Thursday, January 09, 2014

The "Corn-Fed" Slur: Why it's insulting to be called Corn-Fed

I was reading

"In person, surprisingly, Jenny McCarthy comes across as corn-fed cute rather than overwhelmingly beautiful."

It made me wonder to myself what it means to be referred to as one that is "corn-fed."  It didn't appear to be as a complement in the context it was presented.  What does it mean to call Jenny McCarthy corn-fed cute? 

As a Mid-western American who has lived in the East and South, I've fielded the occasional good natured "corn fed" comment after my Minnesota roots were revealed.  Typically I took the comment to mean that I appeared healthy, strong, farm-boy vigorous.

Today, Corn-Fed seems to have taken on a less complementary dynamic.
Urban Dictionary defines Corn-Fed as:
"Your typical midwesterner. A white guy or girl who is large and stocky but in a healthy way. Corn fed women have child-bearing hips and corn fed men play football. Not attractive, but not ugly either, just plain. They're simple, friendly folks, sweet as apple pie, but lack complexity. Make good husbands and wives, but will bore you to death if you try to have an intelligent conversation with one."
If Karl Taro Greenfeld agrees with this definition, then Jenny McCarthy is just a simple, large, stocky, plain woman with big hips.  But in a "healthy way."

Hardly flattering of such a beautiful woman who gave her time to Greenfeld to discuss Autism.  Why an article about autism need begin by commenting on McCarthy's (presumably) big hips is beyond me.

I needed a second opinion, so I consulted The Free Dictionary.  According to them, if you're corn fed, then you're "Healthy and strong, but provincial and unsophisticated."

Maybe Greenfeld thinks that McCarthy appears healthy and strong, but that she is also stupid.

Anyway I look at it, by today's definition of the term Corn Fed, it's difficult to tease out a complement that is anything other than backhanded and rude.

Sure, you're healthy, but you're dumb.
Sure, you're strong, but your hips are big.
Yes, you're not ugly, but really you're plain.
You're from the midwest, so you're unsophisticated

My conclusion:  Pigs and cows are corn fed, as are 100% of the US population who only have to look to the corn-syrup ingredients in their cereal and Coke cans to know that this is true. The idea that somehow only midwesterners are fed corn is untrue.

The simpleton stereo type of the midwestern farm boy or girl is harmful, geographically bigoted, meant to demean  the country simpleton and elevate the big-city resident to a more prominent position in a relationship.

If someone calls you corn-fed, you're correct to take it as an insult.  


Tony V said...

I see this insult on Twitter a lot, usually the left calling the right this, and wondered why it was an insult too. Nice article!

Unknown said...

i agree also ...NICE ARTICLE

Anonymous said...

Fair analysis, though I think corn-fed also implies uncomplicated and natural.

From the context, I think the writer may be saying that despite her super-stardom, she's not an unapproachably gorgeous model, but a fresh-faced, natural beauty.

That's how I read it.