Essay #3 Options with 3 Sources Due 10/30
One. Refute, support, or complicate Asma’s assertion that green guilt is not only a relative to religious guilt but speaks to our drive to sacrifice self-indulgence for the drive of altruistic self-preservation and social reciprocity.
Two. Develop a thesis that supports, refutes, or complicates the assertion Debra J. Dickerson, who wrote the “The Great White Way,” would find Michael Eric Dyson's essay "Understanding Black Patriotism" a complement to Dickerson's ideas about race, power, and hierarchy.
Three. Support, refute or complicate Debra J. Dickerson's argument that race in America is more of a social fantasy than a reflection of objective reality. Three best books I've read and/or taught on the subject of race, which I recommend: Autobiography of Malcolm X, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Four. Show how the Jordan Peele movie Get Out builds on Debra J. Dickerson's argument that race in America is a cruel invention designed to create a hierarchy of power, one that can be seen in all its horror in post-Obama America. For sources, see NYT review, The Guardian review, The Independent, and the Variety review.
Five. Develop a thesis that analyzes the human inclination for staying within the tribe of sameness as explained in David Brooks’ “People Like Us” (very popular with students).
Six. Support, refute or complicate Nicholas Kristof’s assertion that slashing food stamps is morally indefensible.
Seven. Addressing at least one essay we've covered in class (“The Wages of Sin” and “Eat Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem), support, refute or complicate the argument that overeating, anorexia, and other eating disorders are not the result of a disease but are habits of individual circumstance and economics.
Eight. Support, refute or complicate the argument that feminist-political explanations for anorexia, as evident in Caroline Knapp's essay, are a ruse that hide the disease's real causes.
Nine. In the context of “Our Baby, Her Womb,” support, defend, or complicate the argument that surrogate motherhood is a moral abomination.
Study Questions (About Francine Prose's essay "The Wages of Sin," her analysis of attitudes toward gluttony)
One. What is the Nanny State Worldview?
In paragraphs 1 and 2 we read that in the Nanny State worldview people are dumbed-down troglodytes who are so helpless to fend themselves it is necessary for the government to be a Big Nanny that cares for the infantile, incontinent appetites of the people by imposing stringent laws and regulations.
In the NSWV, individuals lack maturity, responsibility, and self-discipline to make smart food choices. Unbridled by the Nanny State, people will gorge themselves to death at buffets and Krispy Kreme.
There are food shows that feature traveling gourmands who devour cheesecake filled donuts dipped in strawberry jam. TV rating spike as these food shows cater to our Id.
Do we need the Nanny State to control the incontinent eating habits of the average American? What's the endgame of such control?
In dystopian nightmare Nanny State, nurses would knock on your door at 2 AM and demand 200 push-ups or else your health insurance would be doubled.
You might get tickets for "being fat" at the beach.
In reality, we are not so dumb as we are surrounded by a consumer culture committed to stimulating our appetites, and we find ourselves maladapted to all the calories we consume.
Two. Why Is Being Fat Perceived as a Sin?
Being fat suggests sinfulness, specifically concupiscence, a spiritual disease in which one, absent God's love, seeks to fill one's vacuum with foolish tokens, delicacies, and sensuous experiences. These desires are never fulfilled, and one finds that one's desires constantly outstrip one's capacity to satisfy them.
Being fat is self-destructive. It leads to diabetes, incontinence, and premature death. Therefore, one is violating the body's Holy Temple with fried peanut butter and mashed banana sandwiches washed down with pitchers of cold beer.
Being fat is a sign of having no discipline but rather the squalid development of a rotund toddler. Failure to grow beyond this stage points to a lack of moral fortitude.
Being fat makes one an imposition on others. Sitting next to a fat person on a bus, a train, or an airplane is a drag. Some airlines charge obese people for two tickets since their girth commands at least two seats' worth of cabin space.
Being fat is aesthetically offensive. There are nude beaches where for tourism sake the police escort fat people off the beach. "Only svelte, beautiful bodies allowed. It's tourism season, big boy."
Being fat is a sign of stupidity. Smart people figure out a plan to deal with this thing called overeating. Obviously, the glutton is still confused, or wants to remain confused, and this willed ignorance is also a sin.
Television reinforces many of the above stereotypes.
Are We Dumb for Getting Fat or Just Vulnerable?
We are not so dumb as we are vulnerable. For example, watching food on TV triggers our appetites.
Chemists work on flavors and textures that stimulate our appetites. Their research is secret. Journalists are not allowed in the lab.
However, consumer culture, which stimulates our appetites, also markets the perfectly sculpted body and wants to sell us products that will get us that body as well.
Thus consumer culture gives us mixed messages, screws up our head, and then shames us for being overweight.
Worse than dumb, many see fat as evidence of a sinful nature: avarice, greed, envy, concupiscence, sloth, laziness, etc.
Many of us, 80% of the country, are losing economic ground. Being low on the economic ladder is the number one risk factor of being overweight.
Three. What does it mean to be paternalistic?
We are speaking of when someone takes on a parental role in a derogatory sense in that the “parent” is assuming control over others. This word often has a negative meaning, for it often suggests someone being presumptuous enough to be an authority over another. “You are fat and you need me to help you become a healthy, productive member of society.”
This is the same mentality of treating citizens like dumb children that we see John Taylor Gatto's essay "Against School."
Some argue though that letting Americans feed "themselves silly" isn't working. The health costs from America's gluttony are staggering. Obesity costs Americans up to $210 billion a year.
Four. There’s a lot of talk about the so-called obesity burden in which tax payers have to absorb half the medical costs incurred by obesity-related ailments. Is that fair?
Answers will vary.
Five. What is the Fat Tax dilemma?
If taxing fat people and putting a “fat tax” on “fatty” items were to be effective, people would live longer and old age increase would put a NEW tax burden on tax payer.
Smokers and obese people lose about ten years of their lives.
But there is a sense of moral outrage and a need to punish "fat sinner" by taxing them.
Six. What curbs fat more, a heavy stigma or the Nanny State?
