Reasons I'm fat
August 18, 2016 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Why Am I So Fat? Sara Benincasa answers a fan's question.
posted by Uncle (69 comments total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
 
ok I never heard of Sara Benincasa before but she might be my new hero.
posted by supermedusa at 3:12 PM on August 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. She's reportedly a great person as well as a multitalent. This was great to read today.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:30 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


And this is truly some of the best "zero fucks given" writing EVER.
posted by Kitteh at 3:30 PM on August 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Pretty sure there's an Amendment that makes it illegal to own a dude that hard.
posted by Etrigan at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2016 [45 favorites]


I read this earlier today, and LOVED it. Glad to see it shared here.
posted by uberchet at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2016


FOR PRESIDENT.
posted by prismatic7 at 3:37 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Holy shit that was great.
posted by Gorgik at 3:56 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


this was pretty great and also why are people so terrible and why is everything terrible
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:58 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Everyone at the wedding thought I was a fat golem built of clay to save the Jews of Prague. “But no!” I said. “I am a human girl! Look at my sparkly shoes!” “Go save the Jews, Fat Golem,” they said. Later we all did the Twist."

genius
posted by praemunire at 4:01 PM on August 18, 2016 [45 favorites]


I read this this morning and was super late to work because I couldn't stop reading everything by her or about her...SHE IS AMAZING! HOW DID I NOT KNOW HER YET?

(Also I want that jumpsuit in the picture with the sparkly gold shoes, it's perfection!)
posted by sallybrown at 4:12 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would like her wrap dress, her kitchen, her nails and her hair please. And that little tiny cleaver that is engraved with the words "Fuck Off".
posted by tel3path at 4:16 PM on August 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


And her book, because yes it is a fact that real artists do in fact have day jobs.
posted by tel3path at 4:17 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Personally I wish she hadn't even gone into the whole "reasons I'm fat, " because depression and physical abuse take away from the point that "my body is just none of your fucking business." I would have enjoyed the entire essay to be the parts where she just slays the pathetic ass holes who feel they have a right to harass her about her own body and who are stupid enough to think she would care what a bunch of losers on line thought.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:18 PM on August 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Hey this is awesome. I went to college in NC with her. Brilliant then and now.
posted by kittensofthenight at 4:33 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Personally I wish she hadn't even gone into the whole "reasons I'm fat, " because depression and physical abuse take away from the point that "my body is just none of your fucking business."

Isn't the purpose to point out the reductive idiocy of the question by answering it? Because the reasons given are complex, and contrasting and contradictory - some reasons are because her life is awesome and some reasons are because life sometimes sucks. The contrasts between the highs and lows underline that she's a real person, not some notional "fat person" who can be reduced to a two-word tag and an easy fable.

And it gives a good rhythm to the beating.
posted by howfar at 4:33 PM on August 18, 2016 [49 favorites]


I could ask my lawyer, my CPA, my personal wealth manager, or the very handsome man who cleans my home in Los Angeles.

Not for the first time, I'm not sure whether I'm looking at an even or odd number of layers of sarcasm here.
posted by ftm at 4:38 PM on August 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is the very best thing I have seen in a very long time.
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 5:07 PM on August 18, 2016


Also, at the end she has credits, which include a link to the company that makes the wrap dress!. Their wrap dresses are about $130, which is a little more than I want to spend on a wrap dress, but not so obscenely expensive that I can't imagine it being within someone here's wrap dress budget!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:12 PM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I believe Benincasa first rose to MeFi prominence during the 2008 election with her pitch perfect Sarah Palin impression.
posted by one_bean at 5:15 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Clearly a gorgeous human being, inside and out.
posted by ephemerae at 5:15 PM on August 18, 2016


Just don’t think about how much I still weigh, or your boner will invert itself and go into your pelvis, meaning you will have gone and fucked yourself. I would hate for you to go fuck yourself, sir.
I have never heard of her but I intend to find all her books now.
posted by jeather at 5:23 PM on August 18, 2016 [28 favorites]


It's a funny piece, but I don't really get engaging an abusive troll, especially if this isn't the first or even the hundredth one who's written you. Because I'd guess that were this anon to read what she wrote to him, his reaction would not be "wow, I was really pwned. I guess I should change my abusive trollish ways," but, instead, "wow, I got this woman whom I insulted to devote a lot of her time to me." And if he's at all familiar with her work, he must've reckoned that any response to an insult from a professional comedian/writer would be a weapons-grade dressing-down. So, the abuse may have been a bonus.

