Tagged: it’s food not a stain on my soul

Self-righteous foodies make mockery of actual poverty. News at 6.

I’ve got a real thing about “live below the line” challenges.  The key point is that taking a week out of your “normal” life to “experience poverty” can never even come close to the grinding, wearying shittiness of poverty.  And plenty of things are manageable when you know there’s a finish line.  Poor people don’t get a finish line.

Fuck, even American Dad! managed to do a half-assed job showing this.

But we’ve hit a new low.  And that low is Ella Rose and rEvolution of Waiheke Island’s particularly shitty, preachy, profiteering spin on the matter.

While highlighting the plight of the world’s poor is a top priority, Rose says the challenge for her is about much more than starving yourself for a charity.
“We live in a world where the numbers of obese people now are greater than the number of people starving, a world where over a billion people are barely surviving on less than NZ$2.25 a day, and where 70% of the extreme poor are women and children,” she said. “I see the challenge as an opportunity for me to make intelligent food choices and to reflect deeply on our relationship to health, nutrition, and our global food production and distribution systems.”

The point of this challenge, however flawed, is not to pat yourself on the fucking back for knowing people who will sell you fucking hipster organic juice for wholesale prices.  It is not about setting yourself up as an example to prove to the stupid poor people that their children will do just fine with kale chips which are totally affordable on a per-chip basis.

If only the Global Poverty Project team had bothered to explain this to Ella Rose before publishing her self-promoting bullshit for her.


s.e. smith has written a great post on the general topic of bullshit poverty challenges; The Little Pakeha beat me to the line posting about this specific example:

I can only imagine she’s making some very intelligent food choices to be able to afford any of what she listed. The juice bar she’s partnered with, rEvolution, sells a medium juice for $5.50 – making two medium juices her entire food supply for the week with 25c left over. Presumably she has access to their wholesale supplier’s prices, which will really help her to be empathic about the everyday struggles of poverty.

The Greens hate fat people, too

I was trying to summon the willpower to really engage with and critique the Greens’ food policy, but really, I’ve said enough about our demonisation of fatties and I just lack the spoons to point out in detail how the science around nutrition and diet is so far from settled it’s a joke, or to explain with pretty diagrams just how utterly corrupt a lot of the science around nutrition is.

Let’s just say, I think we should be thankful no large proportion of the NZ agriculture industry is dependent on corn.  And now, I ramble a little.

Seriously, @thelemonofpink was entirely on the money:

I… Am not sure how I feel re Greens’ unhealthy food labelling policy. Gut reaction: food policing bullshit.

And … yeah, pretty much.  The policy is a paint-by-numbers “fat is bad, sugar is bad, sodium is bad, kids don’t know where apples come from” bullshit.

It’s really disappointing to me because the Greens are simultaneously pushing a “people deserve to be informed” policy, yet ignoring the fact that study after study shows that pushing “healthy” foods and “lifestyles” on kids does fuck all to change their weight.  Ignoring the fact that any policy which treats weight as a symptom of poor choice not only doesn’t work but invariably leads to bullying and stigmatisation.  Ignoring the fact that in a culture as weight- and lifestyle-obsessed as ours, it’s really hard to fucking fathom how anyone could not have heard a million times before breakfast that they need to eat less, move more, buy whole foods, learn to cook, count calories, cut the fat, 5+ a day.

It comes down – as it always comes down – to the idea that being fat is a moral failing and if only the poor stupid fatties could be told that bacon is a sin and apples are a virtue then they’d just stop being fat!

We reject this kind of bullshit when we’re talking about poverty, and the Right insist that the poor just make bad choices and thus deserve to live in damp, dark homes, or that people choose to live on the dole because it’s so much money, or solo parents on the DPB just don’t want to look for work.  When it’s food, and fatness?  Suddenly personal responsibility is everyone’s favourite card to play.

And all of you queuing up to tell me that this kind of discussion isn’t eliminationist?

The Green Party envisions an organic nature where:

… New Zealand is a healthier nation without epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes or other food-related chronic health problems.

Yep, there we go again labelling people’s bodies as a disease.

I expect the Green Party to be better than this.  But they’re not.  Because fatness is certainly not “the last” acceptable form of prejudice, but it’s certainly one of the last where otherwise-liberal, anti-discrimination people drink the “but it’s scientific!!!” Flavor Aid.

Iain Lees-Galloway believes in bad science and blaming poor people

Iain Lees-Galloway, MP for Palmerston North, opened a Burger King store there.

He’s also Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson.

The reaction in our media was completely predictable:  OMG, how dare he promote ~bad foods~, that’s not ~healthy~, he’s ~promoting obesity~.  Iain himself had some cute prepared lines about Burger King being a sometimes food and the company having a ~responsibility~ to ~help people make bad choices~.