Neither. Prose suggests that a stigma, a sense of shame, is more powerful than any government regulations. The fear of being an outcast is greater than financial punishments.
But in fact shame usually has the opposite effect: People go down a rabbit hole of shame and depression, which makes them want to "disappear," ironically by eating into a state of fatness. This creates a vicious cycle.
Even the fear of death rarely works.
Seven. What is gluttony?
Gluttony is the sin of overeating as a form of self-indulgence. Most Americans overeat; therefore, most of us are gluttons. If all or most of us are gluttons, perhaps there is less stigma to being a glutton.
Or more realistically, there are different levels of the glutton.
A Stage 1 Glutton is 20 pounds overweight. He gets a pass.
A Stage 2 Glutton is 40 pounds overweight. He is about to lose his pass.
A Stage 3 Glutton is 50 or more pounds overweight. He lives in Shame Hell, either alone or with other Stage 3 Gluttons.
When we speak of gluttony, we make fat a moral issue: Gluttony shows a disrespect for the body and an excessive pandering to one’s ego.
Eight. How do we see latent hostility against obese people?
We claim to be compassionate towards the obese but in reality we are not when obesity inconveniences us. Airplane seats, for example, are a source of strife because the obese are taking more than their share of space.
Perhaps most significant is fat discrimination in the workplace. Employers know the cost of obesity at work.
Another form of hostility is the connection, real or not, of obesity and poverty. We call this guilt through association.
Nine. Is obesity as simple as saying it’s a moral issue or a sin?
Perhaps that’s an oversimplification: Attributing complex problem to simple cause: to blame obesity on sin or indulgence or ego is absurd. Obesity may be partly these things, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Ten. Fat Has Become Entertainment and Grotesque Spectacle
We read in "Beating Obesity," by Marc Ambinder, whose own struggle with being overweight led him to getting bariatric surgery:
For the average fat person, life can be an endless chain of humiliating experiences. On a flight to Denver not too long ago, I watched as a very large woman struggled to settle into her seat. Next to her, a much skinnier man curled his lip in disgust. The woman softly asked a passing flight attendant for a seat-belt extender. The flight attendant didn’t hear her over the roar of the engines, so the woman had to ask again, and this time, everyone looked at her. Grocery shopping, eating at restaurants, going to the movies, having drinks at a crowded bar—for the fat person, these are situations to be negotiated and survived, not enjoyed. The workplace is no different: a television executive once remarked to me that my career as a political analyst would “really take off if [I] would just lose a few pounds.” When I was fat, I avoided meeting people’s eyes. I didn’t want to subject them to my ugliness.
Unfortunately, our culture reinforces this anxiety by turning obesity into pornography. This is not surprising. Obesity has become not just a scientific fad of sorts, generating intense research, curiosity, and public concern, but also a commercial gold mine that draws on the same kind of audiences that used to go to circus carnivals a century ago to peer at freakishly obese men and women. The TLC network, which long ago transcended its “Learning Channel” origins and gave the world Jon and Kate, now features obesity-programming blocks. One recent special followed the progress of an extremely obese teenage boy who struggled through bariatric surgery and its aftermath. Another special chronicled the life of the fattest man in the world. In addition to The Biggest Loser, NBC’s popular weight-loss boot-camp competition, and Fox’s More to Love, a dating show for larger people, the Oxygen network now has a dancing competition called Dance Your Ass Off. Fat people are funny.
The impact of “fat porn” on fat people is counterproductive. It’s true that stigma can restrain obesity rates. Researchers speculate, for example, that black men are less likely than black women to become obese, in part because within the black community they would face a higher stigma. In general, overweight young people tend to be socially marginalized. But there is little evidence that increasing stigma actually reduces obesity rates. And plenty of evidence shows that stigma makes fat people more likely to feel depressed, to experience stress, to receive poorer medical care, to experience discrimination in the workplace, to go on eating binges, and to duck exercise.
Stigma might be more bearable—an unpleasant way station on the path to a thinner, healthier life—if diet and exercise, the most prescribed solutions to obesity, worked. But they don’t. Qualification: if you eat less and exercise more, you’ll lose weight. But the chances that you’ll stick with that regimen are slim, and the chances that you’ll regain the weight, and then some, are quite high. A systematic review of weight-loss programs, by Thomas A. Wadden and Adam Gilden Tsai of the University of Pennsylvania, found that the evidence that commercial and self-help weight-loss programs work is “suboptimal.” People who diet often regain more weight than they lose.
Much of the solid advice society imparts to people who want to lose weight is best suited, intentionally or not, for well-off Americans. As I was Googling obesityearlier this year, an ad for a book by Jillian Michaels, the take-no-prisoners strength coach on The Biggest Loser, popped up: “Weight-loss expert Jillian Michaels has been there too. After years of exercise and painstaking dieting, she figured there had to be an easier and more effective way to become healthy and stay slim. And there is!”
Later, I flipped through Michaels’s book, and discovered that the real secret is … exercise and painstaking dieting. Michaels’s book argues that our physical environment messes up our hormones, which in turn affect our appetite and energy level. Eat a little of this and some of that, she tells us, but never this and only a smidgen of that. Don’t let stress rule your life. “GO ORGANIC.” “Prepare food to minimize toxins.” You want to know her secrets, but you quickly realize that her day job is her secret; her celebrity status, which lets her see top-flight endocrinologists, is her secret; the freedom her status and position in life give her to follow a diet, that’s her secret. On The Biggest Loser, contestants are plucked out of their environment and social circle, sent to a weight-loss boot camp, and forced to radically change their calorie intake and output for several months. That’s one way to lose weight. But who, besides the very rich, or the very idle, can replicate the show’s setup?
Is Obesity a Sin?
When we use a disease model of obesity, we interject, wrongly or not, a moral component because there is an implication that only through rigorous moral scrutiny and inventory can an eating addict find freedom from overeating, and overeating, it is assumed, is the primary cause of obesity. In fact, overeating may not be the primary cause. The causes can be complex and many:
The 15 Causes of Obesity:
- There is an abundance of convenient, cheap, calorie-rich food everywhere we go.
- We move less than we did generations ago. Do we chase the animals we eat? No.
