By Lesley | March 16, 2009
The backstory to this is that Meghan McCain, daughter of Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, recently posted to her blog on The Daily Beast with some disparaging comments about Ann Coulter, and how McCain believes Coulter is harming the Republican party. Fair enough. Heaven knows I got no love for either Ann Coulter OR Meghan’s dad. At any rate, McCain’s post led to her being a guest on the Rachel Maddow show last week.
Which, subsequently, led Republican radio-show host Laura Ingraham to mock McCain on her show, not for being wrong or stupid or a plague on the Republican party, but for being – wait for it – “plus-sized”.
I don’t have a huge amount to add to this that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. I would like, however, to note two things.
The first is McCain’s reaction to the attack. While most folk tend to respond to this sort of thing with a shrieking assertion of their categorical not-fatness, McCain, while she does mention her specific size in her response on The Daily Beast, doesn’t really dwell there. Instead, she points to the absurdity of body-snarking in the context of her criticisms. Some snippets:
…Even if I were overweight, it would be ridiculous. I expected substantive criticism from conservative pundits for my views, particularly my recent criticism of Ann Coulter. That is the nature of political discourse, and my intent was to generate discussion about the current problems facing the Republican Party. Unfortunately, even though Ingraham is more than 20 years older than I and has been a political pundit for longer, almost, than I have been alive, she responded in a form that was embarrassing to herself and to any woman listening to her radio program who was not a size 0.
My weight was consistently criticized throughout the campaign. Once someone even suggested I go to a plastic surgeon for liposuction. Afterward, I blogged about loving my body and suggested critics focus their insecurities about women’s bodies elsewhere. On the other side, my mother was constantly slammed for being too skinny, so the weight obsession of the media and our culture goes both ways. It also goes to both parties. Hillary Clinton has consistently received criticism for her pantsuits and figure. Whatever someone’s party, these criticisms are quite obviously both wrong and distracting from the larger issues at play.
[…] All I can do is try to be a positive role model for women of my generation and, I hope, help show that no matter what industry you are in, what size you are has nothing to do with your worth.
How about that?
Recently a friend was relating a story to me of another friend, who was harassed on the subway by a man who called him a fag. The harassed party reacted by standing up to the harasser, and when things became heated, physically assaulting him. The person telling me the story found it very funny, but I found it pretty disgusting. I was disgusted for the simple reason that the harassed party succeeded in validating the harasser’s implication that being gay is something of which a person should be ashamed, such that calling a non-gay person a fag is an insult that can’t go unanswered. It didn’t come across to me as an inspiring tale of standing up to a douchebag stranger, but as a story of how accusing someone of any degree of queerness is a surefire method of getting under someone’s skin. Essentially, the harassed person reinforced the idea, to the harasser and to anyone who witnessed the event, that if you really, really want to insult a guy, you call him a faggot, because a faggot is about the worst thing a guy can be.
Meghan McCain, in this instance, could have responded with a knee-jerky, “I am NOT plus-sized! I wear a size x!” which likewise would have underscored the idea that calling a woman fat is one of the most cutting things you can say about her. Instead, McCain takes the high road and wonders, if a little idealistically, how her weight – or anyone’s weight – is pertinent to the situation, considering the situation has sweet fuck-all to do with physical appearance but has, instead, to do with political affiliations and party lines.
A second little point that I haven’t seen discussed as of yet is the way the “plus-sized” slam from Ingraham has been pretty universally interpreted as “Ingraham called Meghan McCain fat!” This is not entirely accurate. She called Meghan McCain plus-sized. I suppose my question is, why DIDN’T she call Meghan McCain fat? Is it possible that even when mocking someone in this way, for Ingraham, using the word “fat” just crosses a line? And if so, how fucking ridiculous is that? I’ve inured myself to the word “fat” so completely that on the rare occasions when it’s leveled at me as an insult, I laugh. It’s my word, you ass. Not yours. Being called “plus-sized” like it’s a vicious slur is even more hilarious to me. Shopping at Lane Bryant may be someone’s idea of hell, but it’s not mine.*
I must terrify people sometimes, without even knowing it.
* Yes, even when I hate everything in the store, I’d be hard-pressed to call it hell. That’s not a concession I make lightly.
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