Senator Says She Feels Fat

Illustration for article titled Senator Says She Feels Fat

This morning, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill announced on Twitter that she is "tired of looking and feeling fat. Maybe talking about it publicly will keep me on track as I try to be more disciplined. Off to the gym." Is this a lady thing, or do public struggles with weight loss cross gender lines?

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Illustration for article titled Senator Says She Feels Fat

Few sentient people would dispute that women, no matter what their role in public life, face a greater social penalty for being "fat." During the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton's weight was occasionally considered fair game by male and female pundits alike; she later joked at a liberal evangelical forum, "You know, sometimes I say, 'Oh, Lord. Why can't you help me lose weight?"

McCaskill's Senate colleague Kirsten Gillibrand post-pregnancy weight loss was a source of immense fascination, including in Vogue, which helpfully added that it would "no doubt" help her "remain attractive to her husband of nine years, who is two years younger than she is." After Gillibrand was reluctant to tell the magazine how much weight she did lose, he said, "The readers of Vogue will want to know this."

On the other hand, Bill Clinton's weight fluctuations were long a matter of public discussion, seen as a reflector of his overall tendency to excess, but also humanizing. Mike Huckabee famously lost 100 pounds. Both of those men could cite doctors' orders (and in Clinton's case, heart disease) over feeling and looking fat. Meanwhile, both presidents Bush and Obama's fitness regimes have been seen as signs of discipline and rigor (or, in Obama's case, subject to racially-suggestive digs.)

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McCaskill isn't the first person to use the Internet as an accountability tool for weight loss, and going to the gym is a healthier message than say, tweeting calorie counts, whether or not it's an equal opportunity burden.

Claire McCaskill [Twitter]

DISCUSSION

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The thing is...fat is not a feeling. It's not like being sad or happy or angry. It's a descriptor, and while I'm sure one can be unhappy with their body or weight, we should really look at the words we use when it comes to body image. Maybe she feels inactive, or dissatisfied with her weight. That's legitimate and I have no problem with her saying so publicly. But like saying you are or "feel" morally "good" or "bad" depending on what you eat or weigh...saying you "feel" fat is the opposite of understanding what you're really feeling. To me, it's an indication of how deeply ingrained distorted body image and disordered eating language have become in how we view ourselves. Women in particular use this sort of language and it does matter.