Monday, February 11, 2008

This is not a post about VegNews

Read a book review on Salon.com today that was so great I had to draw your attention to it.

It's a review of both Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin's book Skinny Bitch and also their recently released companion cookbook, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. In the review, Julie Klausner describes how both books are basically vegan manifestos masquerading as diet books. And not just any diet books, but mean ones. (And popular -- Skinny Bitch was a New York Times bestseller and is currently (2/11/08) ranked #38 on the Amazon.com bestsellers list.)

I've flipped through Skinny Bitch in the bookstore and was appalled at how nasty it was. Klausner's review points out a few of the meaner lines, like "you need to exercise, you lazy shit," and "don't be a fat pig anymore." The whole book is littered with that kind of inspirational language. Klausner relates the reaction of a formerly anorexic friend of hers: "When you have an eating disorder, that's the voice you hear in your head all the time." So isn't it lovely to know that this book is reaching such a large audience, no doubt including teenagers who are just reaching their prime purging years?

Another obnoxious aspect of this book discussed by Klausner is that the reader thinks she is getting a diet book (bad enough) and ends up getting a self-righteous lecture on how non-vegans represent everything wrong with America. So basically Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin are awesome perfect gorgeous human beings, and the reader is a fat, cruel, thoughtless piece of shit. Never mind that these two lovely ladies came straight from that wholesome, totally unproblematic asset to our society known as the modeling industry (with virtually no credentials in the field of diet and nutrition, but why should they let that stop them?) -- they are still superior to you, since you "are crap".

Does all of this smug, self-congratulatory, anti-fat, pro-vegan bullshit ring a bell for anyone? You know, remind you of anything? Well, it's no coincidence. Rory Freedman writes for VegNews, and those assholes have been falling all over themselves to promote the book. Their August newsletter gleefully informs us that "Getting out the message that it's easy to be skinny and healthy when you don't fill your body with junk food like meat and dairy is a snap when the advice comes from someone as smart and charming as our very own Skinny Bitch."

As for me, I'm just having such trouble deciding. Which is the more egregious waste of carbon: meat-eating, or Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin?

13 comments:

Julie Klausner said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Mary. xx

Melissa said...

A Vegan magazine promotes this kind of talk?
Wow I'm amazed. That just blows me away.
The moment I seen the words "Skinny" and "Bitch" together the thought in my head was, oh this is going to get nasty lol.

Thanks for the review.

meg said...

Are you telling me that the review didn't mention misogyny? Because that seems at least as much part of the book as fatophobia.

Paging whoever it is (Baudrillard?) who says that ideal feminine beauty is rooted in punishing the body to please the male gaze...

Mary said...

Julie, thank *you* for your great review, and for stopping by. Love your blog too!

Meg, as for misogyny, I think it's inherent in the whole body hatred thing. Of course men are not immune to it, but I do think that it affects women more commonly, and more deeply. "Fat is (still) a feminist issue," as they say. Though having said that, I should also say that I don't mean to trivialize men's eating disorders.

(Meg, are you saying you've *read* the fucking thing, btw?)

In any event, as pointed out in Klausner's review, soon men will be treated to their own version of this fabulous book, called Skinny Bastard. Thank god for gender-balanced hatred!

meg said...

Yes, of course, fat is a feminist issue -- for our lifetimes and our friends' children's lifetimes.

But (and, no, I didn't read either review or book -- that's what I've got you for) this book seems to be strumming a different chord on the autoharp of misogyny.

[The multistringed instrument of misogyny should probably be a zither rather than an autoharp, given that Hellenistic Greece was a far more lady-loathing place than Appalachia.]

Sdswmr said...

I read that review in Salon also and was struck by the idea of thoughts in our heads, playing out old roles (not for the first time, of course, but I seem to need constant reminders). Then I thought of tv's "The Biggest Loser" where the purpose seems to be to deliberately shame and humiliate those people: displaying them half-naked and making comments about their physiognomy (because character must be represented in the body, right?). I read "A Perfect Mess" this summer and had the same reaction: it's not me after all, it's them. The arrogant know-it-alls who set themselves up as the judge, jury and executioner.

well, our society is extremely moralistic, and self-loathing. That dimension has to exist so that the 'winners' can crow over the 'losers' so they don't have to live a life of healthy self-examination.

Lastly, I just reread "Desiderata." The line "beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself" is something to remember.

Mary said...

Meg -- this book definitely ratchets up the cruelty, but I didn't think it was particularly misogynistic any more than fat hatred itself is already misogynistic.

Also, they are coming out with a version for men (different authors, as I recall) that will no doubt also be very nasty and will manage to make its readers feel like shit even though they have dicks. Based on my reading other fat blogs and stuff, it seems that although it is mostly women who are out there talking about self-hatred relating to fat, there are plenty of men who feel it acutely and they are beginning to speak up too. The "winners" and "losers" that sdswmr references can be men or women.

Mary said...

FYI: Comment moderation has now been turned off again. The trolls seem to have slithered back under the rocks from whence they came. If you notice a super-nasty comment, though, please feel free to slam them in case I don't get around to it right away.

Brother Seamus said...

"As for me, I'm just having such trouble deciding. Which is the more egregious waste of carbon: meat-eating, or Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin?"

Why decide--let's kill two birds with one stone by simply eating Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin!

On second thought, that won't do--there's probably no meat on their bones. Damn, all my good ideas...

Brother Seamus said...

Btw, here's a good little blurb about this topic, complete with a apropos new term:

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/2/13/123325/709

Sdswmr said...

This link: http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/2/13

has expired. What's the title, so I can look it up?

thanks.

Mary said...

Here it is again.

The link is working for me. If you can't get it, go to Grist and search for "vegangelical".

K said...

If I had to choose between having a little honey or dairy and being a "bitch" [an ugly word, anyway] to my fellow humans, I think I'm gonna choose the honey, thanks.