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Dear Nancy Pelosi, Not Even Trump Deserves to Be Fat Shamed

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has a number of achievements under her fashionable belt, and for this reason, it pains me to write this about a woman I admire. But yesterday, she was wrong.

On Monday, Pelosi made waves in Washington when she razzed Donald Trump by calling him “morbidly obese.” Her comment came in response to a question posed by Anderson Cooper about Trump’s use of hydroxychloroquine, which the President believes, unabashedly, can prevent him from catching COVID-19, a claim that lacks evidence of success.

“As far as the president is concerned, he’s our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists,” she said, continuing: “Especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, morbidly obese, they say. So, I think it’s not a good idea.”

If you watch the video, as I’ve done a few times now, it’s pretty clear Pelosi is using Trump’s weight as a dig. She’s doing something I’ve admonished on this platform many times before called “concern trolling.” When you concern troll, you pretend to advocate for something that you are actually shaming. In this case, Pelosi is pretending to show concern for Trump’s overall health, but she really means to get under his skin.

This is problematic for a few reasons. First, it serves no one for Trump and Pelosi to sling insults at one another, but fat-shaming him stands to hurt a lot of people. When Pelosi trolls Trump on television, she’s speaking to a national audience which includes people with all kinds of body types and sizes who might internalize her words about Trump and apply them to themselves. Since her comments went viral, hashtags like #PresidentPlump have surfaced on Twitter.  

Now, I expect some people reading this article will object, as they often do whenever a fat person talks about fatphobia and marginalization. Pelosi certainly isn’t the first person, or even the first politician, to go after someone for their weight. Even Trump, himself was quoted saying about a protester in a rally, “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home, start exercising.”  

Yes Magazine calls fat-shaming the last acceptable bias. By stooping to Trump’s level of attack, while easy to do when dealing with someone like him, Pelosi has solidified the fear-mongered idea that fat is bad, unhealthy and will ultimately kill you. 

It’s a widely-held perception. So much so I wouldn’t be surprised to see people using it to concern troll me in the comments of this article, despite evidence that not every fat person is a product of an unhealthy environment and on the precipice of sudden death. The fact remains, there are a number of ways Pelosi could have answered that question to highlight Trump’s gullibility or ignorance of medical advice about the drug without talking about his weight, and they would have been more accurate and effective.

Next, the term “morbidly obese” is antiquated. In medical terminology, the word “morbid” means causing someone to be unhealthy. In the context of weight, “morbid” refers to an unhealthy metabolism, not necessarily size. That means thin people who begin to undergo metabolic changes can have the same health issues as larger people. The common denominator isn’t weight, it’s metabolism.

According to The Metabolism Clinic, “the word morbid is applicable to anyone regardless of weight; but most definitely does not begin when a patient becomes obese.” So “morbidly obese,” in addition to being a term that just comes off as derogatory, is a bit of misnomer that fans the flames that obesity is inherently bad.

Fat women in the age of Donald Trump need a hero more than ever. And sometimes Pelosi runs with the torch, but today I’m thinking about something that was said by another famous political figure I admire — Michelle Obama. Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” I remember watching that speech, and the words just hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s so simple, “When they go low, we go high,” right? While working in today’s toxic cesspool called Washington surely requires a degree grit, I would love to see Nance channel her inner Michelle Obama next time she is asked to opine on Donald Trump. I’m, quite frankly, tired of explaining why.

Screenshot via CNN

Originally published: May 19, 2020
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