Friday Feminist Fuck You: Regina Benjamin Fat-Haters

This week in the crusade against women of color in leadership positions we have people calling Regina Benjamin fat. Charming.

I haven’t done a video in a while (stage fright!) but I think the only way to reply to the fat-hate against Regina Benjamin is with a resounding “Fuck You!” Listen to me ramble. Transcript after the jump.


That last few weeks have shown us that when Conservatives are up against a wall they are very limited in their ability to combat with arguments so they focus on arguments that focus on characteristics and, when they can’t disqualify someone’s credit or merit, they make comments about them being fiery, as in the case of Sotomayor or they say they are fat which is the latest hee-haw over the appointee for Surgeon General Regina Benjamin who is by any accounts one of the most qualified people to be nominated for surgeon general. Given specifically the location that she has worked in and her personal and professional would make an amazing surgeon general and would definitely understand some of our most disenfranchised in need of healthcare and health advice.
So, naturally after her pic was posted multiple forums around the country have decried her body mass index as though this is somehow an indication of her lack of health and I think what is really sad about it is not necessarily that we have a superficial culture and we have a superficial online culture people say what they say, but there are news anchors that have also joined in on this..and they think that because she is overweight this disqualifies her for SG. Assuming that she is fat.
1. They have never met the woman, they have no idea.
2. Weight is something that is very subjective to a person. Alot of misinformation is out about what is considered obese, what is not considered obese and a lot of it is fat-hating and fat-shaming and it is to keep women complacent in hating their bodies and therefore not feeling good about themselves and not interacting with the world in effective ways. It is a means of social control and it is a means of emotional and psychological control that has wreaked havoc and terror on women across the country. So calling her fat is just an extension of this same sexist trajectory.
3. Finally, she is obviously extremely qualified and it is interesting because if she was a man no one would think to say she is fat because it is only women that are judged by what they look like and whether that is going to determine whether they are qualified to do the job, as opposed to men that are just evaluated in whether they can do the job.
So fuck you to everyone that has been fat-hating all week long on Regina Benjamin. She is awesome and I can’t wait to have her as part of this administration.

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118 Comments

  1. Dawn
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I found this video on YouTube…Mrs. Asathecomic says one of the things I’ve been trying to say in this discussion. She’s funny but I’m glad she addresses the double standard :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7U74OWXs8E

  2. Dawn
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    While I agree that my words “suffering is nothing compared with women” were problematic, maybe I’m hardheaded, stubborn and ignorant, but I’m struggling with denying the emotions behind them. My intention was not to deny the issue for men, but to move the discussion back to women.
    The points you make about different types of men judging each other based on appearances and their body issues are completely valid. What I meant to say is that the issues are FAR from being equal. Men, the dominant group, make the rules. With their agency, they can always change them. As I said before, looks do not affect their lives in the same way they affect women. Perhaps the statistics regarding the effect of height and weight on the incomes of men and women gives us valuable information.
    That said, a woman’s appearance affects her well being much more than a man’s appearance. She already makes less money, she is constantly bombarded with advertising and criticism to change her appearance (no matter what her weight), and she is taught from a young age that her focus is her looks. She’s taught that she needs to snag a man. Men experience this as well but their focus is totally different. Many men seek to become successful so they can acquire women. The degree of their success might be based on how they look-true- but their success is not DEPENDENT on it.

  3. Dawn
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I agree :)

  4. Dawn
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    [35+] aleks said:
    “it is only women that are judged by what they look like and whether that is going to determine whether they are qualified to do the job, as opposed to men that are just evaluated in whether they can do the job.”
    This is completely false. Stop making stuff up about what life is like for men.
    This Aleks first comment to which Samhita responded. I have to be honest, I am not a perfect person, but this would have pissed me off. Aleks started this whole discussion with antagonistic words. The second comment was better, but the damage had already been done.

  5. nikki#2
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    People are not perfect. That is what apologies are for. A simple ‘sorry’ would make everything better.

  6. nikki#2
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    **Amendment for the almighty rules of visual presentation**
    5-When making anything in print. Use the damn spell check!