- Mindless eating; not even knowing the quantity of what we consume every day, much of it done while talking, watching TV, or surfing the Internet, all forms of Mindless Eating. See book of same title by Brian Wansink.
- Poverty; there is a relationship between poverty and obesity. This is due to a lack of education combined with reliance on cheap fast food.
- Parents. Children eat what their parents eat. If the parents eat a “fat lifestyle,” so will their children.
- Friends. We eat and look similar to our friends. We often call this “social eating.”
- Eating processed foods instead of real foods and not knowing the difference. Please see In Defense of Eating: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. In short, only shop at the far left and right of supermarkets; avoid the middle; or shop at the Farmer’s Market.
- Super-sized portions are marketed as a “good deal.” See the film Super Size Me and read the book Fast Food Nation by Erich Schlosser
- Boredom; stay at home with nothing to do and you’ll overeat
- Emotional eating; eating to feel “love” or “self-esteem” or because you feel lonely.
- Lack of sleep. The more tired you are, the more you feed your blood sugar to compensate.
- Education; knowing how to enjoy good healthy food should be very practical but too few people know how to prepare food for themselves that they both crave and that is good for them.
- Learned helplessness: You convince yourself that you are too ignorant to make your own food and become dependent on fast food and junk.
- Dieting; it leads to weight gain, splurging, neuroses, and messes up the metabolism, which rebels and goes on “shut down.”
- Fast food is marketed to children in an aggressive way; see Fast Food Nation.
Essay Option for Obesity and Eating Disorders
Option Seven. Addressing at least one essay we've covered in class (“The Wages of Sin” and “Eat Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem), support, refute, or complicate the argument that overeating, anorexia, and other eating disorders are not the result of a disease but are habits of individual circumstance and economics.
Source for Your Essay
Two people I admire, Alec Baldwin and Marc Maron, are addicts who relied on AA to exorcise their addiction demons. They needed to got on their knees and cry helplessness to their Spiritual Power to come clean.
But some people don't do well with AA models:
They hate the meetings.
They hate the jargon.
They hate the constant sharing.
They hate the drama.
They don't do well with a treatment that declares them intractably helpless and diseased.
They do better with behavior modification, restructuring their environment, and the re-training of their habits
Perhaps we shouldn't rely on One Size Fits All treatments.
A lot of women are vulnerable going to underground rooms, church basements, and marginalized locations where AA meetings occur.
Outline for Eating Disorder Essay:
Paragraphs One and Two: Show how Prose's essay, about the shaming of fat people, and Knapp's essay, about a woman who internalizes shame, point to the problem of compulsive overeating and compulsive self-starving and the conflicting explanations for these compulsions. 150 words each for 300 subtotal.
Paragraph Three: Show how eating disorders can be addressed by a disease or behavior modification model. Briefly explain what how model works. 150 words. 450 subtotal.
Paragraph Four, Your Thesis: Write an argumentative thesis that sides with one model or both as a way of treating eating disorders. Make sure your thesis has four mapping components that outline your essay's body paragraphs. 150 words. 600 total.
Paragraphs Five Through Eight: Body paragraphs support your thesis mapping components. 150 each for 600 and 1,200 subtotal.
Paragraph Nine: Write your opponents' most compelling counterargument and your rebuttal to the counterargument. 200 words. 1,400 subtotal.
Paragraph 10: Conclusion: Rewrite your thesis with more emotion than your original thesis. 100 words. 1,500 total.
Sample Thesis In Support of Disease Model
While AA's disease model doesn't work for everyone, many addicts, including overeaters and anorexics, are in urgent need to follow the 12-Step Disease plan to save their lives when we consider the failure of free will, the failure of behavior modification to address root causes of addiction, the patient's repeated show of helplessness to her disease, and the disease model addresses biological causes of addiction that cannot be changed by behavior modification.
Sample Thesis in Support of Behavior Modification Model
The evidence shows that we should replace the disease model of addiction with behavior modification. For one, a lot of addictive behavior is not biological, but habit. Second, calling oneself an "addict" is self-stigmatizing and this self-loathing leads to other behavior problems. Third, the disease model makes people see themselves as helpless and thus encourages a lifelong dependency and, yes, addiction to addiction meetings. Four, behavior modification allows the patient to address specific behavior rather than get bogged down in "recovery talk."
Sample Response to Francine Prose's Essay (Calling Obesity a "Sin" Is a Form of the Disease Model)
Pulpit thumpers decry that religion is dead in America and that a revival must sweep the nation soon lest we suffer the fiery annihilation of Sodom and Gomorra. These doomsday prophets are wrong. Religion is alive and well. As Francine Prose renders in her acute and trenchant essay “The Wages of Sin,” the Supercilious Fat Police and their calorie-counting acolytes who look upon fat people as a breed of bloated sinners have co-opted religious language and metaphor to divide society into two sides: The reedy svelte souls bound for heaven and the repugnant obese souls bound for hell. To reinforce this polarization, the Fat Police, and even self-loathing fat people themselves, assert big government micromanagement of “fat behavior,” so that there are fat taxes imposed on lovers of movie popcorn, colossal burritos, super-sized buckets of ice cream and soda, and other foods that pose a threat to one’s salvation. The Fat Police and their disciples have also proselytized the gospel that moral depravity and “immoral self-indulgence” are at the root of obesity, so that it is clear that fat people are not helpless victims of the environment or genetic hard-wiring but the result of their own damnable sloth, gluttony, and avarice.
Another category that insures fat people suffer the stamp of stigmatization is society’s collective resentment that corpulent fleshy souls are guilty of hogging or usurping other people’s personal space. What kind of wickedness allows the fat person to assert his gargantuan belly into our area when he squeezes next to us on a train, a bus, or an airplane? His rude and selfish sin is so malignant that he and his obese brothers and sisters should pay for not one but two airline or bus tickets to accommodate their elephantine rumps.
