did, it's not a huge deal. The world is full of meanies how make fun of people. At some point we just have to live with that and go on with our lives.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:49 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I'm really baffled how multiple people recognized her from this picture. Maybe the overalls are her "thing"? I mean, I don't think my own mother would recognize me from the back.
posted by sfkiddo at 1:51 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Her overalls are a thing. Every time I have seen her I think she has been wearing them.
posted by maxsparber at 1:54 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Some thoughts:

a) Women are routinely made to feel that being sexually attractive is the single most important value they have. Further, that attractiveness is based on being "just a body" that meets whatever criteria some shallow jackass happens to value. We are rarely made to feel like our compassion, intelligence, and other non-physical traits are what is "sexy" about us or what attracts male attention. Even in cases where men were clearly attracted to me because they felt I had a brain, after there was some kind of sexual involvement, yuppers, most of them had a talent for making me feel like my body was all that really, truly mattered. (I sometimes think I will either never get laid again or I am switching teams. It seems to be incredibly hard to find men who don't do that to at least some degree.) So, yeah, stuff like this is going to tend to be interpreted by a great many people through that lens of criticizing her body, even if that wasn't what some folks saw as humorous.

b) I kind of appreciate the folks talking about finding it funny because it is situational, because "we all do that" and that sort of thing -- pointing out the non-malicious, non-insensitive ways this can be funny.

c) Nonetheless, I am someone who does not point and laugh at stuff like this. In fact, when friends of mine have sent me this kind of thing and were all "lulz, look at the fatty/the tasteless person/whatever other means to rag on a stranger in a photo" I have told them "Please don't send me this kind of thing again. It isn't my cup of tea. It's a real person you are talking about."

d) For those people defending the photo and the pointing and laughing because "it isn't about her," well, then here is an alternative: If it isn't about her, instead of taking a picture, the people who saw her could have gone home and drawn a comic based on what they saw and captioned it in a way that made it explicit that it was about watching tv on the treadmill instead of about "lulz, fat people!" or whatever and posted their drawing to the Internet for all to enjoy, guilt-free, without hurting another person and treating them like their feelings are totally unimportant because lulz. Because, to her, it is about her.

e) I also also find myself sort of feeling like she could use this somewhat more constructively. Because there are multiple ways to view it and she is a fairly successful comedienne and there are multiple potential take-aways here, not just the point that fat-shaming is cruel or that, hey, you know, words on the internet do actually hurt people, an observation which has certainly been made before. I mean, I agree with those observations. I just think art and comedy can go beyond the obvious interpretations and when they do it tends to have greater value.

Thank you for posting this.
posted by Michele in California at 1:55 PM on August 23 [16 favorites]


So what I object to is the hyperbole in insisting that the impulse to take a photo and share with friends inherently means you're a bad person.

Having the impulse to shoot a six-gun at someone's feet and demand that they dance for the amusement of yourself and your friends also would not mean you're a bad person; it's actually doing so that would make you a bad person. Similarly it's not the impulse itself that's creepy, it's actually gratifying the impulse to surreptitiously photograph someone and distribute the photo amongst your friends for your mutual entertainment that's creepy.
posted by XMLicious at 1:55 PM on August 23 [15 favorites]


This is pretty much why I hate it when sites, like reddit say, have a handful of stock photos of people they use to illustrate bad behavior/something to mock/something suppoisidly funny. Everytime I run across them I cringe with a micro burst of empathy.
posted by edgeways at 1:57 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I think her version is a great story, but I wouldn't take it as literal truth. Sounds more like creative memoir to me. http://youredoingitwrong.com is available. Search for chair on treadmill doesn't show this photo on first page.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:01 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


edgeways, it reminds me of the time that a stock photo was used for the Privilege-Denying Dude meme, and the model behind the photo objected. A new person stepped forward to "be" the meme.
posted by zittrain at 2:04 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Perhaps Ellen Degeneres did not personally select that picture, but someone on her staff in charge of the newsletter did.

Maybe she asked permission to watch TV. She says she stumbled into a 5-hour marathon but maybe she only finished the episode she was watching when her workout ended.

The only thing I see wrong with this is putting a chair on a treadmill. I ask myself why she did it and didn't put the chair behind the treadmill. It could damage the equipment.

Ideefixe, that doesn't mean it wasn't a valid domain in the past. I know there's a "doing it wrong" blog on one of the sites similar to the Cheezburger network.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:05 PM on August 23


Having the impulse to shoot a six-gun at someone's feet and demand that they dance for the amusement of yourself and your friends also would not mean you're a bad person; it's actually doing so that would make you a bad person. Similarly it's not the impulse itself that's creepy, it's actually gratifying the impulse to surreptitiously photograph someone and distribute the photo amongst your friends for your mutual entertainment that's creepy.

Oh, whatever. I'm sure you never have conversations among friends that contain anecdotes about things other people did or said. Dance for the amusement of yourself and your friends, indeed. This is exactly what I meant by hyperbole.
posted by ctmf at 2:08 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


My snap interpretation of the photo has nothing to do with the person's weight. Her size appears average. The funny is that she's sitting in a chair on a treadmill. If I were walking by and saw this, I would giggle to myself.

What's unfortunate of course is that a photo was taken and spread on the Internet where it will live forever and be subject to the dumbest, most spiteful that humanity offers. That was, at best, poor judgment on the part of the kids who posted it (i.e., not considering the consequences of their actions). At worst it displays a conscious and profound lack of empathy that seems to be the primary currency of the Internet along with adorable cat videos and porn.
posted by echocollate at 2:08 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Oh, whatever. I'm sure you never have conversations among friends that contain anecdotes about things other people did or said.

You know this thread isn't about taking a photo and privately sharing it among friends? You may be getting some pushback because you are no longer addressing what actually happened, but instead discussing an unrelated scenario in which a very small group of people share something privately.
posted by maxsparber at 2:10 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


Zittrain, yeah, I think that's a worthy point you're alluding to - consent.


IndigoRain- I was thinking the TV might be volume control locked so may be hard to hear even a few more feet away /shrug
posted by edgeways at 2:12 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


When I first saw the picture I thought, "Yeah, I can see how this is somewhat amusing. Look! A person is in street clothes and they've got a chair on a treadmill and they're watching tv! That's not what the treadmill is for!"

That's a little silly. Not even close to laughing out loud or even smiling, but a mental acknowledgement of someone doing something a little offbeat; we don't watch tv sitting on chairs at the gym while in our dress clothes! Silly.

Upon looking further, I recognized that someone took this person's picture without their permission and then it blew up on the internet and WTF, Ellen DeGeneres blasted this person's picture out in a mass email?

This is what I find most creepy and awful. ANY asswipe can take someone's picture and spread it all over the internet. And of course, loads of other people then feel free to make disgusting comments about that person; that's also hideous.

So for me it becomes a question of ethics and morals. Why has internet anonymity allowed people to think it's ok to invade a stranger's privacy by taking and then posting their picture on the internet? Why the hell would Ellen Degeneres think it's okay to email this?

What is wrong with people?
posted by kinetic at 2:13 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


The photo does show up on some sites,--here's one with no comments. The sequence of gym photo is repeated all over, and her photo isn't always even commented upon.
I think the essay is well done, but it's more creative writing than reported hard news. She's a comic and this has received more attention than just about any of her other work.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:14 PM on August 23


I think the essay is well done, but it's more creative writing than reported hard news. She's a comic and this has received more attention than just about any of her other work.

You know, one of the shittiest things people do when women report their experiences is immediately play amateur detective and claim it didn't happen, or happened differently than they claim.

Can you not be shitty about this?
posted by maxsparber at 2:16 PM on August 23 [49 favorites]


I'm sure you never have conversations among friends that contain anecdotes about things other people did or said.

I'm sure everyone does have those conversations; but many of us have the sense not to amplify and immortalize our momentary lapses of respect by taking a picture and putting on the internet for millions of people to pass around.
posted by daisystomper at 2:17 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


So what I object to is the hyperbole in insisting that the impulse to take a photo and share with friends inherently means you're a bad person.

No one is saying it makes you Hitler, but it does kind of make the photo-taker a petty asshole. Also an ignorant asshole if they assume said picture is going to stay "just among friends."
posted by daisystomper at 2:19 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Oh come on. It's like a Far Side cartoon. It's a weird, weird thing to do. It's kind of funny.

But it's weird well within the spectrum of human strangeness at times, and I say this in the best way possible. We are all deliciously strange if we had public access to all of the moments of everyone's lives. What I don't get about things like this -- and I'm happy for this fact, because I suspect that it means that deep down I have some empathy -- is how this goes from being "something that would be no big whoop if I ran into someone I care about in the every day world" to being something mockable because it has a media label attached to it. I have done things equivalent to setting a chair on a treadmill for convenience, and so has most everyone else. Even Ellen Degeneres. She shouldn't have taken advantage of this social hypocrisy in the way that we treat people for a laugh.

Someone I really care about said something inappropriate the other day. She knew it, she caught it, she apologized. No big deal, really, because I know her. This happens with people we are close with all the time. If it happened on TV, though, or caught on hidden camera, who knows. Life has a right to be unfiltered at times while we work out our stuff, without having to worry about it always being perfect. We seem to have a different standard when it gets on the internet or TV, because we have an expectation of polish and perfection. People's entire political careers have come to a screeching halt because the camera caught them doing something a bit strange in public [cough, Dean], whereas my Uncle Bob was a total weirdo at one point at a family get-together, and there was literally zero lost social capital. That's kind of the way it should be. Frankly, I'm a bit tired of the social hypocrisy.

I think this betrays some sort of a psychological vice that we have collectively as a people that betrays not only a lack of imagination in other people's stories, but also a deep lack of empathy. I'd like to think that we could treat most people, on the internet, TV, or whatever, as we would members of our own family. We'd worry a whole less about the makeup artist and perfect polish expected of actors and political people and get away from all this posturing crap in the meantime, as well.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:21 PM on August 23 [13 favorites]


She's making lemonade from lemons--mentioning that is not being "shitty", maxsparber. I don't think she's wrong to do this, or to feel however she feels or felt. I'm pointing out that she used this incident as a springboard for a creative work. Not every woman sits and weeps in a corner so men on the Blue can provide hairpats. I wish she'd show up and tell people to keep their pity party to themselves.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:24 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


We laugh at a comic's pratfall, we don't laugh at the comic. A comic who thinks they're laughing at him personally, is choosing to willfully misunderstand the situation - or is confused

What? This lady wasn't playing a character. She wasn't getting paid to be a comic art installation. You can't separate out laughing at what she was doing from laughing at who she is in this case. Nor do I buy the suggestion that it would have been equally funny if she had been obviously thin or ripped. Part of the joke is implicitly "can't she figure out how a treadmill works? no wonder she looks like that." Hence the unkind comments about her weight and eating. It's not a stretch.

the original pejorative of political correctness, the idea that someone's feelings have been hurt, and therefore we must change something. Nope. People will suffer hurt feelings. Offense will happen.

Sure, but how hard is it really for some people to learn "taking pictures of people unknowingly to laugh or sneer at them is rude"? Wow, the horrible insufferable burden of political correctness that would inflict, by encouraging people to just not take pictures of others. Whatever will they do with their thumbs?
posted by daisystomper at 2:37 PM on August 23 [24 favorites]


THe level of sensitivity people feel about this kind of joke or comment is concerning. I don't think the problem is the joke. I think the problem is the social atmosphere that makes people feel so judged to begin with that they become sensitive to any little comment that could possibly be taken to have a negative component. These jokes should be harmless - as many have pointed out, the punchline was the exercise equipment being used as a couch, not anything about the individual doing it. But that's not even the most important thing to me - we should be able to take jokes now and then about our flaws, too, because we're all human, we all have flaws and that's what comedy is made of. A fat person who was honestly happy being fat might be able to laugh about it here and there. But the modern environment doesn't foster a sense of communal equality, shared imperfection, mutual support and open laughter over our human errors. Instead, we live in a way that often encourages separation, comparison, passive aggression, and cruel judgment, so people become inclined to expect it.

I doubt Takei or Ellen meant anything negative. But the responses, both in hateful comments and in sensitive comments, reveal a world built out of fear instead of compassion and connectedness.
posted by mdn at 2:38 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


I think the essay is well done, but it's more creative writing than reported hard news.

This sentence is well written, but it's more false dichotomy than skydiving manual.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:39 PM on August 23 [38 favorites]


I doubt Takei or Ellen meant anything negative. But the responses, both in hateful comments and in sensitive comments, reveal a world built out of fear instead of compassion and connectedness.

I agree with everything that you said. What perhaps concerns me a bit, though, is that neither Takei nor Ellen could have been ignorant of the kinds of responses that this kind of teasing would engender, even if their personal motives were good. An ideal social world allows us to embrace our personal failings collectively and have a good sense of humor about it. It's also pretty clear that social media, currently, does not encourage this ideal. I'm not sure that it's anyone's place to say that we'll fight this battle anyway with other people's likenesses.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:46 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


The only oversensetivity on display here is dudes being told their Epic Faile Meme Facebook shares aren't funny but sorry guys they aren't. Pictures of strangers doing things with or without hilarious meme words on them in Impact font was kinda funny in 2005 but not all all funny now. Like not at all. Sorry. Cut it out though.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:48 PM on August 23 [19 favorites]


Reminds me of this - My Embarrassing Picture Went Viral. And a few other pieces come to mind. It's sad that "hey guys, I can actually read all the mocking hurtful things you're saying about me, cut it out internet" is like an entire genre unto itself now.
posted by naju at 2:51 PM on August 23 [20 favorites]


Just to be clear, they are also mean, but plenty of funny things can be mean. Fail memes are just corny IT-dad-humor. Thinking that a camera phone snap of someone doing: anything, taken without their knowledge is as hilarious as a farside cartoon is so incorrect it makes farside cartoons less funny by osmosis. And that is the true tragedy here.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:52 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


I'm with Potomac. I've been saying I'm anti-meme and anti-viral-funny for a while now and I don't think people really get it. None of this is even remotely cool or amusing. Find better things to laugh about. Expect better from your bored surfing.
posted by naju at 2:54 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


That's a good article, naju.
posted by ctmf at 2:58 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


>The fact that the woman in the picture did not want the picture distributed, and does not herself find it funny, kind of trumps how funny you may think it is.

So, we're only allowed to find things people do funny with their permission, now? Damn. There goes the entire satire/parody genre.
posted by Decani at 3:05 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Memes are kind of the lowest common denominator of humor, which is why they're so popular on sites like reddit. They're about making snap judgments based on easily recognized stereotypes.

But if you're a little older than, say, 14, or you're not male or white or something, odds are pretty good you've been on the receiving end of judgments like that, and maybe you can get a little empathy from that.

But you know what? Even if you don't actually relate to any of the reasons people are saying they don't like it, you can take them at their word. A lot of people don't like it. Maybe they find them invasive or insesensitive or even kind of intimidating. You know this because they've told you, whether you can personally relate or not.