  7. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    The reason I draw that example is because there was no reaction from the mods about this comment, and it was a derail from the original subject.
    Here, we see a comment which, while angry, was about the subject at hand in the meta-sense — it was about a statement made in the material presented. Why would that derail not receive at least this level of attention, if not more? It’s an inconsistency in modding which I think needs to be explained and addressed.
    I’m not trying to equate the two, even if it initially came off that way. The anger of the oppressed is not something which should be equated to anything else. The woman who commented about “Pearl Clutchers” I heartily agreed with, and I even said that at the time, but she was a derail and, in the context of what the thread was (a Sarah Hastings/Haskins posting) a troll (

  8. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with telling her to rehearse or telling her what to do with her time/life. I think that’s entirely out of line.
    Having seen the trans derails here and being incensed by them (I often have to walk away from here and come back several hours later), I wouldn’t necessarily equate the two. The trans related entries don’t suggest, say, that being cis gendered means you never have to worry about being attacked for the way you present yourself. The trans people and trans allies here are very careful with their blanket statements.
    As for what happened as things transpired, he said something about the specific comment within it. He never said that everything else was then invalid. He never said anything of the sort. Samhita was the one who suggested that, if I read the thread correctly. aleks then responded agreeing with everything else Samihita said, but sticking by his assessment that the statement about men never being judged on appearance was invalid, and suggested it was a form of male bashing.
    Samhita them accused aleks of accusing her of male bashing. etc etc etc
    Unless I’m missing something when I read it, which I may very well be, I don’t necessarily see aleks being totally at fault here. The entire exchange was angry from the start. The critique (and I maintain it is a critique) was angry, but valid.
    I don’t understand how the reaction from people here isn’t any different than any other “watch your tone” argument used to silence other people. It is because aleks is known to be male that it makes it ok? I’m just dumbfounded by what appears to be a double-standard. So he’s a man, that doesn’t mean he can’t be silenced by the actions of others. He’s still a person and can be intimidated/shamed/frustrated into silence like anyone else. While not as common, it’s still possible.

  9. HoyaGuy
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I knew someone was going to reply with Koop. Yes, he wasn’t ‘skinny’ but he was no where near Benjamin in terms of weight.
    Maybe he was ‘overweight’ (having seen pictures of him, I wouldn’t even describe him as such) but even if he was, its by an order/s of magnitude less so than Benjamin.
    Regardless of one’s take on the issue, “BUT KOOP….!” is a disingenuous approach to take.

  10. HoyaGuy
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    It is relevant because her job is successfully advocate for a healthier lifestyle.
    Her job is largely a PR and advocacy role. Regardless of whether we desire it to be otherwise, image is of great importance to such positions.
    If her weight affects her ability to successfully impart such messages to the American people, it is relevant.
    I don’t think it does, but it’s not an entirely irrelevant

  11. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    regard previous: it thought my “arrow” was html. There wasn’t anything more to the sentence aside from a little snark about what a troll really does.

  12. Gular
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    If the mods can take how aleks said his criticism and dismiss it as ranting, I think other posters can take Samhita’s response(s) and dismiss it as a non-apology. In the quote you lined up, she doesn’t say “I misspoke” what she says is “yeah, well, that’s not my point anyway: this is my point.” That’s not an apology or an admission, it’s a really big non-apology because it’s suggesting aleks just doesn’t understand what she’s talking about.
    That’s how I read what she said. Perhaps it’s a misinterpretation on my part because I spend too much time following politics, but that’s how any good politician would apologize for saying something which upset someone. it’s essentially “you wouldn’t have been upset if you got my point”.

  13. kinsella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I totally know what you mean, and I always love Samhita’s posts, and I loved this one as well. I just feel like a big part of the attitude and the project of feministing is to be really careful about what you say, how you say it and who you are including/excluding in everything you say. Gender being as fluid as it is (or as I believe it is, and I think a lot of feministing-ers think it is), the contributers to this site should be careful with broad statements.
    This site has a seriously huge readership. To be a total nerdface: “with great power comes great responsibility”.

  14. kinsella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    That’s not to deny that this is, as it should be, predominately a women’s space. It’s just that words are important, and published words stick around.

  15. magi
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Clearly this is an issue people wish to talk about. So, I ask, again, for it to have it’s own thread. There’s a great deal I would like to say about it, but I don’t wish to be seen as encouraging the derailment. However, I will say one thing. Language is important. Not just what is said to us, but what we say.

  16. puckalish
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Who, exactly, are the Democrats who are opposing Benjamin’s nomination? Incredibly specious statement, if you ask me. The only folks I’ve seen have gotten airtime on Fox (even if the commentators were “opposing” them) and none of them were identified as Democrats or any such thing.
    Salon.com, which is often identified with Democrat-leaning politics, was pretty overt in its support of Benjamin.
    In fact, the only people I’ve seen espousing this point of view were the guy in the Neil Cavuto bit, the NAAO president on the O’Reilly Factor and 3 doctors interviewed by ABC (in an article that actually supports Benjamin).
    So, I’m just curious… considering that right-wing and center-right broadcasters/publishers are the only ones giving folks like Meme Roth a platform and national audience, I’m curious as to what role “Democrats” are playing in calling out Benjamin for her weight.
    I’d like to know of whom you’re talking.

  17. Samhita
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    The community site is a great place to make that happen.

  18. aleks
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    So … yeah he wasn’t a man being judged on his look?

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