Jewish Journal

Well, At Least She Called Me Skinny…

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

June 22, 2011 | 10:00 am

So I was just about to post regarding the dinner I just had with my new inamorato and my parents, when I noticed Ilana Angel had already posted on me.  We met for lunch yesterday and I knew she would write about it but I’m still a bit shocked at how much my earlier pieces must have gotten to her – she mentioned to me that my letter to her made her cry.  In just this new piece she says of me: dumb, ridiculous, offensive, having an unhealthy view of my body, a broken spirit, clearly has issues, doesn’t appreciate my body, issues with weight, dumb views, in need of therapy, struggles with being good enough; and when that ceased to be enough she said my writing was painful to get through, ramblings, silliness, garbage, and she criticizes me for commenting on her life (not like she has done anything of the same to me).  She’s made sorority rush look like a koombaya drum circle.  She even got a crack at my nail polish in – Actually, she’s right I desperately need a manicure, but you try fitting that in when you’re four weeks away from taking the California Bar, trying to hold down a writing career, leaving for France the next day for a wedding, in a new relationship and meeting up with Mommy bloggers who write mean things about you on the internet so they can feel better about themselves!  Sheesh! 

In law school, one of the first things they teach you in your legal writing class is to never make ad hominem attacks.  This is when during an argument, one makes an attack on the person’s character or actions in order to discredit the truth of the claim being made - like saying A’s argument is false because A is dumb, for instance.  Perhaps I’m unusually thick-skinned or perhaps her polemic is just so far from the truth that I can’t take it seriously, but I hardly feel moved to do anything more than roll my eyes at this.  It’s so ridiculous it’s not worth arguing against and I don’t believe in making ad hominem attacks so I will refrain from saying anything more about her. 

I will say though, that I am disappointed that she didn’t challenge me on the substance of what I was saying.  I’ve heard from a lot of different people over the last week regarding this topic and some of it has been truly enlightening.  I especially appreciated being pointed towards Susie Orbach and Charlotte Cooper.  There are very valid arguments against what I was saying and I truly was hoping to hash them out with Ilana, analyze them and hear something challenging that would inspire me or change the way I think.  I did attempt to bring these arguments up with her but they were quickly dismissed of course, as she seem much more interested in scrutinizing my personal life so that she could tell me what was wrong with me instead of engaging me.

I was hoping to talk about two points.  The first is that one of my precepts is that I continually acknowledge that the world we live in is one that rewards thin people and I never try to challenge it but just work within those confines.  Well, one reader suggested to me that this is what some people said during the civil rights movement particularly regarding segregation and if everyone just accepted the premise that some white people were racist and there was nothing to be done about it, the world would never change.  That really struck a chord with me.  Perhaps we should all be challenging this precept whenever we see it.  Perhaps every time a skinny girl cuts the line at a club it’s akin to a white person sitting complicitly at the front of a bus in the South fifty years ago just saying, well what can I do about it?  Perhaps we should all be encouraging each other to constantly fight this – refusing to be given priority treatment based on the way we look, or standing up for others when they’re not given the same benefits that we are.  Perhaps this is really a fat activist issue?

The other point that I struggle with is a feminist argument.  As long as women continue to use their appearance as a currency, can we ever truly be equal to men?  If you’re an ambitious young women, being attractive doesn’t hurt – just look at Sarah Palin.  Trading off your looks and sexuality becomes a tool in your box that you can use to get what you want whether it be interviews or jobs or free drinks.  The question the becomes, if you are using your appearance to get your desired ends, are you inherently unequal to someone (usually men) who can get to those same ends without having to debase themselves by appealing to the voyeuristic nature of men.  When men hire other men physical appearance is usually irrelevant but when men hire women, a pretty woman has a leg up.  As long as this is true, can women ever truly be equal?

I brought this all up to Ilana.  She mostly seemed very uninterested in the whole issue but we did talk about it enough that she commented that if a man perceives that she’s flirting with him and he uses that fact to give her some reward that the only one doing anything wrong is the man.  It’s all on him, she said.  I could see my hope for someone to challenge my way of thinking was not to be fulfilled that day.

Ilana wants me to apologize. But I stand by what I said.  I truly am sorry if it hurt her or anyone else for that matter.  All I can say is that sometimes the truth hurts.  I may seem young and naive to her – well I feel young and like I’m at the beginning of the experiences life has in store for me so that makes sense.  I don’t pretend to have any of the answers.  I’m on the journey just like everyone else is.  I’m just trying to call it like I see it at this point in time. 

I will say though, it was a bit of compliment when Ilana mentioned that she thinks I don’t know that I’m beautiful.  I have been called many things in my life, but modest about my appearance is not usually one of them.  Perhaps I really am turning over a new leaf?

**UPDATE** 6/22 12:50pm Thank you to the reader who notified me that Ilana has edited her blog since posting and taken out some of the most offensive language about me and added a section that finally agrees with my whole point - namely that we should all try to get in shape.  But it was up for a long enough time that I feel justified leaving this here.  The list at the top was verbatim her comments regarding me.

Tamara Shayne Kagel is a writer living in Santa Monica, CA. To find out more about her, visit www.tamarashaynekagel.com and follow her on twitter @tamaraskagel. © Copyright 2011.

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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