So let me tell anyone who hasn't heard it before: I don't like people taking pictures of me, period. And when someone tries to take one without my permission, whether they're doing it covertly or openly without asking, I think that person is an asshole. I'm not necessarily scared or offended or anything like that. I just think they're a jerk.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:08 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


There goes the entire satire/parody genre.

Yes let us not forget that famous Jonathan Swift essay "Some Ugly Chick Dressed Like Proncess Leia LOL".
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:10 PM on August 23 [45 favorites]


From the article naju posted:
But looking through the Facebook “like” function, I could track down the most offensive commenters.

Most of them were women. Shocked? I wasn’t. Anyone who’s survived high school can tell you how women slice each other up to make ourselves feel better. I sent several of those women a message.

”You’re being an asshole,” the note said. “Why don’t you just do the right thing and delete the post and stop sharing it?”

The most common response was not remorse or defensiveness but surprise. They were startled that I could hear what they’d been saying.
posted by Michele in California at 3:10 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


I'm sure you never have conversations among friends that contain anecdotes about things other people did or said. Dance for the amusement of yourself and your friends, indeed. This is exactly what I meant by hyperbole.

Dude - you do realize that you're being so specific in your attempts to reframe the discussion into something about non-deliberate just-an-impulse-rather-than-an-action vague-conversational-mention of people that you're making it perfectly obvious you know exactly what we're talking about and are completely conscious of the particular reasons why it's creepy, right?

Yeah, if this was a discussion about people who accidentally feel an internal desire to make conversational mention of strangers they encounter, mention that would propagate as "So my friend's friend's friend saw..." anecdotes about no one identifiable, then in that context it would be hyperbolic and tangential for the rest of us to say that it's creepy to deliberately and consciously indulge a desire to make a photographic record of strangers you randomly encounter and distribute those photos on the internet. But the aforementioned reframed discussion isn't what's occurring, you've made it up for rhetorical purposes, and the characterizations being made of the actual behavior we're discussing aren't hyperbolic.
posted by XMLicious at 3:10 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


So, we're only allowed to find things people do funny with their permission, now? Damn. There goes the entire satire/parody genre.

Perhaps meanspiritedness is a value we can use to evaluate the appropriateness of all sorts of funny things, including satire or parody. I'd be delighted if this was a variable we can think about more carefully before subjecting people to public scrutiny. If meanspiritedness exists in the distribution, or if it has the high potential to be introduced by others, we should consider discouraging it as not being a public good.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:13 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Decani: There goes the entire satire/parody genre.

Satire and parody are almost exclusively used against people who are already in the public sphere. The reason this gets weird is that people are just picking random strangers and trying to use them as props to make something funny. In an era where everyone's carrying cameras and snapping street photos of strangers, we as a society have to decide what we're okay with, and a lot of people aren't okay with this.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:13 PM on August 23 [17 favorites]


We laugh at a comic's pratfall, we don't laugh at the comic. A comic who thinks they're laughing at him personally, is choosing to willfully misunderstand the situation - or is confused.

I don't see how professional actors and comedians, who intentionally put themselves in the public eye, actively seek out laughs from their audiences, and frequently get paid for their efforts, relate at all to this situation.
posted by naoko at 3:20 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Thanks, interwebs, for providing an endless stream of gullible people.

so, your theory is that all the way back in 2010 she seeded the internet with a picture and just twiddled her thumbs for 4 years until ellen happened to share it so she could write a post and hope it got picked up? sometimes kneejerk of disbelieving things women say is so automatic as to be comedic.
posted by nadawi at 3:20 PM on August 23 [32 favorites]


Here's the original version of the story--she knew they took the photo. I think her essay is better.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:26 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


So, we're only allowed to find things people do funny with their permission, now?

My right to privacy should trump your right for internet lolz.
posted by kinetic at 3:27 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


Even if you're able to justify the fat-shaming and the gendered aspects of the photo and the response to it, and regardless of whether or not the linked piece is even real, there is still an ugly truth at the heart of this whole thing, which is that culturally we spend more effort highlighting reasons why people are "doing it wrong" and not a whole lot of effort perspective-taking and trying to figure out why people think they are right.

It's lazy, it gives you a smug sense of superiority, and, I dunno, 70% of stand-up comedy relies on it, and yet things get immensely more fascinating and you wind up a more empathetic, open, and intelligent person if you are willing to entertain the thought that if something about the world looks off, that maybe it's your fault and not the world's.

So, that's why it doesn't matter to me if the article is "real." It could be real, and I wouldn't be averse to this type of reading and writing becoming a thing people do to become less judgemental: take something that looks weird, and explain why the person in it is acting reasonably.

For the record, I believe the article is real, that there's fat-shaming and gender dynamics at play here, and that it's spot on to say that non-conformity to thin, white maleness has a lot to do with it, and that the fundamental attribution error should be taught in elementary schools.
posted by alphanerd at 3:29 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


The gym is full of funny situations. It's a huge motivator to attend, so I encourage her to do whatever she likes.
posted by michaelh at 3:44 PM on August 23


From the original version of the story:

I've been writing this blog in a café, and at the next table are three homeless men (they're regulars). Their conversation just turned from their adventures getting arrested for dumpster diving to "New army recruits getting kicked outta the army for bein' too fat! Can you believe it! People are all so f'in fat now that they fail goddam basic training! What's wrong with these people who let thesselves get so f'in fat?! Git off yer *ss and stop eatin' so much, dammit!"

Yes indeed. They're homeless, and they DUMSTER DIVE, but they're still better than those FAT PEOPLE.


Welp, everyone's fighting for status one way or another.
posted by deathmaven at 3:45 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


Impact trumps intent.

Did the person who originally posted the picture intend the joke to be about her weight, or the juxtaposition of a chair on a treadmill? I would contend that it doesn't matter. Regardless of the intent, the impact it had is fat shaming of the person in the photo.
posted by Shouraku at 3:47 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


It would indeed be. It strikes me as a little bit six-year-old-ish to draw that meaning from what people are saying in this thread, but hey, agree to disagree.

If you don't think that something being funny mitigates or counterbalances the ethical issues here, why did you (and other people in this thread) go on and on about it, explain the joke, and so on? That only makes sense as an argument in this context if you assume that people are only finding this unethical because they don't understand why it's funny. If finding it funny would lead other people to think it is ethical, there you go, you're arguing that funny = ethical. Of course there's more nuance that can be gotten from that, like you could think that we think that funny = ethical so you're arguing that it's funny in order to convince us but you don't think that, or you could think that if something is a certain level of funny then it is okay if it's a little unethical. You're not really effectively making any of those arguments, though, it's just "look, guys IT'S FUNNY. Watch me ignore your arguments and state again that it's funny and that you're the humorless PC police because that's a stupid stereotype I hold about people who disagree with me about the ethical implications of certain kinds of humor"

alternatively, LOL, sorry you didn't get the joke, which is that I was being mean to you guys but it was ok because lots of people were going to find it funny/entertaining and that trumps, of course. you're not really people you're objects in my entertaining statement, hope that's ok :)
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:50 PM on August 23 [18 favorites]


You know this thread isn't about taking a photo and privately sharing it among friends?

Bridging off of this; If someone takes a picture of a person they don't know for laughs, however secret they keep the picture, I'm going to think they're an asshole and it will forever color how I feel about them.

It really seems like a lot of the time that people who do amazingly jerkish things get more upset about their act being called out than the people who are the brunt of their humor' get upset about being a target.
posted by winna at 3:50 PM on August 23 [14 favorites]


I had a friend when I was in high school who always did really odd things for the hell of it. Stuff like wearing two different shoes or shaving half his head. I'm pretty sure every high school has one of these people. Anyway, one day we were hanging out at the local mall and we walked past a Granada tv store with a bunch of televisions facing out into the mall. Next thing I know he was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the mall hall watching TV. I was not the rebel he was so I went to the food court and got a slice and a pop.

When I came back he was still sitting there now with another friend of mine's dad! I asked my other friend's dad what he was doing and he just matter factly answered "It's a good show".

I'm pretty sure this is why I admire Dennis Rodman despite his incoherence.

Weird people are wonderful and good TV is good TV.
posted by srboisvert at 3:56 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


If someone takes a picture of a person they don't know for laughs, however secret they keep the picture, I'm going to think they're an asshole and it will forever color how I feel about them.

I don't think it's automatically asshole behavior, but then again I'm a photojournalist so I'm biased.
posted by girlmightlive at 4:00 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


It's really not about any personal stake in the right take a mocking photo of a stranger; no one here took that photo. No one here has even admitted to sharing it. It's just viscerally appalling to read an essay by a self-professed comedian who apparently can't step outside her own head and see why a photo of a stranger sitting in a chair pulled onto a treadmill to watch TV would be funny. The backstory is interesting, but to present it to shame someone who might have found that inherently ridiculous image humorous is galling.
posted by deathmaven at 4:04 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Hey, deathmaven I can't track down where you got that quote. So, before I make an ass of myself (and advocate that we take her out and shoot her for hypocrisy), can you maybe provide me a link to where you got that?

thanks.

Signed -- that homeless mefite who doesn't find ragging on homeless people particularly funny.
posted by Michele in California at 4:06 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Right here.
posted by deathmaven at 4:08 PM on August 23


Around my neck of the woods she's practically svelte. The laughs are coming from a person sitting in a chair on a treadmill. If you can't see that, you're being obtuse. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, kids.
posted by entropicamericana at 4:11 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


so all the comments around the internet about her being fat are actually laughing at a chair on a treadmill? then why do they they repeatedly mention how fat and lazy she is?
posted by nadawi at 4:13 PM on August 23 [13 favorites]


Okay, fun, thank you deathmaven. I no longer care one whit about her tirades about HER Feels being hurt and how much we should care.


Excuse my earlier participation in this thread. I am medically handicapped and prone to occasional lapses in judgment because of it.
posted by Michele in California at 4:14 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


It's just viscerally appalling to read an essay by a self-professed comedian who apparently can't step outside her own head and see why a photo of a stranger sitting in a chair pulled onto a treadmill to watch TV would be funny.

She's not a self-professed comedian. She's a comedian. No need to be an ass about it.

And I'm sort of amazed that you managed to track down another version of this story and yet somehow missed that her complaint isn't that she's a person on a chair on a treadmill, but that instead it is linked to her being heavy, and knowing that she will be the object of scorn.

The laughs are coming from a person sitting in a chair on a treadmill. If you can't see that, you're being obtuse.

The comments about her weight would suggest otherwise.
posted by maxsparber at 4:14 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Oh, my, I just realized Star Wars Kid is from my grandfather's hometown of Trois-Rivieres and SWK runs a heritage conservation society there. Just this week, my second cousin/once removed and I have been pursuing data on our family, dating back to the early 1600s. Maybe we're related...That would be funny.
posted by etaoin at 4:16 PM on August 23


You're not really effectively making any of those arguments

You don't appear to have read my arguments. You just quietly shifted gears from "doing anything is okay as long as it's funny" to "something being funny mitigates or counterbalances the ethical issues," but you're still in the abstract. I wasn't talking about anything and something. I was talking about this thing.
posted by cribcage at 4:25 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


It's not meant to be real. It's a joke. It's an abstraction. The actor is not to be pitied - the actor is just the tool to elicit laughter. It's not about the actor. It's about the concept, the situation visualized, the setup and the humor that results. It's not meant to hurt the actor.
But this assumes intent on the part of the person sharing it - that they saw the situation humour in a person sitting in a chair on a treadmill and didn't intend it to be about the shaming of a specific person, but just saw the humour and shared it. On a decent human level, the photo is mildly humorous because of the conflict between the setting and the activity and no more. But does anyone really believe that the person taking and sharing the photo didn't immediately make the jump to hurf-durf land and share it because of that aspect? Because, you know, that's what we do nowadays, especially if we're able to hide the fact that, behind the anonymity of the Internet, we're actually shaming someone who is a lot like us.

When I saw the picture, it took me a while to figure out where the fat-shaming would come from anyway - it doesn't look like an overweight person to me, particularly given the way they are dressed (baggy overalls on someone sitting down are always going to make someone look wider), it just looks like a person. The only thing I couldn't figure at first was why she didn't put the chair behind the treadmill because, not being a gym-going person, the need to reach a headphone socket didn't occur to me.
posted by dg at 4:31 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


Maybe she's just consumed with status-consiousness herself, driven by her self-consiousness about her weight. At least she gets to feel superior to thin dumpster-diving homeless people (who feel superior to her). She should just call it a wash.
posted by deathmaven at 4:36 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Geez, whatever happened to "punch up, not down"?
posted by pxe2000 at 4:46 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


Thanks, Metafilter, for letting me know what's funny and what isn't. Apparently I've been doing it wrong.
posted by echocollate at 4:48 PM on August 23


Geez, whatever happened to "punch up, not down"?
Who's where in this situation?
posted by deathmaven at 4:53 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


So what I object to is the hyperbole in insisting that the impulse to take a photo and share with friends inherently means you're a bad person.

Sharing with "friends"? Not necessarily.

Sharing with point-and-mock sites on the Internet? That's different. That's also what this situation is about, not "sharing with friends".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:54 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, kids.

"And a cigar is only a cigar, but a good woman is the butt of a misogynist Joke".
posted by howfar at 4:54 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


The dumpster comment was three years or so previous to her discovery of the image. Maybe she'd learned better by then?
posted by fivebells at 4:56 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the comment was in a 2010 version of the story, but not the linked version, so I think her feelings have probably changed.

And even if they haven't, your feelings on whether it's okay to ridicule people who show up in public places appearing overweight shouldn't depend on whether those people or this person happen to respect the homeless.
posted by alphanerd at 5:26 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


then why do they they repeatedly mention how fat and lazy she is?

Because they're assholes who would still probably make fat jokes were she 40 lbs thinner? That in no way changes the fact that a lot of people including myself found the absurdity of the image funny and it has nothing to do with her weight.

The sketchiness stems from her lack of control over whether the image was taken in the first place and posted online. I can imagine that feeling of powerlessness and it must suck.
posted by echocollate at 5:35 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Well, this thread has been an eyeopener. The content of the photo *might* have been funny if it were in cartoon form.

This is a real person being mocked and many here seem to be okay with that. I feel terrible for her.
posted by futz at 5:44 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


This is the kind of thing that some people take in stride and others would commit suicide over.
posted by futz at 5:50 PM on August 23 [13 favorites]


Sharing with "friends"? Not necessarily. Sharing with point-and-mock sites on the Internet? That's different.
Well, thanks for at least acknowledging what I was even talking about.

Increasingly, with social media in the mix, those are the same thing, or at least one inevitably leads to the other. Which is the problem I'm trying to get at. Digital social media isn't the same as harmless gossip with your bestie, it's a weird mix of that and public broadcasting. A lot of people haven't gotten that yet.

