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Queers and Steers —

February 5, 2013

General warning: This post is about a terrible people who make racist, homophobic and fat-hating remarks. There are also some political undertones.

The chickens have come home to roost for Michelle Obama.

The Washington Post reports that an Alabama football coach went on a bigoted rant about the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which is largely seen as Mrs. Obama’s pet legislation. The Act sought to improve school lunches by requiring more fruits and vegetables and less “junk.”

Conservatives predictably bristled at changes as an act of legislative over-reach and have been gleefully sharing a video of students who are starving to death because they won’t eat the new lunches.

Although I was aware of those critiques of the new school lunch program, I had somehow missed another angle that has been surprisingly popular among right wing critics: that Michelle Obama is a big, fat hypocrite, literally.

More specifically, these outraged conservatives think Michelle Obama has a fat ass. So, you’ve got Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (who is fat himself) saying shit like this:

Sensenbrenner

And if you Google images of Michelle Obama’s butt, you get shit like this:

Photoshops

Yeah, when I think “fat” I think Michelle Obama.

This latest incident is notable because it picks at the scab that’s forming over this ugliness. The coach, Bob Grisham, an R. Lee Ermey wannabe, told his students exactly why they should be outraged.

Coach

“What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?
Didn’t Mommy and Daddy show you enough
attention when you were a child?”

Grisham: Like those lunches — you get 600-calorie lunches — you know who’s behind that?

Different voice: Michelle Obama

Grisham: Fat butt Michelle Obama

(Giggling in background)

Grisham: And look … look at her. She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She’s overweight.

Different voice: Big fat gorilla

(laughter)

Grisham: I’m serious. Y’all, our country is, is, is going in the wrong direction.

Different voice: It’s going straight to hell.

Grisham: You’d better be aware of it. And people running around like, oh it’ll get better, it’ll get better. No, it ain’t gone get no better until things change. I can give you example after example of that, but I don’t want to use any local names to give you examples. Things won’t get better until there’s a change in some areas and stuff. And you know what his platform was? Change. We’re gone change. We’re all … aw it’s OK …. for … and … y’all can get pissed off at me or not. You can go tell the principal, you can call the superintendent and tell her. I don’t believe in queers, I don’t like queers. I don’t … I don’t hate them as a person but what they do is wrong, it’s an abomination against God. I don’t like being around queers.

There are so many reasons why this shouldn’t come as any surprise, but I think the biggest one is racism. You’ve got the student giggling about how she’s a “big fat gorilla” with no objection from the coach. But more importantly, you’ve got the fixation on her backside, which has been a fascination of white culture since the exploitation of Sarah Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus featured in 19th century freak shows.

Hottentot Venus

But setting aside the racial element for a moment, what I find most fascinating is when Grisham says, “She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She’s overweight.”

This is utterly ridiculous. Even by the standard definition of the term “overweight,” this is laughable. Of course, if he’s right about her weight (and nobody knows what her weight actually is), then according to BMI calculators, she would have a BMI between 25.8 and 26.5. A BMI of 25 or more is overweight, so technically he’d be right if he actually knew her weight, but the idea that Michelle Obama is fat? Ridiculous.

And yet, this is completely normal in American culture. It is considered completely normal to judge another person’s body to be over- or underweight, and to assign all the value judgements that go along with that. And Michelle Obama is well-aware of that, as she said in an interview with Prevention when asked if all the media attention has affected her body image:

No, not really — but I thank God I’m 45 in this and not 35. I feel bad for young women going through the same thing, because [at that age] you don’t know who you are. I know what makes me happy… My message to women: Do what makes you feel good, because there’ll always be someone who thinks you should do it differently. Whether your choices are hits or misses, at least they’re your own.

It’s a great message and one that resonates even more with the putrid words of Bob Grisham still fresh in your mind. And yet, at the same time, Michelle Obama has already committed herself to supporting the same kind of hateful sneering that landed this coach in hot water.

