Managing Critical Reviews

I knew that there would be readers of my book that didn’t share my point of view on fat. That was a given. I wrote my novel to share my thoughts on fat, equality and the right to choose to live any way that you want to regardless of your body size. And I’ve been working to get my book reviewed by more notable sites which is no easy task without an agent or good contacts. I’ve been wondering if the subject matter is a turn off to readers: does anyone really want to read about fat or a fat female protagonist? Then there is the issue of genre work-science fiction which, unfortunately, is seen as more low-brow reading. And then there is that writerly fear questioning the quality your own writing: is my work up to snuff with the rest of the writing world?

The other day I received a book review from someone on Amazon. His review didn’t mention the quality of the writing but rather my point of view. It was titled “A little mixed up,” and here is what the guy had to say:

“I don’t see why the author made criminalizing the obese like they do in the book sound like a bad thing. It’s written in a dystopian kind of way when it’s really utopian. This should basically be the Ideal Society Manifesto – minus the whiny obeast uprising.”

First, I didn’t know what “obeast” meant, specifically, though it was clearly not a compliment. According to the online Urban Dictionary, “obeast” means: severely overweight woman with any of the following : 1) Thick facial hair, 2) Hairy chest, 3) Fucked up Grill (teeth), 4) Wears bedsheet size clothing, 5) Has her own gravitational pull. Example: “At the club today, did you see that nasty ass OBEAST!”

It’s one thing to express your opinion about fat. We all have one, some more judgmental than others, but they exist within everyone. That’s to be expected. I wanted to spark a conversation about fat. I didn’t write my book to sit on the shelf and look pretty. I didn’t create my heroine, Delilah, to stand on the sidelines and let the haters tell her what to do.

Seeing this guy’s hateful review is precisely why I wrote Fatizen 24602. People have a racist revulsion for the bodies of fat people. I’ve seen fat prejudice in action. Sometimes it’s subtle but often it’s blatant. And sometimes it comes with a few choice words spoken right to the face. It’s not just that fat people are different. No, the hatred that spews from this kind of review reveals the truth that many people feel about the obese. The hatred of fat goes beyond a distaste for the obese: it’s about something much darker.

Fat prejudice grows out of fat phobia. So many people are terrified of fat. Some super obese individuals have even prayed to get cancer so they could finally lose the weight. It is a four letter word. The worst possible thing you can do is get fat. Gaining weight is a shame-filled traumatic experience that reduces the average person’s measure of self-worth to nothing. Some people have hypothesized the possibility that Jared’s weight loss (the former Subway fatty) was so powerful that (maybe) people saw that (somewhat) continued success in keeping it off blinded some to overlook his predilection for the more youthful in our society. And the chunky, substance using Toronto mayor Rob Ford recently stated: “The only way people are going to respect me, to bring back my image, is if I lose weight. The rest falls into place.”

I empower everyone to express their own opinion on fat. Personally, I find fat men and women to be a heavenly example of beauty. I make no apologies for that. If you hold a different ideal of what beauty is, well that just makes the world a fabulous place. However, when you equate fat people-fat women, specifically-to beasts, you reveal yourself to be an opportunistic bully that doesn’t find fat women attractive.

Limiting the value of a diverse society based on the type (or size) of person you find sexually appealing is a shallow approach to life. Diminishing other people based on looks and body size doesn’t do anything but proclaim a narrow-minded view for society. Hatred for others based on sexual orientation, religion, age, body size, ethnicity, gender or the color of skin is something that has been part of our world society for a long time. It’s doubtful that it will change anytime soon, but refusing to let ugly comments slide on by is something that we can do now.

If we allow the hateful actions of others to stand unabated and unchallenged, we lose some of our own humanity in the process. Bullies will continue their hateful bashing if we let them, and the ugliness continues. Hating the bodies of fat people isn’t a good enough reason to deny equality for everyone. Wanting “a healthy society” and caring for the “health” of others might be an altruistic desire for all, but not in the guise of hatred for fat as it is often used.

To the person who posted that review bashing fat people, make a better argument for diminishing the rights of others beyond your own utopian preference for a society free of the obese.

Who gives a damn what you find attractive.


2 thoughts on “Managing Critical Reviews

  1. Oh, Phil, I am so sorry that your book was attacked by a prejudiced idiot. First of all, please don’t start doubting your writing ability or ideas. There are other readers out there who won’t agree with this one guy who has his own agenda to wrestle with. It is, as you say, everyone’s choice to live as they feel best, and no one else has the right to contradict or challenge that choice,unless it’s illegal, just because they don’t agree. You know, when faced with situations like this, my answer is to bless them and go on my way. Enjoy your life, enjoy your new home,and to hell with that reader.

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