The Elephant in the Room

Time Magazine has a cover with a profile picture of governor Chris Christie under the headline “The Elephant in the Room.”

Time called it a “figure of speech” and did not apologize.

Jon Stewart created a cover for “The Daily Show Magazine” with the headline “Time Magazine is a pile of sh*t.”  Stewart explained that it was a figure of speech.

Commenters all over the internet are wringing their hands and wailing “won’t somebody think about his health,”  defending the idea that cheap shots based on the appearance of candidates are ok if we can successfully stereotype that appearance as indicating health.  The truth, of course, is that there are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size and people should probably think long and hard about whether or not “health issues” are valid reasons to vote for someone, or if they are just being healthist.  No matter what someone believes about this, I don’t think it justifies National magazines making tacky appearance-based jokes.

Chris Christie has said that he doesn’t care “Whatever they put on the cover of TIME Magazine, as long as my name’s with it, I could care less” and “if I’m bothered by jokes about my weight, it’s time for me to curl up into the fetal position and go home, OK? I — and the fact is that, you know, if they think that’s clever, great for them.”

Governor Christie gets to handle this any way he wants, and I have absolutely no issues with his reaction.  I think that every fat person gets to decide how we deal with the bullying, stigmatizing, stereotyping and oppression that comes at us.  I think that the problem lies with the people doing the bullying, stigmatizing, stereotyping and oppression.

I will say that I believe it’s a sad commentary on our culture if we truly believe that anyone who wants to participate in public service (or make a living singing, dancing, acting etc.) should just expect that along with that comes a heaping helping of body shaming, stigmatizing, and bullying.  I would like to live in a society where people think that’s not ok, not one where they use the prevalence of bad behavior as an excuse to perpetuate and participate in it.

Governor Christie and I disagree on a great many things – like the idea that same gender couples should have to get the approval of the majority of voters to enjoy the same civil rights that opposite gender couples consider their birthright.  But I’m happy to let my argument stand on its merits.  Unfortunately I see many people who aren’t willing to do that attack the Governor utilizing a common way to institutionalize oppression – by tying  it to things like health, ability, fault, choice etc.  Fat people are definitely not the first group to have to deal with this, sadly we likely won’t be the last.  My question to those who are justifying their size bigotry against Chris Christie (or anyone else) under the guise of “health” is that if, looking back in history, they are proud of the company they are keeping?

The real elephant in the room isn’t a fat governor, it’s fat bigotry.

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Published in: on November 12, 2013 at 8:52 am  Comments (18)  

18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The expression “Elephant in the room” indicates that something is of vital importance but not being discussed. Since everybody and their fat-bashing mother has been talking about Chris Christie and his potential presidential run, Time magazine has just announced that they use expressions they don’t even understand–on their cover.

    That said, there are tons of valid reasons to dislike Chris Christie, and his pants size is small potatoes compared to the sociopolitical stuff.

  2. even though i am not crazy about his [or, particularly, his party's] politics, i might vote for him for two reasons:

    1/ i watched him treat the president as if he were not only The President, but also a person & not a Black Person [ie: the threatening & incomprehensible Other]; &

    2/ because i understand how much shyt he mustve been given for his size. people do one of two things when given enough of that to fill a containership several times over: dish it back out in a frenzied fury or learn compassion from the inside & treat other people accordingly.

    the latter is far scarcer. i dont watch much television [i've rarely ever owned one], but i did see CC+O do their good works after the hurricane. from that i understood that, at least in some ways, CC was in the compassionate camp.

    again, i am not certain i will vote for him but if i did, those would be the reasons.

    &, of course, time sicked the duck of the dog on this one. oh heavens, casual cruelty is all the everlovin rage now, isnt it.

  3. Political segmentation is, in itself, a form of bigotry. It’s a judgment against another person, and a barrier to the grasp of interconnectedness. So those who would oppose anti-fat bigotry might do well to place it in the context of ALL bigotry. And, ummm, the avoidance of judging against those who are themselves judgmental is the Final Frontier of Forgiveness. But I could be wrong about that. And everything else. Life’s a funny proposition.

  4. I don’t vote for people whose political stances I find disagree too greatly with mine… and I don’t care what size pants they wear, whether they wear skirts, whether that is the traditional Western dress for their gender identity, who they choose to sleep with (so long as everyone is above the age of consent and consents), what color their skin is, or what their image of God might be. I vote based on whether their politics more generally agree or disagree with mine.

    And considering the very first thing I ever heard about Governor Christie – long before I heard any of his political stances – was that he was ZOMG! FAT, FAT, FATTIE MCFATPANTS!!!!… I honestly don’t think his weight is a matter that has been much ignored in the press. To this day, for every story I hear of his political beliefs/actions, I hear at least three about how fat he is.

  5. Time Magazine is getting notorious for this, though. There was that infamous sexist Michelle Bachman cover, and that scandal where they considered naming Osama Bin Laden man of the year… in the space of about a decade they’ve gone from being “America’s News Magazine” to a tabloid desperately trying to use shock value to sell copies.

