Even before Tuesday’s Presidential debate, people had already taken to twitter to complain about the moderator Candy Crowley. Debates are polarizing events because each side is absolutely desperate for their candidate to prove himself and to score points against his opponent. In many cases, despite the best intentions of the moderator, they are hopelessly caught in the middle between two opposing forces. Citizens should have been concerned with moderator bias, soft ball questions or an inability to reign in the candidates, but none of the aforementioned issues was the overriding concern with Crowley. The overwhelming stated issue with Candy Crowley was her weight. Apparently, a fat woman had no right to moderate and take up space on such a large national stage.
Crowley is CNN’s chief political correspondent, specializing in U.S. presidential, gubernatorial, and Senate elections but that is not what people saw when she was chosen to moderate the debate. What people saw was her weight and based in the idea that fat people have nothing to offer socially, they decided to attack. Shock was even expressed that she was a fat vegetarian, as though such an occurrence is illogical and wrong. Everything that Crowley has achieved in her 60+ years on this planet was erased in order to fat shame her.
Though gender was largely absent from the conversation surrounding the choice of moderator, make no mistake about it, the fact that Crowley is a woman further encouraged the fat shaming. The policing of female bodies has become quite the national hobby, despite how harmful this is for girls and women. It’s about keeping women off balanced and focused on issues that are largely out of our control. Some of it is coded in the language of health, as though everyone despite education and experience, has the knowledge of a doctor. If it were easy for everyone to be skinny, considering the shaming and the attacks, rest assured that no one would be fat.
Women aren’t valued for our intelligence, or achievements. From childhood, young girls are taught that their only value is to be pretty, thin and to titillate the straight male gaze. Anyone who is unable to fit into the tiny acceptable parameter is duly shamed, policed to keep quiet, or encouraged to disappear from public view. Fat women are desexualized and assumed to be filled with inner shame and revulsion of their bodies. They inspire disgust continually and no matter the circumstance, at some point, one can be assured that weight will enter the conversation. The debate was an opportunity to discuss everything from foreign policy, to healthcare, education, and the economy but somehow, despite the meaty issues at stake, Crowley’s weight became a topic of conversation. What exactly does fat have to do with these serious national issues?
I watched the debate Tuesday night and though Crowley fact checked Romney on the spot, the truth of the matter is that she let herself be overrun constantly. Romney displayed zero respect for her as a moderator and at times the president did as well, though he was far more respectful. Some of this was anxiety to get a point across and the rest of it was because Crowley is a fat woman. Women are expected to be passive at all times and grateful for any participation in society that they are allowed. It is nothing for a man to interrupt and discipline a woman’s speech because it is assumed that what he has to say is naturally more important than any point she is trying to make. Any woman who insists on being heard is deemed aggressive and not suitably docile enough. Fat women are expected to know their place in particular because of the daily shaming.
Part of what encouraged the shaming of Crowley is the internet. People often go online to say what they would never dare to in person. The anonymity of the internet encourages absolutely the worst in many, though it is often defended as free speech. When it comes to the internet, the right to speak freely, often means the right to be ignorant, hurtful, biased and downright rude. Honestly, did anyone who tweeted something cruel about Crowley’s weight believe that she didn’t own a mirror, or was unaware of her weight? This was about reveling in sexism, fat shaming and social discipline. The anonymity allowed them to criticise without being held accountable.
Fat shaming is pervasive and it comes in any every avenue of life. Whether in the private sphere or in the public sphere, as long as one is fat, shame and ridicule is something that must be negotiated. Its sole purpose is to make a fat person feel negative about themselves, even as it emboldens and uplifts their oppressor. We live in a culture that is built in hierarchy and so the very idea that criticism of fat is benevolent is absolutely ridiculous. Despite the public discourse surrounding fat shaming, it has little to do with health and everything to do with power.