After all, obesity is rising!!!!!

Initially, I had a big ol’ post typed out about why this is stupid.  But I really can’t be bothered rehashing the same shit, so here’s the bullet points:

  • obesity figures compiled by the Ministry of Health are based on BMI.  So they’re simply bullshit, even if they did show anything resembling a OBESITY EPIDEMIC!!!!!!!!11
  • the “poor choices” narrative to explain obesity is sanctimonious assholery
  • poverty
  • ethnicity
  • just a minor aside, just when are the Labour Party going to get the “stop fulfilling the right’s nanny state propaganda by trying to dictate how people live their lives” memo?

Newsflash: Food is delicious

So the nice Prime News anchorperson just popped up on the telly to let us know that tonight’s broadcast is going to include something described as “doctors call for graphic advertising to combat the obesity epidemic”.*

Initial disclaimer:  I have no intention of watching the broadcast involved because (a) I do not expect it to contain any original thought and (b) I choose not to subject myself voluntarily to baseless fat-hate and (c) I’m not allowed to throw the television out the window.

So.  “Graphic advertising” designed to “combat” the “obesity epidemic”.**

Let’s just leave aside the  eternal “no such animal” debate for the moment.  “Graphic advertising”.  Wonder what that could be based on?

Well, we have graphic advertising about speeding / driving while drunk.  Moral of the story?  Speeding/drunk driving = bad/gross.

And we have graphic advertising about smoking.  Morale of story?  Smoking = bad/gross.

So how do you reckon these “anti-obesity” ads are going to run? Oh right. Eating the [current] Bad Foods as judged by society and a massive industry premised on body-hating and failure = bad/gross.  It’s a totally new and creative riff on the good ol’ this is how the bad food looks when it’s in your stomach bogeyman.

Because a low-fat chicken Caesar salad would look so appetizing when blended into a smoothie.

And because of course the “being fat = gross” message isn’t already broadcast loud and clear on a daily basis (hence the panic when studies show that moderately-not-thin women “don’t realise” they’re “overweight”).***

But none of that is actually the point.


The point is that these ads are part of a bigger, wider problem: our complete fucking disconnect in the wonderful totes-secular West from the fact that we are biological beings and we’re all going to die some day.

This is something that’s a several-posts-long thing to unpack, but for now, let’s consider:  we do actually need food to live.  Eating is actually a good thing.  Consuming foods is not some lesser-of-two-evils moral conflict for which we must eternally self-flagellate.  We don’t have to feel bad for lacking the willpower just to starve to death instead of letting filthy biomatter pass our lips.

Given this, it’s not some kind of massive leap of faith to assume that eating food might be something we, as breathing bloody meaty entities, might find enjoyable.

It’s also a bit childish to act like you can tell what’s “bad” for you by how it physically appears after being chewed, mixed with saliva, and bathed in stomach acid for a while, and whether it looks “gross”.  (See Caesar salad note above.)  But it ties nicely into our fear of acknowledging that we’re made of meat and that once something comes off a beautifully-presented plate into our mouths it’s literally a fairly visceral process.  One which literally does not care whether the calories it’s burning are being pulled out of a crunchy fresh lettuce leaf or a buttery pie shell.

This proposed ad “campaign” can only be premised on us finding our very existences icky, and by association the food we nom on.  Diet culture tries to spin us the illusion that by limiting ourselves to Good Foods – and hating every mouthful for being a necessary evil in the continuance of our wretched mortal existences – we can ignore the “gross” bits, the meaty bits, the stomachy bits, the crapping bits.

Well, sorry, y’all, but we’re humans.  We eat food, we enjoy it, we crap it out when our bodies are done with it and that’s how we keep on living.  It all looks gross in the end.  Any ad which ignores that and is based on making us hate a vital part of our lives and will almost directly put money into the pockets of a global industry which exists to spread hatred and prejudice and low self-esteem?  Probably not actually working for the forces of good.  Or “health.”


*Complete with grossed-out looking guy drinking a “shake” apparently made of liquified pies.


***I swear I’m going to wear out my sarcasm-quotes on this one.

“But it’s Christmas!” “But I don’t care!”

[The following takes place between 12:00am and 1:00am, and also specifically focuses on individuals’ choices to be vegetarian and attend Christmas family gatherings.  Obviously the principles in question are not unique to vegetarianism or Christmas; and in other situations other considerations/context may apply.]

I was at a loss for a post this evening, and went in search of any NZ media touting Christmas ZOMG OBESITYTURKEY panic.  I’ve always thought it’s a cruel joke of nature, to lumber Southern Hemisphere women simultaneously with Christmas – and associated Enjoy The Season of Gluttony But Don’t Actually Enjoy It headlines – and summertime – with associated Beach Bikini Body Blubber-Blasting sidebars.

