Name-Calling in the Political Playground

All I can do is try to be a positive role model for women of my generation and, I hope, help show that no matter what industry you are in, what size you are has nothing to do with your worth.

– Megan McCain

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I heard about the comments Laura Ingram made about Megan McCain a few days ago via feministing, but honestly, I didn’t know what to say until seeing this clip of Megan on the View today. I may not agree with Megan’s politics, that’s no surprise, but I really admire the message she is trying to send here.

It seems like it wouldn’t work – calling someone fat, or ugly to dismiss their opinions… maybe in elementary school, okay, but as adults we’re supposed to be beyond name-calling especially concerning politics and intellectual issues that impact us all.

The sad truth is that many within the world of politics are not above making appearance related comments. For instance…

During a conversation with co-host Charles McCord and executive producer Bernard McGuirk on May 22, Imus admitted that he “wouldn’t have a job based on stuff” he had said in the past, adding that, however, he had never had to apologize for insulting former President Bill Clinton and his “fat ugly wife, Satan.”

Bill O’Reilly called legendary White House reporter Helen Thomas the “wicked witch of the east” Monday night following President Obama’s press conference.

What do these arguments actually achieve? True, they might shut the opposition up and make the insulter appear the “winner” of the argument… but at what cost?

  • Young women in today’s society are much more concerned with their weight an appearance than they once were – in fact, eighty percent of ten year old girls in the United States have dieted, and girls as young as six are putting themselves on diets because they feel too fat. According to Associated Content, “In a survey of pre-teens in South Carolina, more than half of ten-to thirteen-year-old girls felt they were too fat and wanted to lose weight – and many said they vomited to do so.” Linking appearance and the worth of one’s opinions and ideas is only helping to generate more insecurity and more eating disorders, especially among impressionable young girls.
  • Decent opinions and the potential for interesting debates are lost as the “ugly” or “fat” card can bring all intelligent discourse to a standstill in seconds. Instead of opening the door for growth and understanding, people are being allowed to dismiss those they disagree with without even considering their point of view.
  • Women and men are becoming more and more reluctant to express their opinions, for fear that their physical appearance may be put on trial, in place of their ideals.

Obviously, name-calling like this is something we do not want in society; but it is not enough to simply oppose this dilemma without considering the ways in which we contribute to it.

Its easy to point the finger at people like Laura Ingram and shame them for their fat-phobic attitudes… but what about ourselves? I don’t think there is a person alive who hasn’t thought something along the lines of, “Who cares what she thinks anyways, she’s ugly/fat/etc.” We constantly judge people on their appearance – in both positive and negative ways- often letting those judgments impact our opinions on what they say and how they act.

For instance, a recent episode of the ABC show What Would You Do? (3/17/09) set up a scenario that illustrated how much more willing people were to go out of their way to help someone who is attractive- even when that person had been acting in an annoying manner. Vacationers on a beach were observed to see whether or not they would chase down an actor who “stole” a “fellow beach-goer’s” boombox – when the person being stolen from was more attractive, people were much more likely to take off down the beach without even realizing the ways in which attraction was playing a part here.

This is good, of course, for the attractive people in society… but what happens when those deemed “less attractive” have their (metaphorical) boom-box stolen? Do you want to live in a world where the way you look dictates the treatment you are given? I for one, do not.

As always, if we want to change these ideals in society we have to look inward. I challenge you today to be idelogically blind  focus on respecting everyone’s unique point of view, regardless of how they look… I don’t mean to stop challenging the people that you disagree with, I simply challege you to disagree and debate them (if you must) based on their beliefs, and nothing more than that… turn a blind eye to beauty so you can keep an open mind to what others have to offer!

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