Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"fat-fingering"

Sounds dirty doesn't it?

Unfortunately it's not. It's actually a term that was used today in a HIPAA refresher training i had to sit through. The presenter's recurring use of the term "fat-fingering" to imply typing passwords, email addresses, phone numbers, etc, incorrectly left me alarmed. Weightist attitudes are a huge problem in our society and weightist comments are much more socially accepted nowadays than racist, sexist, or homophobic ones even though they are just as discriminatory. The problem of weight bias is very real and can be just as oppressive as the other "isms" we fight against. Since the presenter is also the same guy who does the cultural diversity trainings for our company (HAHA!), i know that he didn't mean to be offensive by using "fat-fingering" and probably didn't even realize he was saying anything wrong. The problem that i see with it is that using the term with a negative connotation only further perpetuates weightist attitudes. Whoever said "fat is a feminist issue" hit the nail right one the head...

Weight bias can interfere with getting a job, obtaining fair health care, being promoted, and being treated equally in general. I don't mean to be the p.c. police here, and i swear that as a feminist i have learned to pick my battles. I realize that he was simply using a term that may have been thrown around (although i must admit i've never heard it before) but the truth is, a lot of discrimination is intrinsic and unintentional. I don't think that all people who say discriminatory things are terrible people, i think a lot of them don't realize the effect of their words and/or never took the time out to consider it.

For example, i've mentioned before that i work at a substance abuse clinic and see a diverse population of clients. A year and a half ago a client walked into my office for an appointment in a really bad mood. As we started talking through why she was pissed, she explained that, "the chink at the nail salon jewed me!" Holy Shit, WHAT?! Yea... You'd imagine i had an incredibly had time navigating between remaining unbias for my job to maintain the rapport i've established with her and wanting to shake the hell out of her based on my feminist values. What did i do? I calmly repeated back to her what she said and explained how offensive she was being to a number of different racial/ethnic groups. She said she knew "chink" was offensive but was really angry (and offending the Asian woman was a defensive mechanism) yet didn't realize "jewed" was a bad thing to say. I explained that "jewed" was based on the concept that jews are cheap, to which she said, "well aren't they?" I don't know ya'll, what then? It's not my job to teach her social politics, or even manners for that matter. Being a Jew, I had a hard time with that. I tried to explain the background to terms like "jewed" and "gyped" and relate them to race because she was a quick one to speak up when the counselors were being racist. I related the words she used to "jimmied" which seemed to do the trick and she quickly understood.

Tangents aside, words have power that people do not intend them to. A lot of the time this creates problems because people don't think before they speak. We are constantly bombarded with social messages that are nothing but discriminatory and perpetuate white/male/hetero/"good looking"/Christian/etc. norms. It takes a lot of effort to walk through life with a constant critical lens and those who do it seem to bitch, rant, and rave, a lot (i very much included). It's easier to ignore the status quo but like the pin i got from one of my favorite teachers, Marita, says, "if you want peace, work for justice."

Back to the original point (sorry, i'm pretty distracted tonight,) weightism is not ok. Not only is it not okay but it's one of those means of discrimination that is often overlooked and not acknowledged making it even less ok. Especially with the current push out there to get everyone "fit" (by whatever means necessary, i.e. The Biggest Loser). Now please don't get me wrong, "thin" doth not "fit" and "healthy" make. There's this overarching concept (read: misconception) out there that thin = beautiful = happy. This equation is faulty on many levels. Firstly, thin does not equal beautiful. Many a woman is absolutely gorgeous with curves (to link a few media crazed examples.) Next, even thin & "beautiful" does not equal happy. There are many "beautifully" miserable women out there as well (i simply couldn't resist). Now i'm all about being fit and healthy, hell, i'm the loudest proponent of women lifting weights, staying active, being strong, kicking ass out there... but not because media tells us what is "beautiful." Overweight women (more so than men) are constantly overlooked. How many plus-size female CEOs do you know? Now think, how many male CEOs that you know are plus-sized. Exactly. Once again we are whacked with the double standard stick.

As much as i hate the idea of "i lived for a minute in an oppressed person's shoes [or fat suit] so now i know their struggle," Tyra Banks did a show where she wore a "fat suit" for a day and, followed by her cameras, "experienced" the trials and tribulations of being discriminated against because of weight. Although a lot felt off about the whole thing, it did bring light to the issue of weightism in our society to an audience that may have not considered it prior, this i believe to be a success.

