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.”
…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?