Post #30 – I Want To Apologise For ‘Fat-Shaming’

You might have missed it the other day, but someone in our Parliament’s Question Time actually put two-and-two together and queried something that I thought was painstakingly obvious. Greens Senator Larissa Waters questioned whether our ‘mad monk’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott (and other Catholic ministers like him) should pay attention to their most holy of bae’s when the Pope says it’s their moral duty to act on climate change.

The response to her queries went a little like this:

– Firstly, nobody even attempted to answer her question

– Then Attorney-General George Brandis labelled the question ‘disgusting’ (seemingly ignoring the irony of calling others actions disgusting whilst his own party does it’s own disgusting things like politicise a terrorist attack, or brush off the sexual abuse of children under their care… ya know, that kinda shit)

– QLD LNP Senator Matt Canarvon then referred to Larissa Waters as a ‘bigot’ (I’m not quite sure he knows what the word means)

– Then the QLD LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan yelled out (if anybody is going to say something really stupid, it has to be a Queenslander) across the chamber to Larissa Waters:

You’re married aren’t you?

Due to the delivery of the question and the fact that he’s an arsehole, it was easy to assume that this was a rhetorical non sequitur (the worst kind of non sequitur!) utilised by Bazza to put Ms Waters off continuing with the question. Thankfully it did not, and if you so wish you can watch the ‘disgusting’ behaviour of our elected representatives here.

The reason I tell you this story is that I was actually aware of this event not long after the fact (being the political aficionado that I am) and knew that his party, nor the media, nor the public, would call Barry out on what he had said. Considering the ridiculously sexist question that was asked, Waters answered in a very professional manner by simply stating that his question was not ‘relevant’.

If I was in her shoes, I would not have been so polite. And in all honesty, I wasn’t.

In an age when our politicians seem evermore unreachable, I attempted to let Bazza know how I felt about his comments the only way a self-respecting snarky adult with nothing else better to do knows how – via social media. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t on Twitter (if those neanderthals in the National Party don’t understand the science of climate change or evolution, then you can’t expect them to comprehend the limitations of 140 characters) so I turned to Facebook. I found his profile and wrote on his wall – some of what I wrote was warranted and fair, some of it was not.

The part where I referred to him as ‘sexist’ was fair; the part where I referred to weighed in on his weight was probably not. The part where I told him to ‘grow a spine’ was fair; the part where I also told him to also ‘grow a chin’ was not.

You see, I fat-shamed someone without knowing their full story, and I am seemingly so devoid of any moral compass that a friend of mine had to point out to me that this sort of behaviour was not on. And that person was right, and I’m now going to tell you why.

Attacking someone for their weight or physical appearance should never be necessarily be forbidden, but it most certainly should be discouraged. Contemporary philosophical scholars such as Ariana Grande, Michael Buble, Ray Charles and even Armand Van Helden have all spoken out about the fact that you don’t know them and you certainly don’t know their story or their struggle. Snap!

And just as I’ll never truly understand Ariana Grande and her shithouse music, it can also be argued that I’ll never really know why Barry O’Sullivan has an issue with his weight. Is it a medical issue? An hereditary issue? A psychological or mental issue? Or is it simply not an issue at all? Better yet, is it simply none of my business? You’ll find the latter is the best suited answer.

There are other less-than-desirable characters in our contemporary political sphere who are called out for their weight, and I question how beneficial it is singling them out for not meeting society’s stereotype of a ‘normal’ body. Who am I to judge? But I only raise this point because these people shouldn’t be called out for who they are, they should be called out for what they do. As Martin Luther King once noted after having a fairly visionary dream, we shouldn’t judge people on how they look “but by the content of their character“.

Regrettably, many on the progressive side of politics (myself included) tend to fall into this trap when critiquing people who don’t fit into the pre-ordained model of body perfection. You need look no further than the comments section when any influential contemporary figure with a weight problem is focused upon by the media. Let me give you some examples:

a) Gina Rhinehart, Twiggy Forest and Clive Palmer – Gina Rhinehart is arguably one of the richest women on Earth, whilst Forest and Palmer are up there as some of the wealthiest Australian’s today. They also all made their fortunes in mining and all seem to battle the bulge. In regards to Rhinehart, she’s constantly fat-shamed in both the mainstream and social media. She’s usually ‘humorously’ compared to Jabba the Hut from Star Wars, to which a quick Google search can attest. Clive Palmer fares no better, and is characterised as a sweaty, crass and aloof obese man. One commentator even stated that voters might be turned off the miner-cum-politician due to his weight issues. But here’s the thing: the diversionary discussion about their weight only serves as irony when these individuals demonise the working class as ‘lazy’ and ‘dependent’. Other than that it is irrelevant, and worse, a sideshow to what these three are truly capable of. Let me digress:

– Gina Rhinehart has proclaimed consistently that us workers in Australia are paid too well by her standards, and she thinks it would be much better for business if we just do what the Africans do and settle for $2 an hour. She also suggested that if we’re jealous of her and wanted to replicate her billions us peasants should “spend less time drinking, or smoking and socialising, and more time working”.

– Clive Palmer withheld paying for his companies’ carbon emissions under the now-defunct Carbon Tax just long enough to get elected into Parliament to help dismantle the laws that would seemingly cut into his corporate profits and allow him to continue polluting our air and fucking up the climate. Ohh yeah, and he also wasted his money on a dinosaur park.

– Twiggy Forrest pretends he’s the bleeding-heart liberal of mining magnates whilst fucking over local Indigenous communities and pressuring the Liberal party to do his bidding for him when the ‘free-market’ doesn’t play nice.

– All three of these characters colluded to topple a democratically elected Prime Minister with their mining wealth to further benefit their personal and corporate interests.

b) Current Treasurer Joe Hockey used to be able to join the ranks too. As did casino baron James Packer. Same with the corrupt ex-Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrell (referred to in some circles as Fatty O’Barrel when struggling with his weight). Society’s fascination with their weight; gaining it, losing it – putting it all back on, and losing it again, distracts us from the fact that these guys are guilty of rampant class warfare and corruption.

c) Further afield, a hefty contender for the current American presidential race is Chris Christie, the rotund straight-shooter from New Jersey who hopes to soon be leader of the ‘free world’. Some commentators would say that only one thing stops him – his weight. But this narrative ignores the fact that he was a shoddy opportunist with less than ulterior motives when Governor. The American voters shouldn’t be concerned if he’s physically fit, they should be concerned if he’s ethically fit to lead the world’s sole superpower (some would counter that ethics stands for nought in American politics, but that’s a discussion for another day).

d) Or what about that other lovable Nationals MP George Christensen who has recently compared limitations on marriage-equality to gun control? Or his assertion that Vegemite funds terrorism, or better yet using the life lessons of Star Trek to advocate for climate-change denialism. Yes the man is an idiot, but does he deserve being called a ‘fat racist pig‘ all over Twitter? No.

The reason that I highlight these characters is that despite society’s focus on their weight, it’s actually their actions we need to be scrutinizing and ridiculing. Furthermore, by highlighting their weight as some sort of faux character flaw, we undermine our own valid and infinitely more important critiques of these individuals and their warped ideologies.

So back to Barry O’Sullivan – I’m sorry. I hope you one day forgive me, unblock me from Facebook and accept my friend request. I take back all the bad words I said about you – except for two: ‘sexist’ and ‘arsehole’. You can keep those ones, you’ve earned them.

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