I saw this with a Twitter account of a woman activist who would spend more than half her tweets swatting down trolls. While I found her other tweets interesting, I finally got to the point where I had to ask myself, Why would anyone ever deign to give trolls the one thing they want--undivided attention?

At any rate, I don't know her motivation for the piece beyond serving as a you-go-girl rallying point, and, as I mentioned, it was well done, but, ultimately, I can't help but feel that she dignified some asshole's insult with all the time that she spent on him.
posted by the sobsister at 6:07 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I went to the wrap dress website immediately. Bookmarked!

I remembered her name from a podcast I listened to four years ago. She's a smart and funny lady and I love this article.
posted by something something at 6:08 PM on August 18, 2016


I don't know her motivation for the piece beyond serving as a you-go-girl rallying point
It seems to me that there's a fair amount of value in that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:09 PM on August 18, 2016 [40 favorites]


At any rate, I don't know her motivation for the piece beyond serving as a you-go-girl rallying point, and, as I mentioned, it was well done, but, ultimately, I can't help but feel that she dignified some asshole's insult with all the time that she spent on him.

But it was only ten minutes! Because she is fast at writing and great at it.

I see your point though. Although I think creating a thing for women to high-five each other about is valuable in its own right, and who cares if the anonymous commenter feels vindicated? Doesn't matter how he feels.
posted by aka burlap at 6:26 PM on August 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Doesn't matter how he feels.
This.
Kind of the point of the exercise, really.
posted by Floydd at 6:45 PM on August 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I adore Sara Benincasa, she is the bee's knees.

You may also love her book about Tim Kaine and how he's your nice dad, which she wrote overnight after the Democratic National Convention and a truly epic series of dad jokes.
Tim Kaine is going to count to ten and if you cannot settle down by that point there will be consequences. You know this already.

TIM KAINE IS YOUR DAD BLOWING AN AIR HORN AT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION DESPITE WARNINGS
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:03 PM on August 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not for the first time, I'm not sure whether I'm looking at an even or odd number of layers of sarcasm here.
Parody error!

(I payed $5 to make that joke.)
posted by Horkus at 7:08 PM on August 18, 2016 [97 favorites]


Doesn't matter how he feels.
This.
Kind of the point of the exercise, really.


That's the part that was lost on me, at least, as a reader, then. Because by making this troll's comment the jumping-off point and centerpiece of her article and then by constantly referring back to him, she makes him the focus. It's hard for me to see how his feelings, both in his initial message and in imagined response to the reaming she's providing, are not the point of the exercise.

The tone of the piece, ultimately, I read as defensive despite her presumed intentions. I guess that part of the "joke" is that she's offering extremely intimate details about her personal life as an ironic apologia rather than keeping her reply to a one-line flip-off. Although, from what I gleaned, her public writing covers that in detail anyway, so this piece is not particularly unusual in that respect. Perhaps if she had previously been extremely guarded in her revelations regarding her personal life, a shotgun blast of her psyche here would be more powerful as a statement and response rather than yet another iteration of her public persona.
posted by the sobsister at 7:12 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't see it as validating the guy at all, or it even being written "for" him exactly, it's just using him as a point of departure for a larger message. It isn't just about rallying other women around what they are surely all too aware of, it's about making these things visible to everyone. It reminds me of the Vi Hart post not too long ago on the unwelcome attention she gets, where as part of her video we get to see her email in box with dozens of "Marry Me" emails.

In being visible, and being demeaned for simply being that, this acts as reversal, calling out all the many "clever" men who think of themselves as invisible, as singular, deserving of attention because their notice itself justifies it in their mind. These kinds of things are needed to call out the solipsism so embedded in internet culture, where everything has to correspond to "my" viewpoint because I only engage the world through this narrow minded point of view without awareness or concern with the lives of others.

It's easy to think oneself special and clever when you act in isolation or surround yourself only with those that see the world as you do. It's only through revealing how tedious and unaware these kinds of responses are that we can see the scale of the problem, and maybe, as an added bonus, shame a few clueless types into giving more weight to broadening their own perspectives.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:12 PM on August 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Perhaps if she had previously been extremely guarded in her revelations regarding her personal life, a shotgun blast of her psyche here would be more powerful as a statement and response rather than yet another iteration of her public persona.

The great thing about this piece is that she clearly doesn't care what anyone thinks about it. Not the trolls, and not the readers. The opinion about her body that matters is her own.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:26 PM on August 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think she's talking some asshole's comment and making it all about her in the same way that sort of jerk tries to make everything all about them.

