Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Weighing In" on the Corzine Attack Ads

Somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve always wondered what would happen if a male politician was attacked for his appearance, thus experiencing the kind of “politics” that many female representatives deal with on a daily basis. (See: Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe choices, “cankles,” hairstyle, and so on, just to give one example.) This wondering meant I was not as surprised as many were when the Corzine Ads started to run in my home state of NJ, warning us that Candidate Chris Christie likes to “throw his weight around.” What did surprise me, however, was just how much attention & outrage this snide little attack caused.

[View a clip here, from a segment on this issue that Good Morning America did.]

I had expected, maybe, a counter ad; maybe an editorial talking about dirty politics and sticking to the issues… what I hadn’t expected was for the news networks to call Chris Christie on and address this issue directly and call Corzine out for his fat-shaming. “Can you believe that you were being attacked, in a race for governor in the Garden State, on the basis of your weight?” An anchor on MSNBC actually said this. To Chris Christie, and let him response. Without any discussion about how obesity is a “disease” and “dangerous” and “maybe it should be a factor in the electorate’s decision –making process.” None of that… just honest outrage on behalf of this man. What the hell? No, seriously, what the hell.

[Watch the video here]

Where is this enlightened conversation when a woman running for office is being picked apart based on appearance?

I began to wonder: if a similar attack were levied upon a woman, what would the response be like? Soon, I realized, I already knew the answer. Rewind just a few months: does the name Regina Benjamin ring a bell? When Regina was appointed to the position of Attorney General by President Barack Obama, plenty of comments were made about her weight. Unlike Corzine’s comments, these remarks were made openly – there were no double entendres, people simply flat out said that they felt her weight would stop her from properly doing a job. Unlike Corzine’s comments, the news networks were actually supporting this argument and questioning this woman, who had amazing credentials, simply because of the way she looked.

If this doesn’t illustrate the severe double-standard we have when it comes to the bodies of men, and the bodies of women I don’t know what does. When a male body is attacked the attacker is petty; when a female body is attacked, generally, that attack is either (1) ignored by the mass media or (2) validated as a legitimate argument. It’s interesting to note, for instance, that in the GMA clip I referenced at the beginning of this blog: the issue of weight being used as a political tool is referenced through several examples; all of these examples? Involved men. This is not for lack of examples of weight being used as an attack on an ambitious woman, but rather, I would argue that this is due to a serious apathy about the way women in power are degraded based on their bodies

I want to say I’m surprised but, to be honest, I’m not because these examples just feed right into the values that American society seems to hold. Men are valued for their ability, their ideas, and their physique; while women are valued for their looks first and then, maybe, for their ideals.

You may take something else away from all of this but, when I look at it, what I see is a society that views attacks on men’s weight as ad-hominem, while considering the same attacks on women both valid and relevant, regardless of what that woman has set out to achieve. Coupled with the fact that our next governor, Chris Christie, plans to veto any bill proposing Equal Marriage and also supports limiting women’s reproductive rights… let’s just say this election has given us a lot of reasons to be pretty mad.

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