Monday, May 19, 2014

More on Louis CK and Fat Women

The days following Louis CK's latest episode of Louie, me (and everyone) writing about it, has been really interesting. It's pretty clear that there is no ONE universal reaction to this episode of the show. While fat ladies (like myself) have been excited about it, others have been much more critical.

In one interaction with another fat positive blogger, I heard the argument that he's getting all the credit for saying what fat ladies have been saying forever. Another outspoken critic is Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, who wrote a piece which has been sent to me by many people now.

In it, McEwan shares some important things to consider in this discussion, like how the scene on the show ignored the fact that there are many dudes who are actually happily attracted to, and in love with, fat women. Fair enough.

But I do really differ from her on a few topics in particular. She wrote:
It would be significantly more radical, and more progressive, for Louis CK to simply have had his character be attracted to and date and fuck a fat woman without any commentary about her weight at all. Like lots of men already do.
It's continually amazing to me how comedians (and other people in the entertainment industry) are obsessed with documenting how fat the entire US outside of NY and LA are, but can't wrap their heads around the idea that fat women are loved and get laid.
Which doesn't negate the idea that there is prejudice against fat women. It's just that there's a pretty obvious way to challenge that prejudice that doesn't consist of a speech in which Louie Learns to Be Nice to a Fat Girl for a Minute.
[Emphasis mine.] And here is really where I disagree with McEwan significantly and why I found the episode important...I saw CK's point NOT to be that "Louie learns to be nice to a far girl for a minute" or "Louie dates a fat chick" but rather, "Louie actually listens to a fat girl and realizes that he's been a hypocritical dick about the interactions between fatness and gender."

If CK wrote about Louie dating Vanessa without commentary, like McEwan suggests, it would go over many of his viewers' heads. There would be no message for them at all. Further, CK wasn't trying to just say, "Hey guys, let's be nicer to fat ladies." He was instead, in my interpretation, reflecting on his own past views and behaviors and calling himself (and others out) on some deep biases.

Watching the scene in the context of the entire episode makes this much more clear. (McEwan notes she only watched the clip in question.) At the beginning CK and a fat male friend are ogling thin women in the street and then indulge in two full meals back to back, all before he meets Vanessa and quickly declines her asking him out. These scenes weren't in there by accident; they're intended to highlight that CK, himself, is not thin, but has bought into the notion that female attractiveness and thinness are one in the same, and treats Vanessa shorta shittily because of that.

So to me, CK demonstrating this hypocrisy is him wanting to do better and be better. As I wrote before, his recent work portrays someone who is actively evolving and learning. Is it perfect? Clearly not! But look, Louis CK is widely beloved by a lot of guys who would never think critically about this stuff. If he is able to use that platform for a moment to capture their minds in a "whoa, that's true" moment, then that's a step in the right direction. A small step. A first step. But a step nonetheless.

I mean, I really, really wish that voices like McEwan's were preferenced in the media such that sexism and fatphobia were more cleanly dismantled, but that's not the case. CK has a platform. His viewers are some of the same men who would arrive at this blog and think of me as a complainy "fat bitch" (which they have NO problem telling me regularly) so I am all in favor of him moving the needle, even slightly, in their behaviors and attitudes.

McEwan ends with saying she's not giving out any cookies to CK for this episode...and really, that's fine. I get it. I totally see where she's coming from, but as she writes,
Now, my saying I hated it doesn't mean I think you should hate it. Like what you like! It's just that there are a whole lot of places to talk about enjoying the scene and thinking it's terrific and congratulating Louis CK on his awesomeness, and I wanted to provide a space where fat women (and others) who didn't like it could safely talk about that, too. 
That space is valid and needed and I'm glad she (And others. And others.) are talking about that. Because to me, that's the real victory of this whole episode and topic: People (a whole lot of them) are talking about the experiences and treatment of fat girls.

And guess what? Those things are as diverse as the reactions to that episode. It's almost like there is no fat-girl-opinion-monolith. Hm. How novel!

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