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Dr. Regina Benjamin too fat to _____?

July 14, 2009

Lightandfrothy on Feministing’s Community pointed out this phenomenon and really I’m not sure why anyone’s surprised. Of course, how could the American public, after seeing pictures of Obama’s pick for Surgeon General not bring up the fact that she is over weight? If you go to any major news website and scroll down to the comments you’re sure to find people saying things like this:

One of the greatest health threats in our population is obesity. Now we have an obese Surgeon General as a role model. How is she to impact the nation’s health if she can’t even take care of herself?

Yes, they’ve skipped past the stories about how she drove to check on her patients after her clinic was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, Obama’s quote that, “when people couldn’t pay, she didn’t charge them”, and the fact that she was the first African American woman on the American Medical Association’s board of trustees. But they just couldn’t get past this picture:

Remember when they did this to Sotomayer too? I think Jill’s statements still stand that, “If we have to see a woman in power, she better be worth looking at.” A woman’s first job is to be beautiful, and if she can’t do that, she’s already failed. How can we expect such huge failures to lead? To be our role models?

And as far as I can tell, no one who’s worried about her proclaimed obesity is worried about her health. No one’s checking her cholesterol level or blood pressure, or any real measures of health. Because they don’t have to. They looked, and decided, she’s fat. And that’s all they need to know. We all know what type of unhealthy lifestyles fat people lead, and how they’re influencing our children. And a fat woman? You know that she got this way from too many nights with Ben, Jerry, and Lifetime. Her weight couldn’t possibly be healthy for her. I’m sure the American Medical Association trustee, and recepient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights doesn’t know anything about her own health.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Darla permalink
    July 15, 2009 5:57 PM

    Look, if we wanted a beauty pageant winner, we could have gone with Palin for VP–luckily, Americans were too smart to go there. I’m betting that competence will win out over thinness. Maybe if we had a larger person as Surgeon General, some issues of substance will be addressed instead of all the superficial stuff that got us a lot of thin criminals (great job with FEMA, Brownie) at the top last go round. I also don’t necessarily think you need to be healthy to be a Surgeon General; our health is not all under our control as anyone with cancer or any other serious disease can tell you.

    • Jill permalink
      July 15, 2009 7:57 PM

      I think that’s an important point to make: health is not always under our control. And from there it’s important to say that neither is maintaining “health,” or a particular kind of body, some sort of obligation for public service.

      Great comment.

      • July 19, 2009 5:04 PM

        I would also add that fat is a pretty poor diagnostic criterion for health; not having access to Dr. Benjamin’s medical records, I don’t feel qualified to comment on her health, and neither should anyone else who hasn’t read her records. People persist in coupling size and health, and assuming that because Dr. Benjamin is fat, she must be unhealthy. I think it’s awesome to have a Surgeon General of Size, because perhaps it will get people thinking beyond the fat=unhealthy paradigm, and perhaps it will get people to start thinking about Health at Every Size and very real dietary issues which face people of all sizes, like lack of access to fresh vegetables and the overconsumption of heavily processed foods.

        (Here via Feministe, incidentally.)

  2. ninjanurse permalink
    July 19, 2009 3:06 PM

    C.Everett Koop was kind of hefty, and old besides, and he did okay. George Bush’s appointee, Richard Carmona, was reputed to be a bully but was meek as a lamb in office. I’ll be you never even heard of him.


  1. Too Fat? Discrimination Against Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Regina Benjamin « Kiss My Assets: The Body Image Resource Blog

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