New Rules: Feel My Bloody, Bloody Saw

Note: I use strong language in this post. It is a rant.

I have established, again and again, that when you read my blog, you follow my rules.

Most of my readers are great. You read well, you make good comments, you follow the rules, and I like you. Still, I’m having some issues and I want to send out a general notice.

I try to give people wide latitude on my site, but I feel like some people are taking that as an opportunity to write condescending comments. After all, they are not truly insulting anyone, are they? Well, guess what. Enough is enough and anyone who writes such comments will be subject to the feel of my bloody, bloody (verbal) saw. Or just get deleted.

I mostly have this problem when I write posts about healthism. I often have this problem with liberals: not all, but some liberals assume that if you don’t agree with them about something, that you are just too stupid or brainwashed to understand it.

Get this. I don’t agree with organic activists who attack food processing or conventional farming methods. I DO have knowledge of biology and chemistry. I have knowledge of medicine. Probably more than many of my commenters. Of course, if I didn’t, that would not necessarily make me wrong. All the same, I bring it up to prove that I’m not as dumb as some want to believe.

I am well aware of what food used to be like before regulations existed-anyone remember Sinclair’s Jungle?

I HAVE heard all of the talking points of organic activists. I used to believe them myself. I don’t anymore. Your not-so-earth-shattering revelations aren’t news to me, okay?

For that matter, I have never claimed that all foods are equally healthy, and in my post about attachment therapy, I explicitly claimed otherwise. I HAVE claimed that just because food is processed, or has a long, scary chemical name, does not necessarily make it bad. After all, when you cook in your home kitchen, THAT’S food processing. I could write out all the ingredients in their scientific names, and they would look horrifying. If you are going to claim that any processing out of a home kitchen is bad for you, or that any chemical additives at all should not be in food, the burden of proof is on you to prove it. It’s not on me to prove that processed food ISN’T bad for you.

Yes, I know that processed foods are “associated” with health problems. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Correlation does not equal causation. The population that consumes processed foods differ in class, values, ethnic background, might already have health problems, etc. Again, I never said that all foods contain all the same nutrients in all the same amounts. I said that there might be other factors to concern ourselves with that are more important than the purity of the food consumed. Focusing on the wrong problem isn’t just misguided; it can actively hurt people while the real problems go unrecognized. I have said more than once that, yes, let’s make WIC coupons redeemable at farmers’ markets. Yes, let all grocery stores have fresh produce. Great! Is that the most serious problem facing poor people today? Should we really devote billions of dollars and government resolutions to solve it? Those are my questions.

I have said that many beliefs about food are potentially healthist and classist. For the millionth time, this is not a statement endorsing the equality of all foods. This is pointing out that perceptions and research are often informed, unconsciously, by biases and that these biases spill over into beliefs about health, food, and the people that consume it. Does this mean all such statements are wrong? No, but the prevalence of these biases and the current panic over health and food should give us pause. That’s it.

I have said that many food interventions are classist and healthist. And they are. Saying that some foods have more or less of this or that is not prejudiced in itself. However, the prevalent assumption among posh foodies that all poor people are falling over themselves to be saved from their food and their lifestyles is. I know, I know. You just want to give them the “option.’ Maybe they want to give themselves the option? Maybe they want another option entirely? Maybe they want you to butt out and let them solve their own problems?

What do you consider an option, anyway? Most people espouse some sort of government solution or an increased dependence on welfare. Yeah, that’s not an “option,” that’s government coercion. We will just have to agree to disagree on that one.

Granted, I have said that some processed foods are healthier than some non-processed foods, at least for some people. That’s true. Fortified bread is one example. Another example is food high in sodium for those with certain medical conditions or deficiencies. Once more, not a blanket statement about processed vs. non-processed foods. Just pointing out that fact that people differ in their needs and generalized advice, especially those with the force of law, can hurt people. Not controversial, really.

