Growing up, I developed a special vocabulary to describe my body shape. "Fat" and "obese" were discarded out of hand, primarily because they were both technically inaccurate and overly descriptive. Those extra 15 to 20 pounds that settled around my burgeoning hips and dimpled thighs were annoying, but hardly Shakespearean in their tragedy. Presidential Race
Since I was very feminine and cute enough to make grandmothers and elderly nuns smile, I liked to call myself "plump," "pudgy," "roundish," "chubby" or the adverb-turned-adjective "dieting." I wouldn't say I was devastated with the way that I looked, but I nod in agreement when my family calls my teen years "the Dark Period." In fact, most of the photos taken between 1970 and 1980 show me either in the shadows, pictured from the neck up or situated behind conveniently large objects like my brother Michael (who has his own body story to tell, which he will do if he ever gets his own newspaper column).
I eventually lost weight, then gained it back, then plateaued at my own personal base camp. I am neither the skinniest I've ever been, nor am I looking at the top of an adipose Mount Everest, even as menopause and the joys of caloric chaos await. This is simply to give you an idea that I am by no means insensitive to the obsession women have with our weight, our shape, our cellulite, our rearviews and our rolls. I have been there, and I am headed back there, and I am under no delusion that this will end well for me. In fact, I'm considering renting my brother Michael for future photo shoots should that become necessary.
But, all joking aside, I have never been the type of person who said that name-calling during adolescence and my young adulthood doomed me to a life of self-hating. This might be because I never placed too much value on the way I looked, fully aware that my brain and my humor were my best armor against unbelievers and the bullies. I was "cute," not "pretty," and this insulated me from ever believing I could win beauty pageants or be the homecoming queen (which would have been revolutionary at my all-girl high school).
It never occurred to me to think that I was growing up in a toxic society that judged me by the way I looked. Sure, there were the unkind comments overheard at the occasional mixer, and, yes, my father did express his concern that I was developing more chins than a Peking phone book, and, OK, my uncle Louie developed the word "oogly" in my honor ("Ugly just doesn't cut it, Chrissie"), but no one ever tied my worth to my girth. No one.
That might be why I'm having a huge, yuuuge problem treating Donald Trump as a sadistic beast intent on destroying all the fragile young women in society. There is no question he is boorish and arrogant, and his view of women seems to have been captured in the amber of the Jurassic Period. Some people will read this column and come away with the sense that I am excusing the bullying, mean-spirited attacks on the women Trump has targeted during this campaign, and that could not be further from the truth. The way a man treats the women in his life is a measure of his character, and, by that measure, Trump is several floods behind Noah. When he went after Carly Fiorina's looks during the primaries, I was one of the first to criticize him (which is interesting, because so many liberal women remained silent. Could it be because the former presidential candidate was a conservative? I'll just let that hang there.) His rather sophomoric ravings about Megyn Kelly were also a sign he wasn't ready for prime time, and his later attacks on Hillary Clinton were unsurprisingly lame. He is not a gentleman.
But we are not voting for Gentleman-in-Chief. I asked a good friend of mine who supports Clinton why he thought the media were making so much of Trump's misogyny. I wanted to know what relevance he, at least, thought this had for a president's ability to govern. After a few moments of hesitation, he said a person's character was a strong indicator of how he (or she) would perform in office. He asked me whether I'd be happy to have Trump call Angela Merkel "fat" at an international conference, and I said that, since Trump can barely speak English, I doubt Angie would understand him anyway. That did not elicit the hoped-for smile, but I tried.
When I look at Trump, I do not see the evil Bluebeard the media are now trying to project. And I suspect that most other women don't see it either, even the ones who would rather stick flaming spears through their eyes than vote for him. This whole misogyny shtick is effective for Clinton and her cohorts, such as Pennsylvania's own U.S. Senate hopeful, Katie McGinty, because, in the Year of the Woman, we need the grand villain to be the Man Who Called Rosie O'Donnell A Fat Pig. And since O'Donnell is divisive, and no one actually likes her, Clinton was forced to find another woman to use as her March of Slimes Poster Child. She hit the jackpot in former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, an immigrant (new citizen, yay!) a Latina and a former pudge. Trotting out the mouth-droppingly beautiful Alicia and having her lament the fact that the head of the Miss Universe Pageant didn't want her to look like a linebacker after winning the crown (and taking a lot of his money) has helped cement Trump's image as a despicable, woman-hating beast.
But most of us out here aren't buying it. Well, some of us are. But the vast majority of the women in the United States really don't care whether our future president prefers his women on the lighter side. We think that the commercial with those fragile, little teenage Faberge eggs gazing sadly into mirrors as if their worlds were ending is a sign that Clinton has been reading too many Judy Blume books. We will not necessarily be voting for Trump.
But we are sick and tired of this ridiculous, opportunistic play for our votes, as if being a few pounds overweight has turned us into victims of a cruel society. We also find it ironic that Clinton is outraged at the fat shaming of a Venezuelan beauty queen, but had no problem whatsoever when Monica Lewinsky was being called all sorts of horrific names a generation ago.
As I recall, "fat" was one of the kinder ones.
Christine M. Flowers
Philadelphia Daily News