In Defense of the Right to Shame Gluten-free Hipsters

Ron Swanson slices through the you-know-what for NASCAR.
Stop shame-shaming people who aren’t even shaming you!

A blogger with Celiac disease has launched a petition demanding that NBC pull a NASCAR Superbowl ad that makes fun of the gluten-free diet trend because some people really do have to avoid gluten and therefore it’s too offensive.

You see . . . I don’t think we’re soft or weak as the ad implies,” the blogger, who calls himself Gluten Dude, writes. “I don’t think we’re part of the problem. I think we’re a pretty strong bunch who just wants the world to move on to something else and let us handle our disease as we wish.”

The petition has gotten more than 7,000 signatures, which I find to be absolutely ridiculous. Yes, there are people who suffer from Celiac disease and should obviously not be made fun of for this — which is probably why this commercial is not making fun of them.

Let’​s look at the ad itself. It features (do I need a trigger warning here?) the libertarian, ultra-masculine Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson talking about how America needs a “gut check,” because we’re “in our little cocoons texting each other smiley faces” and “when our idea of danger is eating gluten, there’s trouble afoot” because it means we’ve “gotten soft.”

I really don’t think anyone would be under the impression that he’s talking about people who have an autoimmune disease that makes eating gluten definitely dangerous for them. That must be terrible to deal with, and I’m sorry if you have to. But I really don’t think this ad (or anyone) is making fun of your very real, very serious struggle. If they are, please let me know and I’d be glad to shame-shame them for you.

Now, I don’t have Celiac disease — so please forgive my non-Celiacsplaining — but if I did I would like to think I would be a little less sensitive to gluten-free shaming than to gluten itself. After all — they aren’t talking about you! They’re talking about trendy hipsters who think that eating gluten-free brownies and washing them down with gluten-free craft blueberry beer is some kind of healthy lifestyle to be admired just because they’re not eating gluten. They’re talking about people who ruin lunch dates explaining to you for 9 million hours how you just destroyed your organs with that piece of bread you ate. Please — don’t get upset about shaming that’s not even shaming you! If anyone is calling you “soft,” that (and not your Celiac disease) is probably the reason why.

“I think about all of the people who have gotten sick at restaurants because the kitchen and/or the staff do not take us seriously,” the post continues.

First of all, let me shame these restaurants (shame!), but I think that this probably has more to do with many restaurants often brushing off food allergies in general than it does with NBC. My little brother has spent more than one night in the emergency room in a life-threatening situation because a restaurant didn’t understand that his peanut allergy was something that needed to be taken seriously. And even if this problem were worse for gluten allergies, that would probably be because of all of these hipster posers freaking out when they have no reason to do so. You know, the very people this ad is poking fun at.

Shame them. Shame me (I’ll be fine!). Hell, even shame NBC, but don’t ask them to remove the ad just because you don’t like the joke. I ate bread today. I even plan on doing it again, and there are some people out there who would shame me for that. Please let me (and NBC/NASCAR!) keep the right to shame them back.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.


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