On Tuesday, New Jersey’s Chris Christie finally announced that he’s running for president. Before the Republican governor had even uttered the final words of his speech, social media exploded with jokes about his weight. The Internet was once again hit with a flurry of fat jokes and doctored photos of him shoving junk food in his face.
“Chris Christie is asking everyone not to send money to his campaign, but to send bacon instead. #Christie2016,” read one tweet from user @ny007ny.
“When #ChrisChristie becomes #POTUS, they're going to change the presidential 747 to #AirForceTon,” read another tweet from @DannyPrecise.
Another tweet shows a play on the famous Obama “hope” poster.
Of course, this is nothing new for Christie. He has endured ridicule and fat-shaming since he first set foot on the steps of the State House in Trenton back in 2010. The governor has taken it in stride but why should he have to deal with fat shaming in the first place? And why is this type of ridicule acceptable in 2015?
The answer may lie in the fact that while society over the last several decades has become more tolerant and accepting when it comes to race, gender, and sexuality, many still look down upon people who suffer from obesity. Comedians, journalists and others go out of their way to publically humiliate those who have trouble keeping their weight in check.
Over a third of American adults are considered obese, according to figures compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation from 2011 to 2012. They also found that over two-thirds of the American public is considered at overweight at the very least. It’s been a long standing problem in this country, and research finds that Americans’ struggle with weight is not just about being lazy or lacking self-control. But still the stigmas persist.
A 2012 study by the International Journal of Obesity showed that that those with a high BMI face an “obesity bias” and are less likely to be approved for a graduate program after an in-person interview. One’s weight is not supposed to have any bearing on one’s job performance, but the same study, and countless others have shown that managers and senior executives often think that obese people are less capable and lack leadership potential.
This of course is not always true, and Christie like many other obese people is quite capable -- despite what many in the Garden State think -- of doing a competent job.
This was even pointed out as far back as October 2011, when there were rumblings of a Christie bid for the 2012 presidential election.
The Obesity Society, a Maryland-based nonprofit scientific group released commentary regarding the criticism that swirled around him at the time.
"A person's body weight provides no indication of an individual’s character, credentials, talents, leadership, or contributions to society,” read a line from the organization’s statement. “To suggest that Governor Christie's body weight discounts and discredits his ability to be an effective political candidate is inappropriate, unjust and wrong.”
Now, Christie is a grown man. He doesn’t need to be shielded by the ridicule and he’s often a good sport. But his opponents and critics who fat shame him do nothing to bolster their case against the man’s politics. In fact, it shows little more than ignorance on their part.
Many of Christie’s fat-shamers are those who claim to possess progressive ideals, often demanding equal rights and acceptance of all people. So, if bigotry against others is wrong, why is it OK to poke fun at the obese and overweight?
Finally, let’s be honest, the governor has lost a ton of weight since he underwent lap-band surgery in Feburary 2013. But that did nothing to stem the nasty response on the Web.
Christie has earned himself a reputation over the years as being a bit of a bully but does that make it ok to bully him for personal issues he has had to deal with through most of his life? If you want to call out Christie for his political ambitions, it should be for the right reasons.
A man in his position should be measured by his actions, not by his waist size.