Too Fat to Be President My Ass

WTFOn her interview of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as one of 2012 Most Fascinating People, Barbara Walters admitted that she was uncomfortable but went ahead and asked Chris Christie why he is fat.

Perhaps the reason that she was uncomfortable is that it’s a totally bullshit question.  Why does it matter?  What she implies by asking is that he better have a damn good justification for the body he lives in.  I don’t think that’s how it works – I don’t think any of us owe anyone else any kind of explanation for our bodies and it doesn’t matter what we do for a living.

Christie said he didn’t know but if he could figure it out he would “fix it.”

Of course that’s his prerogative but I wonder if, given a choice, he would choose to “fix” his body or would he choose to fix a society that shames and stigmatizes him for his body size.  I think it’s a shame when we encourage people to solve social stigma by changing themselves, rather than changing society.

Barbara followed that up with  “There are people who say that you couldn’t be President because you’re so heavy. What do you say to that?”  Christie dismissed the idea as “ridiculous.”

Thank you Governor Christie. What the hell?  Do those “people” Barbara alludes to also think that during the next election cycle we should replace one of the debates with a talent and swimsuit competition?  Apparently it’s not enough to find a President they want to have a beer with, now they’re  looking for a candidate who can rock a marimba and a bikini.  Our country doesn’t have enough problems, we want to turn the Presidency into the new Mr/Ms America competition?

Barbara then said “I think they’re worried about your health.”

Ah the last bastion of fat bigotry.  When someone alludes to, or flat points out, that someone else is being a fat bigot,  they can always pivot to this gem.  Then we’re supposed to thank them for their concern.  Here is what my friend Stan calls a “blinding flash of the obvious”:  If they were concerned about his health they would be talking about his health, not his body size.  Making assumptions about health that are based on size is still bigotry, plain and simple.

Christie answered “Well, I’ve done this job pretty well and I think people watched me for the last couple weeks and during Hurricane Sandy doing 18-hour days and getting right back up the next day and still being just as effective so I don’t really think that would be a problem.”

I understand that as a Presidential hopeful has to answer any number of questions that are inappropriate and I appreciate that he didn’t back down.  If I were Underpants Overlord he would have mentioned that there are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes and that making health assumptions based on sizes is just bigotry, but that’s just me. I was happy that he stuck up for himself.

While Chris Christie and I do not agree politically on many things, I can feel his pain for having to answer these questions.  The idea that it’s ok to call fat people’s ability to do anything and everything into question because of our body size is a massive problem.  Studies have already shown that hiring discrimination based on size is a serious issue. Parents ability to raise children has been called into question.  I actually saw a Facebook post suggesting that Santa couldn’t possibly be fat and get around the world in one night- seriously? Someone took time to make a graphic about this?  So let me say Thank you, Governor Christie, for taking this opportunity to stand up for your abilities in the body that you have now.

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35 thoughts on “Too Fat to Be President My Ass

  1. Hi Ragen,

    I’ve been reading your blog since you told me about it and I’ve become even more aware of the messages we fatties are getting. Like last night, I went to the James Island light show and most of it was spectacular. Most of the large light displays have a small sign beside it to say who is sponsoring it. One of the larger than life displays was a frowning Santa and one of his reindeer standing beside a skinny chimney. The sponsor sign was Weight Watchers. No one else in the car seemed to notice but, I was jarred. It was a dark mark on an otherwise fun outting. Thanks to you I’m better at shaking these things off. But seriously…

    1. Is it only me, or is this the first year that these “Santa=deathfatzOMG” things are around? Santa used to be fat and jolly and everyone loved him. Now Santa needs to diet so he’ll fit down the chimney, or he’s too “unfit” to crisscross the world in one night? Can’t they even leave Santa alone???

      1. Plus, if we assume that Santa = Saint Nicholas, he’s from, like, freaking 300 A.D. Even if we assume that the modern Santa only happens with Sir Clement Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” that’s still from 1823.

        On the longevity scale, this ripe, jolly old elf has us all beat. 😉

      2. I’ve seen a lot of Santa=OMGdeathfatz posts this year too… but it’s not like fat bigotry is a new thing so… I’m baffled? Maybe it’s our fault for not being good, “jolly” fatties like we were supposed to, so now they’re coming for St. Nick.

        Or someone has WAY too much time on their hands…

  2. When I saw that piece and saw Barbara Walters’ questions, I wondered what people would have said if she was interviewing Obama before his presidency and she said:

    “Okay, governor, I feel very uncomfortable asking this question when I’m sitting opposite you. But you are a little black.”. And further: “There are people who say that you couldn’t be president because you’re so black. What do you say to them?”