Finally, if fat people can be saved at all, they must resort to a Higher Power: Their countless tons of unwanted flab can only be shed if they throw themselves upon the Alter of God’s Mercy and embrace a variety of spiritual rehabilitations—Twelve Step Programs, revivalist gospel tracts, and other motivational tools rooted in the language of God, the devil, sin, and divine providence. If the obese refuse to access the divine tools that are set before them, surely they deserve to be thrown into the fiery hell that awaits these gluttonous, recalcitrant sinners.
How to Set Up a Counterargument in Your Rebuttal Section (The Templates)
Some of my critics will dismiss my claim that . . . but they are in error when we look closely at . . .
Some readers will object to my argument that . . . However, their disagreement is misguided when we consider that . . .
Some opponents will be hostile to my claim that . . . However, their hostility is unfounded when we examine . . .
Thesis with Concession
While Author X is guilty of several weaknesses as described by her opponents, her argument holds up to close examination in the areas of _________________, ______________, _____________, and ______________.
Even though author X shows weakness in her argument, such as __________ and ____________, she is nevertheless convincing because . . .
While author X makes many compelling points, her overall argument collapses under the weight of __________, ___________, ___________, and ______________.
“Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem” by Caroline Knapp
One. Why is starvation an addiction for Caroline Knapp and perhaps for others?
There are two kinds of people in this world, the laid-back and the high-strung.
The latter have what is called generalized anxiety disorder.
Everything we do is a source of anxiety.
A corn nut lodged in the back seat of our car can cause us insomnia.
Our Methods for Allaying Anxiety Can Become the Addiction
When we're always anxious, we seek calm and safety. Too often these retreats into calm and safety become addictions.
Knapp retreats from life--the anxieties she faces in her life--and withdraws into a sense of calm. She feels safe, but she is not living. When we retreat from life to alleviate anxiety, we are engaging in over protection, and as such we choose death over life.
I’m thinking of the woman whose husband left her two days before their planned wedding, and she became a ghost of herself in the aftermath. She became bitter and “undateable.” She become a zombie, a hollow husk, a cipher. She is too afraid to feel and to embrace her full humanity.
Knapp escapes from life with her strict food routine. Her rigid routine makes her feel safe from wanton, self-destructive behavior. Of course, she’s blind from the fact that the rigid routine is a form of self-destruction.
Two. What is the “silent protest” of starvation?
Her starvation becomes a “silent protest” against ridiculous feminine ideals that are forced upon women. Starving both aspired to the ideal and “mocks” it. Kate Moss the waif replaces the Marilyn Monroe the voluptuous one.
Therefore, starvation alleviates the discomfort of “inhabiting the female body.” A real female body has curves and appetites. An anorexic female body has vanished. There is no body, there are no appetites, and there is no personality. The person has vanished.
Three. How is starvation about self-rejection and avoiding judgment?
Starvation is an attempt to invert the food obsession as a positive symbol of nurturing and care-taking; in its place, starvation is about self-rejection and “self-inflicted cruelty.”
Starvation becomes a way of avoiding self-recriminations: “I’m such a hog” for having eaten that chocolate cake. I don’t deserve love. I don't even deserve to live.
I should be sent to my room without supper. God, I hate myself. My only hope for feeling good about myself, therefore, is to starve myself.
We can conclude then that starvation has become a Faustian Bargain, a deal with the Devil, in which women trade eating satisfaction so that they can enjoy self-esteem.
Mastering and controlling one’s appetites becomes a way of feeling empowered. This empowerment becomes a form of compensation for feelings of loneliness, self-doubt, and consuming dread and desperation.
Four. How is starvation a feminist issue, according to Caroline Knapp?
Starvation becomes a way of surrendering to the “backlash” against the rise of feminine power. Women have more earning power and are more successful in college than men.
Starvation is an attempt to withdraw from the overwhelming choices that are part of a woman’s new freedom.
Starvation is a reaction to an unnatural hatred of fat.
I would complicate Knapp’s assertion, however. I would say that starvation, also known as anorexia, is a problem about race and social class. Most anorexics are middle to upper class white women.
The Barbie aesthetic is part of being a member of that catty clique in a lot of upper class white social circles.
I concede that some of the above may be true, but I'm reluctant to see feminism and politics as the main driving forces of anorexia. I tend to agree with those who attribute the disease to anxiety and depression as Carrie Arnold, a former sufferer of anorexia, explains in this excerpt from her book Decoding Anorexia.
McMahon’s Summary on “Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem” by Caroline Knapp
Whether they are bingeing or purging, irrational eaters are in a most damnable condition--the state of having no self-control and being helpless and fearful in the face of overwhelming appetites. These inflamed irrational passions are so devastating that binge eaters must tiptoe through life fearing that at any moment they will fall into the abyss of their avarice.
Most irrational eaters, especially the women described by Knapp, suffer shame for several reasons, including a sense of anxiety over the disparity of their new freedoms but limited power; their internalized "theme of vigilance and self-restraint" that often backfires and is counterbalanced by compulsive appetites that eradicate all the "gains" rendered from the meticulous adherence to eating rules; the state of hunger that "becomes divorced from the body" and becomes "loaded with alternative meanings" that have to do with unfulfilled emotional longings; and their knowledge that violating the slender female aesthetic will cause them to be held in tacit contempt by both men and women alike.
This sense of shame and self-loathing becomes exacerbated when obesity is looked at through a religious prism which would have us condemn over-eaters as gluttons, sinners indulging their appetites, reprobates putting their desires before God, miscreants violating our space with their grotesque corpulence.
Scapegoated by society for putting an undue strain on medical costs, despised for taking up our space, an unloved for not inciting the kind of desire that we associate with Kate-Moss slenderness, fat people represent the possibility of human failure and rejection that we fear in ourselves. Thus many of us, overreacting to our fears, develop a myriad of eating disorders so chronic that once ensnared in these irrational eating habits, it is nearly impossible for many of us to free ourselves from them and lead relatively normal lives.
In Knapp's essay, what does she say is being internalized?
Obsession with unrealistic images of beauty that result in obsession with self-control
Obsessive link between being thin, or not, with one's identity
Obsessive link between being thin, or not, with one's self-worth
"Is Anorexia a Cultural Disease?" refutes Caroline Knapp's point about culture being the culprit of anorexia. Carrie Arnold posits that biology or genetics is the cause, so this would be an essay for supporting the disease model.
