Listen… if it weren’t for so many people e-mailing me asking me what I think of all this… I wouldn’t be posting this, here. The thoughts of an overweight, balding and rather miserably unfortunate individual matter neither to First Lady Michelle Obama nor me.
I’d be lying if I didn’t frown up my face a little bit at the fact that this all came up right when I was preparing my post about body image, unrealistic perceptions and the media. Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances of the individual delivering the message… it isn’t lost on me that someone with a vast audience is perpetuating unrealistic perceptions and self-hate.
It also isn’t lost on me that an extremely large man is, again, expecting a woman to look like a swimsuit model on The Photoshop Diet in order to be the picture of health. I mean, let’s be honest, here. The last time Rush saw the inside of a gym was when he was staring – from the outside – in at the women on the treadmill. He just looks like he’s gross like that.
Both quotes from Mediaite:
One of the biggest (and some might say, strangest) targets of those opposed to the Obama administration has been Michelle Obama’s programs to combat childhood obesity which have been depicted as a nanny-state attempt to control what people eat. The latest attacks on these plans have also included accusations of “hypocrisy” by commenting on the First Lady’s weight in a disparaging manner. Last week, a controversial cartoon on BigGovernment featured a drawing of Obama binging on burgers. Today, Rush Limbaugh took a similar tack, railing against the First Lady for eating ribs during a vacation with her daughters.Here’s what Limbaugh had to say:
“The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. Yeah, it does…what do you mean, ‘What do I mean?’ I’m trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you.”
Judging by the reaction that that comic received last week (something we can assume Limbaugh noticed), it’s pretty likely these comments will cause a bit of an uproar. [source]
…and his own follow-up:
Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh made some derogatory comments about the First Lady’s weight. Today he registered how shocked he was at the uproar they caused.(Of course, the word “shocked” in the above sentence should be read as “completely unsurprised as that was clearly what he intended to happen the whole time so now he’s happily compounding the issue by making some more comments.”)
Here’s what he had to say today:
“These were highly civil comments for crying out loud. I mean, people are going nuts. USA Today, the Politico. And some people were suggesting that my comments were below the belt. Well, take a look at some pictures. Given where she wears her belts. I mean, she wears them high up there around the bust line. Isn’t just about everything about her below the belt when you look at the fashion sense she has?”
And, so, the cycle of life continues. [source]
What are my thoughts?
For one, I know that we here, in America, tend to see talking about a woman’s eating and dietary habits as a sort of sacred cow-type situation… but I feel like that’s part of what First Lady Obama has opened herself up to. I feel like its, unfortunately, part of the territory because of the climate in which we live. Never mind the fact that people will erroneously judge you. Never mind the fact that people will make inaccurate inferences about what your diet should be. When the public perceives you to be making judgments about their food choices, the public then, in turn, believes its okay to do the same to you. They may get it wrong (as evidenced, here), but they’re gonna do it anyway.
That doesn’t “excuse” the comments. That just explains why they – and the annoying little cartoon – are a bit of a non-issue to me. I’m nowhere near as important as the First Lady and, still, when people see me out they ask me if what I’m eating at that time “is in my diet.” (I never know how to answer that because…. I don’t diet.)
Oh, you missed the cartoon? Well..
Second… I giggled at Limbaugh’s break down of her meal.
“And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving.”
…because I know better. Besides, no restaurant that our President and First Lady – no matter who they are – would dine at would serve a slab of meat so massive that the meat, alone, is 1,500 calories.
The restaurant decided to speak out:
The first lady, in Vail with her daughters and some friends for the Presidents Day weekend, dined at Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village Saturday night, enjoying a pickled pumpkin salad with arugula and a braised ancho-chile short rib with hominy wild mushrooms and sauteed kale.
So, of course, some people are taking the short view of the short rib.
A braised short rib is a relatively lean cut of beef, braised with most of the fat cooked off. The 5-ounce serving runs about 600 calories, Liken said — a far cry from the 1,500 calories and 141 grams of fat it’s accused of.
