Weight Stigma and the President
I try not to wade into political waters on Facebook or in blogging, but Donald Trump has stepped onto my territory and my job of addressing weight stigma and fat-shaming. His comments at an August rally are perfect examples of fat bullying, groupthink, and the psychological defense mechanism called projection.
Here’s what happened. Reports CNN, “At a 2020 campaign rally in New Hampshire on Thursday night, a protest broke out. A Trump supporter sought to remove the protesters. And as that was happening, the President of the United States yelled this into the microphone: ‘That guy's got a serious weight problem. Go home. Start exercising. Get him out of here, please. Got a bigger problem than I do. Got a bigger problem than all of us. Now he goes home and his mom says, 'What the hell have you just done?'” (“Donald Trump bullied a man as overweight, then didn't apologize” by Chris Cillizza (CNNPolitics, 8/16/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/16/politics/donald-trump-fat-new-hampshire-rally/index.html, retrieved 8/17/19).
Many of you have experienced something similar to the above, or worse. What are your feelings when you read about this verbal attack? Are you numb to it, does it enrage you, or do you feel helpless? Does it bring back memories of fat-shaming or bullying you’ve suffered? Notice your feelings. Even if you want to shuck them off with a “What’s the point of being upset? You can’t stop this stuff from happening,” recognize that weight shaming still has a negative effect on you.
Here’s another excerpt from the article which illustrates the mob mentality and groupthink: “2) The crowd laughed and applauded when Trump made the comment about the man's weight.” My guess is that at least some if not many people in the audience had their own weight concerns. So why did they laugh? Likely because Trump’s message was that it’s okay to make fun of “fat” people. Or because they were glad that it was another higher weight person being made fun of and (whew!) not them. Or from nervous laughter because they were caught off guard and didn’t know how else to react.
Now, onto projection, a generally unconscious process of blaming/shaming others for what we don’t like in ourselves and, therefore, cast off onto others, such as Trump saying to the higher weight man, “Got a bigger problem than I do.” We don’t know how Trump feels about being high weight, but my guess is that he either shames himself about it or denies it’s a problem. He shows no empathy or compassion for the man. Just a blatant desire to humiliate. And then there’s the comment that Trump often makes to belittle others: “Now he goes home and his mom says, 'What the hell have you just done?'" As if the man is a little boy who’s been bad and shame, shame on him. Makes one wonder how often Trump was subject to such ridicule as a child and how he felt about it. Not that it would make his comments acceptable.
The take-away message from this blog is to stop hating fat and high weight. Whether you blame and shame yourself or think judgmentally when you see someone who carries a lot of weight, you’re damaging yourself. It doesn’t matter that you don’t shame someone out loud. Just thinking negative, ugly thoughts does harm to you. It’s time for you and all of us to rise above them and call fat shamers for what they are: abusers.