So what I'm trying to say (badly) isn't that there's no problem here. I'm saying it's a little too simplistic to 100% blame the photographer for doing something that's human nature. It's a systemic problem with a lot of inputs, from people's expectations of privacy in public places now that there's a camera in every hand, to people's expectations of social media privacy being incorrect, to (effectively, via the sheer size of the internet) anonymous commenting, to the unlimited lifetime of digital content, to yes, there are assholes in the world. Maybe this particular photographer was in fact an asshole with bad intentions, but that's not necessarily always the case.

The world has changed now. Maybe the best etiquette would be to never take photos of strangers, just in case. I just don't think that's going to even put a dent in this.

'Stop fucking using facebook' also doesn't seem to be catching on, sadly.
posted by ctmf at 5:55 PM on August 23


If somebody took a picture of my big veiny hands and put it on Instagram, even if nobody knew they were my hands, the picture-taker would be an asshole. Because I have big veiny witchy hands that can do a lot of shit but the internet would be all LOL hands

So fuck such picture takers
posted by angrycat at 6:03 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


'Stop fucking using facebook' also doesn't seem to be catching on, sadly.
Is having sex while using Facebook a big problem these days? I really need to try and keep up more.
posted by dg at 6:07 PM on August 23


Yes, I would say that the best etiquette is not to take pictures of strangers, just as the best etiquette is not to blow smoke in people's faces or shout fire in crowded places. There is no reason to throw up our hands and say oh well.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:09 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


Let it be your own beautiful private moment of observing mankind's absurdity.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:18 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


In the past, Sticky Rice in DC has posted shame photos like this in their periodic social media caption contests. I was banned from their Facebook page for calling them out on it. I just want to eat veggie sushi and not have to feel like a d-bag to do it. Is that so much to ask?
posted by Skwirl at 6:20 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I feel like you are misunderstanding that we understand humor and don't need you to explain it to us.

If that's the case, then there would have been no need for my comment. But as the thread preceding my comments and succeeding them plainly demonstrates that it's not the case.

Because over and over and over and over again, in response to my point, we get people saying "but she's feeling hurt!" as if that somehow addresses what I said. Example that was heavily favorited:

So wait, as long as your intentions are good, or neutral, or non-malicious, the amount of damage your actions do to others is immaterial?

Well, context matters, yes. If someone believes that taking a photo steals their soul, then yes, they are entitled to their beliefs, but the person taking the picture is not responsible for imaginary damages. Now, maybe that's distressing to the person thinking their soul has been stolen, but it's simply not possible - nor advisable - to accommodate everyone's crazy. If you have a legitimate objection, fine, let's deal with it, but if not, then sorry.

The issue is not whether someone feels hurt. We can agree that she does feel hurt. The issue is "is she right to be hurt", or is it "my soul has been stolen". That's where you need to direct your argument, instead, we have tons of begging the question, where the legitimacy of the hurt is assumed and then from that the conclusion - naturally! - flows that if you find that joke harmless, you must be some kind of insensitive cad at the very least and a creepy freak most likely. And no, not everyone's feelings of hurt are legitimate - though they certainly are real. If someone feels hurt, f.ex. by seeing a mixed race couple, well, the hurt is real to them, but not legitimate in the eyes of society at large... at least in 2014 (maybe it was in 1814).

Example of such question begging from the same heavily favorited comment:

"Are you seriously saying that after reading about how shitty it made this actual, real person feel to be laughed at by a million people, you feel 100% fine about joining in on the yuks?"

You may as well have said, "are you seriously saying that after reading about how shitty it made this actual, real person feel to have her soul stolen by your camera". That's the entire point of dispute. Nobody - that I've seen - disputes that she feels hurt. What is at dispute is:

feel to be laughed at by a million people

The vast majority of people (a tiny minority of assholes and ignoramuses aside) are not laughing at her. They're laughing at her representation as a joke archetype - just as we laugh at the character the actor is portraying, not the actor him/herself.

So again, let's make sure we address our arguments to the point. Not:

the picture-taker didn't spend the 2 seconds to think "she probably wouldn't want me to take and upload this picture."

Consent is not the issue (I'll address that below), so we can stop with that.

Much less the further 2 seconds it would take to think "huh, I wonder if there's a story behind why she's doing that?

Irrelevant. As a matter of fact, it actually proves my point, because it assumes again that it's about her. If it were about her, then yes, it would matter what the further story is behind it. But the picture taker wasn't interested in making it about her. S/he was interested in crafting a visual joke. She as an individual didn't matter, her back story didn't matter. She may have had a perfectly fine reason to do so, but that's not what the photog was going for. She was merely a model, a stick figure in his/her narrative.

As a matter of fact I rather like the point Michele in California makes, because I was going to make a similar point (though different conclusion!):

"For those people defending the photo and the pointing and laughing because "it isn't about her," well, then here is an alternative: If it isn't about her, instead of taking a picture, the people who saw her could have gone home and drawn a comic based on what they saw and captioned it in a way that made it explicit that it was about watching tv on the treadmill instead of about "lulz, fat people!" or whatever[...]"

Yes, yes, yes! Yes exactly! This is what would have been perfectly legitimate. It's about a figure, a situation. Not about this particular individual. Agreed 100%.

Now, my conclusion is different, because of, again, realities. (1) C'mon, the number of people who have the skill to draw well is tiny - it's easier to take a photo, and that's what these people did. Not to hurt her, or make it about her at all, but about the situation, which might as well have been a comic (if they had the skill) and if they wanted to spend the time doing so. Taking a photo takes less skill, and is faster, so that's what they did. The medium does not alter their motivation - it was for the sake of a joke, and not about her as an individual at all. (2) the reality is also that some jokes work better in one medium than another - for a whole class of humor, the "verite" visual aspect is what makes it funny - it simply wouldn't have been as funny if it were drawn (similarly as some things are not as funny on the script page, as when acted out by an actor).

And of course where my disagreement with the rest of Michele's comment comes into play:

"[...]posted their drawing to the Internet for all to enjoy, guilt-free, without hurting another person and treating them like their feelings are totally unimportant because lulz. Because, to her, it is about her."

Well, that's question begging. My position is exactly that it's not about her, objectively - which we just discussed in the first part of that statement! Therefore, that she feels it is about her is just as irrelevant as if she feels her soul was stolen. I'm sorry she feels that way, just as I'm sorry someone feels their soul is being stolen. The disagreement would have to be about the first part - that the joke was about her - because if it was, then yes, her feelings come into play, but if it wasn't then they don't. But if you hold that it was intentionally about her, then you need to address your argument to that, not assume it already and argue from that "and so her being hurt is legitimate".

And to be perfectly clear, making fun of anybody - any specific person - for being "fat", "thin", "disabled" etc., whether in person or by photographing is absolutely 100% unacceptable and wrong. And if I see such a thing, and if I thought that was going on here, I'd be the first with my pitchfork. Let there be no doubt about that. But this is not it here. So that's the source of the misunderstanding as I see it.

Therefore writing posts about how horrible people are who do such things (make fun of somebody on the street or photograph them with captions such as "fat slob" or whatever etc.. are quite correct, except not on point. Because nobody is defending such boors. This is a question about "is that's what's going on here". I - and others - say no.

"She didn't give consent to be photographed"

That has nothing to do with the legitimacy of being hurt or not. That has to do with how we see privacy rights. So consent is irrelevant to her feelings (although relevant to issues of privacy).

Many people expressed variations of the point of view that:

Deliberately setting out to take a picture of any stranger, for any purpose, seems to mark you out as a fucking weirdo to me.

I guess street portraits, and street photography can't exist then, and the whole rich art tradition going back over a century is just about creepy freaky artists. Throw in documentaries too. Tons, and tons and tons of photography has been done with the photographer not getting consent or a release signed and tons and tons and tons of candids. Creepy freaks all of them? The world of art photography would be immensely impoverished with that point of view.

And that's not how the law sees it. If you are in a public space, you are up for grabs. And the photographer who snaps your picture without your consent and displays it in a gallery or on facebook is not doing anything illegal, or even unethical.

You are in a public space. Your picture can be taken. The picture might be directed against you - by boors who make fun of you as a person. That's wrong and should be protested (and I would join you in that). It might also be taken as a work of art by a photographer or a person setting up a joke, using you as a model, not directed against you as a person. You might be flattered. You might be hurt - legitimately. Or you may feel your soul has been stolen. You're in a public space. No consent is required of you.

I would not personally do public space photos without consent (because people misunderstand the law anyway, and I don't feel like arguing with random uninformed strangers), but I will stand on principle defending the rights exercised by other photographers. Just as I personally don't find these Ellen and Takei photos and low brow humor amusing - but I defend the right of people to make tepid and stupid jokes that are not directed at any particular person as such, and not malicious and cruel toward a specific person.

Similarly to the whole "she is not an actress, not getting paid". Of course she's not an actor/model and not getting paid. My whole point however is that for the photographer or joke-setting-up person, she functions as such. She's a model in the same sense as in the example I gave: if she was walking down the street IN A PUBLIC SPACE in an interesting/funny/noteworthy hat, and someone snapped her picture as an example of that kind of hat wearing, it's not about her, it's about the hat, she's merely a model (uncompensated, being in a public space).

Now, people may disagree about what the jokers in this case meant, and that's fine. If they were actually trying to make fun of a "fat" person (btw. I too stand with those to whom it never even occurred that the person depicted can be regarded as fat), or a disabled person, I'm in your corner 100% - it's despicable. But I don't see it as such, and unless that aspect is addressed, it makes no sense for me to repeat myself. I've certainly discussed this in good faith, and I assume others are doing so too.
posted by VikingSword at 6:28 PM on August 23 [12 favorites]


Doesn't even have to be about a "fat " thing, in fact, let's assume someone caught you scratching your nose at a stop light, and from the angle it looked like you were picking it.

Did you know that a fair portion of guys driving by themselves have one hand on their junk? I used to ride in a city bus all the time so I could glance down into automobiles without trying and from day number one of doing this it always amazed me that these guys drive around with a hand on their junk.

I never took any pictures though. Maybe I should have made a website. Dudes in cars with one hand on junk. (I can't recall seeing women doing it.)
posted by bukvich at 6:58 PM on August 23


So, just so I have this straight, VikingSword: you're saying that even if the photographer can with 100% certainty anticipate the hurt and misery that photographing a person and distributing that photo on the internet will cause, if they adjudge that the hurt and misery felt by the subject of the photograph is not "legitimate", they need not hesitate and are free from any blame for said hurt and misery? If it's "not about her", how any of the photographer's actions might affect her, or are certain to affect her, is irrelevant to ethical analysis of the decision to take the photograph and distribute it?
posted by XMLicious at 7:02 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


Increasingly, with social media in the mix, those are the same thing, or at least one inevitably leads to the other. Which is the problem I'm trying to get at. Digital social media isn't the same as harmless gossip with your bestie, it's a weird mix of that and public broadcasting. A lot of people haven't gotten that yet. So what I'm trying to say (badly) isn't that there's no problem here.

See, I would think that being aware that "digital social media isn't the same as harmless gossip with your bestie" would be the thing that would prompt people to think "therefore it is a bad thing when people treat them the same way" and to from there say "therefore there is a problem here".

I guess that's how we can tell who has empathy and who doesn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


The vast majority of people (a tiny minority of assholes and ignoramuses aside) are not laughing at her. They're laughing at her representation as a joke archetype - just as we laugh at the character the actor is portraying, not the actor him/herself.

How can you tell what people are really laughing at? Do you have a specially trained dog for this?

Seriously, though, VikingSword, imagine someone takes a photo of you urinating in public and puts it on the web. Would you be comforted to hear "we're only laughing at the archetype of the person caught urinating in public", or would you try and get the photo removed?
posted by serif at 7:08 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


That IS what I said.
posted by ctmf at 7:12 PM on August 23


It's really doesn't matter if people are saying 'mooo' to an archetype or an actual person, it still makes them an asshole.
posted by edgeways at 7:12 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


My problem with what you are saying, VikingSword, is that an aspect of the joke is having caught someone in public of having done something "wrong."

The dudes who photographed her could have asked her for permission, or almost as easily went, "Hey, that gives me a funny idea for a picture. Let's ask the gym owner if one of us can take a picture of ourselves on a chair on the treadmill so we don't make involve this woman." They didn't do either of those things. It's easy to get social approval here from coming up with the idea, but when you put yourself in the picture you open yourself up to abusive comments. That's one reason why it's popular to catch people in the act instead of photographing yourself depicting a funny idea, despite the fact that it's easier to come up with funny things than it is to catch people doing them naturally. And that gives the lie to the idea that the subject is just a stand-in.

Also, the soul-stealing argument doesn't get at it for a few reasons. A lot of us, myself included, would say that it is indeed a dick move to make someone who thinks you steal their soul when being photographed the subject of a photographic joke in virtue of their having this belief.

Second, we're not dealing with an arbitrary belief, we're dealing with beliefs about photographing a woman in a gym, where part of the joke hinges on the fact that she's appearing lazy. A lot of us are picking up on the baggage that gets attached to women, their bodies, the expectations people have about whether their bodies ought to be the subject for critique in public, the responsibilities people throw at women to maintain them, and so on, as part of the truth of this photograph, how it spread, and how people responded.

I don't like that stuff, and don't think you can separate that stuff from the joke here. What's your take on that?
posted by alphanerd at 7:14 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


So, just so I have this straight, VikingSword: you're saying that even if the photographer can with 100% certainty anticipate the hurt and misery that photographing a person and distributing that photo on the internet will cause, if they adjudge that the hurt and misery felt by the subject of the photograph is not "legitimate", they need not hesitate and are free from any blame for said hurt and misery? If it's "not about her", how any of the photographer's actions might affect her, or are certain to affect her, is irrelevant to ethical analysis of the decision to take the photograph and distribute it?

Ugh, I vowed not to repeat myself, but well, I guess "just so I have this straight"... here I go repeating myself. Riffing off my post:

A picture of mixed race couple kissing, uploaded. The white woman's father is hurt by seeing the picture of his daughter with a black man. He's very hurt. Insert as needed into your statement above. Bottom line - repeating myself again, sorry - all feelings are real to the people experiencing them. No, we don't always have an obligation to change our actions to avoid generating those feelings. We don't want to hurt anyone - nobody should wish to intentionally inflict such pain. The couple took the picture NOT to hurt the father, even if they knew, sadly he might be hurt. They were still right to take the picture, and his feelings were real, but not legitimate from their point of view.

I really, really, should try only addressing points of relevance, without repetition - my bad, I'll try better.

How can you tell what people are really laughing at? Do you have a specially trained dog for this?

Do you? I used my judgment about what the intent was by Ellen and Takei. I think I'm right. You think I'm wrong. Neither one of us has a dog. I base my judgment on how jokes work - the ones which are harmless as well as the kind that punch down and are cruel, and to my eye it's clearly the case of Ellen and Takei making harmless (if low brow) jokes.

Seriously, though, VikingSword, imagine someone takes a photo of you urinating in public and puts it on the web. Would you be comforted to hear "we're only laughing at the archetype of the person caught urinating in public", or would you try and get the photo removed?