Only, you know, better.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:33 PM on August 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


The great thing about this piece is that she clearly doesn't care what anyone thinks about it. Not the trolls, and not the readers. The opinion about her body that matters is her own.

I guess that, for me, the paradox would then lie in going to the trouble of drafting and publishing an article that is a detailed, if putatively ironic, apologia and not caring what anyone thinks of it. I suppose that the act could be read as a statement of self and might itself serve as catharsis, with the added benefit of possibly (a) being entertaining to fans and new audiences and (b) squashing the troll who set the process in motion.

Thanks for the thought.
posted by the sobsister at 7:39 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Masterful writing from a witty, confident and intelligent person.

I think it's a pearl cultured by the tiny dirty speck of a thoughtless comment.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:50 PM on August 18, 2016 [24 favorites]


As a fat lady on the internet I really wanted to like this, but no. Parts were funny but when you really don't care, you don't write long essays in rebuttal. I write quickly too but this was still pretty long for a "No fucks" reply. Also it veers into both good fatty and omghealthrisks territories and lawd I'd love to read about being fat without a mention of diabetes or heart disease.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:45 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


That was awesome.

If I could write like that you wouldn't need to speculate about my motivation; I'd be doing it because I can.
posted by mark k at 9:36 PM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm super looking forward to a point in our culture where we don't denigrate people for appearing to give any kind of fuck. How fucking tedious, to always be so worried about how many fucks other people might think you give about something, and to judge others on how many fucks they seem to give about something that we might want to pretend we give no fucks about.
posted by palomar at 9:44 PM on August 18, 2016 [27 favorites]


I typed out and erased all my bad jokes.

This

Is

Amaaaaaaazing
posted by meemzi at 9:52 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sara Benincasa is awesome. She's a WWC grad (hence the tattoo) and I got to meet her at a reading for Agorafabulous! in town a while back when she was eager to hang out with old friends but still had time to talk about the book and whether she got to ride the college tractors.

I think some of the comments miss the nuance of it being a response to "you got fat" rather than "you are fat", and the implicit demand that women must not change from a specific point in time when they are considered desirable from a distance. It's exploring the resistance to physical change as a shorthand for changes of ambitions and choice of work and place of residence and personal relationships. The denial of the capacity of women to become is so fucking patriarchy.
posted by holgate at 10:49 PM on August 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


the sobsister, I'm trying to figure out what you think she should have done instead of writing this piece that she wrote. Not write it at all? Why should a woman - who makes her living as a writer - be silent about criticism that she's received? Make it less personal? Why should a woman be silent about the things she's experienced? Have been less personal in the past? It seems like that's her style.

Maybe she wrote it caring about what the troll thought. Maybe she wrote it for other women to say "fuck yeah" to. Maybe it's a little bit of both because humans contain multitudes. Why does how he feels about it matter at all?
posted by lunasol at 11:19 PM on August 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


Aw, man, I wish more of those dresses were available in plus sizes.
posted by rewil at 11:33 PM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


The part where she quotes all the awesome responses to one of her books and brushes it off as a "fatty fatsy fatterino time" is seriously good.

And anyone "hrm"-ing about her giving attention to a troll, well: "And lest you think I took a ton of time out of my day to write this response: I took 10 minutes. I’m really fast at writing. I’m also great at it. I will forget about this after I hit “publish.” But will you forget about it? Can you? I don’t know. Now picture me whispering in your ear very, very softly: I don’t actually care."

The best part is just before that, though. It's worth reading the whole thing to get to that part and see how the entire piece works as a building strength of undeniable awesomeness in counterpoint to a measly flea.
posted by fraula at 2:25 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


lawd I'd love to read about being fat without a mention of diabetes or heart disease.

It's literally part of her family history though. Her grandmother lost both legs to type II. It's not just a notional risk here.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:07 AM on August 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


I wish I had the talent to take the kinds of opportunities that present themselves - like the comment did - and exploit them with the zeal of an oil company in a desert.

That was fun to read.
posted by Thistledown at 4:57 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


A few replies:

palomar: Not sure if your "denigrate" comment was indirectly aimed at me. If so, not even sure what you're talking about, unless simply questioning why someone does something equates to denigration in your mind, which, hey, you do you, but makes zero sense to me.

lunasol: I don't have an opinion as to what she should have done. I was simply curious as to why she seemed to be willing to give a troll the thing trolls want more than anything: attention, even in the form of abuse (which is the form of attention trolls generally get). She doesn't have to be "silent about criticism that she's received," but, if, in speaking out, she appears to give power to an abuser, that might not be the best tack to take.

fraula and others: Re: "And lest you think I took a ton of time out of my day to write this response: I took 10 minutes," the piece, by Pages' count, is 3,694 words, including cited quotes. This averages out to 369 wpm. Now, I'm a very fast writer and a pretty fast typist, but no. Let's assume that Ms. Benincasa is being a bit of an unreliable narrator here. And, I might hazard, perhaps elsewhere.