“A proper 5-ounce portion of protein is what nutritionists say we should have,” said Kelly Liken, who launched the highly successful restaurant.
Let’s not forget that the 5-ounce rib is served with local kale, nurtured and grown by students at Eagle’s Brush Creek Elementary School.
“Kale is one of nature’s super foods,” Liken said. “There are more nutrients in the 3 ounces of kale we serve than you’ll get in a massive green salad.” [source]
Pickled pumpkin salad – with arugula – and a braised ancho-chile short rib. I don’t think that restaurant is offering anything with that high of a calorie count on their menu. (This, again, is another reason why I advocate saving your money and, instead of going out every other day, dining out less and going to the nicer restaurants. The nutritional quality is higher, the quality of the ingredients is higher and damn it, the food is better.)
What he’s doing is like a nationally syndicated version of food shaming. Just another way to imply that someone needs “dieting” advice because their looks don’t meet your standards. “You aren’t thin enough to me, therefore I need to give you advice on how to meet my standards.” Um, have y’all seen this dude? Let’s just say I’d love to see him live up to his own standards, for starters. Be the change you wish to see in the world, with your big behind.
There’s one last element of this that is especially annoying. I can’t gauge who, exactly, I’m going to piss off by bringing this up, but so be it.
A lot can be said about a society where it is acceptable for a fat white man to feel comfortable criticizing a woman’s body – a woman, who, for a long time was criticized for having arms that were too cut – let alone a Black woman’s body. Not only does he criticize her nutritional habits and her looks – because all women should aspire to look like Sports Illustrated models – but her fashion sense as well. She’s the First Lady, for goodness sake – if she were to, in fact, look like one of “A-Rod’s play things,” we’d be chastizing her for looking like a young whore instead of a prominent political official’s wife. Hell, we played her out just because she’s the first First Lady we could remember who had well-toned arms and had no qualms about showing them!
Let’s not act like Limbaugh didn’t have a chorus of listeners laughing and agreeing with him, if – for no other reason – than to ‘justifiably laugh and point at the First Family. Let’s also not act like there weren’t people who agree with his ridiculous statement. As women, society has standards that are set so high for us that they don’t even understand them anymore. They want us to be healthy, but obviously don’t know what healthy looks like – it certainly doesn’t look like mildly malnourished, pre-adolescent boy looking white women. They want to judge what we eat, but don’t know what healthy food looks like. Why do we allow society to influence our perceptions of ourselves so much? Why do we care so much about what society thinks? If I’ve educated myself on health, wellness and self-care… does society even matter? Could society’s opinion of me matter more than what I think of me?
Not. Ever. Repeat after me: Not. Ever.
And this comes to my final point. Because of all of this, I’m almost certain our First Lady doesn’t care. A blowhard – who wouldn’t know “healthy” if his intern googled it on Livestrong (much like his intern googled those short rib stats) – who feels more comfortable criticizing a woman’s body than picking up a carrot and taking a walk doesn’t really deserve this much attention. So can we go back to focusing on something important…. like, say, a nice round of yoga?
Speaking of “erroneously” judging people…your comments about Rush Limbaugh’s appearance were a bit harsh. The man has recently lost a lot of weight which he claims is to improve his health. I thought you would commend such behavior and I never thought you would so callously judge someone based on their appearance. Not to defend Limbaugh, but as you so rightly said, Mrs. Obama is publically advocating a healthier lifestyle but to simply speak the words and not live the words is a tad hypocritical don’t you think? I appreciate the efforts of Mrs. Obama and I applaud her for tackling such an enormous issue but you better “walk the walk” if you’re going to “talk the talk.”
Why, because I called him fat? Womp.
I put him up against his own standards – not mine – and he failed. MISERABLY.
I’ve written over 500 posts on this site about women’s body image, women’s health, anti-dieting philosophy and almost every other element of weight and wellness. I take it PERSONALLY when a fat, balding MAN does the SAME thing we rail against here, every day… with NO ONE to impose his own standards on himself. It goes unchecked. DAILY. Not here.
