This week, Governor Chris Christie has been embroiled in a scandal involving the GW bridge and political payback.
You can learn about it from Jon Stewart:
Or, listen to Rachel Maddow take a crack at it, and swoon at how effing smart she is. I’m not a political journalist or philosopher so I won’t really comment on this scandal. I’m not shocked that this brash, bullying guy is implicated in a revenge scandal. It is New Jersey, after all. But there is another aspect about the story that makes me kinda sad.
Chris Christie is a big guy. In fact, I’ve often used the word huge to describe him. He’s fat. When you see him next to the President, the size difference is almost disconcerting. He’s talked openly about his struggle with diets, and even had weight loss surgery last year. The fact of his size hasn’t slowed down his career much, but he has payed a steep price.
It’s still true and often pointed out that being fat is the last largely acceptable reason to taunt, shame, and harass people. As a culture we love to couch our hatred of large bodies in concern, claiming that we care about people’s health. This is categorically untrue since skinny people can also be seriously unhealthy and since the debate about universal health care stands where it does. We don’t want to see fat people as people, it’s easier to blame them for bad habits or addictive personalities and that way they can be ostracized where we don’t have to see them. Because it is, mostly, about aesthetics.
In the wake of ‘BridgeGate’ this week (what a dumb fucking name) a cartoon started to make the rounds on my NewsFeed. I’m not going to post it here because it makes me too sad. Google it. It features the Governor, sitting naked on the roadway of the GW bridge, with his knees hugged into his chest, blocking traffic. The whole huge mass of his body, causing the back up. And it just made me angry. Because joking about his body takes away from whatever the real story is. And disrespecting him in this way is childish and mean. There are lots of legit reasons to dislike and ridicule him, like his bullish aggressive personality or his conservative policies. We don’t have to resort to body shaming. This is a tactic we usually reserve for females who are powerful or famous, but since he is fat we feel his body is also ours to critique. We have all been guilty of making these judgments at one time or another. But the basic truth is that not everyone wants to eat organic and healthy. Not everyone enjoys exercising at the gym or yoga or pole dancing or playing sports, and not everyone wants to focus on their heart rate or aerobic endurance. Not everyone who is heavy by cultural standards is trying to lose weight. And those people are allowed to live their lives however they want. They are allowed to own their choices, and they deserve to be respected in their bodies. I hope we can all stop giving in to our inner school-bus-bullies, make room within ourselves and within our culture for folks to feel beautiful and worthy no matter what their size, and mostly to stop focusing on other bodies, and start focusing on ourselves. Because loving yourself is already the most difficult and most rewarding life-long journey, and we don’t have time to waste on the pettiness of casual judgments.