Blanket Terminology and Dan Savage

There has never in a point in my life where I have thought having a term to refer to a large diverse group of people was acceptable. After reading Dan Savage’s so called ‘response’ to this weekends uproar over a huge history of fat phobic comments he has made, most recently and in the past. His response was to his co-worker, Lindy West, who basically called him out on his history of comments. I was mostly struck by the fact that he was referring to all fat people in the most dehumanizing blanket term available, “The obese.”

If you are unaware of the whole thing, check out Kate Harding’s post regarding it, after Dan’s first response was one he wrote to Kate three years ago. While your at it read Lindy West’s amazing post that relates to the Dananigans (Dan + shenanigans = HA!)

My gut reaction to his use of ‘the obese’ was to put it in relation to using ‘the gays’ to talk about all people align themselves with the LGBT movement. While the comment below doesn’t state what I meant as eloquently as I would have liked I can say that the meaning was to point out that any form of blanket terminology is dehumanizing to the people who may and or may not associate themselves with that term, and the general public (and Dan) stupidly assumes that they would fall under.

“Can i refer to all the people in the LGBT community as ‘the gays’ because I want to smash my head into my laptop screen if I read ‘the obese’ again. Way to dehumanize a whole class of people Dan.”

Using one term to talk about an entire group of people makes you look stupid, and rude, but mostly stupid. You are denying that there is diversity in a group of people that might feel common ground in a larger movement. You are also denying that there is diversity in the beliefs or characteristics of those people that you place under that blanket term. Not all fat people have the same life, we do not all have the same job, or body, or person. We are separate and should expect to be treated as people, not a generic term that labels us as diseased ‘others.’

P.s. I do apologize if my comment offended anyone, apparently bigoted induced rage makes me not explain myself very well.


7 thoughts on “Blanket Terminology and Dan Savage

  1. Actually, I would say that “the obese” is parallel to “the homosexuals” – both terms have been used to medicalize a human trait.

    • You are correct. I think my reaction was due to hearing my aunt use that term so much it makes my ears bleed.

  2. It reminded me more of the way the bigoted often like to use ‘homosexual’ to impose the social orders dubious medicalisation of facets of human nature. Ditto ‘obese’, I don’t give a damn about the word itself although it is stupid.

    It’s more the idea that a class of let’s face it mostly men think they have the right to brand people with terms and identities that they are just supposed to live down to according to their whim, dislodging their own reality as if it never even existed.

    It’s the powerplay, the sense of us as some kind of slave or servant of the establishment that I don’t like. Those using it align themselves with power that will ultimately be used against themselves.

    • Totally agree. I know the majority of my male family members have done this in relation to pretty much every stigmatized group of people. The use of the word obese doesn’t particularly bother me either, it’s the stripping away of individual characteristics that I think is the issue. Also while he is trying to say he isn’t fatphobic and only interested in the ‘news’ he uses a very dehumanizing term, which basically refutes anything he is trying to say.

  3. Yes, of course! Saying ‘the obese’ or ‘the gays’ is dehumanizing. You are no longer human, no longer a person, but a gay, a fattie*, a generalization, a stereotype. I have no problem with someone calling me an obese person, or a gay person, because those are adjectives, descriptions, and include the word PERSON. They aren’t nouns that make me feel like some sort of separate species, some sort of nonhuman.
    Great post. Good brain food. (:

    *Of course, I have no problem with the word fattie, or people calling themselves a fattie, but it can be used in hateful, prejudiced ways, and it is those instances that I oppose it. The usage of the word, but not the word itself.

  4. Wouldn’t it be “the gay,” though, rather than “gays”? I thought the Dehumanization Blob Formula went “the + singular adjective.”

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