What about the cultural issue? Some cultures indulge in unhealthy habits such as the use of MSG and the excessive use of fats. At what point do we give up cultural cuisine, or living in general, to panic about food? Should government be giving us those directions and using tax and zoning policies to nanny us?

The gist of what I have been saying all along is that good intentions have negative consequences that are not immediately visible and that what seems correct to us can be dead wrong and prejudiced to boot. Not controversial.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t talk about global warming, environmentalism, or animal rights on my blog. They matter, and I’m glad people out there are writing about them. I’m not one of them. So for those of you who criticize my ignorance of those ethical issues surrounding food, you need to read my blog posts in context. When I talk about their no being moral issues around food, I am talking specifically about healthism and classism.

I have had people accuse me of being brainwashed by Big Food. As though everyone who has anything tangenitally in common with someone is somehow connected to them. It’s like how anyone who supports contraception is brainwashed by Planned Parenthood and is a shill for them. I don’t accuse my opponents of being brainwashed by Greenpeace or by the liberal New World Order. I assume my readers are intelligent enough to form their own opinions, even if they’re wrong. I would like the same courtesy.

And what makes you think the government, famous foodies, organic food producers, and their partners can’t, or don’t, have special interests? That Big Food is the only party that could have special interests? Profit is a powerful motivator, but so are reputations, careers, grants, ego, and good intentions. There are lots of motivators besides profit that could appy to organic advocates, and some of them could be motivated by profit as well. So sorry, you’re going to need to do a better job than that when arguing with me.

Having special interests should cause you to take certain claims with a grain of salt. At the same time, having special interests does not automatically make you wrong, either. You need to focus on the argument and not get into pissing matches about who is involved in what conspiracy. It’s old and intellectually lazy.

If you want to have a discussion about certain chemicals, certain practices, certain processed foods, go ahead. I’m sure not everything the food industry does is healthy or efficient. What I’m seeing, though, is not so much arguments about specific issues but a generalized techno/chemophobia around the subject. It has a long, scary, scientific name, so it must be bad. I have never heard of this company, so it must be bad. We didn’t do this back in the day, so it must be bad. I want to challenge this thinking, not because I like to start shit, but because I really think it can harm people.

And no, my criticizing political foodie-ism isn’t silencing you. I am not asking anyone to stop being a foodie and I never have asked that. You have every right to promote political foodie-sim, and I have every right to criticize it.

Some of my readers are going to have to get used to the fact that not everyone agrees with you, and it’s not always because they are stupid, brainwashed, or part of some insidious conspiracy. It’s called growing up. So argue with me or not, but make it worth my time.

But the next time a political foodie comes sniveling on my blog about how I’m a shill for Big Food, shitting out talking points I have heard a thousand times, not reading my posts accurately and making accusations, I won’t be so nice about it. I’m tired of being nice about it. Now your comment can feel my bloody, bloody saw.



  1. Lindsay · January 15, 2012

    I really enjoyed this rant and i feel the same. I am liberal myself but have noticed that some are so entrenched they think anyone who disagrees on anything just doesn’t understand it and it all smacks of snobbyness and elitism (I encounter the same things in atheist communities sometimes ).

    I eat a lot of processed foods. I go to school full time and work and just don’t have the time and patience to cook on a regular basis (I also don’t have a dishwasher, so the less dishes I have to use, the better). My blood pressure and health markers are fine but if some day down the line I get some food-processing related cancer (if such a thing exists, which I hope it does not) then that is a risk I accept, the way I accept that driving a car poses a risk of automobile accidents. I am fine with foodies being foodies, more power to them, really, but when they start harping on me and talking about “chemicals” it becomes an issue. It’s my body and I’m well aware of what I am putting in it.

    • joannadeadwinter · January 15, 2012

      I’m mostly liberal, too, and I used to think like the people in my post. However, as I got older, I realized that people can and do disagree for legitimate reasons. I changed some of my thinking because of that.

