Last Wednesday, the day Karla Starr's Words item about Stacy Bias' anthology FatGirl Speaks hit the streets, WW's email inboxes, voicemail and front desk were inundated by responses from outraged readers. Below is a sampling of the emails we received.
Are you a fatty? Want to be in a book? Waddle over to a computer, grab your typing stick (those sausage fingers hit too many keys at once, don't they?), go to stacybias.net, and fill out the contact form for your chance to contribute to bias' FatGirl Speaks, a short-fiction anthology inspired by her event of the same name.
I AM FATGIRL, HEAR ME ROAR
While I appreciate the mention of the call for interview candidates for my book project (seen in Words, Notes from the Margin, Aug. 23), I am rather baffled as to how Ms. Starr thought that her lowbrow, dehumanizing, grade-school-bully-taunt tone would in any way present a fetching case for involvement? Was her intention in bringing up the prospect solely for the purpose of providing a platform for her to hurl childish insults, perpetuate ridiculous stereotypes and openly mock a large percentage of your readership? If so—well, bravo, I suppose.
However, I'd encourage the WWeek and its staff to reconsider providing a platform for hate speech. As a form of media, you are uniquely positioned in the public eye, and as such, have a greater responsibility to take care in causing harm. I realize that self-loathing is lucrative, in that it's harder to sell your advertisers' products to a happy and satisfied consumer, but perhaps it's inadvisable to be so blatant about taking your readers down a peg?
Ethics, WWeek. Ethics.
Hitting one key at a time with my "sausage fingers,"
Stacy M. Bias
Sarcasm is one thing, and if done well, often humorous. Then there is just plain mean, which appears to be Karla Starr's forte.
Stacy Bias' anthology in progress, FatGirl Speaks, is a look at how self-defined fat women feel about themselves in countries, cultures and communities around the world. Ms. Bias' previous work has brought acceptance and opportunity to fat women where it had not previously existed. Many women in Portland (and even around the world) feel more positive about themselves than they did before Stacy came along. Her work has value, and Ms. Starr's adolescent potshots are more suited to the schoolyard bully than a journalist.
Perhaps Ms. Starr should take a look at her own attitudes about size and body image.
Typing 90 wpm with my "sausage fingers,"
I am speechless at the complete disrespect exhibited toward Stacy Bias, her book project and fat people in general. Your piece was offensive, sophomoric and not even a little funny.
While it was considerate of Karla Starr to include a mention of Stacy Bias' work FatGirl Speaks, it's apparent that she didn't give a crap about what she was helping promote. Not that she needs to, necessarily, but at least have a little heart.
Saying "Are you a fatty? Want to be in a book? Waddle over to a computer, grab your typing stick (those sausage fingers hit too many keys at once, don't they?)" is an inconsiderate taunt reminiscent of a third-grade bully, considering FatGirl Speaks is a celebration of body-acceptance.
I'm all about having a sense of humor, come on. Thanks, though, for riling us up even more in a pursuit against the narrow-minded.
Wow, your mention of Stacy Bias' well-intentioned, thought-provoking and extensively researched book was completely obnoxious, fatphobic, judgmental and uncalled-for. Anyhow, who asked for your opinion about fat people?
Stacy has done a great service to the fat community and the rest of y'all as well by raising awareness about body image and a host of issues of relevance to the fat community. Why are you so threatened by a woman and community striving to feel good about themselves? Are you so insecure about your own body that you need to take it out on others? Well, lady, save it for somebody else. The Willy's readers needn't be subjected to it, nor is it fitting for you to promote ignorance and discrimination.
I'd like to express my anger, frustration and disappointment with your article regarding Stacy Bias' FatGirl Speaks book project. It was not only narrow-minded and sophomoric, it was extremely hurtful to myself in particular and fat people in general. It is exactly these stereotypes of fat people that Ms. Bias and others are working so very hard to counteract. Shame on you.
Dear Ms. Starr: Amazingly, a fatty like me was able to squeeze into my desk with my "typing stick" (the hell???) long enough to express my utter disgust that a fine publication like Willamette Week has been sullied by the insulting, ignorant and incredibly offensive treatment you wrote for Stacy Bias' work in progress FatGirl Speaks.
Apparently, neither compassion nor intelligence come in your size. What an apropos reminder of exactly why a book like FatGirl Speaks is so desperately needed.
Karla Starr responds: I initially wanted to use this space to tell people to laugh it off, but then I started reading my emails—all of them. And responding. To each one. There were only so many heartfelt stories about weight discrimination I could read before realizing just how many people I'd hurt—and how many others I hurt who never wrote. It's forced me to seriously reconsider my definition of humor and body image and appreciate the influence of my words. After experiencing firsthand the power of reading so many stories, my appreciation and respect for Stacy Bias' work and upcoming book has grown tremendously. I'd like to thank everyone for writing and helping to open my eyes; it's always appreciated, at email@example.com. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Bias and everyone I hurt with my words, which perpetuated the notion that weight discrimination is the last acceptable form of prejudice—regardless of your past or present size, it's never OK.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...
Your education reporter needs to do her homework. You reported that Leon Dudley, the new Jefferson High School principal, left his previous high school in Dallas "in worse condition than he found it" [Murmurs, Aug. 9, 2006]. Did she even look at the test scores?
During Principal Dudley's two years at Roosevelt High School, the percentage of students meeting state standards for reading rose by 12 points, to 67 percent. And math achievement rose by 6 points, to 30 percent. This even though during the same two years, Texas made the tests harder to pass, and Roosevelt High School welcomed hundreds of new students: refugees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and students from a neighboring district that shut down for academic and financial failures.
Yes, Texas did rate Roosevelt as "unacceptable" this year, but that's not because overall achievement slipped. A little reporting would have shown that achievement standards needed to make the "acceptable" grade ratcheted up by 10 percentage points in reading (which Roosevelt met) and by 5 points in math (where Roosevelt fell short).
I know Murmurs are little more than gossip, but I would hope you'd check out the rumors a little more carefully.
Sarah Carlin Ames
Portland Public Schools Communications