Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gov. Chris Christie and a Fat Shaming Public

'NJ Gov. Chris Christie 002' photo (c) 2011, IowaPolitics.com - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
It's clear that Chris Christie is gearing up for a run for president in 2016.  His increased media presence cannot possibly be seen in any other fashion.  When he appeared on Letterman recently, Dr. Connie Mariano, who served as a physician to former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said, “I’m a Republican. I like Chris Christie. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight,” she added. “I’m a physician more than I’m a Democrat or Republican. And I’m worried about this man dying in office.”  This comment was made after Christie made a joke and ate a doughnut on Letterman.

Christie decided to respond to the doctor with the following:
“I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona — who has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history — could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away,” the governor said. “She must be a genius. She should probably be the Surgeon General of the United States, I suspect, because she she must be a genius.”

“This is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV,” he continued. “And it’s completely irresponsible — completely irresponsible. My children saw that last night. And she sat there on TV and said, ‘I’m afraid he’s going to die in office.’”

“My 12-year-old son came up to me last night and said, ‘Dad, are you going to die?’ I mean, come on. This is irresponsible stuff. And people who have a medical license, who have the privilege of having a medical licence should, in my view, conduct themselves more responsibly than that.”

Christie suggested that Mariano should “get on a plane and come here to New Jersey” so he could have a conversation with her.

“Until that time, she should shut up,” he insisted. (source)
It's clear that the more Christie attempts to increase his profile, the more he will have to deal with fat shaming.   The comments on the linked article continue on the fat shaming, despite the excellent points that Christie made in his response.  There is an assumption that because someone is fat that they are on death's door.  It's really quite laughable because one certainly need not be fat to drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow.  Christie was right, what Dr. Connie Mariano said was absolutely irresponsible and feeds into the culture of attacking fat people on sight.


The issue of Christie's weight should not be part of the public conversation.  People should be talking about his record as governor of New Jersey. Christie's weight has no bearing on whether or not he is a capable administrator or what policy initiatives he will support. If Christie is truly planning on a 2016 run, people should be asking relevant questions like where he stands on health care, Roe V Wade, taxation, and foreign policy. These are but a few issues that a commander in chief must deal with.

What irks me about this is that Christie, like all fat people, is being publicly infantalized.  He is being treated as though he does not know he is fat and what that entails.  This is not an experience that is unique to Christie. Every fat person will at some point have someone lecture them about their health and their weight, professing to care about their well being, all the while ignoring the fat hatred that they are engaging in. No fat person needs to be lectured about their weight, or any health risks associated with it. It makes me want to scream, "we fucking know already."

Christie is a republican and so it galls me to even have to write a piece in which I declare him right on anything but I have been pushed into this position by the resounding hail of fat hatred that is constantly being thrown at him.  It is happening on a large scale because Christie is a public figure, but I can promise you that there isn't a fat person who cannot relate to what he is experiencing. There isn't a sphere in which fat isn't either visibly shamed and it doesn't help that when the media isn't actively attacking fat people, they are erasing us. 

Few take a stand on this issue because fat shaming has the distinction of being framed as a public good - a kindness. That these comments are self serving and help to uphold thin privilege goes ignored. Fat does not say anything more about a person than any other descriptor, like short or tall for instance. It isn't an indicator of whether someone is neat, intelligent, or has any kind of self control. This is a simple truth, but you wouldn't know that given the conversation around Christie's weight.

Fat people are people.  We have feelings, we face prejudice and we hurt. This is something that needs to be acknowledged. Christie is a privileged man in many ways but fat hatred not only affects the way in which he is perceived, it impacts his life.  I don't know much about Christie's political platform, or his history as governor of New Jersey, but I do know that his weight is a non-issue and should not be a subject for public debate.  His response clearly shows that he is angry about the fat hatred and he has a right to be.  He's not being a bully, or denying an essential truth; he is simply existing as a fat man in a world that has decided stigmatize fat.