You think that’s erroneous? I can accept that. I, on the other hand… don’t. I put people up against the standards they try to impose on people and I delight – gleefully – in the fact that they FAIL (like, for instance, society?). PROOF that perhaps they shouldn’t have those standards in the first place… and DOUBLE proof that they should focus less on trying to clown OTHERS and turn that inward to THEMSELVES.
You say you’re not trying to defend Limbaugh buuuuuuut… you are. It is what it is.
“Not to defend Limbaugh, but as you so rightly said, Mrs. Obama is publically advocating a healthier lifestyle but to simply speak the words and not live the words is a tad hypocritical don’t you think?”
So on what are we basing that she is simply “speaking the words and not living the words”? How is this incident her *not* living a healthy lifestyle?
Is it beacause she was eating ribs? If you are saying that by the mere fact the food has a certain amount of calories, it was unhealthy and therefore ‘hypocritical’ I disagree.
1. Eating healthy is not just the sum of how many calories you ingest. You can consume calories on lean cuisines however do you *want* to?
2. So the rib was 600 calories (per Vail) – they are at a SKI resort where I am sure after an hour on the slopes that would be burned off.
3. If the issue is not with the calories but with the fact that she was eating RIBS? Do you think if she was eating a 600 calorie salad there would be this outcry?
I am no fine dining connoisseur but I think that the braised short rib at Vail – while high in calories (for what it is and the amount of ounces) is perfectly perfectly acceptable for a meat eater at a ski resort.
Take it a step further, even — look at her meal:
“The first lady, in Vail with her daughters and some friends for the Presidents Day weekend, dined at Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village Saturday night, enjoying a pickled pumpkin salad with arugula and a braised ancho-chile short rib with hominy wild mushrooms and sauteed kale.
A braised short rib is a relatively lean cut of beef, braised with most of the fat cooked off. The 5-ounce serving runs about 600 calories, Liken said — a far cry from the 1,500 calories and 141 grams of fat it’s accused of..”
Can someone tell me what, on Earth, is so wrong with that? Realistically speaking, the fact that y’all are so clueless in regards to what “healthy food” looks like is WHY y’all think you have to eat rice cakes and air burgers to lose weight… and why y’all stay losing at it.
I agree. I have totally ignored Rush and his childish tactics to antagonize an argument. Maybe it’s time for his next pill…. That was so below the belt and I do apologize for it. He needs to grown up and understand that his 15 mins are almost up.
This is so frustrating, and you are complete correct, those that are laughing and agreeing with Rush are only doing so because they look for reasons to laugh at the first family. Even if she did indulge in some rib action (which clearly was not what Rush made it out to be), it’s not like she eats that way everyday. No healthy eating plan says that you cannot indulge in great moderation, really Rush is no person to talk… there isn’t much that is healthy about that man. The cartoon is ridiculous, if it wasn’t for the Barack caricature saying Michelle, no one in there right mind would think that was her. This is trying to make something out of nothing, trying to find a bad in a good thing, people will use any way possible to somehow make that first family seem horrible. It’s sickening, America has an issue, Michelle should be able to feel safe speaking out on it.
I can’t tell you how much I love this post! A male friend of mine is a huge Limbaugh fan (ugh) and is also built like Limbaugh, and yet has no qualms pointing out and saying something about women who are overweight when we’re in public. Your words have given me the ammunition with which to fight back, so to speak, when he does it again. I especially can’t wait to use the “pick up a carrot and take a walk” line on him 🙂
Rush Limbaugh is after ratings. He tries to be shocking, but really just comes off as the ignorant, close-minded, racist that he is. Also, since Glenn Beck’s ratings are down 50% http://mediamatters.org/blog/201101270008, Rushy’s really gotta stir the pot. Oxycodone and hydrocodone must be expensive when you buy them on the street…
I almost died at “The last time Rush saw the inside of a gym was when he was staring – from the outside – in at the women on the treadmill. He just looks like he’s gross like that.” But I pressed on and read the rest of the article.