Can Overeating be Cool?
Yes, if certain conditions are met.
The eater isn't fat.
The eater is making money on social media.
The eater makes overeating a competitive spectacle.
The sins of gluttony are cancelled by the American love of money.
Brainstorm for Prewriting
Both essays address the way we are a culture obsessed with food.
We tend to binge with food and we tend to purge with food.
We are two extreme regardless if we are bingeing or purging.
We have internalized shame in regards to eating.
We have internalized rules in order to conform to a quasi religious order of what makes us “bad” or “good.”
We internalize these eating rules from the food police and in essence create our own food religion and the result of this religion is a form of control.
This form of control is deceptive. Some of us, like Caroline Knapp and others, can be so obsessed with control that we’re controlled by the need to control.
Obsession with control leads to out of control behavior.
Bingeing leads to purging and purging leads to bingeing. Or in other words, self-denial leads to self-indulgence and self-indulgence leads to self-denial. For example, after a Christmas-New Year’s binge, many start the New Year with a New Year’s resolution of denials.
A lot of internalized food rules, it seems, disproportionately affect Anglo middle and upper class people, so that we might say eating disorders are largely a “first world problem” of the privileged class.
However, being fat is a stigma that affects people of all classes, especially in the workplace.
Being fat is being “a monster,” a drain on society, “Los Otros,” the Other. A fat person is demonized as taking up space and costing us billions in sick costs at work and in hospitals.
Dieters use “religious language,” we read in Prose’s essay (183). “That chocolate cake was sinfully delicious.”
Dieters adopt 12 Step programs and embrace a Higher Power to free themselves from their bondage to eating.
Knapp says we must be austere to austere rules to have a skinny body.
Knapp warns that when we mess with our natural hunger, we go a little crazy or more than just a little: “The more you meddle with a hunger, the more taboo and confusing it will become. Feed the body too little and then too much, feed it erratically, launch that maddening cycle of deprivation and overcompensation, and the sensation of physical hunger itself becomes divorced from the body, food loaded with alternative means: symbol of longing, symbol of constraint, form of torture, form of reward, source of anxiety, source of success, measure of self-worth” (193).
Develop a thesis that compares or contrasts (or both) the social pathologies that inform the type of eating disorders and neuroses described in “The Wages of Sin” and “Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem.”
Both Prose and Knapp capture the analogy of strict food rules with unhealthy, diseased religious compulsion, which is comprised of ____________, ___________, _____________, and _____________.
While the food police would label us as helpless eaters and Knapp would consign some sort of disease to anorexia, in truth most eating disorders are not so much a "disease" as they are the products of economics, family influences, and habits.
To demonize or stigmatize people with eating disorders as being ignorant, sinful, or diseased is a dangerous exercise that obscures the root causes of eating disorders, which are born from economic deprivation, family influence, and bad habits.
While Knapp makes some convincing points about unrealistic body images of women causing some women to develop eating disorders, the real cause of women starving themselves doesn't appear to be political or "patriarchal" ("it's a man's world") but more rooted in behaviors analogous to drug addiction evidenced by ___________________, ___________________, _____________________, and _____________________.
Commas are designed to help writers avoid confusing sentences and to clarify the logic of their sentences.
If you cook Jeff will clean the dishes. (Will you cook Jeff?)
While we were eating a rattlesnake approached us. (Were we eating a rattlesnake?)
Comma Rule 1: Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) joining two independent clauses.
Rattlesnakes are high in protein, but I’d rather eat a peanut butter sandwich.
Rattlesnakes are dangerous, and the desert species are even more so.
We are a proud people, for our ancestors passed down these famous delicacies over a period of five thousand years.
The exception to rule 1 is when the two independent clauses are short:
The plane took off and we were on our way.
Comma Rule 2: Use a comma after an introductory clause or phrase.
When Jeff Henderson was in prison, he developed an appetite for reading.
In the nearby room, the TV is blaring full blast.
Tanning in the hot Hermosa Beach sun for over two hours, I realized I had better call it a day.
The exception is when the short adverb clause or phrase is short and doesn’t create the possibility of a misreading:
In no time we were at 2,800 feet.
Comma Rule 3: Use a comma between all items in a series.
Jeff Henderson found redemption through hard work, self-reinvention, and social altruism.
Finding his passion, mastering his craft, and giving back to the community were all part of Jeff Henderson’s self-reinvention.
Comma Rule 4: Use a comma between coordinate adjectives not joined with “and.” Do not use a comma between cumulative adjectives.
The adjectives below are called coordinate because they modify the noun separately:
Jeff Henderson is a passionate, articulate, wise speaker.
The adjectives above are coordinate because they can be joined with “and.” Jeff Henderson is passionate and articulate and wise.
Adjectives that do not modify the noun separately are cumulative.
Three large gray shapes moved slowly toward us.
Chocolate fudge peanut butter swirl coconut cake is divine.
Comma Rule 5: Use commas to set off nonrestrictive (nonessential) elements.
Restrictive or essential information doesn’t have a comma:
For school the students need notebooks that are college-ruled.
Jeff’s cat that just had kittens became very aggressive.
For school the students need college-ruled notebooks, which are on sale at the bookstore.
Jeff Henderson’s mansion, which is located in Las Vegas, has a state-of-the-art kitchen.
My youngest sister, who plays left wing on the soccer team, now lives at The Sands, a beach house near Los Angeles.
