Monthly Archives: June 2012

Let’s Clear Up Some Things about Escalators at Gyms

So.  The photo to the right shows people taking an escalator to a fitness center.  It crops up regularly when people want to talk about how Americans are fat and stupid, because only a stupid person would take an escalator when they were just going to work out anyway, and if people would just take the stairs then they would not be fat.

Can we stop this, please?  Aside from the fact that the photo is a good 5-10 years old and the line of reasoning presumably older (from the first days of escalators, I imagine), you don’t look clever and superior.  You just look judgmental.  Actually, check that–you just are judgmental: saying judgmental things makes you, ipso facto, a judgmental person.  And, given that you think that people who ride escalators are worthless societal leeches, you don’t get to complain about how I refer to you.

To head off the inevitable objection of “If someone broke his leg skiing or something, then it would be okay for him to take the escalator, but those are clearly able-bodied adults!”, let’s start with arthritis.  Swimming is good for arthritis.  Therefore, an arthritic might join a gym to swim, but have trouble getting up the front steps.  While advanced cases may require a walker or cane, the early stages of arthritis can cause significant pain while remaining externally invisible except upon close examination.  And some types of arthritis strike young people and even children.

I could name any number of other injuries, illnesses, and disabilities that might lead to the same situation; the point is that you shouldn’t judge because you don’t know.  People with non-visible disabilities face hatred and discrimination every day from people who assume that, if you don’t look disabled, you couldn’t possibly be disabled*.  Don’t be one of those people.  You can’t get much lower than picking on the disabled.

Here you may gird your loins and say that, sure, some people who take the escalator to the gym might have legitimate health problems, but some of them have got to just be fat lazy slobs, amirite?  So let’s talk about obesity.

First, being overweight does not mean that someone is lazy!  The idea that everyone could be thin if they just didn’t sit on the couch all day eating bonbons is insulting.  Diet and exercise are factors that contribute to weight, but so are metabolism, body shape, and other factors over which one has no control.  For instance, polycystic ovary syndrome affects about 5% of women, is often undiagnosed, and causes–you guessed it–obesity.

Second, the fat=unhealthy myth needs to die a painful death.  An obese person may be unhealthy.  Or he or she may be an Olympic weight lifter.  And it isn’t like thin people never suffer from lifestyle-related health problems, either.

Third, maybe an obese person is taking the escalator because he or she has joint problems and/or shortness of breath because he or she is overweight.  You’re shaming a fat person for going to the gym!  Gyms already have a problematic tendency to cater to people who are already fit, rather than those who are trying to get fit.  This may be an inherent problem to some degree, but I’m pretty sure the solution isn’t to mock people and blame America’s problems on them.

Finally, maybe the escalator-taker has absolutely no excuse.  He or she is able-bodied and plans to go straight to the stair climber.  It’s still none of your damn business.  That person’s silly exercise regimen affects you exactly not at all, and your snide superiority is far more unattractive than taking an escalator to a gym could ever be.

EDIT: Read the comments for more examples of judgmental people who are incensed at the idea that they shouldn’t consider others inferior to them based on their lifestyle choices.

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*Not to suggest that people with visible disabilities don’t face discrimination, because of course they do.

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Announcing No More Dead Parents

As everyone knows, the answer to having one negligently-updated blog is to start another negligently-updated blog.  Therefore, I’m happy to announce my new blog, No More Dead Parents.  NMDP covers my thoughts on all forms of media: Film, literature, art, video games, music, and so on.  Meanwhile, here at Chimaera, I’ll continue to write about politics, religion, gender, and all the other “touchy stuff.”  Hopefully by harnessing the power of specialization I can post content of more interest to my readers and everyone can have a little more fun.  For a while, I may repost some old Chimaera material at NMDP, but it will always be labeled as such and will be alternated with new content.

To my dismay, nmdp.wordpress.com has already been taken by a blog called No More Dead Pigeons, which updated for two months in 2010.  When are we going to create some kind of internet eminent domain so that all the good URLs aren’t constantly being occupied by defunct sites?

