I am a “Morning Joe” addict – a fan of Mika’s because she just rocks, and a fan of Joe’s because, even though I disagree with most of his positions, he makes some great television.
Today I’m enjoying a long morning – breakfast in bed, picking at email, Morning Joe in the background. They’ve been talking about Donald J. Trump’s comments about the former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, who he insulted as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” because of her 12-pound weight gain and her Latina ethnicity. I’m not even going to talk about the racism here, because the weight issue hits home so hard.
Early in the show I think* Joe Scarborough referred to Alicia Machado having had a “weight problem,” before Katty Kay correctly said that beauty pageant participants were expected to be unhealthily thin, and that Ms. Machado had gotten back to a “healthy, strong” weight when Trump criticized her. Thank you, Katty Kay.
Trump’s weight problem is really America’s weight problem. For me, his comments bring up a painful history of my own struggle, not with my own weight or body image, but with – there is no polite or politically correct way to say this – men insulting women about their weight. To be clear, women do this too, but the preponderance of the emotional impact on me, and I daresay most women, comes from men.
I have personally been insulted about my weight, which is always 10 pounds more than I would like it to be, because of a disease that could be called XX-America (two X chromosomes, living in USA). Not once or twice, but countless times. A boyfriend once told me I was “really heavy” as if it were an objective fact that needed addressing immediately. I addressed the hell out of his objective fact – I broke up with him immediately.
When someone wants to tell me I look nice (often due to a haircut or an outfit or my stunning smile) they often tell me I’ve lost weight. (I’ve been the same weight for the past 15 years, possibly with varying levels of fitness). I’ve been guilty of this myself.
When a friend makes a casual comment saying such-and-such a singer looks terrible or such-and-such a newscaster should stop eating pasta, or refers to women as “heifers,” I feel personally insulted, and have begun saying so.
I’m going to stop with the personal litany here, because this is a blog post, not a book. However, on to the point.
Trump’s comments about Alicia Machado’s weight do not represent Alicia Machado’s “weight problem.” Any weight problem Alicia Machado had – she reported a long struggle with eating disorders after her involvement with the Miss Universe pageant – seems to have been caused by Trump’s comments and others like them (and our general climate around weight).
I believe that Trump’s comments will remind many women of the times they have been insulted about their weight. If you listened to Morning Joe this morning, you’d believe that his comments will cause a drop in the polls, will stick to him, etc. But here’s the thing. Trump’s sin is that he made these comments in public, and in a professional context. Honestly, to me, he sounds like a lot of men do in the privacy of their own living rooms and locker rooms.
“Fat-shaming” is still acceptable in many social circles, and the belief that it’s not okay for a woman to be larger than a size 4 is still embedded in our subconscious. Many of the men who excoriate Trump in public will still go into the locker room and joke about women’s weight. And they will go into their dark little voting booths and vote for the man who victimized Miss Universe.
Because Trump’s weight problem is America’s weight problem.