Grammar: Dangling Modifiers
Rewrite the following sentences to correct the dangling modifiers:
1. Larded with greasy fries, the waiter served me a burnt steak.
2. Mr. McMahon returned her essay with a wide grin.
3. To finish by the 4 P.M. deadline, the computer keyboard blazed with the student's fast typing fingers.
4. Chocolate frosted with caramel sauce, John devoured the cupcakes.
5. Tapping the desk with his fingers, the school clock's hands moved too slowly before recess.
6. Showering the onion rings with garlic salt, his sodium count spiked.
7. The girl walked her poodle in high heels.
8. Struggling with the tight jeans, the fabric ripped and made an embarrassing sound.
9. Turning off the bedroom lights, the long, hard day finally came to an end.
10. Piled high above the wash machine, I decided I had better do a load of laundry.
11. Standing on the hotel balcony, the ocean view was stunning.
12. Running across the floor, the rug slipped and I collapsed.
13. Writing anxiously, the essay looked littered with errors.
14. Mortified by my loss to my opponents, my baseball uniform sagged.
15. Hungry after a day of football, the stack of peanut butter sandwiches on the table quickly disappeared.
McMahon Grammar Exercises: Pronoun Errors
Vague Pronoun Reference
Possible reference to more than one word
Transmitting radio signals by satellite is a way of overcoming the problem of scarce airwaves and limiting how they are used.
In the original sentence, they could refer to the signals or to the airwaves.
Reference implied but not stated
The company prohibited smoking, which many employees resented.
What does which refer to? The editing clarifies what employees resented.
A pronoun should refer clearly to the word or words it replaces (called the antecedent) elsewhere in the sentence or in a previous sentence. If more than one word could be the antecedent, or if no specific antecedent is present, edit to make the meaning clear.
Lack of pronoun/antecedent agreement
Every student must provide their own uniform.
Pronouns must agree with their antecedents in gender (male or female) and in number (singular or plural). Many indefinite pronouns, such as everyone and each, are always singular. When a singular antecedent can refer to a man or woman, either rewrite the sentence to make the antecedent plural or to eliminate the pronoun, or use his or her, he or she, and so on. When antecedents are joined by or or nor, the pronoun must agree with the closer antecedent. A collection noun such as team can be either singular or plural, depending on whether the members are seen as a group or individuals.
Incorrect pronoun case
Determine whether the pronoun is being used as a subject, or an object, or a possessive in the sentence, and select the pronoun form to match.
Castro's communist principles inevitably led to an ideological conflict between he and President Kennedy.
Castro's communist principles inevitably led to an ideological conflict between him and President Kennedy.
Because strict constructionists recommend fidelity to the Constitution as written, no one objects more than them to judicial reinterpretation.
Because strict constructionists recommend fidelity to the Constitution as written, no one objects more than they [do] to judicial reinterpretation.
Confusing subject with object
Please give the chocolate to Randy and (I, me).
Between you and (I, me), the fat cats have all the cheese while the rest of us fight for the crumbs.
Rewrite each sentence below so that you’ve corrected the pronoun errors.
One. Between you and I, there are too many all-you-can-eat buffets mushrooming over southern California because a person thinks they’re getting a good deal when we can eat endless plates of food for a mere ten dollars.
Two. When children grow up eating at buffets, they expand their bellies and sometimes you find you cannot get “full” no matter how much we eat.
Three. As thousands of children gorged on pastrami at HomeTown Buffet, you could tell we would have to address the needs of a lot of sick children.
Four. Although I like the idea of eating all I want, you can sense that there is danger in this unlimited eating mentality that can escort us down the path of gluttony and predispose you to diabetes.
Five. When a customer feels he’s getting all the food they want, you know we can increase your business.
Six. If a student studies the correct MLA format, you can expect academic success.
Seven. It’s not easy for instructors to keep their students’ attention for a three-hour lecture. He or she must mix up the class-time with lecture, discussion, and in-class exercises.
Eight. It is good for a student to read the assigned text at least three times. When they do, they develop better reading comprehension.
Nine. The instructor gave the essays back to Bob and I.
Ten. We must find meaning to overcome the existential vacuum. Otherwise, you will descend into a rabbit hole of despair and they will find themselves behaving in all manners of self-destruction.
A person who doesn't plan ahead finds they cannot go to the big party.
Consistent point of view
When one ponders the state of education, we can't help wonder why you are lagging in critical thinking skills and one has to ask if there need to be improvements in this regard. Therefore, a person taking a critical thinking class should be prepared when they are asked to identify logical fallacies and other elements of critical thinking.
Types of Arguments
(I've adapted these ideas from Chapter 3 of How to Write Anything by John J. Ruszkiewicz.)
3 Types of Claims Or Thesis Statements
Identifying Claims and Analyzing Arguments from Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky’s From Inquiry to Academic Writing, Third Edition
We’ve learned in this class that we can call a thesis a claim, an assertion that must be supported with evidence and refuting counterarguments.
There are 3 different types of claims: fact, value, and policy.
Claims of Fact
According to Greene and Lidinsky, “Claims of fact are assertions (or arguments) that seek to define or classify something or establish that a problem or condition has existed, exists, or will exist.
For example, Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow argues that Jim Crow practices that notoriously oppressed people of color still exist in an insidious form, especially in the manner in which we incarcerate black and brown men. This new form of oppression is called the New Jim Crow.
Alexander in other words is arguing this claim of fact: That Jim Crow still exists in a new insidious form of the American incarceration system.
In The Culture Code Rapaille argues that different cultures have unconscious codes and that a brand’s codes must not be disconnected with the culture that brand needs to appeal to. This is the problem or struggle that all companies have: being “on code” with their product. The crisis that is argued is the disconnection between people’s unconscious codes and the contrary codes that a brand may represent. This crisis is a condition of fact that we need to know about.
Many economists, such as Paul Krugman, argue that there is major problem facing America, a shrinking middle class, that is destroying democracy and human freedom as this country knows it. Krugman and others will point to a growing disparity between the haves and have-nots, a growing class of temporary workers that surpasses all other categories of workers (warehouse jobs for online companies, for example), and de-investment in the American labor force as jobs are outsourced in a world of global competition. The shrinking middle class is a condition of fact.
All three examples above are claims of fact. As Greene and Lidinsky write, “This is an assertion that a condition exists. A careful reader must examine the basis for this kind of claim: Are we truly facing a crisis?”
We further read, “Our point is that most claims of fact are debatable and challenge us to provide evidence to verify our arguments. They may be based on factual information, but they are not necessarily true. Most claims of fact present interpretations of evidence derived from inferences.”