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Commenting Suggestions

Don’t let your cat post for you. They never contribute anything intelligent.

I don’t have an official comments policy here and I’m not planning on introducing one anytime soon, since small blogs like mine can really only operate on a case-by-case basis (I have first-comment moderation turned on as a first line of troll defense; blame the Internet for that), but in my time as a blogger and internet denizen, I’ve learned some principles that I think people ought to follow, not just here, but everywhere.  These are, as it were, more like guidelines than actual rules–you aren’t likely to get moderated for most of these–but you should follow them anyway, because they make for stronger arguments and anyway they generally fall under the umbrella of decent human behavior.  In no particular order, I suggest that you:

  1. Don’t turn my blog into your blog.  That is, don’t show up and comment a protracted, contradictory opinion on every post.  Am I interested in people’s opinions, even if they disagree with me?  Yes!  Am I interested in encountering a tedious wankfest every time I check this blog?  No!  I’m not going to elucidate the difference between voicing your opinion and just trying to get attention, because you already know.  Move your mouse to the bottom of the screen.  See the footer?  See where it says “Blog with WordPress?”  If you click on this link, then you can start your own blog where you can voice your own opinions on any subject you like, anytime you like, with no risk of moderation.  And it’s absolutely free!
  2. Don’t sockpuppet.
  3. Don’t derail conversations into being about you.   I don’t care if the topic of conversation shifts away from the topic of the post and all kinds of fun conversations arise that way, but showing up in every post and demanding that people help you get a date or deal with your personal problems is just plain obnoxious.  In response to a particularly common one: If you are depressed and/or have other mental health issues, see a psychiatrist.  Do not talk to random people online.
  4. Don’t quote the dictionary.  Nobody interested in having a real conversation has ever referenced the authority of Merriam and Webster (unless, I suppose, the conversation is about dictionaries).
  5. Don’t make ad homines.  Setting aside that you shouldn’t because it’s mean, let’s be pragmatic: You shouldn’t because it’s a bad argument.  When you call someone fat and ugly, you’re admitting to the whole internet that your argument is worthless and you know it.  Related: Note that the plural of ad hominem is ad homines.
  6. Don’t say “I’m not racist, but…” (or “I’m not sexist…”, or “I’m not homophobic…”, or any variation).  If you weren’t racist, you wouldn’t say something that required such a preceding statement.  “No offense, but…” is also a red flag.
  7. Similarly, don’t reflexively protest “I’m not sexist!” (or racist, or homophobic) as if the term were a meaningless insult (“I’m not a poopyhead!”).  These words have meanings.  You can’t just deny that the label applies to you because you know it has bad connotations, since it might apply to you.  If someone calls you sexist–especially if you’ve repeatedly been called sexist, and if you’re aware of a pattern of speech or behavior that results in people saying that–and you don’t want to be called sexist, harness the power of cause and effect and stop doing it.
  8. Don’t call people “baby killers.”  This will not make pro-choice people feel convicted.  It will make them imagine you with steam coming out of your ears like a teakettle.
  9. Other terms to avoid: “reverse racism” (or “reverse discrimination”), “misandry,” “gay agenda,” ‘females” (as a substantive adjective), “liberal media,” “politically correct/incorrect” (I’ve already mentioned that one).  All these terms say far more about you than about who you’re criticizing.
  10. Don’t talk about your sex life or lack thereof.  No1curr.
  11. A personal bugbear: Don’t say “begging the question” unless you know what it means.
  12. If you are not a part of a marginalized group, don’t claim to understand their situation or prescribe what they should do, because seriously, you have no idea.
  13. Don’t compare someone or something to a Nazi, slavery, or the Holocaust unless it actually is a Nazi, slavery, or the Holocaust.
  14. Don’t victim blame.  From “gay people caused X natural disaster” to “she shouldn’t have been wearing that outfit” to “poor people are lazy,” this just makes you a mean, vindictive, horrible person.  Notice I’m not saying it makes you sound like a horrible person.  It means you actually are one.  Because a non-horrible person would not say that sort of thing.  Period.
  15. Finally, don’t be a know-it-all.  Nobody knows it all.

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