The Just World Fallacy and the Joy of Feeling Superior

One of the things that struck me recently about both fat hate and homophobia is that they seem really rooted in the need to have someone to feel superior to.

A friend posted about the recent UMC decision to move in a more anti-gay/anti-trans direction, and how disappointing it was, and a mutual acquaintance felt the need to crow about how happy he was about the decision and how great it was that the UMC was being faithful to the Bible and not being fooled by “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who want to water down the holy text.  (I didn’t ask him his feelings on mixed fabrics, oaths taken in court, or lending money at interest.)

Fred Clark, at Slacktivist, has posted extensively on this phenomenon, where people feel better about themselves by imagining a horrible enemy to compare themselves to. Fred refers to it as “Satanic Baby Killers,” which covers the satanic panic of the 80s, anti-abortion hysteria, and any number of other attempts to create an evil “Other” to feel superior to. As you’d expect, the individual gloating about gay people being thrown out of ministry also enjoys spreading made-up stories about Democrats supporting infanticide. Because, Satanic baby killers.

It’s terribly convenient to have a comically evil enemy to oppose and be offended by, because it makes you a paragon of virtue by comparison, even if you’re not terribly virtuous.

A lot of fat hate seems to work the same way. Someone is fortunate enough to have the culturally favored body type, but admitting that that’s largely due to chance doesn’t really give them the opportunity to feel superior to other people. So, they stroll around both the internet and the physical world, randomly yelling at anyone who dares to exist while fat about how horrible they are.

So, where does the Just World Fallacy fit into this?  Well, if you admit that body types and sexual orientations aren’t chosen or the result of sin, then you have to acknowledge that the way our culture treats fat people and LGB people is profoundly unfair. And, if there’s no fairness, then that capricious mistreatment could happen to you, too.  *But* if you pretend that you have nobly and morally taken good care of your body and avoided the temptation to lust after members of your own sex (ignoring that it wasn’t very tempting for you, being straight and all), then you can rest assured that bad things will happen only to those evil people over there, and not to your virtuous self.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Just World Fallacy and the Joy of Feeling Superior

  1. megpie71 says:

    The “just world” fallacy is also at the bottom of a lot of racism, ableism, and so on – it’s pretty much the core of a lot of discriminatory and vicious behaviour. Basically, if you can convince yourself that the universe runs on rules (rather than being an inherently chaotic and uncaring place), then if you just follow the rules, nothing really “bad” can happen to you. Because you’re following the rules.

    Which leads to a lot of cognitive dissonance when bad things happen to otherwise “good” people – and a lot of post-facto rushing around to re-jigger things and find the rule they broke in order to justify what happened. If it happens to you, you beat yourself up with guilt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s