A Light from the Shadows

The Fat Shaming Wisecrack that Just Won’t Fade

Here we are at the end of the week that started with the most-watched presidential debate of all time, and people are still talking about a fat shaming wisecrack from Donald Trump. When Trump mentioned a hacker “sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” Monday night, it seemed like an afterthought.

But now, people are buzzing about the possibility that this wisecrack might keep Trump out of the White House. Kimberly Massengill, a fat-acceptance activist, told the New York Times that she was deluged with messages from friends after the debate:

They all said the same thing. Wouldn’t it be great if fat people were the ones to keep Trump out of office?

It would make logical sense that if the majority of Americans are fat, that this would definitely do him in.

The concern about weight-related issues goes beyond just one group of activists. Alt Right diehards have taken umbrage at what they perceive as a swipe at this fringe group of loyal fans.

And back in the mainstream, Republican strategist Ana Navarro tweeted:

I’ve struggled w/ weight issues all my life. And I agree. A man who shames and bullies a woman for her weight, isn’t even fit to be a man.

Navarro was responding to Trump’s ongoing fight with a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. At the debate, Clinton mentioned Trump’s disparagement of Machado. Trump has been talking about it ever since. He’s been saying “she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.” (She says it was 12 pounds.) All the while, he suggests he looked out for her because he “saved her job.”

Even Bret Baier, chief political anchor for Fox News, says “I just don’t think that this is a place that he should go.”

Academics like Dianne Neumark-Sztainer worry about the effects of a powerful man disparaging women based on their weight:

In some ways it legitimizes making those types of comments, which we know from our research can be very dangerous. In my opinion, these things trickle down.

Kristina Saffran, an advocate for people who suffer with eating disorders, worries about the impact on people she cares about:

They live in a society where everyone is thinking they are bad and stupid and lazy for being fat, and we have a presidential candidate who is championing those beliefs. It is going to be even harder for them to seek help.

In one sense, this is all new. Fat shaming was not a familiar phrase four years ago. But now that it is, Trump’s fixation on a woman’s weight just might be a deciding factor. It just might keep him from gaining enough traction with women to win the election.

Maybe it’s not OK anymore to openly mock people because of their weight.

Click here and here to read more from the New York Times and here to read more from the Washington Post.

A Light from the Shadows, photograph © Andrés Nieto Porras / flickr

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September 30, 2016