    I am always completely gobsmacked that anyone could utter such things about fat people and NOT see that it’s the exactly the same as people making blanket statements/judgements about gays, blacks, hispanics, or any other group that has had to endure bigotry.

    The blindness to this fact just shows me how deep the bigotry really runs.

    sent from my iPhone silly keyboard + one finger sorry fir the typos

    1. Tiina, thank you for your comments! This is exactly the example I use when talking to my children about biases and stigma. If you replace the word ‘fat’ with the word ‘black’, ‘female’….etc. Do you think that comment would be a problem and might it get you in trouble for violation of rights, etc.

      I grew up hating the big “If ONLY”…. Susan, you have such a pretty face, if only you weren’t so _____. You have such a great personality, if only you weren’t ______.

      More of the same crap.

  3. If my American History is serving me correctly, I seem to recall that President William Howard Taft weighed in at over 300 pounds. Grover Cleveland was a large man as well, and John Adams was described in my history books as “portly”. Doncha wonder if anybody questioned them about their ability to serve as president?

    1. Damn! Exactly the point I was going to raise. I would also note that after being president while fat, Taft went on to serve on the Supreme Court, and was Chief Justice for nine years.

      As for John Adams, he lived to be eighty-eight… and died on the exact same day as the much thinner, considerably younger Thomas Jefferson.

      1. Yep – a little stroll through the internet reveals:
        John Adams was portly and died at age 90
        William Taft, obese, died at age 73
        Teddy Roosevelt, portly, died at age 61 (heart related)
        Then there’s Ben Franklin – that fatty had the audacity to excel at about everything he did and die at the age of 84. Buddha died at age 80 – you know – the HAPPY fat guy who continues to inspire billions….

          1. I know that there are different dipictions of him at different phases of life (including some paintings of him looking skeletal). I am most familiar with Chinese representations of Buddha after living in Taiwan and attending a language school there run by Buddhist monks and nuns. The “fat, happy Buddha” was the most common image represented. Note that by no means am I any kind of expert on Buddhism.

  4. Hang on, let me don my specs…

    *opening old HS history textbook*

    Native-born citizen…35 years old…lived in the US for at least 14 years…never been impeached or incited rebellion…yep…

    Sorry this is taking so long…the Constitution is wordy, and I’m trying to find the phrase “can’t be fat” as the founding fathers would have phrased it…


    Yeah, I got nothing. All I can think is that if Barbara Walters with her speech impediment can make it to the top, why can’t a fat guy? No one ever says to her face, “I’m just worried your inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’ will affect your health.”

    Oh, and also thinking of Presidents Taft, Cleveland, McKinley, Taylor…even Teddy Roosevelt (who, despite being a fat guy, established the Rough Riders, travelled the world, ruled a nation despite having a bad heart, was a champion boxer, and got shot whilst giving a speech and carried the bullet in his lungs for the rest of his life).

    Yeah. Still got nothing. Sorry.

  5. It’s interesting that you’re addressing this, because last Thursday on the Today Show there was a segment called “The Professionals” where the interviewer asked the panel of three (two women–including Star Jones, who has had WLS– and one man) if Chris Christie could legitimately be a presidential candidate simply because of his weight. They all went on about their concerns for his health (Star Jones, of course, being the expert because she avoided all the dreaded fattie health issues by becoming a good thinnie now), but the item that I found most upsetting was when the non-Star-Jones woman actually called out Chris Christie for EATING AN ICE CREAM CONE IN PUBLIC (OH! The horror!!) and said “if you look like that you shouldn’t be seen eating ice cream!”, and they all got a good giggle out of that, as if to say, of course, jeez, he should totally know better than to show the world that he’s such a bad fattie. I was completely disgusted with the whole thing.

    I don’t agree with his politics, but I will staunchly defend Chris Christie’s right to live without bigotry, stigma, or shame because of his body size.

  6. OMG!!! I live under a rock so I had not realized that Chris Christie’s weight had become an issue now or even that he was considered fat because I’ve heard his name but never seen him (I don’t have a TV) so I went and did a google search for photos. All I have to say is OMG people he’s NOT EVEN THAT FAT! In all the photos he looks plenty active and healthy to me. I don’t know what his politics are and plan to research that next but…truly, his weight should NOT be the issue here! Are people all on about Obama’s health because he smokes? I have heard a lot of griping about President Obama from his political opponents over the years but I haven’t heard a word of concern about his “health.” I will start worrying about someone’s weight affecting their health when they become too large to leave their apartment for routine medical care. Other than that…it’s not my beeswax. I’m a little to outraged by this exactly now to be coherent but those are my thoughts.

