Mycroft Masada is a nonbinary trans and queer Jewish leader with 30 years of experience who moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland (Montgomery County near Washington DC) from their lifelong home of Boston in 2014. A TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member and former Congregation Am Tikva board member, Mycroft is particularly called to pursue LGBTQ+ and fat justice, and is an advocate, organizer, consultant, educator, trainer, writer and artist. They are married to Julia McCrossin, the mas(s)culine fatshion blogger, and with her they co-parent a dogter. Their central online home is

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Washington Post (newspaper) and fat-negativity

On Saturday, February 13th, Kevin Smith was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight because they decided he was too fat. And he's handled it pretty awesomely. The Washington Post, not so much -- as often with fatness. On Wednesday, February 24th, the Post headlined one of their articles "First class, coach, and wide load."

My partner, Julia McCrossin (a native and lifelong resident of the Washington area and lifelong Post reader), wrote and emailed a letter, "Offensive Headline in 2.24.10 Edition", to the Post's Ombudsman:

Dear Andrew Alexander,

I was quite disheartened to read this headline on A12 today : "First class, coach, and wide load." Do the editors and headline writers at your paper think this sort of juvenile and hurtful comment about fat people is appropriate for a paper with the reputation of The Washington Post? Do fat people not deserve even a modicum of decency at your paper, and are they prime candidates for any jibe or josh that your employees get a chuckle at?

I'm used to the ways in which your paper treats fat people, which is either erasure or pity,
disgust, derision, or as a scapegoat for a plethora of societal ills, and rarely write in to voice my displeasure. If I did write a letter to your newspaper for all the instances where you treated fat people in a biased manner, I could make a full-time job of it. Sometime in the decade that just passed, I even inquired of a previous ombudsman as to whether your paper's style guidelines offered anything about how to write about fat people, and the headline you printed today shows your paper still isn't wise enough to treat fat people with even the most basic dignity and humanity that we all deserve. Needless to say, I never received a response from that ombudsman, so I imagine your workplace could use a lot of sensitivity training on how to treat and write about fat people. I know a great weight diversity trainer, by the way, and would be happy to put your organization in touch with her.

In addition, I've written your paper, and various reporters and columnists, in the past (not that often, because I have a vibrant life and I'm used to your neglect of my legitimate complaints), and while I don't expect to get validation or notice from your paper, the continuing lack of attention to the fat positive community is appalling. Your rival, The New York Times, does not shy away from reporting on various aspects of the fat positive community, but there has been a silence at your paper that would encourage even the least conspiracy-minded person to wonder what investments your corporation has in not reporting on any information that objects to the 'obesity is bad' moral panic that has consumed our society.

Before you dismiss me as some self-deluded nut, you should know that I am a recognized,
published scholar in the field of Fat Studies, and am working on my dissertation on "Fat
Semiotics and Contemporary American Cultures." I've presented my work at many different
academic conferences, and have been interviewed by reporters about the field of fat studies, the fat positive community, and my research. I can put your writers in touch with lots of smart, accomplished, and credentialed academics who can elucidate them on the other side of the 'obesity epidmeic' rhetoric, and I can also put them in touch with some of the most insightful fat positive activists on the globe. Better yet, why doesn't the Washington Post send a reporter to the upcoming Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference, where they can attend 11 different panels in the field of Fat Studies, so they can get a taste of the diverse and compelling research being done in my field. The conference runs from March 31-April 3 in St Louis, Missouri.

At the very least, I hope you will issue a public correction and apology for your offensive slur in today's paper. There is nothing that can justify the bad taste and cruelty of that headline, and I'm sorely disappointed that the Washington Post, a paper I have been reading faithfully since I was 8 years old back in 1979, would resort to such childish digs at a significant portion of the readership of your paper.


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