Depends on the context, doesn't it? If it was: look at this evil person doing X, Y, and Z - that's personal and malicious. If it was in the context of a joke to which my person was completely incidental (I was merely a - ahem - warm body), then oops, but I get it, no harm no foul.

The dudes who photographed her could have asked her for permission, or almost as easily went, "Hey, that gives me a funny idea for a picture. Let's ask the gym owner if one of us can take a picture of ourselves on a chair

Friend, let's get real. This is way, way too complicated. Guy/gal walks by sees something funny, snaps a picture - that's all, it's over and done with... we're not shooting a film here. Practicalities. Seriously.

Also, the soul-stealing argument doesn't get at it for a few reasons. A lot of us, myself included, would say that it is indeed a dick move to make someone who thinks you steal their soul when being photographed the subject of a photographic joke in virtue of their having this belief.

Nonsense. Nobody taking a picture does so because the subject believes their soul is being stolen. Nobody who took the picture of that woman did it, because they knew she'd be hurt, and that was their aim, to hurt her. What??

Second, we're not dealing with an arbitrary belief, we're dealing with beliefs about photographing a woman in a gym, where part of the joke hinges on the fact that she's appearing lazy. A lot of us are picking up on the baggage that gets attached to women, their bodies, the expectations people have about whether their bodies ought to be the subject for critique in public, the responsibilities people throw at women to maintain them, and so on, as part of the truth of this photograph, how it spread, and how people responded. I don't like that stuff, and don't think you can separate that stuff from the joke here. What's your take on that?

My take on that is that I'm again doing what I vowed not to do. Addressing the same misunderstanding. It's like I never said anything. Here again - no, it is NOT about her, if "we are dealing with beliefs about X, Y, and Z", OK, that's the humor (funny or stupid), but it's not about this particular woman, for the thousandth time! As such, yes, it is 100% not aimed at her. People "picking up" expectations are a separate thing - they might make the joke bad, or stupid, or low brow (as I happen to believe), but not malicious toward her specifically which is the whole subject of that article as if it was aimed at her... she feels that way, but she's wrong. And yes, one can separate these things, and I just did, and millions of people do all the time. Others may not be able to, but if one were to perform a formal conceptual analysis, yes, those are distinct concepts.

All right, now how about arguments on point?
posted by VikingSword at 7:31 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Would you be comforted to hear "we're only laughing at the archetype of the person caught urinating in public", or would you try and get the photo removed?

I don't know. Can you only blurrily see my back, and would the number of people who recognise it as me number less than ten? Then I'd be embarrassed, but also feel the Streisand Effect would be a consideration, so would just try and ignore it.

I hate People of Wal-Mart and Fat Chicks in Party Hats and all those sites making aggressive fun of specific random people in that fashion. The internet is often a difficult, mean place where randomly insulting strangers is how a number of people get their jollies. People making fat jokes about this picture are clearly being arseholes, as people making fat jokes generally are.

That being said, in this particular instance with this particular photo, the woman is mostly unrecognisable. And I feel like a lot of the pushback at the outrage is that people are being called creepy inhumane scumbags for even finding the image funny, when it is possible, even likely, to feel compassionately towards the woman whose story this is while simultaneously thinking 'yeah, getting a chair out to sit on a treadmill isn't how those gym things work'.

That randoms on the internet would unleash their bile, especially in a fat-shaming way, is both terrible and expected, but this aggressive move to lambaste everything that arseholes use to be negative about forgets that they will do it no matter what. It's like saying there should be no films depicting adult situations because kids shouldn't see them, taking the percentage of the population who will turn something bad and giving them the heckler's veto.

And Michele in California illustrated exactly another problem with this, which is that we all have a limit to who we care about, and it's counter-productive to insist that every single person we encounter must be regarded in the same way as we would someone close to us. Not only is it emotionally impossible, but it also subjects all these random strangers to be held against our own worldview, which is opposite the stated aim.

I can think the people who took the photo weren't terrific, and those insulting her weight were dickheads, but also that declaring Ellen DeGeneres, or indeed anyone who sees the photo and thinks there's something humorous about it, guilty of fat-shaming is a sanctimonious overreach. In asking people to have empathy for this woman's view, which isn't a bad thing, people are also erasing viewpoints different from theirs because it doesn't match their experience. To read this thread, then, is to be told that this woman's humanity and truth matters, and if you don't share that truth you're a Bad Person whose feelings are irrelevant.

Just because something has been done for the worst motives you can think of doesn't mean it's always done for that reason.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:37 PM on August 23 [13 favorites]


If that's the case, then there would have been no need for my comment.

You literally could have stopped there.
posted by maxsparber at 7:38 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


This is perhaps why cats are so popular on the internet. We make merciless fun of them and they have no idea and will never object.

How does your cat treat you, exactly? Mine is pretty nice as far as cats go but she's still an asshole. Suddenly cats make sense to me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:41 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


You literally could have stopped there.

Yeah, I guess that was your aim. Otherwise you wouldn't have made a blatantly false statement that's easily disproved. "We understand" while demonstrating that "we" don't. But thanks anyway.
posted by VikingSword at 7:42 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


...she feels that way, but she's wrong.

Gaslighting by proxy.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 7:44 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


A picture of mixed race couple kissing, uploaded. The white woman's father is hurt by seeing the picture of his daughter with a black man.

Are you fucking kidding me? This is the analogy you are making? I'm going to bed.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:44 PM on August 23 [20 favorites]


Let me make my point clearer: Assuming the reason that somebody has an issue with a joke is because they don't get the joke is patronizing. People can understand the mechanics of a joke and still think it is unethical or assholish, and that's the discussion we're having, not one about what is a joke and how it works. Most of us on MetaFilter have perfectly fine senses of humor and understand the structure of comedy, and don't really need people assuming the opposite.
posted by maxsparber at 7:45 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


Mixed race? Really? Gross. Jesus christ. You are tying yourself up in knots and grasping at made up straws to justify your point of view. I think that it is super odd that you are so vehement about this.
posted by futz at 7:50 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


It's generally a good idea to avoid making a case by analogy, but it's especially a good idea to pause when it starts "Now imagine this was about a black person" and reconsider.
posted by maxsparber at 7:51 PM on August 23 [14 favorites]


I can think the people who took the photo weren't terrific, and those insulting her weight were dickheads, but also that declaring Ellen DeGeneres, or indeed anyone who sees the photo and thinks there's something humorous about it, guilty of fat-shaming is a sanctimonious overreach.

You can frame the ethics of this however you want regarding motives and results and public good, but at the end of the days, it's pretty rude to use the likeness of people as the butt of a joke without their permission. And Ellen, I would argue, wasn't fat-shaming herself, but it is certainly inconsiderate or at least thoghless to introduce the likeness of someone into the world know that this kind of thing happens, or should have known this kind of thing happens if she just took a few seconds to think about it.

but I will stand on principle defending the rights exercised by other photographers. Just as I personally don't find these Ellen and Takei photos and low brow humor amusing - but I defend the right of people to make tepid and stupid jokes that are not directed at any particular person as such, and not malicious and cruel toward a specific person.

Similarly to the whole "she is not an actress, not getting paid". Of course she's not an actor/model and not getting paid. My whole point however is that for the photographer or joke-setting-up person, she functions as such. She's a model in the same sense as in the example I gave: if she was walking down the street IN A PUBLIC SPACE in an interesting/funny/noteworthy hat, and someone snapped her picture as an example of that kind of hat wearing, it's not about her, it's about the hat, she's merely a model (uncompensated, being in a public space).


I don't think this is about rights, it's about not being an asshole and using other people's likeness to create something for your amusement without permission.

And even if you are to argue it's not about the person in the picture, it's about something else why isn't it enough that it feels that way to them? Feelings don't determine the weight of moral actions, that's not the point. The point is that we don't do things intentionally that have the potential to hurt people using their likeness, even if it's their own baggage that they carry around that doesn't understand intent (or whatever). To argue that there's some greater artistic merit to be protected just doesn't cut it, I don't think.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:51 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


My take on that is that I'm again doing what I vowed not to do. Addressing the same misunderstanding. It's like I never said anything. Here again - no, it is NOT about her, if "we are dealing with beliefs about X, Y, and Z", OK, that's the humor (funny or stupid), but it's not about this particular woman, for the thousandth time!

But it IS about this particular woman. The woman in the photo. This isn't some staged scene with an actor.
posted by futz at 7:56 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Sharing with point-and-mock sites on the Internet? That's different. That's also what this situation is about, not "sharing with friends".

I think the line between those two things is getting very blurry, just because digital media is so easily shareable on social media. Earlier this year, my toddler met Taylor Swift (long story short, she was hanging around where we lived, he caught her attention), and I got a few pictures of them together, one of which I posted on Instagram and two of which I posted on Facebook. I was very surprised to see, A, how quickly the picture I shared publicly went around Taylor Swift fans on Twitter, and B, how the picture I only posted for my friends on Facebook got out on Twitter/Instagram somehow. Turns out, one of my Facebook "friends" (someone I met years ago that I don't ever see IRL) manually took the FB-only photo and shared it in the fandom. Does this particular instance haunt me? Nah, not really; the pictures were almost identical. Was it eye-opening, sobering and a little frightening to see how quickly something I thought only my friends could see could instantly be shared around the world with tons of people I don't know? Yes. I consider myself "private", I consider myself well guarded on social media, I consider myself someone who has a firm grasp of how public the internet really is, and yet, I was able to completely lose control of something that was mine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


Let me make my point clearer: Assuming that somebody has an issue with a joke is because they don't get the joke is patronizing. People can understand the mechanics of a joke and still think it is unethical or assholish, and that's the discussion we're having, not one about what is a joke and how it works. Most of us on MetaFilter have perfectly fine senses of humor and understand the structure of comedy, and don't really need people assuming the opposite.

Well thank you for making your point clearer. Because now it's even more clear that you are not understanding my point. I wish you didn't feel the need to respond with hostility, as I didn't post with hostility either, but now that you do, well so be it.

Assuming that somebody has an issue with a joke is because they don't get the joke is patronizing.

I'm not assuming that people don't get the joke.

People can understand the mechanics of a joke and still think it is unethical or assholish, and that's the discussion we're having, not one about what is a joke and how it works.

I'm not assuming people don't know what a joke is or how it works.

Most of us on MetaFilter have perfectly fine senses of humor and understand the structure of comedy, and don't really need people assuming the opposite.

I have said not a single thing about anyone's sense of humor. My point was not about the structure of comedy. I was not assuming that people don't have a sense of humor, don't get the fabulous Ellen/Takei jokes, don't understand jokes and comedy structure.

I am actually somewhat sad (not kidding here) that that's what you took away from my posts.

Mixed race? Really? Gross. Jesus christ. You are tying yourself up in knots and grasping at made up straws to justify your point of view. I think that it is super odd that you are so vehement about this.

Nope. I brought up mixed race as an example as an illustration of the contention that not all people's hurt is legitimate and deserving of being catered to. Because we all understand this in case of race, it was an excellent way of illustrating the principle. Gross is your taking anything else out of it, other than what I plainly stated. It's super odd that you should think that my making a point of view clear is "super odd". Perhaps you think it's better if anyone who ever disagrees with you just gives up, because well, to argue a point contrary to yours until their position is clear, is super odd.

It's generally a good idea to avoid making a case by analogy, but it's especially a good idea to pause when it starts "Now imagine this was about a black person" and reconsider.

Why? Is it some kind of taboo? If the analogy works, why avoid it? Nothing I said was inappropriate or triggering.

But it IS about this particular woman. The woman in the photo. This isn't some staged scene with an actor.

No, it's not. She's merely a model. It's not staged, but not all models (in candids, f.ex.) are staged, they still function as models - and I'm repeating myself again.
posted by VikingSword at 7:59 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Assuming the reason that somebody has an issue with a joke is because they don't get the joke is patronizing.

Assuming the joke is only funny the way you say it's 'funny', despite people telling you they found it funny for different reasons, is condescending, dismissive, and not a little egotistical.

You don't find the picture amusing? No-one is insisting you should. Many of the responses are instead saying that they don't think the humour comes from where they are being told it comes from, no matter how often it's claimed otherwise.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:07 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


Let me try rephrasing your argument back to you, so you understand how I am reading it. But, before I do so, if you're intention is not to suggest that people don't understand the joke, it might be best not to lead with "I feel like people are completely misunderstanding what's going on" and then keep doubling down on insisting that you understand this while others don't.

So anyway, the way I am reading your argument is that the act of taking a photograph and sharing it on the internet is somehow objectifying and dehumanizing. The subject is no longer an actual person -- they are a model of a person, and therefore not worth human consideration. They are an object, rather than a individual person.

I mean, first, I disagree. Secondly, the act of objectifying and dehumanizing somebody for the sake of comedy? It's what bullies do. Whether it's funny or not is moot.

I feel like this is some sort of Voight-Kampff test for empathy. It's not just that she's a person in an image -- now she's an actual person, explaining how the image resulted in actual cruelty that actual hurt her. Can you feel empathy for her?

If not, what's going on?
posted by maxsparber at 8:08 PM on August 23 [11 favorites]


VikingSword, I get that the people who laugh at the photo don't care about the particular woman in the photo, but we happen to be in a thread with an FPP that's all about the feelings of the woman in the photo. If you think they don't matter, why are you here?

Nope. I brought up mixed race as an example as an illustration of the contention that not all people's hurt is legitimate and deserving of being catered to. Because we all understand this in case of race, it was an excellent way of illustrating the principle.

I get that you consider her hurt illegitimate. To bring that up in a thread that, from the FPP onward, has assumed it's legitimate... well, if it's not trolling, it's definitely not MetaFilter behavior.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:09 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


You're repeating yourself. But I don't understand what you are trying to say. Are you trying to say that we shouldn't give a fuck about how this woman feels? And that her pain is not legitimate? Why is her pain not legitimate? I don't think her pain is not legitimate.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:10 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


I think you and I probably mostly agree, VikingSword, but I don't think there's a lot of traction in the model analogy. Models consent. It's a very different context. This is street photography.
posted by cribcage at 8:14 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Assuming the joke is only funny the way you say it's 'funny', despite people telling you they found it funny for different reasons, is condescending, dismissive, and not a little egotistical.

Well, I never said anything like this, so I am not sure who you are arguing with. The question is not whether the joke is funny or not -- that's a moot issue in this discussion. The question is if whether the joke, regardless of what I am sure is its many fine qualities, hurts someone, and, if it does, how do we respond?
posted by maxsparber at 8:15 PM on August 23


I brought up mixed race as an example as an illustration of the contention that not all people's hurt is legitimate and deserving of being catered to. Because we all understand this in case of race, it was an excellent way of illustrating the principle.