For what it's worth, the presenter that used the term, "fat-fingering" apologized and commented on how glad he was that i was comfortable enough bringing this directly to him (read: and not going over his head). But really folks, he must not know me... He said he never considered that it may be offensive and will find a different term for future trainings.

Many a time i've had people read my blog only to comment that i "read into shit too much" and i need to "calm down and not take things so seriously." I guess i'll get preemptively defensive on this one: if you think that weightism and fat-hate doesn't exist, please see here. Not only does it exist (as represented on the video) in mainstream America, but also within the feminist community (check out the comments that correspond with the post.)

(oh and p.s. it's De-Lurking Week so please leave a comment or just say "hey, sup?" :) I'd love to see who reads and especially what your thoughts are. Feel free to leave post ideas and comments with what you love/hate. Also, leave a link to your blog, if you have, for me to check it out! I'd enjoy reading what you have to say!)

17 comments:

Smirking Cat said...

Oh, the infamous "you can't take a joke" defense, as if discrimination, sexism, racism, etc. are topics of hilarity. I've always said it's not that I think too much; it's that most people don't think enough, or not at all! Ignorance is a completely controllable defect that people simply have no discomfort with. Language is riddled with meanings. One of my pet peeves is calling women things like "female doctor" or "woman driver", like the default setting is male, so if you are not referring to a man, you must specify gender. Why aren't they simply doctors or drivers? Because mass society can't get past gender, and the main reason is, people don't even want to try. Laziness and sheer stupidity have gotten them by so far, so why start thinking now?

GottabeMe said...

Excellent post. Really, thanks for sharing that.

Oh, did you see Jon Stewart's commentary about what a non-event Hillary gettting a little bit choked up was? It's on my blog.

Renee said...

thing one- "fat fingering"??? Really?? What the hell does that even MEAN? It definitely sounds offensive, you're right.

thing two- HI! Thanks for reading my blog. I always love what you write and always agree 100%!

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

I love your name!!!!! And you blog.

And since it's Delurking WEEK. YO. YO.

Hillary said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog - I'm so glad because now I've found your blog.
I really enjoyed your post. Though I have to say that when I first read "fat fingering" I didn't automatically find it offensive - just dirty. Thanks for pointing out how weightism is just as damaging as sexism, etc. I'm the first to point out when someone is being homophobic or sexist but I'm a little ashamed to admit that I am not as sensitive to weight bias. I smell a new New Years' resolution :)
PS - the wedding dress did fit when I bought it; the problem is that sincing buying it I have become the laziest person on the planet and apparently have no metabolism to speak of.

PhD in Yogurtry said...

I never knew "jimmied" was offensive. What is the origin? I can guess the meaning of gypped but hadn't thought that any particular ethnic group would be offended (eastern europeans? not sure here)

I'm always disappointed seeing how often comedians use weightest humor. Especially Leno. I know their reference base is fat-phobic Los Angeles, but still.

Feminist Gal said...

Smirking cat: I 100% agree on the "woman doctor" "woman athlete" thing... it's so frustrating! It's also damaging for men "male nurse" - I mean really, do we need the gender description before everything that isn't stereotypically that gender?

PhD in Yogurtry, the way i've always been explained "jimmied" being racist is that "Jimmy" was a general name by which slaves were addressed. Slaves would be asked to do this that and the other thing which later (post slavery) started being referred to as "jimmying" (ie: jimmy the lock)
Also, black sprinkles are commonly known as "jimmies" (also racist).
There may also be even more to it but i can't seem to find it anywhere on the internet... let me know if you have better luck.

therapydoc said...

Oh, I'm thinking they could read a lot more into a lot more. Great post, and yes, the language sounds dirty, but insults always are.

Fidelbogen said...

"Many a woman is absolutely gorgeous with curves"

That is a statement I do not understand. I fail to see the point of it. It sounds peversely self-evident - like saying "grass looks best when green".

Does it mean to imply that "curves" are not normally considered "gorgeous" on a female body?

It has always been my understanding that "curves" (as a natural signifier of femaleness) are NORMALLY considered a mark of pulchritude.

I have always understood this to be the NORM. "Curvy" is the default condition of the NORMAL female body. (e.g. "broad in the beam" - which I'm pretty sure is the source for the slang expression "broad" [= woman]).