  7. I am feeling really enflamed right now… think I will go pen a message to Babs and let her know how disappointed I am in her. Reagan, I hope you don’t mind, but I plan to name drop in that letter and encourage her to check out your body of work.

  8. I actually saw a Facebook post suggesting that Santa couldn’t possibly be fat and get around the world in one night- seriously?

    Because if Santa were thin, the logistics of getting to every Christmas-celebrating home — in and out of chimneys, leaving presents and eating cookies — around the world in one night would be significantly altered? Like, traveling around the world and visiting hundreds of millions of homes are small beans compared to OMG Teh Fatz?

    Thank you for the laugh this morning.

    1. 20 years ago when my (average weight) daughter was 4, one of her daycare friends convinced her she was fat and that fat was *bad*. She came home sobbing. We tried everything to console her and convince her that her friend was off the mark. Finally, we started listing people she loved or admired who were fat. Mom, Dad, Santa. Her response? “Santa is NOT fat!” That day was a loss, but fortunately common sense eventually prevailed.

      BTW, I do think we are making *some* progress. I talked to above daughter’s twin sister this week and she mentioned her doctor told her to lose weight after a hypertension diagnosis (runs in the family regardless of weight, although I will admit mine goes down some if I eat better- which coincidentally generally results in a small weight loss). She said that’s not going to happen, but she’s really proud of how much more fit she is than a year ago. When I was her age there was no thought of giving credit for being fitter if the exercise didn’t result in weight loss. It’s a step in the right direction and I’m happy to know her stepdaughter will get this message from her 🙂

  9. Another good one Ragen. What a dweeb Babs is for even asking that. But it doesnt matter because that is how our society has turned out. We really have it good in the good ol’ USA. So good that all people can do now is focus on a persons size or whatever. If they had to hunt their food, kill it and then eat it, they wouldnt have time for such things. Furthermore, didnt you all know that fattness began with McDonalds? How could history have fat people? (Yes, my sarcasm is showing). Holy Cow!!!

  10. Henry VIII also. Thank you for mentioning governor Christie. I’ve been wanting someone to blog about the crap famous fat people get. Candy Crowley too. I wanted to scream – “shut up, when’s the last time YOU got to moderate a presidential debate!” Christie is quite hardy. People have this strange notion that anybody over, I don’t know, 150 lbs, suddenly becomes immobile and bedbound and diseased. It’s damned stupid.

    1. “People have this strange notion that anybody over, I don’t know, 150 lbs, suddenly becomes immobile and bedbound and diseased. It’s damned stupid.”

      Yes, this!!

  11. You know, Ann Landers (or is it Dear Abby, I never can keep them straight), has an answer for all these rude questions, that, unfortunately, I never remember in the moment. People write in all the time wondering what to say in response to rude personal questions, particularly from strangers, and her advice is to respond with, “Why do you want to know?”

    I wonder what would have happened if Gov. Christie had said that to Barbara Walters? (Just kidding, I used to work in politics professionally, I know exactly what would have happened…)

    Nevertheless, it’s a thought…

  12. I saw that interview and was blown away. I thought it was unprofessional of Barbara Walters to ask questions related to his fatness, at least the way they were framed. If she really felt uncomfortable with the questions the network wanted her to ask, she should have refused to ask them. Would she have asked Obama if he was too black to be president, or if he could prove he was really born in America?

  13. You totally know that this is a good reason why a woman presidency is pretty much impossible. Not only would she have to be white and beautiful, but she’d also have to be thin. I wouldn’t be surprised if “looks good in a bathing suit, but not slutty” becomes a freaking requirement for any female presidential candidate.

    Let’s not even start on the hideous MRAs who seem to echo a more extreme viewpoint about society’s larger views on women- that being that women over the age of 18 are “old.” BLAH.

    I hate when worth is tied to how one looks. I hate how men can largely escape this. But I hate even more that this is an actual thing in the first place.

  14. I’ve been so frustrated with the fatphobia on the left, speaking as a left-winger. Between making fun of obese people from middle America and making jokes about Chris Christie, I’ve been really pissed at how we’re conducting ourselves lately online.

    1. Fat people are always an easy target for people who want to strike a blow but don’t have enough real ammunition at hand. *Sigh*

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