A Claim of Fact That Seeks to Define Or Classify
Greene and Lidinsky point out that autism is a controversial topic because experts cannot agree on a definition. The behaviors attributed to autism “actually resist simple definition.”
There is also disagreement on a definition of obesity. For example, some argue that the current BMI standards are not accurate.
Another example that is difficult to define or classify is the notion of genius.
Another example: How do you define a masterpiece?
Another example is what it means to be a Christian. Some people say to be a Christian means you must believe in the "inerrant word of God." Others reject biblical literalism and say they model their lives after Christ, adapt Christ's core message, and reject the "bad stuff" and say they are Christians. The argument is making claims of what it means to be a Christian, very different claims of an orthodox and progressive believer.
In all the cases above, the claim of fact is to assert a definition that must be supported with evidence and refutations of counterarguments.
Claims of Value
Greene and Lidinsky write, “A claim of fact is different from a claim of value, which expresses an evaluation of a problem or condition that has existed, exists, or will exist. Is a condition good or bad? Is it important or inconsequential in relation to other pressing issues?
In other words, the claim isn’t whether or not a crisis or problem exists: The emphasis is on HOW serious the problem is.
How serious is global warming?
How serious is gender discrimination in schools?
How serious is racism in law enforcement and incarceration?
How serious is the threat of injury for people who engage in Cross-Fit training?
How serious are the health threats rendered from providing sodas in public schools?
How serious is the income gap between the haves and the have-nots?
How destructive is a certain politician to his party?
How bad is sugar? We all know sugar is bad, especially in large amounts, but how bad?
How bad are cured meats? We call know cured meats in large amounts are bad for us, but how bad?
How serious is abuse of women in the military?
Claims of Policy
Greene and Lidinsky write, “A claim of policy is an argument for what should be the case, that a condition should exist. It is a call for change or a solution to a problem.
We must decriminalize drugs.
We must increase the minimum wage to X per hour.
We must have stricter laws that defend worker rights for temporary and migrant workers.
We must integrate more autistic children in mainstream classes.
We must implement universal health care.
If we are to keep capital punishment, then we must air it on TV.
We must implement stricter laws for texting while driving.
We must make it a crime, equal to manslaughter, for someone to encourage another person to commit suicide.
Four Thesis Models
The Correcting-Misinterpretations Model
According to Greene and Lidinsky, “This model is used to correct writers whose arguments you believe have misconstrued one or more important aspects of an issue. This thesis typically takes the form of a factual claim.
Examples of Correcting-Misinterpretation Model
Although LAUSD teachers are under fire for poor teaching performance, even the best teachers have been thrown into abysmal circumstances that defy strong teaching performance evidenced by __________________, ___________________, ________________, and _____________________.
Even though Clotaire Rapaille is venerated as some sort of branding god, a close scrutiny exposes him as a shrewd self-promoter who relies on several gimmicks including _______________________, _______________________, _________________, and ___________________.
Even though ****** ****** is portrayed as a hedonistic lunatic, he is in truth a sad, misunderstood, lonely parvenu searching for meaning, connection, and true love.
Even though there is a connection between welfare and unemployment, welfare is not the cause of the increased unemployment. The cause is are the at-risk factors in high-poverty areas.
The Filling-the-Gap Model
Greene and Lidinsky write, “The gap model points to what other writers may have overlooked or ignored in discussing a given issue. The gap model typically makes a claim of value.” For example, too many happiness seekers have failed to looking at the real missing link to happiness: morality.
Many psychology experts discuss happiness in terms of economic wellbeing, strong education, and strong family bonds as the essential foundational pillars of happiness, but these so-called experts fail to see that these pillars are worthless in the absence of morality as Eric Weiners’s study of Qatar shows, evidenced by __________________, __________________, ___________________, and _____________________.
The Modifying-What-Others-Have-Said Model
Greene and Lidinsky write, “The modification model of thesis writing assumes that mutual understanding is possible.” In other words, we want to modify what many already agree upon.
While most scholars agree that food stamps are essential for hungry children, the elderly, and the disabled, we need to put restrictions on EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards so that they cannot be used to buy alcohol, gasoline, lottery tickets, and other non-food items.
The Hypothesis-Testing Model
The authors write, “The hypothesis-testing model begins with the assumption that writers may have good reasons for supporting their arguments, but that there are also a number of legitimate reasons that explain why something is, or is not, the case. . . . That is, the evidence is based on a hypothesis that researchers will continue to test by examining individual cases through an inductive method until the evidence refutes that hypothesis.”
For example, some researchers have found a link between the cholesterol drugs, called statins, and lower testosterone levels in men. Some say the link is causal; others say the link is correlative, which is to say these men who need to lower their cholesterol already have risk factors for low T levels.
As the authors continue, “The hypothesis-testing model assumes that the questions you raise will likely lead you to multiple answers that compete for your attention.”
The authors then give this model for such a thesis:
Some people explain this by suggesting that, but a close analysis of the problem reveals several compelling, but competing explanations.
Give Appropriate Sartorial (Clothing Style) Splendor (Writing Style) to Your Arguments
Your argument is the "body" of the essay. Your writing style is the fashion or sartorial choice you make in order to "dress up" your argument and give it power, moxie, and elan (passion).
Here is the same claim dressed up differently in the following two thesis statements:
Civil War reenactments are racist gibberish that need to go once and for all.
More Dressed Up
Our moral offense to civil war reenactments rests on our understanding that the participants are engaging in nostalgia for the days when the toxic religion of white supremacy ruled the day, that the participants gleefully and childishly erase black history to the detriment of truth, and that on a larger scale, they engage in the mythical revisionism of the Confederacy narratives, hiding its barbaric practices by esteeming racist thugs as if they were innocent and venerable Disney heroes. Their sham is so morally egregious and spiritually bankrupt that to examine its folly in all its shameless variations compels us to abolish the sordid practice without equivocation.
We need to stop blaming the poor for their poverty.
More Dressed Up
The idea that the rich are wealthy because of their superior moral character and that the poor live in poverty because of their inferior moral character is a glaring absurdity rooted in willful ignorance, the blind worship of money, and an irrational fear of poverty as if it were some kind of contagious disease.
