There are so many reasons to criticize Republicans, but weight doesn't have to be one of them
Months away from President-elect Joe Biden taking office, in the heart of a global pandemic and mass unemployment rates, there are countless reasons to critique and call out Republicans. Not least among them, Donald Trump. Selfish leadership, hateful rhetoric, and policies that leave countless Americans in the dust are the name of Trump’s game. There’s a whole lot about him to call out. Unfortunately, a lot of people go the quickest and easiest route: his weight.
Criticizing someone’s weight is easy. It takes almost no effort or mental gymnastics to pull it off. It’s almost certain to get you some ‘likes’ on Twitter. Why? Because fatphobia is very, very ingrained in our collective understanding of humor. But it doesn’t have to be.
A hard, but important, truth: Trump—and anyone else—would not be a better leader (or person) if he were thinner. He would not be a kinder person if he were thinner. He would not make better policy decisions. He would not care more about the American people. You get the idea. Even more so, as much as we cover his Twitter rampages, Trump likely isn’t going to see the insults slung around his weight. Who is? The real people in your life. Your friends who follow you on Twitter. Your mom who hears you rip on a Trump supporter or Republican candidate by adding in a zinger about their waist size. Your coworker who really, really doesn’t want diet talk erupting in the middle of a meeting. And that’s exactly who fatphobic comments hurt—real people.
Someone’s weight does not tell you anything about them. You might think: Well, it tells me something about their health. Well, unless you are their physician, it actually doesn’t. Weight is one metric, among many, that make up a person’s health and vitality. It’s also one thing that is truly no one else’s business. Weight can connect with countless factors we can’t see: medications, food access barriers, pregnancy, chronic health issues, disability, emotional distress, and more. People could be in any stage of weight loss, weight gain, or stagnation. One thing is for certain: Shaming someone—even if it’s not directed at them personally—isn’t going to change a person’s body. But it will likely change how comfortable they feel around you.
In general, overweight people face discrimination based on their size. Studies back this up; overweight people have a harder time finding employment and are more likely to have a hard time getting hired. One study suggests that many girls start dieting by the age of 8 years old. Countless books and essays have gone viral that unpack the harm fatphobia does. And yet, from comedians to TV shows to the internet, insults and jokes around weight reign supreme. But by literally changing our words, we can stop that.
Will fatphobia vanish from our cultural collective overnight? Probably not. But the next time you want to zing someone, take a second. Call out their policies, their word choice, their actions. Be specific, well-informed, and clear. It’s not about being “nice” to Trump (or anyone else doing harm). Leaving the fatphobia out of the dialogue allows you to communicate a much more meaningful message—and saves the people around you a world of tangential hurt.