One year ago, I wrote about how Mrs. Obama appeared on The Biggest Loser and gave the sadistic trainers the FLOTUS seal of approval:

Biggest Loser does an excellent job of getting people to think about ways, large and small, that they can work on their bad habits, bring better nutrition into their lives and find really small, but meaningful ways to slowly start getting active.

Immediately following this post, I will begin watching the sixth episode for the next Biggest Dickweed recap. During this season I have been documenting all of the hateful sneering done by Jillian, Bob and Dolvett this season, which is then broadcast to millions of viewers, including the children who were encouraged to watch with their families.

When The Biggest Loser is treated as a legitimate lesson in healthy living, then society is also getting a lesson in how to treat fat people, whether perceived or actual. If Bob Grisham made these comments about Chris Christie or some other actually-fat politician, it wouldn’t be a story. But the horror, it seems, is that these comments were made about a woman who is clearly not fat.

But why is that worse? Why is it worse for a high school coach to belittle and degrade a not-fat woman for being fat, but society celebrates a show that revels in degrade actual fat people?

The answer is that it’s not. It’s just as bad to treat fat people like shit as it is to treat the First Lady like shit. There is no difference. And until Mrs. Obama acknowledges that The Biggest Loser encourages the exact same treatment that she is now being subjected to, the collateral damage from a fat-hating cultural will continue to hit people, particularly women, of all sizes.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    February 5, 2013 11:45 am

    It wouldn’t matter if Michelle Obama had the exact same body as Twiggy, she’d still be body-shamed because that’s what our society does to women to keep us “in our place”. And that “place” isn’t a place of empowerment, isn’t a place with influence over anything that straight, white, rich, old men consider their domain.
    I find it interesting that the rise in dieting culture comes right along with the rise of women demanding equality, the rise of ads objectifying women’s bodies to sell shit to men, and the rise of ads selling shit to women to make them more “acceptable” (objectify-able) to men.
    If women are kept busy worrying about their bodies, worrying about whether they’re “acceptable” to the men in their lives (and men everywhere, by extension), then they don’t have time to demand the respect, dignity, and equality that is theirs by right of being a human being. And women who say “fuck that noise” and demand their due are called dykes, man-haters, and ball-busting bitches – more ways to put us “in our place” and negate everything we’re working for. The sad thing is that all of that doesn’t hurt just women, it hurts men too, but a lot of them are just too narrow-minded and entrenched in their privilege to see it.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 5, 2013 12:41 pm

      I agree. There is a lot of sexism in their horrifying, woman-hating statements. That was even more readily apparent to me than even the racism aspect. Can’t understand how any woman could let these cretins into their bed.

  2. lifeonfats permalink
    February 5, 2013 5:23 pm

    No wonder I’m single when you have so many men like this doucheclown running around judging women by their weight. We’re more than numbers on a scale!

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 7, 2013 4:50 am

      You and me both. I had enough of the kinds of abusive, hateful asshats who seem to be drawn to me. Probably because of my mental illness, they see a victim. Well, I am a victim no longer. They learn that pretty quick.

  3. February 6, 2013 11:36 pm

    I was thinking about Hilary Clinton the other day after reading an article on Slate about how girly Clinton is. WTF is that about? She’s too girly. When she was running for president, it was all about pantsuits and cankles, now she’s too girly? Women just can’t win. They dress down they’re frumpy, they dress up they’re too feminine.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 7, 2013 4:51 am

      Also, if women express interest in men, we’re sluts. If we don’t express interest in men, we’re “man hating bull dykes.” It is indeed a no win situation.

  4. JeninCanada permalink
    February 7, 2013 12:08 pm

    It’s only no-win if we’re playing their game. To ‘win’, don’t play! Not easy, I know, but it’s all I’ve got.

    Atchka, thank you for this excellent and far-reaching post. Racism and sexism intersect in the highly visible FLOTUS and it’s something she’s been dealing with all her life. Now that she’s such a high profile figure maybe we can start having a real conversation about intersections of oppression and privilege. This is a good start. Just because she’s the FLOTUS doesn’t make her immune; it makes her *more* of a target. Women are always seen as public property, but if you’re a woman already in the public eye, like a politician or a movie star, well, it’s 100x worse.

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