Except that you had to so completely alter the scenario so as to make it a photograph intentionally taken with the consent of the subjects, by the subjects themselves, because a stranger's photo of a mixed race couple kissing getting indiscriminately distributed in a society with the degree of racism ours has could have so many severe consequences for the subjects that it otherwise would be a perfect illustration of how completely ludicrously unethical it would be for a photographer to handwave away responsibility for the consequences of surreptitiously photographing people and distributing that photograph on the internet.
posted by XMLicious at 8:25 PM on August 23 [10 favorites]


Regarding getting it / not getting it... sure, we all "get it", I think among other things we're just nonplussed that some MeFite's humor calibration seems to be at sub-Tosh 2.0 levels.
posted by naju at 8:27 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


I saw this some months ago, I believe, on Facebook, and laughed heartily but did not propagate it further. I didn't give the slightest thought to the person's body or weight and had no idea that/if that was part of the joke (although I thought the overalls must be part of a costume of some kind, maybe a Mario Brother or something). My thinking was this: "it's a hilarious indictment of some people's attachment to TV shows that they'd sit in a public and obviously inappropriate place just to watch it." Of course I knew there must be some "reasonable" back story, but fuck, going to such absurd lengths to watch a TV show? Even she understands that it's ridiculous ("The comedic gold," is how she put it).

Now the problem is that regardless of how the photo started its internet life (who knows, may have been a "laugh between friends"), it's now out there and being commented on in the worst way by the worst denizens of teh tubez. Of course she's affected. I feel bad for her now.

On the bright side, she's a comedian and nobody is meaner to anybody in this world than comedians to other comedians, so I'm guessing her skin is thicker than most. I hope I'm right, but whether I am or am not, I hope this fades away quickly and doesn't cause her too much grief. She seems like a nice person.

I guess my takeaway is simple: continue not taking pictures of people in public, continue not propagating memes, and never, ever, pull up a chair at the fucking treadmill, esp. with my back to the street at bar-closing hour.

(Plus, seriously, House? The Scooby-Doo of our time? Ugh. "I would have gotten away with it," snarled the formerly incurable and imaginatively-acquired disease, "if it weren't for you meddling medical geniuses!")
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:28 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


"Doesn't even have to be about a "fat " thing, in fact, let's assume someone caught you scratching your nose at a stop light, and from the angle it looked like you were picking it."
What about all those photos of men on various Tumblrs telling them to move over, bro? I don't recall much sympathy here on the Blue for those men in those photos. Or is that different because they were inconveniencing others? For all we know, someone at the gym wanted that treadmill.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:28 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


RTFA, it was in the middle of the night.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:30 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


If the post was put up because she was inconveniencing someone else, my feelings about this would be different, but, lacking any evidence that was the case, let's address the actual photo, instead of making up things about the photo.
posted by maxsparber at 8:31 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


As with so many things, it comes down to consent. If she had Tweeted about what she was doing "sitting on a treadmill in a chair to watch House, LOL" that would have been with consent.

This was not.

I've laughed at mocking photos of average people before, I won't pretend to be ethically pure, but over time I stopped because it made me uneasy. It shouldn't be illegal, but I am fine with moving it into the "Bad Manners/Ethically Suspect/Not Classy" column.
posted by emjaybee at 8:31 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


ah I guess I misread it this morning, hadn't had enough coffee - I thought the article said the treadmill was running and I couldn't figure out how she wasn't falling backwards (I initially assumed that's what the pic was , her flipping over, until I saw mathowie's link in the first comment).

But also - to me that was the joke, that the treadmill was running. Someone sitting on a chair on a turned-off treadmill watching a House marathon at 3am - that's not funny, that's awesome. It's got me thinking of joining a gym for the hockey season. Must be cheaper than the two pints I buy at the pub every other night so I can watch the game.
posted by mannequito at 8:37 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Let me try rephrasing your argument back to you, so you understand how I am reading it. But, before I do so, if you're intention is not to suggest that people don't understand the joke, it might be best not to lead with "I feel like people are completely misunderstanding what's going on" and then keep doubling down on insisting that you understand this while others don't.

Why do you feel that when I write "I feel like people are completely misunderstanding what's going on" means that I'm suggesting that people don't understand the joke?

I wrote: I feel like people are completely misunderstanding what's going on. There is no malice in people laughing at that picture, and there was none intended in the Takei case.

And from this you take that I'm saying people don't understand the joke?? I didn't even mention the word "joke" or referred to the concept of joking. No wonder we're not understanding our positions here.

And no, reading those sentences should not lead one - even if they did lead you, somehow - to conclude that I meant that it's the joke people don't understand.

So anyway, the way I am reading your argument is that the act of taking a photograph and sharing it on the internet is somehow objectifying and dehumanizing.

Yeah, you read it wrong. Instead of "objectifying and dehumanizing" try "abstracting".

The subject is no longer an actual person -- they are a model of a person, and therefore not worth human consideration.

They remain a person, but you are not dealing with their personality, you're dealing with them as signifiers. In exactly the same way as if a teacher uses you as an example. S/he might say "let us assume maxsparber here committed a crime" while talking about police procedures. He's referred to you, but in his lesson you are functioning merely as a signifier and example, and your actual person is never referred to or meant to refer to. And therefore in that example, it would be odd if someone suddenly exclaimed "so what that he's an example, he's still 'worth human consideration'!" (in your words). "They are an object, rather than a individual person." - err, yes, because they're an example.

I mean, first, I disagree.

OK.

Secondly, the act of objectifying and dehumanizing somebody for the sake of comedy? It's what bullies do.

As can now be seen from my statement above, no, there is no objectifying and dehumanizing - those are entirely your words. I'd say, they function exactly as in the case I showed with the teacher. The aim of the teacher was to take M.S. and illustrate a point, not to claim that M.S. is in fact some kind of perpetrator. "It's what bullies do". Right. Good thing then, that no dehumanizing and objectifying is taking place, so no bullies are involved, neither the picture taker nor Ellen nor Takei, as millions understand.

Can you feel empathy for her?

Sure. Just as I feel empathy for anyone who is hurting. But it doesn't mean that I think they necessarily have grounds for the hurt - examples of such I've already given, so no need to repeat them. One can feel empathy even for those whose suffering results from self-inflicted misunderstanding. Such empathy however doesn't make it not a misunderstanding on the part of the subject.

She feels hurt. I'm sad. But she's also wrong.

VikingSword, I get that the people who laugh at the photo don't care about the particular woman in the photo, but we happen to be in a thread with an FPP that's all about the feelings of the woman in the photo. If you think they don't matter, why are you here?


Oh please. Have you read my comments? My point is that she first misunderstands the aim of those jokes, takes it personally when she's wrong to do so, and then writes based on those wrong and mistaken assumptions. I'm here like anybody, just like you, only my point is that she's wrong to think this is a malicious joke aimed against her personally.

I get that you consider her hurt illegitimate. To bring that up in a thread that, from the FPP onward, has assumed it's legitimate...

What?? So, if someone writes something that's clearly wrong we should just go ahead and assume it's not? No, I don't see it as Metafilter behavior.

Except that you had to so completely alter the scenario so as to make it a photograph intentionally taken with the consent of the subjects, by the subjects themselves, because a stranger's photo of a mixed race couple kissing getting indiscriminately distributed in a society with the degree of racism ours has could have so many severe consequences for the subjects that it otherwise would be a perfect illustration of how completely ludicrously unethical it would be for a photographer to handwave away responsibility for the consequences of surreptitiously photographing people and distributing that photograph on the internet.

Hold your horses. No need to gallop so far. The sometimes tricky part in using an analogy is in making clear what is being analogized. What was being analogized is not who took which photo and who gave consent and all that other stuff you ran miles with, but with the simple fact that someone feeling hurt is not enough to stop the action one is doing that's hurting them, especially when - as it is the case here - it was not the aim to hurt that person. Not every hurt is legitimate and should be catered to, as in my example.
posted by VikingSword at 8:39 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


I feel bad about her feeling bad. I think it's poor form to run around taking pictures of other people to mock them, even poorer form to propagate them as memes, and completely gross to make fat-shaming misogynist web comments.

But I'm doing none of those things and am not responsible for her feeling bad, so I'm feeling just fine about my laughing at the picture.

Isn't it a little dumb that we're being mad at each other when nobody in this thread has done any of those (actually shitty) things as far as we know?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:40 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


You are perplexing. In any other context, "you don't understand this and I do" means "you don't understand this and I do."

We understand it. We think your point is strange and orthogonal to the discussion. Amy Salloway gets comedy. She doesn't like being bullied online, even in the service of comedy.
posted by maxsparber at 8:41 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


maxsparber: it will be easier to follow this discussion if you specify whom you're addressing as "you."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:43 PM on August 23


(pretty sure you don't mean me, right?)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:44 PM on August 23


My apologies. That was meant for Vikingsword. But I will not address him anymore, as we seem to have reached the point where we're not making sense to each other.
posted by maxsparber at 8:44 PM on August 23


We understand it.

Oh? Not that one can gather that from your statements, as I have patiently tried explaining every time you've made them.

We think your point is strange and orthogonal to the discussion.

Is that a royal "we"? Anyhow, oddly I think your points are strange and not at all addressing my points.

Amy Salloway gets comedy.

I'm glad to hear that.

She doesn't like being bullied online, even in the service of comedy.

Rightly so. Which is lucky I guess in that in this particular case - of the photo - she's not being bullied online, in service of comedy or otherwise.

Insofar as you think otherwise - as you seem to clearly do, in bringing this up - this contradicts the first statement of:

We understand it.

Doesn't seem like it.
posted by VikingSword at 8:48 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


VS, you quoted one of my posts at the start of one of your long essays, but then entirely missed the point of it.

You then attempted to dismiss an argument out of hand without any justification. It wasn't an argument I'd made, but I'm still surprised that you think "NO" is a great argument.

Then you made bare assertions that you can't possibly know or support (i.e.: how and why the majority of people are laughing).

Then you turned to not just an analogy, but a really terrible analogy. Remember that analogies are good at helping someone come to grips with a difficult concept, they are terrible at persuasion and absolutely without value as evidence.

Taking the picture was a dick move. This is because - even in the best case, the one you've been championing - you're treating another human as a concept/archetype/stand-in/whatever other ways you've referred to her. That is literally the most charitable way possible to interpret the whole thing and it's still shitty. Ok? I can grant you every single point you're trying to make and I still think it sucks.

I don't necessarily think that makes anyone bad people. The crack at the end of her LJ post that was linked up there was a dick move also. I've done some dick stuff. We all have. Just because it's understandable doesn't mean it's magically not dicks.
posted by kavasa at 9:07 PM on August 23 [8 favorites]


So I live in Minneapolis, have a Snap Fitness membership, and work out in the middle of the night. Generally, Snap locations are only staffed during limited hours of the day - usually 10-4, 4-6 or whenever the "owners" feel like working. The rest of the time, members admit themselves with a keycard, and the premises are "monitored" by cameras.

I use the one on University Avenue, which is far less of a festering condominium Hellhole than Uptown. But they all have huge windows where you and your sweaty floppiness are on full display for passersby.

I can also confirm that people come in just to watch TV or use the wifi, which is fine as long as you aren't STANDING ON THE STAIRMASTER IT IS THE ONLY ONE GET OFF IT. However, if I were to take a picture of some fratbro standing on the stairmaster talking to his buddies... wait that would never happen because I am not an asshole (usually.) Even if you call me Snooki I will still not take your picture, Fratbro.

So while chairing it on the treadmill is generally frowned upon, it is not that different than what a lot of people do there (30 minute workout, hours of websurfing/TV watching.) And while it is poor form, it wouldn't obstruct anyone else from getting on a treadmill because there are at most about five people there at that time, and there are a bunch of treadmills.


Only one Stairmaster though. It is mine. Step off.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:10 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


P.S. - Fratbros are the most notorious equipment hogs evereverever. They sit on the machines, camp on the benches, stand on the treadmills, take up the entire stretching/yoga/classroom area. Sometimes they hold a weight while they watch the game so it looks like they are doing something, but I am not fooled.

What I am saying is that if I were so inclined, I could post a very lengthy slideshow of young men at Snap Fitness doing pretty much what the woman in the picture is doing.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:15 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


Amy Salloway gets comedy. She doesn't like being bullied online, even in the service of comedy.

Is it possible to be bullied on-line by a viral pic when 1) the people who took the pic have no idea who you are, 2) the pic doesn't show your face or identify your name, and 3) for all intents and purposes nobody (except mom and one other person) knows that pic is you?

Perhaps. I do sympathize with her. Under those exact circumstances I would feel profound embarrassment by the pic, regardless of the quality or intent of the joke. I would also feel like my privacy was invaded. I know that about myself. But, I would take solace that my face wasn't shown and I would probably even lie if a few people I know said to me "is that you"? But instead, Amy Salloway reveals to the world that it is indeed her. That is the part I don't get. We argue about privacy and consent, and then even in a situation where a person could plausibly remain anonymous--which is the case here I believe--the person chooses to make it very public. And here we are talking about Amy Salloway and arguing about whether her feelings are real and the joke funny.

I think VS's argument would be more compelling if we were just talking about the viral pic without knowing it was Amy Solloway. In that case, the argument that the unknown person is just a prop for the joke makes sense to me. But Amy Solloway chose to out herself. So now it is much harder to treat this real person with a name and a face and real feelings as a prop for a joke. It is understandable that some people call that dehumanizing or objectification. And it is easy to sympathize with her because we are much better at extending empathy to real people with names and feelings. We generally don't extend that same empathy to totally anonymous and faceless bodies doing silly things. I guess I just don't get the self-reveal part of our culture. It seems to me that Amy Solloway outing herself as the person in the pic is as relevant as having the pic taken by complete strangers in the first place.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:28 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


After all this, is it really necessary for us to pick on a subculture to make us feel better about ourselves?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:28 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


(sorry, didn't see the update. I'm responding to the "fratbros" comments)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:28 PM on August 23


Is it possible to be bullied on-line by a viral pic when 1) the people who took the pic have no idea who you are, 2) the pic doesn't show your face or identify your name, and 3) for all intents and purposes nobody (except mom and one other person) knows that pic is you?

Of course. You don't have to know somepone, or know who they are, to bully them. People said cruel things about the image in a public forum. Those cruel things were bullying in the abstract, until they landed on a target -- and the comments were bullying to anybody who is overweight. The bullying found multiple targets, and eventually made its way back to the original person in the image.

Bullying isn't surgical
posted by maxsparber at 9:36 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Bullying isn't surgical

Well, it usually is when we talk about teenagers doing things on-line or in texts that very intentionally attempt to hurt and attack people they know personally.

But OK...it can happen non surgically as well. But why make it worse or more of a spectacle by outing yourself?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:42 PM on August 23


To take it out of the abstract and have people know that there are real people behind thsee images, and that online cruelty actually hurts people?
posted by maxsparber at 9:44 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


But OK...it can happen non surgically as well. But why make it worse or more of a spectacle by outing yourself?

Other people recognized her. She didn't out herself.
posted by futz at 9:48 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Then you made bare assertions that you can't possibly know or support (i.e.: how and why the majority of people are laughing).

