Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today's rant

I'm asking myself the same question that Leonard Pitts so eloquently posed in yesterday's editorial: "How fat is a woman allowed to be before her opinions no longer matter?"

Apparently Laura Ingraham knows the answer but she doesn't seem to be sharing exactly where the line is between an acceptable appearance (and therefore a right to have opinions and express them) and an unacceptable appearance which disqualifies a woman from the same. Presumably, the line is somewhere between Ms. Ingraham's own weight and that of Meghan McCain's.

Here's the story: John McCain's daughter blogged that she found Ann Coulter "offensive, radical, insulting and confusing." Laura Ingraham immediately responded by marginalizing Meghan McCain by calling her "plus-sized" and implying that her opinions don't matter for that reason. (Remember, Meghan was blogging, not giving speeches.)

The part that bothers me is not that Ms. Ingraham wanted to defend Ms. Coulter. It's certainly her right to do so. It's more about that way we go about marginalizing women by reducing them to their weight and their appearance. We see it in the public arena all the time--Hilary Clinton being the most recent example of a capable woman being diminished by how the public's opinion of how she looks in a pantsuit. (If you don't believe me, go read any comment thread on any mainstream website.) I think Oprah Winfrey was initally embraced by women everywhere because she was a large woman who dared to say what she thought and acted like she thought she had a right to.

Since I think Hilary Clinton and Oprah can take care of themselves, however, I'm even more disturbed, when it shows up in women's personal lives. I can't count how many times I see smart, caring women reduced to shame and self-doubt when people in their lives call them "fat bitches" and "stupid cows" and "ugly." It's as though women ourselves buy into the poisonous myth that being overweight or being older or not being pretty disqualifies us, marginalizes us, and lessens our worth and our right to speak our minds.

By the way, Meghan McCain is about a size 8. What does that say about the rest of us?


Katherine Center said...

Hi! It's so fun to see my novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, on your reading pile! I hope you like it. I have a new novel called Everyone Is Beautiful that you might like. It has something to say on this topic of women and beauty. Thought you might like to see the trailer, too, which features a quote from the book that tries to broaden our concept of what's beautiful:


Hope you like it!!

pb said...

I think your observations are valid and most unfortunate. As I become older,fatter and less attractive, I find that my opinions are based on greater experience(obviously),broader sources of input, and a willingness to carefully consider issues raised by others to which my younger,slimmer self would have "knee jerked". I like this about myself - which is probably our best defense against the dismissiveness of others who don't consider the whole package. Too bad it's not always enough - even sometimes for our owns selves when we look in the mirror.