Again, good, funny piece, but I'll reserve my right to wonder about both her motivation in writing it and her explanation of her motivation in writing it.
posted by the sobsister at 5:17 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


You do that. The rest of us will go ahead and enjoy it.
posted by dersins at 5:19 AM on August 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


Well, I don't think she owes it to anyone to respond in some normative/correct way to an insult, as long as she's not answering evil with evil, which she clearly isn't. On current evidence, she herself knows best.
posted by tel3path at 5:21 AM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


You're questioning her motivations based on her comedically exaggerated statement of her typing speed?

When people want to doubt a woman, there's no limit their reach, is there.
posted by XtinaS at 5:29 AM on August 19, 2016 [39 favorites]


She doesn't have to be "silent about criticism that she's received," but, if, in speaking out, she appears to give power to an abuser, that might not be the best tack to take.

I, personally, think that it's almost always best to avoid criticising, even in neutral tones, a person's response to abuse directed at them. In situations like this, it also seems to contain something of the idea that there is a particular standard of response that women must live up to in order to avoid further criticism. "Don't feed the trolls" is a fine practical mantra in many situations, but it's not a moral obligation.
posted by howfar at 5:34 AM on August 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


I saw this not as giving power to an abuser, but an acknowledgement that internet trolls and other abusive assholes exist, but their attempts to shame her or reduce her to a role ("fat woman") are completely ridiculous because she's a person who has a story, but also a wildly successful woman who has overcome significant adversity and is living her life the way she wants. Trolls and other bullies succeed when they silence people they don't like, when they force us off the internet or out of parts of our lives. To say that you shouldn't respond to them ignores the realities of the situation: they attempt to take up so much space that there's nothing to do besides either respond or curtail your activities to avoid them, neither of which ever actually work. Her response is perfect.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:55 AM on August 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


Better get that insufferable asshole to the burn ward.
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:22 AM on August 19, 2016


I think being able to say or react however we want to assholes is part of disempowering them. Allowing ourselves to vent, talk back, say nothing or anything. I mean really the amount of judgment we do to being enduring abusing treatment for how they respond is PART of the abuse.

We can shift that by letting each other free to talk back, say what they feel, and support how different people deal with it.

I love her.
Do not stay silent. Being bound to silence and stoicism in the face of mistreatment is not taking any power from abusive people, if anything it hands it all to them.
To break the bonds of age old bindings on women's tongue-

Say me, wight in the broom,
What is me for to doon?
Ich have the werste bonde
That is in any londe.

If thy bonde is ille to thee,
set thy tonge free.
posted by xarnop at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Add me to the list of people who'd never heard of her before now and who are so very, very glad they've rectified that situation.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:55 AM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Misogyny is a worldwide malady afflicting the whole species and at times threatening to bring the human comedy to an end. (One of those times is now! We have a spectacularly rapey chauvinist running for president on a misogynist platform, and he's just publicized the fact that he signed up another spectacularly rapey chauvinist to be a campaign advisor.) As with racism, the cure for misogyny is air and light--it being one of those supergross afflictions that Langston Hughes was talking about that festers and runs and gets worse if it's covered over and kept hidden. So anybody who finds a hunk of time and a bit of inspiration and some energy to call out one of these no-empathy freakbags online is to be celebrated for doing beneficial work--even if they do it imperfectly they deserve praise and support because they're doing work that is time-consuming and difficult and they are doing it for the benefit of all of us here living on the planet. Not everyone can do this stuff, and no criticism is implied if someone can't or doesn't want to--nobody should have to do it. But whenever someone is brave enough to step in and try, that person deserves support and gratitude because that person is working to cure a disgusting disease that bleeds the joy out of all of our lives. It seems particularly churlish and ungrateful to criticize someone's attempt when it succeeds brilliantly and adds back the joy, as in this instance.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:13 AM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


What I loved about it was that she took a comment that could have easily caused (and could very well have been meant to cause) her to doubt or despise herself, and used it to enumerate all the awesomeness of herself and her talents and the life she has built. She turns the acid rain into fertilizer for her awesomeness. To me, that is the real Fuck Off to the trolls.
posted by tentacle at 7:16 AM on August 19, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'll reserve my right to wonder about both her motivation in writing it and her explanation of her motivation in writing it.