But you can? I have an understanding of that situation. So do you. We are in the same position. I gave grounds for my position. You are welcome to do the same. But it's not useful to try to say that I in particular am in a less privileged position of knowledge here compared to you. We are all in the same position. Which is why arguing about that makes no sense. Concentrate on the evidence.

Then you turned to not just an analogy, but a really terrible analogy. Remember that analogies are good at helping someone come to grips with a difficult concept, they are terrible at persuasion and absolutely without value as evidence.

The analogy accomplished exactly what it was supposed to: helped illustrate the concept that not all feelings and hurt have to be catered to. It was not to persuade anyone that her feelings were illegitimate, only that one cannot conclude from the simple fact that she was "hurt" therefore ipso facto we must cater to all hurt including hers. It is possible to have feelings for mistaken reasons, and we are not obliged to cater to those. I claimed nothing else for this analogy. It illustrated exactly what it was supposed to. As such, in my book it is "good" not "terrible".

Taking the picture was a dick move. This is because - even in the best case, the one you've been championing - you're treating another human as a concept/archetype/stand-in/whatever other ways you've referred to her. That is literally the most charitable way possible to interpret the whole thing and it's still shitty. Ok? I can grant you every single point you're trying to make and I still think it sucks.

If you grant my case as you claim, then you find completely innocent pictures dick moves. If you find yourself photographed in a crowd under the caption "there was a lot of foot traffic downtown today", would you be outraged? Because I see it as exactly analogous. It's not about you, it's illustrating "a lot of foot traffic" and you are in the picture. If that's a dick move and outrageous, fine, all I can say you have well-developed outrage muscles. I say it's not a dick move and we've made our positions clear. Just as you see the picture as an attack on her, and I see it as an illustration of a joke and not about her at all. You can insist the picture about foot traffic is about you personally, and she can claim the picture is about her personally, but I don't see it that way.
posted by VikingSword at 9:50 PM on August 23 [3 favorites]


If you find yourself photographed in a crowd under the caption "there was a lot of foot traffic downtown today", would you be outraged? Because I see it as exactly analogous. It's not about you, it's illustrating "a lot of foot traffic" and you are in the picture.

In your example the person is in a crowd of people. Not the same at all IMO. She is the subject of the photo. IT IS all about her.
posted by futz at 9:57 PM on August 23 [4 favorites]


Taking the picture was a dick move. This is because - even in the best case...

I don't know. Let's take her word that the person who did take her photo was mocking her. That, for sure, is a dick move. That's easy to agree on. But if you're widening the focus from what actually happened to the universe of all possible scenarios ("even in the best case") then I think it becomes more complicated. Don't you think many street photographers would have taken that shot? And although they'd take it with different motive and they wouldn't upload it to mockery websites, it would probably end up there nonetheless. Is that relevant to the act of pressing the shutter? Is it dispositive?

I think it's eminently reasonable to argue why such a street photograph would be a dick move. I just don't think it's anywhere near black and white, and I think it would be unreasonable for a person making that argument to pretend it is. There's inherent value to that photograph. Humor, cultural depiction, etc. I don't know if I would have taken it, but I can see the value in capturing that moment. The actual photo itself sucks, but it's good fodder for discussion in a photography class.
posted by cribcage at 10:04 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


In your example the person is in a crowd of people. Not the same at all IMO. She is the subject of the photo. IT IS all about her.

And a chair on a treadmill. And a person watching TV. And the absurdity of the juxtaposition.

Person in a crowd: illustrated with a person among other persons. That's how you illustrate a crowd. Exactly my point - no matter one person or more, because it's not about the persons, it's about the concept of "heavy foot traffic" which necessitates a crowd.

The photo was not about a person named Amy. It was about the absurdity of the juxtaposition.

Wow, I'm taking on all comers. Time to step away from the thread for a spell - the thread does not benefit from my continuing to swat away at softballs that are not on point. G'night.
posted by VikingSword at 10:05 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Other people recognized her. She didn't out herself.

Well, to be fair, that is not exactly how it went down. Her mom and another person asked her if it was her. She chose to confirm their suspicions. As I said, I think it might have been possible for her to remain anonymous. But not 100% sure.

To take it out of the abstract and have people know that there are real people behind thsee images, and that online cruelty actually hurts people?

I can understand that argument. What I was trying to say is that by outing herself, she changed the way we think of the pic, which might have been her intention. It would have been different if the same pic was taken with her face shown and people were like "OMG...look at Amy sitting on the treadmill". I think our collective response would have been different. By outing herself she kind of moved the viral pic from one category and into another which muddies the original act by those strangers who took the pic. That is the point I was trying to make, But of course it is her choice to get ahead of the pic if she felt there was no way to remain anonymous and if she wanted to be a champion for a cause.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:06 PM on August 23


Wow, I'm taking on all comers. Time to step away from the thread for a spell - the thread does not benefit from my continuing to swat away at softballs that are not on point. G'night.


Thanks for your smug dismissal.

Imagine how she might feel endlessly "swatting" away a good portion of the internet who turned her into a meme. I feel your disdainful pain. Get some rest.
posted by futz at 10:14 PM on August 23 [9 favorites]


It is possible to have feelings for mistaken reasons, and we are not obliged to cater to those.

The fact that you've ended up referring to racist distaste of miscegenation as something felt by "mistake" analogous to being hurt because a surreptitiously-made-for-the-purposes-of-humor depiction of oneself has been freely distributed across the internet is just, I don't know what to say.
posted by XMLicious at 10:19 PM on August 23 [6 favorites]


A while ago, in a different thread, someone (I think it was KathrynT) mentioned that they find it helpful to call unacceptable behavior gross when calling someone out about their unacceptable behavior.

I'll try that now.

VikingSword, this thing you keep doing where you insist that the subject of this photo is wrong to feel hurt over it? That's gross. Don't be gross. I always assumed you were better than that. Please stop proving me wrong.
posted by palomar at 11:57 PM on August 23 [18 favorites]


So much “discussion”!

Dissertations on theories of humor versus feminist analysis of the state of privacy in post-internet culture in an all out brawl for the title. What a Saturday night!

Whether or not anonymous internet ridicule of a very nearly anonymous image constitutes bullying of the person depicted may have to wait for the rematch. This bout is only scheduled for 8 rounds.

The hard thing about this is that we, as human beings, have all felt the jab of ridicule. And, therefore, we have all felt that kind of stymied, punch drunk, disbelief at the laughter that comes right (and left) AT us. And now that we all live in public that laughter is no longer politely contained between the ropes of the schoolyard, alleyway or office Christmas party.

Some ridicule is benign. I have a friend who I ridicule mercilessly about the time he walked out onto a foggy and frozen lake, got lost, fell through the ice more than a few times, and didn’t find his way back to shore for 8 hours. We were 13 at the time.

Sometimes it pains him when I start up about it. I see it on his face. But by the end I have reminded him of the resolve and strength which he exhibited at such a young age and we howl and laugh at the tale. Sometimes reminding someone they are a warrior doesn’t always start with a hug. Sometimes it’s more like a clinch.

And the subject of this photo and subsequent write-up has risen up to meet the challenge from the murky depths of the anonymous undercard to claim her rightful title of “ridicule survivor.”

Taking the picture led, ultimately, to this moment of epiphany and victory for the subject. The intent of the photographer is unimportant. Internet comments are beyond unimportant. We are not what other people inflict on us. We are how we react. We are how we learn to fight. We are how much heart we can show the world we have. Seems like she’s got heart enough for even 50,000 big macs.

Sometimes we are with other humans and sometimes we are merely among them.

Ding.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 12:25 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]


I guess street portraits, and street photography can't exist then, and the whole rich art tradition going back over a century is just about creepy freaky artists. Throw in documentaries too. Tons, and tons and tons of photography has been done with the photographer not getting consent or a release signed and tons and tons and tons of candids. Creepy freaks all of them? The world of art photography would be immensely impoverished with that point of view.

There seems to me to be a degree of distinction in decency and manners between photographing people as part of a street scene and making a person the subject of your art. Society has codes of behaviour that allow a certain degree of freedom to photograph in certain ways and in certain contexts. News journalism is probably the best example. However, even these cases are always problematic, and require sufficient ethical justification. I would call any artist who made strangers their subjects without permission creepy and rude. "But it's Art donchaknow" isn't, in itself, any better as a defence than "but it's funny". In some contexts the justification may be strong enough to justify being rude and creepy, just like any other unpleasant action (lying, for example) may be justified, but the dick-move itself remains a dick-move.

I would not personally do public space photos without consent (because people misunderstand the law anyway, and I don't feel like arguing with random uninformed strangers), but I will stand on principle defending the rights exercised by other photographers.

What is it with people who make these arguments? Why, whenever someone says "Don't be a rude and inconsiderate prick" is the automatic response "I will stand on principle defending the right to be a rude and inconsiderate prick". So will I. But the doesn't mean that people using those rights aren't pricks. People do, and should, have the right to be utter pricks. I just want them to stop using that right.
posted by howfar at 2:21 AM on August 24 [8 favorites]


the act of objectifying and dehumanizing somebody for the sake of comedy? It's what bullies do. Whether it's funny or not is moot.

Really? Maybe there are different types of bullies out there. I've found in my personal life and online that bullies are engaging in a sadism which involves a twisted sort of empathy. It's no fun torturing an object that doesn't feel the pain.

The (in this example Ellen sort of) people who laugh for a second at a silly picture and then move on with their lives are more likely to not even consider the humanity of the subject.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:08 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


A lot of "fun" things on the internet rely on not explaining context. Things on face seem absurd and therefore funny. When you find the explanation why something happened it is often complex and gives you conflicting emotions. And it kills the humor. So we resist that. Point and laugh is easy. But when we engage in it, we leave empathy, creativity and critical thinking by the wayside. And we are often cruel to our fellow humans.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:40 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]


News journalism is probably the best example. However, even these cases are always problematic, and require sufficient ethical justification. I would call any artist who made strangers their subjects without permission creepy and rude.

I'm not an expert on journalism ethics, and I would defer to someone who is. Based on what familiarity I do have, however, I would nudge this reasoning a little. In both that context as well as art (street photography) it's my understanding that the ethical justification being weighed is, at least primarily, objective and not subjective.

It was a fluke that this person was (apparently) identified. The fact that it happened doesn't change the fact that it was unlikely to happen. I think it's difficult to look at that photo alone and guess that someone was likely to be hurt by publication. That's what makes it an interesting case for an ethics discussion. People have mentioned above that she looks overweight. To the extent that's true (I think if it were a photo of her jogging, fewer people would think that) there's a comparison to be made. When media uses footage to show obesity, it's very similar to this photo. People are usually shown from behind, no faces. Usually the heads are cut off entirely, but I'm not convinced that's a significant difference here. She was apparently identified by her distinctive overalls, which you would have seen equally on standard B-roll.
posted by cribcage at 8:30 AM on August 24


we all have a limit to who we care about, and it's counter-productive to insist that every single person we encounter must be regarded in the same way as we would someone close to us. Not only is it emotionally impossible, but it also subjects all these random strangers to be held against our own worldview, which is opposite the stated aim.

speaking for myself i appreciate it when people remind me to be a little more mindful of things around me. i already have enough apathy, practicality, skepticism, cynicism etc that i don't need that as much as reminders to be more kind and understanding and helpful.

so no i don't find it counterproductive. the people i tend to respect as i get older aren't the ones making excuses for me to be more selfish than i already am, it's the ones who seem to have more patience than me, who influence me positively and make me consider (not make demands of me! make me consider) that in small interactions even with strangers i can possibly make a difference.

i was talking with a friend a few days ago who saw a motorcyclist wipe out on a freeway exit. he managed not to get run over. cars were going around him and she rolled her window down and asked whether he needed help. he said no a few times. she offered to get out and help him right his motorcycle. another car behind her stopped and turned on hazard lights as they did this. she said the second they got the bike upright, cars started moving on either side. motorcyclist said he'd be fine and he'd walk the bike the rest of the way, off the exit.

it was obviously dangerous, either of them could've gotten hit. she thought it was kind of fucked up that nobody else stopped to help and that everyone else kept going. my point being it wasn't any more her responsibility to do something about it than anybody else, but she's the one who stopped and helped.

i don't think my friend or even the people in here are saying that anybody must do anything for anybody else at any time. but we can certainly say hey this dynamic sucks and maybe things would be better if we didn't do this thing. instead of telling ourselves this:

People will suffer hurt feelings. Offense will happen. It is always unfortunate but only sometimes requires change or is wrong.

keep moving. pay no attention to what happens to anybody else. it's not your business. it's not your responsibility. if anything happens to me i should expect nobody else to care too. who even has the time or resources or legitimate reason to do otherwise really.

it's an incredibly depressing view of the world and one i already carry with me. thank you to anybody who reminds me there is another way--not to change the world, but to think about little things sometimes and make an extra effort sometimes. we don't have time or resources? damn straight, and i'm not going to spend a second of it telling someone else they care too much about others.

regarding the FPP, it's both. chair on treadmill works. frumpy/fat lady on chair on treadmill works in a different way than buff/fit man/woman on chair on treadmill. because one is just stupid/weird. the other is "also fatty you're doing it wrong and that's why you're still fat." just because you personally never even considered the fat angle doesn't mean other people didn't. and you, general you, may not be as sensitive to fat-shaming or woman-isn't-hot-shaming.
posted by twist my arm at 9:29 AM on August 24 [14 favorites]


So, I'm a fat chick. Like, well outside standard deviation levels of fat. Notably fat.

There is a little corner of my mind that dreads the possibility that somehow a picture of me is going to end up being used as some fat-shaming misogynistic meme picture.

So, on the one hand, I can see the humor of the picture in question here as a "this is an unexpected thing and funny" and I can also see the unpleasantness of being on the target side of "LOL YUR A WOMAN AND FATTY FAT STOOPID" internet attention and how much that's going to foul everything it touches.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:30 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]


If this had been an athletic man sitting on that stool people wouldn't have found it half as funny. Because the punchline would be missing: U R doing it wrong, and that's why you are a fat, unattractive female slob (and you probably shop at Walmart, too.)
posted by Omnomnom at 9:55 AM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Oh for goodness sake. The silly part is the chair ON the treadmill. Not that she's fat, or a woman, or a human, or white, or Asian or named Jane or whatever. Who the hell puts a chair ON a treadmill and then sits on it and watches TV? If she had been sitting on a chair on the floor next to the treadmill, no one would have taken a photo.

And no one would be heading for the Internet Fainting Couch.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:56 AM on August 24 [4 favorites]


(Sorry, not my personal opinion. I don't think she's fat and can't tell whether she's attractive or not, nor do I think either is relevant.)
posted by Omnomnom at 9:57 AM on August 24


Omnomnom, I would have found it just as funny, because your punchline is not the punchline I get. And I think it's pretty gross to project fat-shaming classist misogyny onto people who aren't that.
posted by jaut at 10:08 AM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but you're not one of the people making "FAT!" comments. Obviously this punchline exists for plenty of people.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:13 AM on August 24 [4 favorites]


i don't think my friend or even the people in here are saying that anybody must do anything for anybody else at any time.