I have NEVER heard it said or suggested by any person, anywhere, at any time in my entire life, that a female body LACKING in curves was somehow preferable. In fact, quite the contrary.

Biological fact: It is NORMAL for a curvaceous female body to capture the roving male eye. This reflex is HARDWIRED in the species (for the sake of perpetuation thereof, ya know. ;-)

Furthermore, I am not aware of any strict correlation between body weight and curviness. It actually has more to do with the underlying skeletal framework. Body weight merely adds to the upholstery.

Feminist Gal said...

Fidelbogen: "That is a statement I do not understand. I fail to see the point of it. It sounds peversely self-evident - like saying 'grass looks best when green'."

I'm glad you see it that way, more people should.

Fidelbogen: "Does it mean to imply that 'curves' are not normally considered 'gorgeous' on a female body?"

To answer that question in short, yes. Contemporary American society views female beauty as very thin. The unattainable standard of beauty set up by the media is very thin, tall, tan, and often white. The female form that is considered “beautiful” by mainstream media often mimics that of a prepubescent girl.

Although i take issue with some of your "biological facts" about people being "hardwired" towards certain things, i am glad for your comment and thankful to see that even "Male Rights Movement" boys find women of all shapes and sizes attractive, not just the status quo.

Fidelbogen said...

even "Male Rights Movement" boys find women of all shapes and sizes attractive, not just the status quo.

"Even" such people? Wassup with that...? ;)

I'm not exactly sure what the 'male rights movement boys' find attractive - I've never polled them specifically on that topic (re: 'girls of all shapes and sizes'). However, I would assume that they are not much different from the overall male norm which I have personally observed all my life - as described in my foregoing comment.

I'm also not sure which 'contemporary American society' you refer to - some parallel universe maybe? (Yes yes, I know: the media IS a parallel universe! Like a vampire, actually. Good thing that a lot of us 'male rights boys' have Killed Our TVs, eh? ;)

However, in the real, everyday contemporary American society, (as opposed to the media-hyped one or the ideologically constructed one) I can assure you it is the voluptuous, Rubenesque female form which overwhelmingly draws the "male gaze". NOT the hat-tree kind. And yep, I'm pretty sure this is hardwired. (Sadly, Mother Nature ain't always PC! Hey, maybe we can organize a letter-writing campaign against her and she'll straighten out her politics! Ya think?? ;)

At any rate. . . such has been my repeated anthropological observation of the male tribe for many years. That is the gold standard; you can take that observation to the bank.

Colt said...

Well maybe fat people shouldn't be fat. Then we wouldn't have this problem.

FeministGal said...

Although i usually moderate my comments so that ignorant, rude, and discriminatory shit like this doesn't get through, i thought it was a perfect illustration of the weight-discrimination that exists today.

Oh and Colt, don't let the door hit you on the way out asshole.

Anonymous said...

Instead of complaining about it and crying over it and screaming "no fair".

JUST LOSE THE FUCKING WEIGHT. It's not healthy to be a FAT FUCK anyway.

FeministGal said...

I'll reiterate, I usually moderate comments so that ignorant, rude, and discriminatory shit like that doesn't get through but i thought it was a perfect illustration of the weight-discrimination that exists today.

Thanks Anonymous, all you've proven with that comment is that you're an asshole.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually not prejudiced against fat people. I dated a fat chick once. But she was on a diet and motivated to losing the weight.

All my comment proves is that I have a problem with WHINY LIBERALS ON A CRUSADE TO MAKE EVERYTHING AN "ISSUE".

The term "fat-finger" is not at all discriminatory against whiny fat fucks like yourself. If anything, it's making fun of people with LARGE DIGITS. IE- Big fingers.

You're fat. And you're a feminist. And you can't seem to have a happy, fulfilling relationship with a man. Your choice- your problem. Not our's. Get off your soap box. You're preaching about shit that makes no sense.

Seriously. Who cares if most men don't wanna date or have sex with a fat chick. Most women don't want to date a man who has no money and doesn't shave. *shrugs* I get off my ass and go to work every day and shave every morning. Maybe you should start your day with a low carb breakfast and some stomach crunches.

FeministGal said...

"Anonymous" your comment is fucked up on so many levels that i won't address it here but rather post about it tomorrow. Make sure you tune in for that, maybe you'll learn something.