Maybe she wrote it because she fucking WANTED TO and also there doesn't have to be a REASON that a woman did something, she can just DO IT and that's enough.

Jesus.
posted by cooker girl at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2016 [44 favorites]


his reaction would not be "wow, I was really pwned. I guess I should change my abusive trollish ways,"

I mean I understand why you think that but it turns out that sometimes you're wrong.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:15 AM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh! Now during this time I began to think about weight. Not mine! I saw how women were criticized on the Internet and elsewhere for gaining weight. This intrigued me. I didn’t feel fat or unlovable. Should I? Hmm. I considered this and decided instead to make fantastic art instead, because I’m amazing at it.

HELL YEAH. Add me to the chorus of people who have never heard of Sara Benincasa, but who are now totally ready to subscribe to her newsletter, join her cult, read all the books, etc. Thank you for sharing this, Uncle; what a kick-ass way to start the day!
posted by the thought-fox at 8:19 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I loved this because I love her and agree with her on the majority of things, but also because I, too, have gained weight due to a medication that saved my life. My own personal trolls are a few mean family members who tsk-tsk about my weight, and this is exactly the kind of thing I fantasize about telling them: "I know, I should’ve stayed off it and just opened a vein and sat in my bathtub when I was miserable, leaving behind a pretty corpse (not skinny but, you know, ACCEPTABLE)"

It's the kind of frustrated yelling from rooftops against all the goddamn moralizing that happens around women's weight gain or loss. A good answer to all the feeble rage I feel towards anyone who suggests that intense daily suffering is worth it if I'm down a couple of dress sizes.
posted by witchen at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


...Blast Hardcheese, I just read the Lindy West TAL transcript you linked to, and. Jesus, that was powerful.

Excerpt:
People say it doesn't matter what happens on the internet, that it's not real life. But thanks to internet trolls, I'm perpetually reminded that the boundary between the civilized world and our worst selves is just an illusion.

Trolls still waste my time and tax my mental health on a daily basis, but honestly, I don't wish them any pain. Their pain is what got us here in the first place. That's what I learned from my troll.

If what he said is true, that he just needed to find some meaning in his life, then what a heartbreaking diagnosis for all of the people who are still at it. I can't give purpose and fulfillment to millions of anonymous strangers, but I can remember not to lose sight of their humanity the way that they lost sight of mine.

posted by the thought-fox at 8:30 AM on August 19, 2016


On the surface it was funny and smart. Very good. But it has layers, and they are good to.

I just deleted a long comment that made this all about me.

What I have left to say is that this article turned some things I knew to be true in an intellectual way into things that I know now are emotionally true. Does that make sense?
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'll reserve my right to wonder about both her motivation in writing it and her explanation of her motivation in writing it.

See, the thing is, I know you think you're taking the moral high road somehow when you insist that the only proper response to an internet troll is to ignore them. But what you're actually doing is siding with the troll. You're advocating silence in the face of abuse. You're telling women that they don't have the moral right to use their voice, you're shaming them for doing so by questioning their "motivation"... this is some pretty excellent concern-trolling, I have to grant you that, but it's disappointing to see here.
posted by palomar at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2016 [45 favorites]


Its OK for people to have varrying reactions to this piece, everyone. We don't all have to agree that every single fucking point rings perfectly clear as a bell. It doesn't make us anti woman if we respond to this in a slightly different way than you did.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:07 PM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


We need more of her!
posted by kinoeye at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Parody error!

(I payed $5 to make that joke.)


I'll send you a parody check to make up for it.
posted by srboisvert at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the righteousness of everything else but "Go save the Jews, Fat Golem" is my personal rallying cry henceforth.
posted by wreckingball at 10:19 PM on August 20, 2016




Again, good, funny piece, but I'll reserve my right to wonder about both her motivation in writing it and her explanation of her motivation in writing it.

The higher the horse, the higher the maintenance costs. Have you seen how much hay prices have risen during this drought? And the stud fees!

Anyway, yeah, if you are doing math on somebody's hyperbole, you've already missed the point.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:03 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would like…that little tiny cleaver that is engraved with the words "Fuck Off".
Made by a good friend of mine! He makes other, similar ones, too.

Apparently you can email him or send him a message on Instagram or Facebook to order--I don't think he has a separate website.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 12:34 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


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