I don't think so, either. So both you and I are able to recognize rationality and nuance on that side of the discussion. Great. Except you're apparently only able to see those things because you're on that side of the table, because you immediately turn around and say things like this:

pay no attention to what happens to anybody else.

This is a moronic interpretation of what anyone in this thread has said. Your larger point seems to be that we should all try harder to be better in the world, and this is the world right here, so why not try harder. You're not stupid. You know that nobody is actually saying this. Why deliberately drag the discussion down to a dumber level?
posted by cribcage at 10:17 AM on August 24


"moronic interpretation" "dumber level"

yeah i'm the one that did that. thanks cribcage. helpful.
posted by twist my arm at 10:19 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Yes, deliberately misparaphrasing other people's comments to depict them as having made silly, extreme assertions that are easier to dispute than what was actually said constitutes dragging the conversation down to a dumber level. It's also quite rude, so I'm not sure how much sympathy you expect when you dislike the characterizations that come back.
posted by cribcage at 10:24 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


have a nice day. sorry i offended you and dragged down the discussion to a dumber level. i'll try not to do it in the future.
posted by twist my arm at 10:45 AM on August 24


You can state up and down that fat-shaming and misogyny aren't a part of your interpretation here, but it's likely that they play into your thoughts here in ways you don't realize.

For example, if this was a photo of a fit white dude, I don't think it works as a joke. There are all kinds of assumptions that pop into your head about a guy like that drown out the humor aspect of it, because we are in the habit of assuming better things about fit white dudes, even if you are not conscious of these habits. "He must be fixated on whatever's on that television," "He's probably doing something clever with that chair," "Maybe he's chilling out while he waits for his friend to finish up."

My point here is that there are many other aspects of this photo, but the one that jumps out is that this is someone who is "doing it wrong," and that that aspect jumps out because of the judgements we are habituated culturally to make about women who aren't super-thin in the context of exercise equipment. This is as much about the thoughts that don't occur to you as the ones that do.
posted by alphanerd at 11:04 AM on August 24 [9 favorites]


twist my arm, I completely understood your point and why you made it in the context of this thread. I think it added to the conversation positively and did so without attacking anyone else or calling them out the way you were called out. You took the high road when you were inappropriately derided here. I also appreciated your comment as a reminder to be a better person. So thank you.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 11:15 AM on August 24 [9 favorites]


For example, if this was a photo of a fit white dude, I don't think it works as a joke.

But what if he were wearing overalls sitting on a chair ON a treadmill? I think that would work as a joke. We've spent a lot of time on this thread with the fat-shaming thing, but the incongruity of the outfit, the situation, and the environment is what makes this amusing. It'd be like seeing someone working at 7-11 in a ball gown and tiara.
posted by sfkiddo at 11:35 AM on August 24


Maybe. I'd just like to get some acknowledgement here that there's a lot culturally that encourages us to laugh at the expense of women and give and receive social approval through jokes at their expense, especially when body stuff is thrown in, that tells us they are acceptable targets for jokes and encourages us to seek those jokes out, and that tells us that's probably the joke when we see a picture like that.

All of that stuff probably plays into the connections that woman is making about herself here, too, in ways that aren't apparent to dudes. As a fit white dude, there's a lot of invisible stuff that discourages people from making jokes at my expense, and if someone does, I can step out of that situation and into a culture that makes things easy for me, while this woman is going to step into a culture that makes things harder for her in virtue of the same things that are serving as the basis for much of her mockery here.

Maybe you'd laugh at me, but it's a lot harder for a pic of me wearing overalls in that situation, but there's a lot culturally that stops a pic of me from going viral, and that makes people eager to share this one, because culture has made her a very easy person to laugh at.

What I'd really like is for people to stop with the pretense of superiority for supposedly being able to conceptually separate the joke from its misogynistic and fat-shaming aspects, because I don't think people have addressed the way that culture plays into it.
posted by alphanerd at 12:08 PM on August 24 [16 favorites]


Maybe you'd laugh at me, but it's a lot harder for a pic of me wearing overalls in that situation, but there's a lot culturally that stops a pic of me from going viral

But there's actually no way to know that. We can't really do a double-blind test.

What I'd really like is for people to stop with the pretense of superiority for supposedly being able to conceptually separate the joke from its misogynistic and fat-shaming aspects

Well. Respectfully, I don't think it's fair to accuse people of feeling superior because they're not reading rampant misogyny and fat-shaming in it.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:59 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


And even if they haven't, your feelings on whether it's okay to ridicule people who show up in public places appearing overweight shouldn't depend on whether those people or this person happen to respect the homeless.

Yeah, I said nothing about it being okay to ridicule people who show up in public places appearing overweight. I said she's a hypocrite and that makes me enormously less sympathetic to her lecturing other people about how they need to be sensitive to her Feeels. And it is unfortunate that the evidence of her hypocrisy happens to hit a nerve for me and I self identified as homeless. Had she badmouthed some other group of folks, I would feel much the same about it. She could have said "three prostitutes at the next table were badmouthing fat people. You get that? They are WHORES who sell their PUSSIES but they are still better than me because they are thin!!!" (Or insert kikes, niggas, spics or any other slur you so choose and similarly derogatory language about how they are scum of the earth and I would feel the same way: She is a hypocrite and part of the problem, not part of the solution.)

She could have commented on the ugly remarks the three guys were making without badmouthing {DEMOGRAPHIC}. She could have said something like "And just to really put me in the right (foul) mood to write this today, as I sit here writing in a café, three guys at the next table are talking smack about FAT PEOPLE loud enough for me to overhear. Cuz, yeah, fat people are invisible. Or deaf. Or something. Sure." And I would have no problem with that. She is entitled to feel offended by them. But if she wants to lecture other people about how they need to behave better and blah blah blah, she needs to meet that standard herself.

I will return to the point I made earlier:

e) I also also find myself sort of feeling like she could use this somewhat more constructively. Because there are multiple ways to view it and she is a fairly successful comedienne and there are multiple potential take-aways here, not just the point that fat-shaming is cruel or that, hey, you know, words on the internet do actually hurt people, an observation which has certainly been made before. I mean, I agree with those observations. I just think art and comedy can go beyond the obvious interpretations and when they do it tends to have greater value.

Instead of just whining about her emotional baggage about her weight and how people are all meanies, she could have, for example, talked about how fucked up America is that you can't walk anywhere and, thus, vast numbers of Americans pay good money to gyms for the privilege of walking in place on a treadmill for exercise while watching TV. And how the American medical/insurance crap is so fucked up that millions of Americans are under financial duress over medical bills. ETC and these things are why she found herself financially strapped and unable to afford both a gym membership and a cable bill at home so, trying to do the right thing, she chose the gym membership...and this is how she wound up watching a House marathon at 2am in a public space. 'Merika! damnit.

But, no, we just need to respect her feels but, hey, it's fine for her to shit on homeless people (and that's apparently fine with you too -- you have made it pretty implicitly clear that homeless folks don't deserve respect). And I really hate that shit, no matter what demographic is wanting to claim privilege and like their needs and feelings and what not matter more than that of other people. Because it explicitly promotes the idea that there is nothing wrong with the Lord of the Flies bullshit pecking order we currently have. No, the only problem is that I and My People (by whatever definition of "my people" they want to use) are not on top, so we are the people getting crapped on, not the people entitled to do the crapping on.

I would like to see a world in which it honestly is not okay to crap on anyone. So I really have a pretty low tolerance for arguments from people who want you to RESPECT them while making it clear they do not feel they have to respect other people with all this sensitive shit they want to demand. Because that is not promoting a better world where we all treat each other better. That is just complaining that I am too low in the pecking order and wish to be higher up so I can dish out more abuse instead of receiving so much of it. And my general feeling on that is along the lines of "hey, what goes around comes around" aka "Fuck you, asshole."

And I didn't ask your permission for how I am supposed to feel about anything. Thank you.
posted by Michele in California at 1:32 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Ah, good, we've reached the "this person isn't perfect and said something I don't like, so fuck them" portion of this thread.
posted by palomar at 1:48 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


I'm very surprised at the of the assholeish beliefs being shown here.

Someone took a picture of a person without their consent and posted it online. The person in the photo was shammed for being fat and/or lazy. Yes, some peopled laughed at the fact that it was a chair on a treadmill, but that doesn't erase the fat shamming, accusations of laziness, or the lack of consent in taking photo.

It's rude to take a photo of someone without their consent and post it on the internet as a joke, regardless of what the joke is.
posted by Shouraku at 1:53 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


I looked at the pic in question after reading the essay and it was not what I expected. She doesn't strike me as particularly large or fat. My honest first thought was "Why the fuck would you put a chair on a treadmill? Seriously, who does that?" She was definitely "doing it wrong", she should have put the chair on the floor. But, if she had done that we wouldn't be having this conversation.
posted by MikeMc at 2:02 PM on August 24


Why is it that the "Empathy Uber Alles" types here on Mefi have such a hard time showing empathy to actual people they are having a conversation with right here, right now? Stop being jerks and cut out the sanctimonious sniping just because you think you have the moral high ground.

Listen to other people, assume good faith, realize everyone doesn't think exactly like you, and agree to disagree without getting nasty.
posted by stp123 at 2:48 PM on August 24 [8 favorites]


but that doesn't erase the fat shamming, accusations of laziness

No, but what's to be said about those? The photo circulated cruel websites and people made personal attacks. That's wrong. It shouldn't happen. Here on this website, I don't think that's controversial. And that's the conversation we're having—here, on this website. We don't have the opportunity to chastise or condemn the people who made those personal attacks. They aren't MeFites.

People here want to discuss other facets, like whether the photograph itself has value, or how much consent should factor, or the humor in contrasts. That's stuff we disagree about. It's all gray area. What's the value in requiring all those discussions to be asterisked with some disclaimer that personal attacks aren't okay? We already know that and paid five bucks to endorse that philosophy. It would be yelling into the wind, preaching to the choir, pick your cliche. Maybe some people want to do that and that's fine, but everybody needn't.
posted by cribcage at 2:56 PM on August 24


stp123: Why is it that the "Empathy Uber Alles" types here

This really looks like more of a complaint about the community that would be ideally suited to MetaTalk. That being said, if you want to try to have a productive conversation about it here, it would be super helpful to call out the specific people and behaviors you're complaining about instead of making a broad "what is it about [ ANONYMOUS GROUP OF PEOPLE ]" complaint.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:00 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


She was definitely "doing it wrong", she should have put the chair on the floor.

The headphone sockets are on the machines. She needed to have the chair there to hear the TV. Realising that other people may have reasons for doing things, which aren't immediately apparent to you, is a pretty big element in empathy. Theory of mind is important.
posted by howfar at 3:12 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


What's the value in requiring all those discussions to be asterisked with some disclaimer that personal attacks aren't okay?

If you post a stranger's photo on the internet with the intent to mock them, be it gently mock or as a fat-shaming jerkface, then you are setting them up to take a whole slew of personal attacks that they did not ask for.

If you think that personal attacks are wrong and shouldn't happen, to the point where it's something that we all agree on, then putting up a photo of a random stranger for mocking is not okay. The fact that people are arguing that setting a person up for this is okay is why there is still room to discuss whether personal attacks are acceptable or not.
posted by jess at 3:52 PM on August 24 [23 favorites]


I think Jess just cut straight to the heart of it.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:50 PM on August 24


I remember that photo. I figured she was a member of the janitorial staff with bad eyesight who was taking a little TV break. People are dicks.
posted by Renoroc at 4:59 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Cribcage upthread said he/she isn't an expert in journalistic ethics. I actually am, to some moderate degree -- I was a journalist for a long time, and for a while ran a 100+ staff newsroom.

In a good newsroom, you make an effort to not embarrass random people for no reason. That means, for example, if you're using b-roll to illustrate a story about obesity, you shoot people only from behind, you do your best to ensure they're not easily identifiable (like, avoiding people with unusual clothing or wildly-coloured hair), and you try to shoot groups rather than isolated individuals. Partly this is to avoid getting sued in the event somebody feels seriously harmed by your story, but mostly it's just ordinary human decency. Why embarrass someone and make them feel like crap for no reason?

The standards I described above are what's been normal for decades in TV newsrooms, where an image flashes briefly by and is gone forever. Personally I think that online it's not less but more important to be conscientious about people's privacy and dignity, because images hang around forever and can be endlessly republished. I can see an argument for deliberately shaming someone you seriously think is doing something wrong or unethical. But because you think it's *funny*? That's just horrible.
posted by Susan PG at 5:13 PM on August 24 [10 favorites]


> We don't have the opportunity to chastise or condemn the people who made those personal attacks.

Sure we do. They are unlikely to hear it, but we sure can condemn it. It can seem a little like the choir all singing together, but it does have benefits:

- Remind ourselves that the people we might find laughable can be hurt by that.

- If this woman, or people who sympathize with her situation, are either members here or somehow come here to view this page, they are re-assured that we don't like that kind of stuff around here.

> What's the value in requiring all those discussions to be asterisked with some disclaimer that personal attacks aren't okay?

People fail that all the time. The relative anonymity of the Internet makes it way too easy to forget that. It might feel a little tedious, but it's not so hard to say "while I do agree that X, I'd like to discuss Y additionally"; it's the Internet version of "Hi, I'm not an asshole".

Besides, we've got so many people posting here who aren't even wearing pants — we've got to have some standards.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:16 PM on August 24


That's weird, 'divide' became 'pide'.
$('div:not([class])').contents().unwrap().wrap('≺p/≻');
posted by unliteral at 5:54 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Agreed that it wouldn't have been funny with a fit person, male or female. Average-looking person (in overalls, of all things) definitely makes it ripe for internet lulz.
posted by BurntHombre at 6:20 PM on August 24


Average-looking person (in overalls, of all things) definitely makes it ripe for internet lulz.

But inapproprite, right?
posted by futz at 7:01 PM on August 24


What's the value in requiring all those discussions to be asterisked with some disclaimer that personal attacks aren't okay? We already know that and paid five bucks to endorse that philosophy

Except that there are people in this thread that are arguing that posting a picture of a stranger on the internet as a joke is okay, and that the "fat-shamming" and "lazy" comments are noise from assholes that should be disregarded, despite the person in the photo not being alright with such non-consensual criticism. So no, people don't seem to all know that personal attacks aren't okay, and are instead insisting that they be tolerated as collateral damage of a "chair on a treadmill; that's not how you use it" joke.
posted by Shouraku at 7:18 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


Why is it that the "Empathy Uber Alles" types here on Mefi have such a hard time showing empathy to actual people they are having a conversation with right here, right now? Stop being jerks and cut out the sanctimonious sniping just because you think you have the moral high ground.

Listen to other people, assume good faith, realize everyone doesn't think exactly like you, and agree to disagree without getting nasty.


