#385: “Thin Is Power”
Plus: Article Clubber Melinda shares her thoughts on “HUMAN_FALLBACK”
I went on my first diet when I was 12 after a friend told me I was too chubby to attract the girls at our middle school. (Likely there were other things going on.) Somehow I got my hands on a series of cassette tapes that offered a comprehensive course on the neuropsychology of weight control. It wasn’t a diet; it was a “life program.” Always the meticulous learner, I listened from beginning to end. In addition to the affirming subliminal messages, the course urged calorie restriction and willpower. Starve yourself for long enough, it suggested, and you’ll lose weight. (I didn’t.)
If you’ve subscribed to this newsletter for a while, you know that I’m fascinated by articles about weight loss, body positivity, and fat shaming. For example, here’s a collection of articles I compiled a few years ago. This week’s lead article explores the rise of Ozempic and how the drug is reminding us of the inevitable — that in our society, no matter what we say, it’s better to be thin.
If the topic of anti-fatness doesn’t interest you, scroll on down for two other great pieces. The first recounts the Red Cross and the U.S. military’s racist blood donation policy during World War II. The second is a joyful, thoughtful interview with loyal reader Melinda about her thoughts on “HUMAN_FALLBACK,” this month’s deep dive. (Yes, you should absolutely listen.) Please enjoy!
1️⃣ Life After Food?
We love wellness and body positivity — as long as we’re thin. That’s at the core of this outstanding article about Ozempic, the diabetes drug that fancy people in New York and Los Angeles (and everyone at the Oscars) are taking as an appetite suppressant to get drastically thin. Author Matthew Schneier does a great job peeling back the layers of anti-fatness in our society. He writes:
The whole shaky edifice of wellness rested on the rickety foundations of body acceptance: Everyone was beautiful; it was the standards, not the bodies themselves, that were wrong. Which is true, of course — it just turned out we only sublimated the standards, hid them behind vagaries of looking good, feeling good, and being so much more buoyant without dairy, or gluten, or whatever. How quickly we’ve abandoned our contortions and commitments to acceptance as soon as a silver bullet comes around.
➡️ Read the article (19 min) (if you hit a paywall)
2️⃣ The Red Cross And Jim Crow
More than 1 million African American men and women fought for the United States in World War II. But the American Red Cross did not accept blood from Black donors. In this informative, clearly-written piece, Melba Newsome explains how the U.S. military assumed white soldiers would feel uncomfortable receiving Black blood. Not the case, according to the evidence, but no matter. What also didn’t matter: that Dr. Charles Drew developed the first large-scale blood banks that saved thousands of British soldiers during the war. Protest ensued. After a year of public pressure, the Red Cross in 1942 announced a compromise: It would take Black donors’ blood, but process it separately. Nearly 80 years later, in 2021, the Red Cross apologized, calling the policy a “regrettable decision” that accommodated “cultural norms of the time.” No wonder Black people now account for less than 3 percent of blood donors.
➡️ Read the article (11 min)
3️⃣ Article Clubber Melinda shares her brilliant thoughts on “HUMAN_FALLBACK,” by Laura Preston
My favorite part of putting this newsletter together is meeting and getting to know kind, thoughtful people who love to read and discuss the best nonfiction articles on race, education, and culture. Over and over again, I’m floored by how quickly and deeply we all connect.
That was the case again this week, when I asked new Article Clubber Melinda to share her thoughts on this month’s selection, “HUMAN_FALLBACK,” by Laura Preston. (If you haven’t read it yet, you should! It’s about artificial intelligence, capitalism, and the stripping away of humanity.)
Melinda is an activist, lawyer, and cat mom living in Washington, D.C. A lover of many genres, from memoir to fantasy novels, she’s normally reading several things at once and hunting for her next read at her favorite local bookstore, Solid State Books.
And also important: She’s got great thoughts on this month’s article! Within 30 seconds of opening the Zoom and saying hi, it was like we were already friends. I encourage you to listen in on our conversation. Here are some topics we talked about:
how Melinda found The Highlighter Article Club (thank you, Ann Friedman!) and what she likes about it so far
how “HUMAN_FALLBACK” isn’t your typical article on artificial intelligence
how the article made us feel extremely uneasy about the future of humanity
what questions we want to ask author Laura Preston when we meet up
Isn’t Melinda great? I’d love it if you could leave her a comment to welcome her to our Article Club reading community. What did Melinda share that you connected with?
Also, there’s still time to join our conversation on Sunday, March 26, 2:00 - 3:30 pm PT. Ms. Preston will be joining us! Here’s more information. Hope you sign up.
Thank you for reading this week’s issue. Hope you liked it. 😀
To our 3 new subscribers – including Deborah and Giffe — I hope you find the newsletter a solid addition to your email inbox. To our long-time subscribers (Zaretta! Ziba! Zachary!), you’re pretty great. VIP Melinda, thank you for sharing the newsletter and getting the word out.
If you like The Highlighter Article Club, please help it grow. I really appreciate your support. Here are two ways you can help out:
❤️ Become a paid subscriber, like Monica and Marna (thank you!). You’ll join an esteemed group of readers who value the mission of The Highlighter Article Club. Plus you’ll receive surprise perks and prizes. (More hoodies?)
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I loved hearing from Melinda - welcome! I think something she brought up that I'm still thinking about after listening to the podcast is the idea of "consent" in bot/human interactions. The theme of isolation also really resonated and I hope we pick it up during the Zoom! Thanks for sharing!