When Laura Ingraham insulted Meghan McCain last Thursday and said that McCain is “just another Valley Girl gone awry” and that she was basically too fat to have a legitimate opinion on politics, McCain did not take it lightly.
INGRAHAM (mocking, on her radio show): Ok, Meghan. Do you think that anyone would be talking to you if you weren’t kind of cute and you weren’t the daughter of John McCain? Or do you just think that they would just think that you were just another Valley Girl gone awry?
…MCCAIN (on MSNBC): And I think there’s an extreme on both parties and I hate extreme. I don’t understand. I have friends that are the most radically conservative and radically liberal people possibly ever and we all get along. We can find a middle ground.
INGRAHAM (mocking, on her radio show): Ok, I was really hoping that I was going to get that role in the Real World, but then I realized that, well, they don’t like plus-sized models. They only like the women who look a certain way. And on this 50th anniversary of Barbie, I really have something to say.
Ingraham’s mockery of McCain by bringing up her weight is so petty and diverts attention away from the issue at hand, from McCain’s political beliefs and statements. Calling a woman out on her weight is not an intelligent or thought-provoking response to McCain’s commentary on Ann Coulter. It does nothing productive to challenge or continue the content of the conversation. Instead it shuts down the conversation by bringing up something totally irrelevant. Why should the way someone looks have anything to do with the beliefs they are articulating? It shouldn’t have the power to discredit someone’s opinions.
The sad part is that disqualifying a woman or discriminating against a woman because she’s deemed fat is all too common. Women are reduced to their bodies and if they don’t do femininity right by failing to conform to the ridiculous and unrealistic standards of beauty, they are subject to ridicule by the media and the public. Women fat-shaming other women is low and exemplifies the internalization of oppressive beauty standards and patriarchal reductions of women to their bodies.
McCain rebutted on The View:
“I think with Laura Ingraham the worst part about it for me is that with my personal blog a significant majority of the readers are young women and I can’t say with the daily beast I’ve only been writing for them for a few months but I assume a lot of young women are reading it. And what do young women think when I speak my mind about politics and I want to have a political discussion about the ideological future of the republican party and the answer is she’s fat, she shouldn’t have an opinion. What kind of message are we sending young women? It’s terrible, I have a little sister and what kind of example is this setting for her? Weight is not the … I’m a political writer on a blog and all of a sudden I’m too fat to write ya know. Everyone from Tyra Banks, to Oprah, to Hilary Clinton to my mother, why are we so obsessed with weight why? I know specifically for me this is so…I’m a pop culture junkie . When Tyra Banks went on her show in her bathing suit and said kiss my fat ass, that’s what I feel like right now. I’m like kiss my fat ass. There’s no place for weight criticism of women in 2009. There’s no place for it and if I have to come on this show and say that there is no place for any woman to have her weight criticized not matter what age she is.”
How many times have you heard women in your life criticize themselves or others about their weight? How many times have you heard women in your life complain that they are too fat and need to lose weight? Especially before spring break, to get in that bikini body, in shape enough for the beach.
It distresses me that so many of my female friends constantly complain about their weight. I hate when I’m eating with friends and someone says “I’m so bad, I shouldn’t eat this”, “Ugh I’m such a fat-ass”, “This isn’t helping my diet at all” or similar comments where they reprimand themselves or express disgust with themselves for eating what they’re eating.
Yes, we all eat unhealthy foods sometimes. Yes, we all have experienced times of inactivity where we know we should be exercising more but aren’t. Yes, we all may feel insecure about our bodies and the way we look. (When you live in a culture that bombards you with messages about how you’re not good enough, you internalize these toxic beliefs after a while since it’s everywhere you go.)
However, constantly berating yourself for your weight, your body appearance, or your diet, doesn’t do you any good in the long run. Yelling at yourself? Hating yourself? How does that help you? It just makes you feel worse about yourself. It also reflects the internalization of patriarchal beliefs that reiterate and reemphasize the hypervaluation of having a slender body because women are just bodies, you know.
We are always taught to care about what our body looks like, not what our body does for us everyday, not our accomplishments and aspirations, not our personalities, not our hearts, etc. McCain is absolutely right, what message are we sending to young women when we don’t enable women to express their beliefs and opinions about politics, or other important issues, simply because of the way they look? What message are we sending to young women when we judge women on the way they look and not the value of their ideas?