I will identify as an empathy uber alles type, and the big difference is that here, if I'm hurting anyone's feelings, they've voluntarily entered into a conversation. I don't know that anyone is accusing me in particular of being hurtful, but if they did, I'd be curious as to whether it's legitimate viciousness, or a manifestation of the butt-hurt that is sometimes known to afflict privileged types when they are disagreed with.

I'm a dude, but I'm trying to understand the way privilege operates, the way gender plays into situations, and the sorts of assumptions that often go unnoticed, because it's a pretty gruesome dynamic and I don't want to contribute to it.

So, there's an asymmetry here in terms of consequences to the two sides. Nobody is going too be at a greater risk for suicide if people have to stop creepshooting women in gyms, but things that further encourage judgement of women on the basis of their physicality do real damage.

A lot of the views that I've got problems with in this thread are blind to the way privilege plays into this, and that needs to be called out. It's beyond me that people could ignore that ANY image of a woman in a gym is charged with all kinds of assumptions about gender, that you're encouraged by so much in culture to make fun of the person in this image, and that it's much easier for a dude to not personalize being on the receiving end of this kind of thing because as men the social pressure on us to conform to whatever physical ideal isn't nearly as great as it is for women. The defenses of this image as a joke don't address gender very well, and that's a blind spot.

Another thing is that it takes more than "good faith" if you're coming from a place of privilege into a discussion where privilege plays a role. You really need to own that privilege blinds you to what other people go through if you want to understand the situation clearly. I don't think everyone is making that effortful adjustment here.

(I hope I have this right.)
posted by alphanerd at 8:54 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


Why is it that the "Empathy Uber Alles" types here on Mefi have such a hard time showing empathy to actual people they are having a conversation with right here, right now? Stop being jerks and cut out the sanctimonious sniping just because you think you have the moral high ground.

Listen to other people, assume good faith, realize everyone doesn't think exactly like you, and agree to disagree without getting nasty.

I will identify as an empathy uber alles type, and the big difference is that here, if I'm hurting anyone's feelings, they've voluntarily entered into a conversation.


So unless the nuance runs so deep that I'm intellectually ill-equipped to detect it, the first quotation doesn't seem to address any one person's comments. Privilege, it seems to me, is generally accompanied by a specific concoction of persecuted and oblivious narcissism.

Also, and this may be the important part, if entering into a public conversation is tantamount to relinquishing one's rights to not have their feelings hurt, then might it also be possible that entering a public space and making a "quirky" and easily decontextualized choice in that public space might also relinquish that same right?

I don't know that anyone is accusing me in particular of being hurtful, but if they did, I'd be curious as to whether it's legitimate viciousness, or a manifestation of the butt-hurt that is sometimes known to afflict privileged types when they are disagreed with.

Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I started reacting before I finished reading. I suppose I was distracted by the irony of an expression of disbelief that previous comments could be considered hurtful followed by a vaguely homophobic taunt. And all this happening within a discussion of privilege!

Concepts like privilege and gender operate at the macro-cultural and can scarcely be encapsulated in the "1000 words" a picture is purported to contain. If the woman depicted were black, race would be addressed within this thread in much the same ham-fisted super cultural aware manner. Because we, as humans, define each other on the extra-personal level with strictly defined categories. The strength of the parameters of those categories is how privilege stays entrenched.

Treating another human being's embarrassing moment and coping with the consequences of that moment as an anthropological teachable moment over and above that actual person's contextualization is the underhanded gesture of college educated white dude privilege. Pretending that you can perfectly divorce yourself from your understanding of your own identity and determine the meaning of another person's moment is the same mechanism which kept the "dead white male" version of education functioning for so very long.

Another thing is that it takes more than "good faith" if you're coming from a place of privilege into a discussion where privilege plays a role. You really need to own that privilege blinds you to what other people go through if you want to understand the situation clearly. I don't think everyone is making that effortful adjustment here.

Oh, sorry again. Seems like you already understand what I just wrote.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 12:53 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Regarding the homeless comments on her post. https://www.facebook.com/awkwardmomentonstage/posts/844828155528264?comment_id=846784225332657&offset=0&total_comments=7
posted by huguini at 6:14 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


alphanerd, this:

I will identify as an empathy uber alles type

is incongruous with this:

I don't know that anyone is accusing me in particular of being hurtful, but if they did, I'd be curious as to whether it's legitimate viciousness, or a manifestation of the butt-hurt that is sometimes known to afflict privileged types when they are disagreed with.

Essentially writing off anyone who would disagree with you as a whiny asshole drowning in their own privilege seems to me to be the exact opposite of empathy.
posted by The Gooch at 7:30 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


huguini: I don't see how her posting it to her facebook account, bragging that it is getting attention and announcing her excitement in any way addresses "the homeless comments" she made. So am I missing something? Is there something on that link which actually addresses that?

Thanks.
posted by Michele in California at 9:41 AM on August 25


@unliteral - thank you, I was wondering about the 'pide'!
posted by lokta at 9:42 AM on August 25


@Michele in California you're missing the question I asked and her reply. Because she deleted both.
posted by huguini at 11:11 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


By the way, she also deleted the livejournal post with the homeless comments.
posted by huguini at 11:23 AM on August 25


Can you give us the gist, higuini?
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:56 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I asked something like "I would like to know if you still stand by the comments about the homeless you made on your first post about the pic" and pasted the quote. She basically replied by saying the same thing in other words. And was very offended that I was putting her to trial on her company page...
posted by huguini at 12:12 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


That's very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
posted by cribcage at 12:14 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Thanks huguini, very much.

So, I guess, I get to stand by my "hey, honey, what goes around comes around and you have lost about 90% of my sympathy for your Feels." cuz, you know, as much as she is totally entitled to be offended by people making ugly comments about her weight, I am also totally entitled to be offended by her making ugly comments about {some demographic} in a really hypocritical way.
posted by Michele in California at 12:17 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I wonder if, in the future, when somebody discusses their experience of something bad, we don't then fish around in everything they have ever published to see if they ever said anything shitty, and then confront them about it on their web page, because if they were ever shitty, then the broad phenomenon of online bullying is inconsequential and they got what was coming to them.
posted by maxsparber at 12:22 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


Yeah, see, that isn't my point at all. As stated above: I am not saying it is okay to bully people for any reason at all. And I am kind of resenting the fact that people here are repeatedly twisting my words to suggest that.

Also, you know, the folks who are harping on how much I need to respect her feels and understand her situation and that kind of thing are basically expressing zero empathy for me and agreeing with her position, which she is not retracting, that the homeless are scum and deserve no respect -- ie I am scum and deserve no respect.

So, I am being told basically that we need to understand that she has been bullied all her life for this and when someone says something about her weight, it brings up all this baggage which thus makes even relatively mild remarks about her weight a horrible, evil scarring experience. But the fact that homeless people typically have an even longer, uglier personal history of intractable problems which is why they are in this mess is not something she has any desire to understand or empathize with. She just wants to shit on them because, hey, classicism is A-Okay with her. And she feels fine with making fun of them in a derogatory way for dumpster diving -- which I am guessing they were doing in hopes of getting some kind of resources without stealing but got arrested anyway, yay, which she also has zero sympathy for. And lots of people are just fine with her taking a big dump on people even more unfortunate than her because, hey, the poor girl has suffered and we need to understand her Feels.

Every serial killer has an unfortunate backstory. Understanding their feels and saying it is okay and, well, let's just let them out of prison so they can kill again really does not fucking work. And if you really want some kind of nicer world to live in, this shitty position of YOU need to understand MY feels and respect me and so forth but I am not obligated to try to meet that standard myself cuz, hey, my life has been hard (or whatever) simply fails as a general paradigm on how to improve things.

Anyway, I have work to do. I kind of would like to eat every day next week and it's sometimes tough to arrange that from the street.

Carry on.
posted by Michele in California at 12:33 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Also, you know, the folks who are harping on how much I need to respect her feels and understand her situation and that kind of thing are basically expressing zero empathy for me and agreeing with her position, which she is not retracting, that the homeless are scum and deserve no respect -- ie I am scum and deserve no respect.

I am formerly homeless and agree that this is shitty. I don't think you need to care about her feelings in any particular way.

I also think one awful thing she said years ago has very little to do with the broader social phenomenon of people superstitiously taking photos, posting them online, and then others being horrifically cruel as a result. And this reflects a different phenomenon, and one I think is also a problem: That people who raise complaints, especially complaints about privilege, have to somehow be perfect, or their complaints are disregarded.

Confronting her on an unrelated comment on her Facebook page was a crappy thing to do. It has nothing to do with this discussion. And if people are upset about her having said a stupid, hurtful thing years ago, that's absolutely okay, but also has nothing to do with the issue at hand. We're never going to find a perfect spokesperson for the issue of privilege. We'll always be able to dig through their past and find reason to ignore them. It's the perfect mechanism of keeping privilege going.
posted by maxsparber at 12:42 PM on August 25 [6 favorites]


I realize you weren't the one who confronted her, Michele. Rereading my previous comment, this isn't clear, so I wanted to clarify.
posted by maxsparber at 12:43 PM on August 25


That people who raise complaints, especially complaints about privilege, have to somehow be perfect, or their complaints are disregarded.

No, I am not expecting people to be perfect. I really am not. And she could have chosen to say "Hey, yeah, that was a crap thing to say...etc." And maybe she still will decide to reconsider her position now that she has been confronted.

But, again, I talked earlier about the fact that she could do something more with this incident other than merely whine about her feels. She can do that too -- whine about her hurt feelings -- and also do something more. It's A-Okay for her to vent but since that is all she is really doing, it's kind of ...limited. And I said that in my first comment, which was very even-handed, etc. and I was gentle and circumspect and blah blah blah because I know that commenting that "the victim" here could choose to up their game instead of spending the rest of their life harping on how other people are just assholes gets labeled "victim blaming" and so forth. So I said very little at first but elaborated more on that point after someone twisted my words to accuse me of saying it's okay to bully people.

And, you know, although I don't expect people to be perfect, I have spent a whole lot of time working on issues of various sorts and I understand why people nitpick the whiners. And when I get nitpicked, I try to take that under advisement and up my game. That is the standard I try to hold myself to.

anyway, without getting overly long -- because I have spent a helluva lot of my life contemplating this type thing, so it's easy to go down the damn rabbithole with it -- I am just trying to kind of say that I have been trying to leave this thread because I do find her remarks and her current position offensive as hell and it would be a whole lot easier to do that if people would stop basically taking potshots at me in specific for some fucking reason or other that I can't comprehend. If you value empathy so much, please, kindly, understand why the homeless person had a NOPE moment and went "welp, I'm outta here." And let me go and y'all can carry on discussing the importance of her feels, that's fine, but please do so without talking trash about me for no longer much caring about her whiny, hypocritical position.
posted by Michele in California at 12:57 PM on August 25


I hope that wasn't addressed at me. I haven't taken any potshots at you. My only comment addressed at you specifically was the one you responded and the previous one intended to clarify that my comment before that was not meant to be interpreted as a comment on you.

That being said, you have repeatedly dismissed her pain, calling it "feels." People can be shitty and not deserve to have shitty stuff done to them. Believe me that I sympathize with the fact that it was really terrible for her to make fun of homeless people -- I was part of LA's homeless community for a year and a half, and was rendered homeless again by Hurricane Katrina. I wish Amy had been more sensitive about the subject. But I have also avoided discussing it, because it's not the subject of the thread.
posted by maxsparber at 1:10 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


No, I am not dismissing her pain. I am dismissing the idea that her feelings are to be put on a pedestal when she can't be similarly sensitive to people who have most likely had a much shittier life than she has had.

It's a little bit like "first world problems." I am aware that we all suffer and I try like hell to treat all people decently, no matter who they are. But, you know, saying that the feelings of someone who has been bullied about her weight who nonetheless has some kind of career success and money for a gym membership (etc) are so much more important than the suffering of people who often do not get enough to eat, who get arrested for trying to dig something out of the trash (possibly to eat it) etc is just so incredibly callous that, yeah, this really removes a lot of my sympathy for her position.

Anyway: Bye. Please let me go.

thanks.
posted by Michele in California at 1:17 PM on August 25


Actually, yes, constantly referring to it as "her feeeeeels" IS dismissing her pain.
posted by palomar at 1:23 PM on August 25


Assume good faith, she just said that wasn't her intention.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:58 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Just to make one thing clear, maxsparber, I didn't "fish around in everything they have ever published". Those comments were made on the original post she did about the photo.
posted by huguini at 3:00 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Wow, I read the part of her narrative about overhearing the guys at the next table differently, so I'd better go re-read and catch up on the added stuff.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:10 PM on August 25


I've been looking for the study for a while now, and have finally found it in the Handbook of emotions by Michael Lewis.

The TL;DR of the 864 page book is that embarrassment is one of the strongest, if not the absolute strongest, emotion that humans can feel. The reason being that embarrassment is a public emotion that causes you to experience a combination associated negatives: exposed, awkward, regret, shame, anger, depression, etc. Highly negative evaluations of our actions, thoughts, and appearancse are at the core of embarrassment. So essentially, a plethora of negative comments and ridicule have the ability to make someone feel worse than if you had shot their dog a burned down their house. This is why extreme embarrassment can lead to suicide.

This is also why I'm against the belief that it's alright to put someone through such traumatic emotions in the service of a joke. Just to be clear, I'm usually one of the people that rolls their eyes at the "I want to become one with the pain you're feeling. I feel like I'm becoming one with [Groups That's Being Treated Unjustly]." Yet, there has to be a limit to what we're willing to put others through to get a laugh. The above study would indicate that feelings of embarrassment are some of the post profound pain that you can inflict on a person, and that's not funny.

Having said that, I suspect that there are people who originally laughed at the image, and are now not to happy to be indirectly called out by this thread. Frankly, if someone laughed at the "chair on a treadmill" aspect of the joke, I don't think that they're the manifestation of evil, but I do think that it's a bit naive to believe that the image isn't opening up the woman to a great deal of non-consensual public criticism, commentary, and pain.
posted by Shouraku at 4:40 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]


embarrassment is one of the strongest, if not the absolute strongest, emotion that humans can feel.

The complication to me is that it isn't at all clear that being more sensitive reduces the feeling of embarrassment. I mean, going from, ha ha we're all couch potatoes, to, oh that poor obese slob shush don't talk to her, doesn't seem to benefit anyone.

I realize that people are concerned the first stage is more like, ha ha that obese slob, but I guess the point is that in being sensitive, all we really end up doing is confirming that there's something worth being embarrassed about. It becomes a downward spiral since your being sensitive about something can make me more sensitive about it, until we are all just feeling sorry for each other instead of recognizing and accepting the ways we're all human.

When I'm among friends, it's no big deal if my fly is down or I have spinach in my teeth, and I don't think for a second if someone points it out to me. But if I enter a group that feels it would be terribly rude and upsetting to say something, I might sense that people are looking at me, worrying over something, and become uncomfortable even if I don't quite know why... I could learn to be embarrassed by something that originally didn't seem important.
posted by mdn at 3:07 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


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