Black belt Susan Schorn has a lot of interesting things to say about karate, sexism, and violence against women. So why did she have to spend so much of her McSweeney's essay bashing her fat doctor?

Schorn (that's not her above) describes going to the emergency room with a black eye from her karate class. She mentions that women with karate injuries should go to the ER "in your uniform" and "covered in sweat," to avoid being questioned about possible domestic violence. "I don't enjoy answering questions from concerned nurses and social workers," she writes, "but I sure as hell understand why they ask those questions." She's (rightly) less understanding about her doctor's question, "Why would a woman like you want do a thing like that?" And then, she goes here:

Now, this man weighed well over three-hundred pounds, and barely fit in the exam room with me. So I decided not to give the easy answer: "Fitness benefits." I wasn't about to insult the only person standing between me and a lifetime of monocular vision. OK, technically, he wasn't standing. He conducted the exam from his little wheeled chair, which was barely visible beneath his bulk and thus gave the impression that he was hovering eighteen inches off the floor.


She asks "why is a man who weighs twice what he ought to questioning my lifestyle choices?" then begins to speculate about fighting him:

I found myself wondering about the physics of kicking a seriously overweight person. A rising front kick under the chin would lift a seated man of average size a few inches up off his chair, I figured. I've never fought anyone much over two-hundred pounds, though, and I wondered what the effect of the extra weight would be. Certainly there would be more resistance when his head snapped back. Could you actually decapitate an obese person with a kick, I wondered? How much easier would it be than decapitating a normal-sized person?


Schorn assures us that "I had nothing against the man. That he was large, and full of doubts about me, was neither here nor there. Target observations are just part of the background noise of my mind." Then she goes right back to talking about his "chins." His question to her was offensive, in that it implied baseless assumptions about her, about fighting, and about women. Unfortunately, Schorn responded by forming her own assumptions โ€” that a 300-pound man would be offended by the very mention of fitness, and that he "weighs twice what he ought to."

Elsewhere in the essay, Schorn writes persuasively about her reasons for fighting. She says,

There is a common perception that women can't fight, or won't fight-at any rate, that we don't fight. That perception is one reason we are targets of violence, and I fight in part to prove that perception wrong. But I also dislike the perception that women only fight because we have to, that it's an unnatural, unfeminine behavior we're forced into, to protect ourselves from all the big bad violent men. The truth is, some of us fight because we like to. Even if we're bad at it. It's just fun.


It's too bad that someone who fights โ€” literally โ€” to change ill-informed perceptions still has some of her own.

The Rules [McSweeney's]