      There is nothing wrong with being a foodie, but all these government programs sort of make me ill. If it means so much to you, start a private charity.

  2. Patsy Nevins · January 15, 2012

    Are they also aware the those famous foodies, groups, government, etc. ALSO have financial interests at stake in what they are trying to sell us? Are they even remotely aware how bad all this nannying, this attempt to strip our personal freedoms, is? I do not believe in junk food, I believe that all food has nutrients, & that unless it is spoiled, poisoned, contaminated in some way or you personally have an allergy to it, it is all good & you should eat what you want. I also have some education &, at 62, some experience. My relatives have mostly been poor working class people, some well below the poverty line, & our belief system was believing on eating what we liked that we could get. Strangely enough, many people in my family have lived well into their 80’s & 90’s & even a couple beyond 100, doing that.

    And, yes, even water sounds scary if you use the chemical name. And if you bother to read labels &/or do some research, a lot of ‘processed’ foods have a good amount of nutrients. And, as far as nutrients needed for health is concerned, much as I believe it is good to eat a varied diet & enjoy different foods & as much as I DO enjoy different foods, a person could stay healthy on potatoes, milk, & oatmeal &/or beef.

    Eat whatever you want. If you like Whole Foods or farmer’s markets, go ahead & knock yourselves out! Not all of us have access to those things, not all of us can afford those things. And, on average, we will be as healthy & live as long as those who can & do buy those foods. And the foods you choose to eat have nothing to do with your morality or your value as a human being.

    • joannadeadwinter · January 15, 2012

      Seriously, Patsy, can I have you come on as a guest blogger? You can email me your thoughts and I will post them to this blog under your name.:) My address is under ‘Comments, Questions, and Suggestions.’

      Have you ever heard of the DHMO hoax? It perfectly illustrates what I was trying to capture, and it has real consequences.

      • Patsy Nevins · January 15, 2012

        Thanks for the offer, Joanna. I will try to organize my thoughts & get an idea about what I want to say & I will contact you.

        The DHMO hoax? Do you mean where the chemical name of water was given & people got all panicky & scared of this ‘awful, unnatural substance?’ Yes, I think I do remember that. I think I remember Sandy writing about it.

  3. Clara · January 15, 2012

    I agree, a lot of people who scoff at those who don’t eat solely whole/ organic foods can come off as very elitist. The other day I went to buy some organic melon chunks and it came out to almost ten dollars. For ten dollars at a fast food restaurant you can get almost three meals, depending on which one it is. Maybe they’ve just never been poor.

    • joannadeadwinter · January 15, 2012

      Many of them have not. Some of them have been poor but are now solidly middle-class. I think some of this has to do with internalized stigma related to poverty. When you internalize that stigma, it is easy to feel victimized by corporations and government for making you sick. It lessens the stigma for some people, but is this the most productive use of our resources?

  4. Colleen Palmer (@inametaphor) · January 15, 2012

    I tend to eat locally grown, fresh produce when I can – and it’s largely price that stops me. However, my reason for doing so is that it tastes better. I read a theory about familiar dirt once that was interesting, but I digress.

    However, I’ve been poor. Dirt poor. And I’ve lived off cream of whatever soup, ground beef, and noodles. And hey, I *lived*. Sometimes, I even eat it purposefully now.

    But I can’t imagine anyone telling me that either way was wrong. I’m a reasonably new reader, and my mind just … boggles. Eat what you want to. Take charge of your own choices and own them. That’s it.

    • joannadeadwinter · January 15, 2012

      Appreciate the comment. I often come off as anti-foodie, but I’m really not. Some people prefer it, like you, for taste reasons, for ethical reasons, cultural reasons, or for some other reason entirely.

      I get emotional about this because I know poverty and I know stigma. Well-meaning though it might be, getting caught up in food politics is problematic. Expand access to food, by all means, but I think there are other issues that should come first. When we give people opportunities to raise their standard of living, everything else falls into place.

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