Thursday, July 23, 2009

Regina Benjamin is Not Too Fat to Serve

Dear readers, I am concerned about the message Tom Vilsack is sending to Americans. He is in charge of our farming, general agriculture and food policies. His department is supposed to try and not only end hunger in America, but ensure that the youth (who are, after all, our future) are learning how to provide healthy food for themselves and their families. And I can tell just by looking at him that he is at least 60 pounds overweight. I know that if I were a teenager about to cook dinner for my family, I would take one look at Tom Vilsack and think “Well, if the person in charge of the food policy for the entire United States can eat chicken fried steak for dinner…”

That’s ridiculous, right? I have never, and will never, hear that kind of criticism about Tom Vilsack. Or C. Everret Koop. Or any of the overweight male senators or congressmen who shape our food and health policy. I have, however, heard that about Surgeon General nominee Dr. Regina Benjamin. Critics on the internet, and now in the mainstream media, are claiming that Dr. Benjamin’s weight sends a bad example to Americans, and that someone overweight is therefore unfit to serve as Surgeon General.

Really? That’s your argument against a woman who has an M.D. and an M.B.A., who ran a clinic in rural Alabama that withstood two hurricanes, and who recently won a MacArthur Genius grant? I shouldn’t be shocked that when a woman with impeccable credentials is nominated to anything, the next best thing to complain about is her looks. Even women with less than stellar credentials are judged based on appearance.

Dr. Regina Benjamin is more than qualified for the position of Surgeon General. Anyone who would look at our Surgeon General and decide that his or her weight was license to overeat clearly wasn’t all that dedicated to a healthy lifestyle either way. And critics like Michael Karolchyk, former owner of a gym that advertised itself as a place to prepare for sex, and who wore a “No Chubbies” shirt on Fox News to talk about Benjamin’s weight, should not be the experts we expect to keep us well-informed about health.

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Laura said...

Just another example of how women's bodies are fair game in the public forum. It's not just about reproductive rights anymore! Like you said, you would never hear a man talked about in this way. Disgusting!

Thuy-Lan said...

great post, lizz. infuriating!