A reader recently emailed me about a situation in hopes I would have advice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a whole lot. Here’s what she was dealing with:
Basically someone related to my boyfriend (a vegetarian) made a critical comment to me about Michelle Obama: “She’s fat and she eats pork chops.” And I was like, she’s fat?!? incredulously but didn’t pursue it, although if I’d had a laptop I would have pulled up pictures of herself.
I don’t have a problem entering into huge fights with MY family members but I dunno that I have a right to do it with my boyfriend’s, even though I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion without, well, a racist viewpoint of black women or at least some pretty fucking virulent vegan assholery, which often amounts to the same thing. Do you think there’s a tactful way to tell this person he’s full of shit?
My only suggestion, based on what I’ve actually done in situations like this one, is to say something like, “She’s fat? I don’t think so!” or “She’s gorgeous!” That shows a dissenting opinion, at least, but it doesn’t really demonstrate how their opinion is invalid. Because invalidating someone’s opinion is always looked upon as really, really mean in this society, I’ve never found a way to do it that isn’t considered impolite.
Then again, I’m with Cordelia on Buffy: “Tact is just not saying true stuff.” So maybe I just haven’t tried hard enough to find diplomatic ways of letting someone know they’ve just said something that hit at least a trifecta (racism, misogyny, lifestyle superiority – I have a feeling I’m missing a few) of offensiveness.
How would you suggest we handle situations like these? Have you tried something that worked?