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CNN just confirmed that New Jersey governor Chris Christie underwent Lap Band surgery for “the sake of his wife and children.” I’m sure there’s a segment of people who will celebrate this choice (and plenty who will judge) because at base, weight loss surgery is an often life altering and health inducing step. I felt a great sense of sadness, because I don’t believe its a choice he made. Chris Christie was fat shamed.
Its the first time I’ve used that term. I read about women being fat shamed at doctors and think “Yeah, well, that’s what doctors are there for.” I’ve read about women being fat shamed by the beauty & fashion industry and think “Yeah, well, cause the fashion industry is known for being fair and representative.”
I just couldn’t tap into this sense that people felt until today because as soon as I read the headline, I saw it. THIS is what fat shaming looks like.
For months, I’ve watched pundits ask (rudely, if I might add) Gov. Christie about his weight and how that should affect his politics including a run for the White House. To some small degree, his weight has offered a distraction from his actual politics -- SNL didn’t have to bother to really find an actual character trait to exaggerate, cause we all know how funny “fat” is.
Gov. Christie has shown, in my opinion, a great deal of class and charm in the face of what would be unacceptable behavior even amongst friends.
Its not that I don’t want him to be healthy -- we’ve seen this surgery work for a wealth of people. It is often the kick start that many need. If you’ve watched someone recover from the surgery, you’d never jump to the conclusion it’s “cheating.” It's a major surgery and requires major life alteration, far beyond what “healthy people” engage in on a daily basis. Its a choice you can make, and a brave one, as all choices to change your life are.
So why is this so awful? Because this intelligent, affable, competent man didn’t make this choice independently, he was shamed into doing so. He was told, likely by a wealth of consultants, that Americans didn’t believe a fat man could do the job. That a fat man didn’t deserve the job. And the word “deserve” is really important here. Fat people are lazy. Fat people have no self control. Fat people are sloppy.
Unless you’re a fat person who can manage a governorship of a state in crisis and do, from outside appearances, a pretty decent job.
We elect people to positions of power in every sector -- civic or corporate -- on a bevy of factors. We accept that these people have weaknesses and strengths and that there is a balance. A great negotiator may also be a philanderer. A great economist may not have the best social skills.
In the case of Gov. Christie, his weight negated it all. No skillset could overcome that the dude is overweight.
I won’t quote demographic studies about the average American, because we know the numbers. We’re fat. And we should... no, need to strive for healthier lifestyles. But when we elected a Catholic man, a black man, and women became serious contenders -- a common cry was how we needed leaders that were representative of the people. In that iteration, HOW can a fat man not be representative of us?
I’m a Democrat who’s never lived in New Jersey, and when it came time to vote (and surely, we must all understand this surgery is a precursor to a campaign), I wouldn’t vote for Gov. Christie’s politics. But it would be his politics, not his weight that was the determining factors.
America just shamed a man into surgery because we told him he wasn’t good enough the way he was. Congratulations.