Qualify Your Thesis to Make It More Persuasive and Reasonable
Qualifiers such as the following will make your thesis more bullet-proof from your opponents:
under certain conditions
Under most conditions, narcotics should be legalized in order to decrease crime, increase rehabilitation, and decrease unnecessary incarceration.
Examine Your Core Assumptions
Assumptions are the principles and values upon which we base our beliefs and actions.
Under most conditions, narcotics should be legalized in order to decrease crime, increase rehabilitation, and decrease unnecessary incarceration.
Treating drug use as a medical problem that requires rehabilitation is morally superior to relying on incarceration. Some may disagree with this assumption, so the writer will have to defend her assumption at some point in her essay.
The Importance of Using Concession with Claims
Greene and Lidinsky write, “Part of the strategy of developing a main claim supported with good reasons is to offer a concession, an acknowledgment that readers may not agree with every point the writer is making. A concession is a writer’s way of saying, ‘Okay, I can see that there may be another way of looking at the issue or another way to interpret the evidence used to support the argument I am making.’”
“Often a writer will signal a concession with phrases like the following:”
“It is true that . . .”
“I agree with X that Y is an important factor to consider.”
“Some studies have convincingly shown that . . .”
Greene and Lidinsky write, “Anticipating readers’ objections demonstrates that you understand the complexity of the issue and are willing at least to entertain different and conflicting opinions.”
Developing a Thesis
Greene and Lidinsky write that a thesis is “an assertion that academic writers make at the beginning of what they write and then support with evidence throughout their essay.”
They then give the thesis these attributes:
Makes an assertion that is clearly defined, focused, and supported.
Reflects an awareness of the conversation from which the writer has take up the issue.
Is placed at the beginning of the essay.
Penetrates every paragraph like the skewer in a shish kebab.
Acknowledges points of view that differ from the writer’s own, reflecting the complexity of the issue.
Demonstrates an awareness of the readers’ assumptions and anticipates possible counterarguments.
Conveys a significant fresh perspective.
Working and Definitive Thesis
In the beginning, you develop a working or tentative thesis that gets more and more revised and refined as you struggle with the evidence and become more knowledgeable of the subject.
A writer who comes up with a thesis that remains unchanged is not elevating his or thinking to a sophisticated level.
Only a rare genius could spit out a meaningful thesis that defies revision.
Not just theses, but all writing is subject to multiple revisions. For example, the brilliant TV writers for 30 Rock, The Americans, and The Simpsons make hundreds of revisions for just one scene and even then they’re still not happy in some cases.
Subordination and Coordination (Complex and Compound Sentences)
A complex sentence has two clauses. One clause is dependent or subordinate; the other clause is independent, that is to say, the independent clause is the complete sentence.
While I was tanning in Hermosa Beach, I noticed the clouds were playing hide and seek.
Because I have a tendency to eat entire pizzas, inhaling them within seconds, I must avoid that fattening food.
Whenever I’m driving my car and I see people texting while driving, I stop my car on the side of the road.
I have to workout every day because I am addicted to exercise-induced dopamine.
I feel overcome with a combination of romantic melancholy and giddy excitement whenever there is a thunderstorm.
We use subordination to show cause and effect. To create subordinate clauses, we must use a subordinate conjunction:
The essential ingredient in a complex sentence is the subordinate conjunction:
I workout too much. I have tenderness in my elbow.
Because I workout too much, I suffer tenderness in my elbow.
My elbow hurts. I’m working out.
Even though my elbow hurts, I’m working out.
We use coordination to show equal rank of ideas. To combine sentences with coordination we use FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)
The calculus class has been cancelled. We will have to do something else.
The calculus class has been cancelled, so we will have to do something else.
I want more pecan pie. They only have apple pie.
I want more pecan pie, but they only have apple pie.
Using FANBOYS creates compound sentences
Angelo loves to buy a new radio every week, but his wife doesn’t like it.
You have high cholesterol, so you have to take statins.
I am tempted to eat all the rocky road ice cream, yet I will force myself to nibble on carrots and celery.
I want to go to the Middle Eastern restaurant today, and I want to see a movie afterwards.
I really like the comfort of elastic-waist pants, but wearing them makes me feel like an old man.
Both subordination and coordination combine sentences into smoother, clearer sentences.
The following four sentences are made smoother and clearer with the help of subordination:
McMahon felt gluttonous. He inhaled five pizzas. He felt his waist press against his denim waistband in a cruel, unforgiving fashion. He felt an acute ache in his stomach.
Because McMahon felt gluttonous, he inhaled five pizzas upon which he felt his waist press against his denim waistband resulting in an acute stomachache.
Joe ate too much heavily salted popcorn. The saltiness made him thirsty. He consumed several gallons of water before bedtime. He was up going to the bathroom all night. He got a bad night’s sleep. He performed terribly during his job interview.
Due to his foolish consumption of salted popcorn, Joe was so thirsty he drank several gallons of water before bedtime, which caused him to go to the bathroom all night, interfering with his night’s sleep and causing him to do terribly on his job interview.
Bob dropped his peanut butter sandwich in the tiger’s enclosure. He leaned over the fence to reach for his sandwich. He fell over the fence. A tiger approached Bob. The zookeeper ran between the stupid zoo customer and the wild beast. The zookeeper tore his rotator cuff.
After Bob dropped his peanut butter sandwich in the tiger’s enclosure, he leaned over the fence to recover his sandwich and fell into the enclosure during which time he was approached by a hungry tiger, forcing the nearby zookeeper to run between Bob and wild beast. During the struggle, the zookeeper tore his rotator cuff.
Don’t Do Subordination Overkill
After Bob dropped his peanut butter sandwich in the tiger’s enclosure, he leaned over the fence to recover his sandwich and fell into the enclosure during which time he was approached by a hungry tiger forcing the nearby zookeeper to run between Bob and the wild beast in such a manner that the zookeeper tore his rotator cuff, which resulted in a prolonged disability leave and the loss of his job, a crisis that compelled the zookeeper to file a lawsuit against Bob for financial damages.