To be honest, I’m sick-to-death of the attack on women from the right on all fronts, be it our weight or our reproductive choices, but I digress. No, he probably doesn’t know what a healthy woman looks like because it’s obvious he doesn’t know what a healthy MAN looks like… or else he would look like one. Really, you have to let people like him go on their tirades and show themselves. He wants attention, and unfortunately we’re giving it to him.
*stands up to give a rightly deserved ovation* clap,clap,clap. Nothing else needs to be added. Let’s move on to enjoying life again.
You know, I kept hearing about what he said and every time I went to click a link about it I stopped. I stopped because I asked myself, is Mrs. Obama giving this dude and his comments any thought, and the answer I came up with was nope, not even a little bit. The only reason I read here was because I could see by the title that you had a similar reaction.
Now, let me go work on my crow pose. 😉
CROW!!!!! *bows to you*
If anything powerful was said here today it was that the women who responded mentioned that now they have a voice.
“…you have given me ammunition with which to fight…” Lyn Haraldson
Erika your blog empowers women to have a voice on matters no one else cares about and would not normally have their back on. When I attended a predominately white University for my post graduate education the sentiment among upper middle class whites is that black people deserve what they get and they dont feel blacks have a right to even speak up for themselves and these are YOUNG educated whites who perpetuate the stereotypes and institutionalized racism of their fathers. Well slowly but surely that sentiment is changing. One blog at a time! Keep up the good work.
I love your response it hit a lot of points spot on. Thanks
I feel that since the Obamas have come into office, Michelle Obama has been disrepected excessively by the Republican Right, and I hate to say it- I think it has a lot to do with her (and her husband’s) color.
To see her Let’s Move campaign skewered to where she is just a fat black women in a suit asking for bacon is uncalled for. Rush calls her ‘Mooshelle’ and ‘Michelle by belle’ which had this been either a Republican first lady or even a white first lady I don’t think he would do.
On another post we were talking about the ban on soda for food stamp recipients, and it kinda puts it into perspective, if the black FLOTUS AND POTUS can’t get the basic respect of their office, what does thay say about the rank and file of us ?
This all just sickens and digusts me- I say that Huckabee (another conservative) actually jumped to Michelle Obama’s defense and I applaud him for that.
Now to echo what Erika said, I’m sure Michelle O isn’t paying Rush any attention, but I think this situation highlights how hard it is to be a healthy black woman in society.
Gahh I’m getting all upset all over again!
You are SO on point with this. Very well said.
Why are we even paying attention to anything this man is saying? He is clearly going after ratings and drawing more national attention to himself.
May I just say: I love your blog. You’re a good writer, you’re sharp and very interesting. And I pretty much tweet about every of your pieces. Please keep up the good work.
I just found your blog and I really like it so far! I consider myself to be conservative but I detest this type of political maneuvering. Michelle Obama is a beautiful woman and no one should criticise her based on her appearance! To do so just exposes one’s own ignorance. Frankly, I am tired of conservatives and liberals alike stooping to ignorant slander that doesn’t even address their point. (Bill Maher’s “dumb tw@#” comment also comes to mind). I am glad to have discovered your writing and I am adding it to my RSS feed right now!
Though I understand why you originally felt you didn’t need to comment on Limbaugh’s ridiculous comments, I am really glad you did. I raised myself on television, books and magazines, and none of those things contributed to a positive self-image. I’m slowly learning – though as I gather more information I’m picking up speed – just how detrimental media can be to the maturation process of girls. What you read, what you see, what you hear, all of it is taken in and you do try to conform to images that are positively reinforced and avoid those that are negatively reinforced, despite what you may consciously tell yourself. Or at least, I have. I am really thankful for your blog and it’s not only because your opinions are eye-openers – it’s because you really inspire me to discover who I am now, who I want to grow to be, and how to accept that person even if she does not correspond to the images that are projected as acceptable in the media. My only question is… how do we maintain our self-respect and self-love without turning off the tv for good, ignoring magazines or simply shutting out society?