Anyway, my search went happily unrewarded as far as anything interesting, text-based and quickly snarkable went.  But this popped up instead.

It’s the New Zealand Vegetarian Society’s Christmas 2010 page on dealing with your family being shits to you because you don’t eat meat.

I don’t intend to hassle the Vegetarian Society here as I think they’re offering some good, calming advice to their members.  I just want to provide the more bolshy advice on stuff like this:

most people choose to graciously ignore the worst behaviour, and engage only in discussions where both parties will be listened to. If you’re challenged politely and a conversation would be productive, it’s a great opportunity to educate people. In other times, agreeing to disagree is the easiest way to extricate yourself from a confrontation.

1.  You do not have to ignore bullying

Because that’s what it is, even when it’s your family and even when you’ve internalized a lot of bullshit about how your choices are “weird” or “abnormal” and how “regular people” cannot be expected to understand.  Or show, you know, basic fucking manners.

Of course you can be gracious if you like, and you can make that compromise, because that’s what we all do; it’s basically impossible to live a life without ever letting a principle go or choosing your battles or whatever.

But it is bullying.  And you have every right to say “Gee, Uncle Tony, that’s really rude and I’d like you to not comment on my choices.”  Or, alternatively, “Gee, Uncle Tony, why don’t you just have a nice big mug of shut the fuck up?”

2.  You do not have to educate anyone

Your life never has to be a teaching moment for other people.  Again, if you have the energy/time/spoons and the desire, go for it.  But we’re looking at this in a specific context, with family pressure and social narratives and sodding Christmas fever everywhere.

The people who will listen to you about your food choices aren’t the ones still bringing it up over the dinner table.

3.  You do not have to fucking agree to disagree

These are your fucking food choices, not abstract philosophical wank.  It’s your fucking mouth, not the town square.  When people “disagree” with you being vegetarian, they are implicitly demanding a change in your behaviour.  By “agreeing to disagree” you implicitly allow them to feel entitled to do so.

4.  The Big One:  Christmas is not fucking special and neither is family

When I was little I loved Christmas.  I loved seeing my family.  I always knew my mother didn’t feel the same way.

But over the last few years as I’ve become A Proper Adult and started to be a little … blunt about some things, I’ve stopped enjoying it so much.

Then a few months ago my mother explained that not only did she not enjoy family Christmas events when I was little, she would regularly be in tears afterwards.

I related this to my partner.  Who gave me a “duh” expression and said “Hun, you always come home and cry after seeing your family for Christmas.”

I do love my family.  I do enjoy catching up with them.  But there is clearly something demonic about the combination of family and Christmas.  The pressure to fulfil tradition, to prove to the universe we all not only love each other but really, really love each other, to make everything perfect.*

There’s so much stress that for a lot of people, clearly, Christmas doesn’t leave them feeling like they’ve caught up with their relatives and had a good time; and Boxing Day is for working off the hangover and declaring “I’m not sodding doing this again next year!”  Which of course you do.

Point?  If it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it.  If the exhaustion isn’t the good, happy fatigue of having done something hard but fulfilling, if the hangover isn’t the good-yet-annoying hangover of staying up till 3am catching up with people whose lives you deeply care about, if the leftovers don’t taste any good because every mouthful reminds you of another dig Auntie Mary made about your weight … well, fuck tradition.  Fuck sacrificing your happiness so other people can tick their My Family Is Normal box.**

It is never a good thing to come home and say “Well, I had a shit time but at least I’ve seen the family.”

Neither the Spirit of Christmas nor the demands of family are worth your happiness.***

5.  The chaser:  bullies do not deserve your delicious food.

The Vegetarian Society also suggests:

Providing your own beautifully presented and yummy dish is an excellent way to quell any ongoing comments.

Which could totally work.  But if your family really are such fucking tools that they simply have to harass you on family occasions about your nothing-to-do-with-them food choices, they do not deserve your delicious food or the time you take to present it beautifully.  They’ll probably just keep making obnoxious comments about how it could be improved with real butter or how much they just cannot believe it has no meat in it.

Make your delicious, beautiful dish.  Take it to a friend’s place.  Or hell, set the table nicely, take a photo for your Facebook or Flickr, and then eat that damn delicious veggie dish straight from the serving plate with a big spoon in one hand and a good book in the other.  In front of a roaring fire.  With some angry punk music playing.  Whatever floats your boat.

ETA: Related post:  It’s okay not to holiday at FWD/Forward.


*See also weddings.

