I Didn’t Want to Have to Do This | Vol. 5 / No. 12.1

Photo: Marco Verch, CC BY 2.0

Sometimes being truly devoted to a cause means doing something you don’t want to do. And believe me, I don’t want to do this. But I have something that is at least masquerading as principles, so here it goes:

Please stop making fun of Trump’s height and weight. Please.

Sigh… that almost-defense of Trump actually somewhat pained me. See what you bring me to?

As part of his recently released physical, we learned that Turmp is listed as being 6’3” and 239 pounds, which puts him at a BMI of 29.9, which is just shy of the ranking for “obese.”

And the internet had a field day.

People immediately started casting doubt that Trump was the height and weight he claimed to be. Chris Hayes called it the “girther” movement. People started posting photos of athletes who are the same height and weight alongside purposefully unflattering photos of Trump.

And after allowing myself one “I’m a bad person” chuckle, I started getting pissed. Here’s why.

1. BMI is bullshit.

I have a BMI score of 35, which, you will note, is a way bigger number than Trump’s. That’s right, according to the BMI, I rank as “obese.” And while that word makes me feel absolutely terrible about myself, I also know it’s BS. Health is not determined by a simple division of weight by height. Muscle and fat weigh the same, but mean different things. You can even have a high body fat percentage and still be perfectly healthy. At my last physical, my blood sugar and heart rate were both perfectly fine. Yeah, I should probably exercise more, and for my own self-esteem I’d like to lose some weight, but I’m also not about to start calling myself monstrous.

2. Weight can be distributed a lot of different ways.

My weight has yo-yoed a lot over the years, but I’m currently at about the same weight I was five years ago. I’m also wearing clothing a whole size smaller than I was five years ago, because in the intervening period of loss and gain, my weight distribution changed dramatically. I look (to my own eyes, at least) much less “obviously” overweight than I did five years ago, partly because my weight has redistributed to areas that are considered aesthetically pleasing—more hips and bust, less face pudge. That doesn’t mean I weigh any less. It means I’m slightly less likely to be called a fatass to my face.

3. Height can vary a lot based on posture and clothing.

I feel like this is too obvious to even say, but height can vary a lot depending on how you hold yourself and what you are wearing. So if, say, you slouch a lot, bend your neck, wear thin shoes, etc. you can end up looking a lot less tall than you actually are. Science.

4. Body-shaming is just never okay.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this either, but we should just not body-shame. Ever. Period. Our entire culture is wrapped up in harmful ideas about what someone is “supposed” to look like, and they are all messed up. All of them. The ones we have for women, the ones we have for men, the ones we have for everyone. While men have admittedly not been subject to the same degree and viciousness of body-shaming that women often have, this isn’t an eye-for-an-eye situation. Making fun of Trump is not going to undo the beauty ideals that led girls in Jr. High to ask if I fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Both things are messed up, and both things should stop.

5. Trump is not the only one hearing and watching us make fun of him.

According to a national health study, 2 out of 3 American adults is considered either overweight or obese.   Which means 2 out of 3 adults are vulnerable to the same kinds of comments and attacks that we are currently lobbing at Trump. They (and by “they” I also mean “I”) are watching and listening to us use Trump’s weight and appearance as the butt of a joke. They are watching and hearing us imply that he is ugly, grotesque, and laughable. Nicole Kendall puts this very well:

 …remember that your overweight and obese friends and family are watching and listening to these jokes and cringing. Is this what you say about them in private? Is this how you describe them when they’re not there? Do you really think they enjoy these jokes, believing that their own fatness is somehow different from Trump’s?

How do you think I felt, scrolling through pages of people making fun of Trump’s near-obesity, only to plug in my numbers and find out that I am considered to be significantly more obese? The answer is “not great.”

There are a lot of things that we can mock about Trump: his complete ignorance, his poor policies, his inability to go a day without tweeting something that directly contradicts something else he has previously said, the fragility of his toxic masculinity. Pick one, they all work. We don’t have to stoop to body-shaming, and we shouldn’t.


Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not trying to convince y’all not to fat shame, no, not even him, she studies gender in popular culture.


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