Thanks for reminding me how good kale is. I have been more than 100 pounds overweight for more than 20 years now. I facilitate a women s support group at a local mental health drop in day facility. I just got the courage to start talking about weight when one of the women brought up her issues of body image and weight. Your blog is inspiring me to take some more steps to get my temple right. Thank you and I will bring your blog to the attention of our group. I ll also keep checking in to see where you re at..And thanks for giving Rush the tighten up on Michele. Simply put Where s is the respect accorded a loved and revered public official? Plus Rush knows how to get a rise out of our POTUS: just mess with Michele. Bad form, right?
This shows me how waaay out of the loop I am, I hadn’t known any of this happened until now.
(Rant button: On)
Seriously, Mrs. Obama? He’s, ANYONE’S, going to say Mrs. OBAMA needs that belt way up there so she doesn’t show a not perfect body? Are you kidding me?! The woman is lean and toned and fabulous, no matter what side of the donkey/elephant animal kingdom you prowl on. 😀 Low blow, Mr. Limbaugh, a RIDICULOUSLY low blow.
(And good lord…the woman was on vacation. I wouldn’t CARE if her ribs really HAD been 1,500 calories. Sound it out – VAY-CAY-SHUN, sir, VAY-CAY-SHUN.)
(Rant button: Off)
So, in regards to the whole body image thing,
i have a theory, I wonder if we were to push the “perfect mens body” image, how long do you think all of this will continue?
you see, most men are more then happy to point the finger at us ladies to say what we should look like, but once you point the finger back at them, they soon check themselves. if we did that on a mass scale, i think we just might be well on the way to solving the issue. haha!
I live in New Zealand, and we don’t see as much of Michelle Obama as you guys do (duh!), but she always looks beautifully presented and fit to me. She’s just a nice looking lady.
Maybe this Limbaugh guys is jealous?
I’m wondering how many babies Rush gave birth to?
Ah yes..none (thank heavens for no mini-Rush, or does the miserable soul have kids?)
Michelle is amazing
First of all the first lady has never denied her love of junk food. She likes pizza and ice-cream as much as the next person but what she stresses is control. So what if she eats a big chunk of meat, she works out hard and makes healthy choices. She is not crash dieting , she has a healthy lifestyle which means occasionally she indulges. How is that going against what she preaches?
She also does mostly work with children encouraging them to move because the younger generation is more susceptible to an unhealthy lifestyle with all this technology . I am 29 and fun for me used to being outdoor playing games.
Rush needs to pay attention to his own health. She is the fittest first lady your country has ever seen. If Michelle feels like eating a whole cow one day she can . She is not telling people to eat like her , she encourages people to find their own thing and be more conscious of daily choices.
I realize this is an old post, and thank you for bringing this issue to light. Hindsight is 20/20, as we all know, but I think this had far less to do with what the First Lady ate and more to do with what she represents. Even if she did manage to loose 30 pounds off her frame, I think she was and has always been a tool to attack Obama with. They push this notion that she is “manly” aka “ugly” and that Obama is “weak.” There is no stronger insult you can give a woman besides attacking her looks, and there is no stronger insult you can give a man besides calling him weak. It took people of color to enter the White House for blacks to see that racism is not dead and what white people truly say of black women behind closed doors. My heart truly weeps for him, for the b.s. he (Obama) has to go through just to run a nation that no other president has. Attacking the First Lady is calculated, and I can almost assure you, it has never happened on this level. National news in this country has become less news and more so, commentary and political agenda disguised as news. Since when does a Senator sue the President? Really?
I know that this is an old post and I am just reading it and I rarely comment on anything outside of my own thinking; but I just want to say “THANK YOU, ERIKA”. Thank you for the intellect, knowledge and balance you presented in your comments. Thank you for having boundaries and the courage to say I am not laying down to this constant cycle of disrespect toward women, body image, healthy eating and non-thin body types.
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