**And ain’t that just problematic on so, so many levels.

***Let me get there before you, detractors:  yes, this is a very selfish wee rant.  I don’t fucking care.  We get one life on this planet and wasting it because This Is How Things Should Be Done is a really shit idea.

CPAG asking the wrong questions

Maia has an excellent post which drew my attention to this chest-beating piece about nasty junk food straight from Satan’s bottom being served up to our innocent kiddies, leading them inevitably down the path to BEING FAT, truly a fate worse than death by poverty-induced starvation.

Let’s first look at the post itself.  Maia suggests it’s written by Anne Else, a  woman whose work I thoroughly love.  Except for this one, of course.  And Anne, I must beg your forgiveness pre-emptively, but I am pissed off.

Clue 1:

Apart from the Oreos, a US “treat” that used to be unobtainable here, the other three things are all brands I’ve never seen before.

O for the halcyon days when Kiwi kiddies weren’t being tempted into obesity by filthy Oreos, and remain lithe and active on a steady diet of made-in-New-Zealand Tim Tams!  Just a thought:  the reason you – and I – haven’t seen these brands before probably has something to do with neither of us living in deprived suburbs where well-known brand names fear to tread thanks to the local consumers not being exactly flush with cash.

My friend worked out that for $2.50, children get “almost no dietary fibre, 40mg vitamin C, rather more salt than they need, 35% of their daily requirement for simple sugars, quite a lot of fat, and about 25% of their total daily energy needs. That is, they get a lot of empty calories.

“Empty calories” is a pet hate phrase of mine.  I direct y’all at this point to the Fat Nutritionist’s post on this subject, and particularly to the handy-dandy pyramid of food needs.

You see what’s right there on the bottom?  Enough foodEnough.  Empty calories aren’t so fucking empty when just getting enough calories is a pretty big achievement.

But let’s not forget there’s also

quite a lot of fat

QUITE A LOT, PEOPLE.  Oh.  My.  God.  Because as we all know, fat is a disgusting substance which exudes an aura of pure degradation and immorality and taints all who are even close to it (hey, knowing fat people makes you fat, after all!).  It certainly isn’t a major part of your brain matter or anything, and definitely doesn’t play any kind of role in even the most “health”-conscious of balanced diets (but only in the form of EVOO, of course).  CHILDREN ARE EATING FAT!! QUITE A LOT OF IT!!  Shit, that’s probably something to do with that enough food thing again.

And 25% of their total daily energy needs?  Cripes, it’s almost like that’s what they’d have at breakfast.  If they had breakfast.  Because that’s not an assumption we should be making.  Just because a dairy owner calls it a “school lunch” to take the sharp edges off our moral outrage.

Speaking of which:

She asked the dairy owner if he was embarrassed about selling this stuff to school children, and he said no, because “it’s what they like”. So she asked if he would give this to his own children for lunch. He eventually said no, because “they didn’t like it”.

You know what dairy owners can probably do that a lot of parents in South Auckland can’t?  Buy instrumental food.  Buy food on the basis of nutrition and variety and “health”.  What they probably don’t have to do (but hey, recessions are shit for everyone who ain’t part of the overclass, so this isn’t a given) is figure out precisely how much caloric value and how much time-feeling-not-hungry they can purchase with their disposable income.*

Which, let’s not forget, may be deliberately set at starvation levels if they’re on a benefit.

Which you’d think would be of great concern to CPAG.  Their questions, as posted on their Facebook profile, are instead:

What are our kids eating? And what is our government doing (or not doing) to encourage them to choose an orange over an oreo?

Focus? The kids.  Those naughty, sugar-bewitched kids and their poor choices.

In short, my immediate response to this is simple:  FUCK. YOU.

But once the red mist clears I just feel really confused and a little betrayed.  Seriously, CPAG?  We’re seriously going to frame the food purchases of poor children as “choice”? We’re actually going to make that the number 1 concern we highlight?

I get that it’s a difficult situation, though.  Because there’s not any other really immediate questions this story raises.  Certainly there’s no questions to be asked about the supermarket duopoly in this country which marks up your beloved oranges out of the everyday purchasing power of people on the breadline.  Or why our government continues to fail to give beneficiaries enough to feed their families, as well as cutting programmes and allowances which will help people get out of poverty.  And we don’t want to go near the whole thing about capitalism requiring some people to be poor and desperate in order to keep wages down and crime high to scare the middle classes with.

We definitely don’t want to talk about child poverty.  We don’t want to ask, “How have we got to a place in this country where this “empty calorie” school “lunch” is actually one of the best food choices available to some kids?”

We just want to hand-wring about poor people being too stupid to eat fruit.


*If any young middle-class yuppies are reading this, it’s like when you go into a bottle store and do the price/%alcohol x volume calculation.  Only not for fun.