    So fat-shaming Chris Christie in a “stealthy” way they can clutch their pearls and *promise* they totally didn’t mean it that way in an age there’s no way they couldn’t have? Sure. I’m disgusted. But it’s exactly what I expect from Time these days, so what would normally be outrage is more like, “Meh, it’s just Time being Time again.” They should stop pretending and a put a Kardashian on their cover. After getting a better photographer, because to add insult to injury, their cover pictures have also been shit sandwiches.

  6. The man already had weight loss surgery. Jesus H. Christ, what the fuck more do they want from him?

    I was disappointed, and felt he’d caved to the politics when I heard about his lapband procedure, but it’s his body and his choice to make. I don’t agree with him politically, even though there are things I quite like about him, and how he handles shit. I couldn’t vote for him because I am just too Libertarian, and I won’t compromise that ever again by supporting a candidate I don’t fully support.

  7. Did anyone read the article? I didn’t, so I’m asking, not being snarky. Did they mention Christie’s weight at all? If not (which would surprise me immensely) then I could almost give Time the benefit of the doubt for a double play on words instead of a triple one. I bet someone in the editorial office sprained their shoulder patting themselves on the back for that one! I saw Christie on Jon Stewart once and I thought he was almost reasonable. I could maybe see myself even voting for him…if I had sold my soul to the devil and no one else was running. Maybe…

    • I haven’t read the article but I seriously doubt that the would do this and nobody would think that perhaps putting a fat guy on the cover with the phrase “The Elephant in the Room” could be taken as a fat joke.

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

    • I saw him on Letterman one night and when Dave asked about his weight Christie pulled out a jelly doughnut and ate it on air. I absolutely loved that.

      He handles all the rude, obnoxious comments and questions about his weight far better than he handles other issues. I’ve got to give him props for that.

  8. Um…my first question is – if people have issues with politicians “health,” how did FDR, a guy who couldn’t even walk, make it into the White House? If a fat politician is causing this much hand wringing, how did we let a physically disabled person slip past us?
    …wait, what’s that you say? FDR’s ideas, politics, policies and his ability to govern as president *had absolutely nothing to do with his personal health*?
    Huh. Imagine that.

    /end massive sarcasm before my eye roll out of my head. >:-P

  9. I really, really hate when I feel compelled to defend Chris Christie.

    • Me too. I live (and vote) in New Jersey. I can’t stand Christie, can’t even bear to hear his voice. He’s a corrupt SOB, rude and caustic, and really phoney to the core.
      Sure, he made that photo op with Obama pay off – big time- then months later, he showed his true colors when he took federal Superstorm Sandy funds and decided to sit on them (no pun intended) instead of disbursing them to families all over my county who were HOMELESS because of the storm. Many are STILL homeless – one year later.
      My sister-in-law and her family are still waiting for help to rebuild their destroyed home. (and she did have flood AND home insurance- that both low- balled her payout.) Christie is very conservative, and panders to the Tea Party when necessary. However all that said, I have never and will never disparage him and mock him because of his weight. I wish others would stop that, too. What Time magazine did was completely unacceptable and childish. But PLEASE people, Christie is not a poster child for FA nor is he worth anyone’s vote should he run for president. He’s not right for this country, he’s just got excellent “PR” people!

      • Well he just had weight loss surgery, so he’s definitely not a role model for FA. As for pandering, he’s a politician. It’s what they all do.

        I have no use for any of them, really. At least none of the electable ones.

  10. I wrote about the problems with the healthist arguments over Christie’s weight earlier this year. You can read about it here:

    http://www.wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/2013/02/politics-and-weight-risk-hyperbole.html

  11. Um (she said, peeking out from behind her shield), I may be perhaps the only person from the HAES community who didn’t have a problem with the Time cover. My first thought was that “the elephant in the room” was this country’s obsession with weight, that it was being brought to the headlines by Christie’s success as a politician, and that perhaps now we were going to open a serious national discussion about weight stigma. Like, “can an intelligent, committed, effective and popular politician (whose politics I don’t endorse, fwiw) run for President in the US if s/he is also fat? I would LOVE for the country to have that discussion!

    The clever part is that the metaphor works for 1) fat, 2) Republican, and 3) a big issue that nobody wants to address for real. Hats off to that intern or whoever it was.

    Ok, so I’m going to retreat to my rotten tomato-proof room now. :-)

  12. Different country, same issue.
    I´m from Argentina. One of our most controversial politician is a fat woman who´s been one of the oposition party´s head for many years. A couple of years ago she ran for president, and all you could hear about was “If she doesn´t have the will power to stop eating, how will she ran the country?” Nothing about her stands or her proposal, just about her weight.
    To this day, it still makes me sick.

    • These prejudices transcend borders.

  13. I have always disagreed with arguing about politicians’ appearance, including Hilary Clinton and Chris Christie. They are legislating important matters and all the media can think of is to discuss their appearance?? I am grateful that people are as annoyed about this as I am.


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