Monday, January 14, 2008

This Is Not a Political Post


But, I do want to talk about Hillary. Specifically, about her body, because clearly, her body is more of a topic than Obama's, Edwards', or Romney's.

Maybe we like a svelte leader--remember the Mr. Clinton McDonald's debacle? On an episode of the wonderful, but canceled, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, comic Ted Alexandro quips that Jesus had "great abs" -- "That what you want in a Savior, because have you seen Buddha?"

But, Hillary, regardless of what you think of her as a person or politician, is more Jesus than Buddha in size. As far as I'm aware, none of the other candidates have been scrutinized about their bodies.

Obama's love handles? McCain's double chin? Huckabee better be mindful about gaining any weight after his highly touted 100-pound weight loss, which he chronicles in Quit Digging your Grave with a Knife and Fork: A 12-Stop Program to End Bad Habits and Begin a Healthy Lifestyle. The 12 "stops" include:

1. STOP Procrastinating.
2. STOP Making Excuses.
3. STOP Sitting on the Couch.
4. STOP Ignoring Signals from Your Body.
5. STOP Listening to Destructive Criticism.
6. STOP Expecting Immediate Success.
7. STOP Whining.
8. STOP Making Exceptions.
9. STOP Storing Provisions for Failure.
10.STOP Fueling with Contaminated Food.
11.STOP Allowing Food to Be A Reward.
12.STOP Neglecting Your Spiritual Health.

Now, if only for emotional eaters and other eating disordered folks, it did involve just 12 basic stops. . . .

Why is Hillary's shape part of the equation? Why is she the candidate whose body we need to judge?


faye said...

< sarcasm >CLEARLY because she is a woman, and a woman's value is in her physical size and not of her mental capacity.< /sarcasm >

PalmTreeChick said...

Because she's a woman.

(I'll leave all my political views out of this.)

vesta44 said...

What they said. Politics aside, I would venture that if HRC looked like a model, they would still be on her ass about her looks. Only then it would be "she's beautiful, so how smart can she be?" We're damned if we do, damned if we don't, just because we aren't men.

Heather said...

Really? I honestly can't recall all that much commentary on Hillary's looks. I'm sure there's plenty nasty stuff on the right wing blogs, but out in mainstream-medialand most of the talk seems to be about how good-looking Obama is. (And if I recall his frolicking-on-the-beach photos correctly, he does NOT have love handles...)

DougThaCub said...

Obama's body is also on display a lot, except in "good" ways. I mean, there are a lot of shirtless photos of him swimming and working out. Of course, those show his strength and power. And also our society's emphasis on the black male body as worthy of spectacle.

Rachael said...

I would rather talk about Obama's body..

*cough* sorry...

cggirl said...

ah. misogyny is alive and well.

brought to you by the same culture that produced a "feminist" such as susan estrich - whose proudest accomplishment, she says, is not being the first woman president of the harvard law review (in fact i think the first woman to even be on it), or running the Dukakis campaign, or even having kids i suppose. it's going from a size 12 to a size 6. the process, and the maintenance of that size, is as she describes it a full time job.

fucking hell.

this same culture brought you anna kournikova, who apparently was making tens of millions of dollars before winning any tournament. (she still hasn't won a singles tournament.)
but she is, apparently, a genuinely hot babe.


basically, a woman's worth is how "fuckable" she is. and the really stupid thing? men (okay SOME men) will fuck anything. but i digress... that's a whole other discussion of how silly it is when women search for affirmation of their worth by sleeping with exactly the sort of men who will sleep with anyone.

anyhoooo, in case you hadn't noticed, i've been pissed about this type of thing for quite a long time now. and hillary panders to it too, making sure to mention how hard it is to "eat right" on the road, etc. so we all know that whatever she looks like, she is "good" because she worries about this sort of thing. but i don't really blame her.
and poor bill clinton, with his battles with weight, continues to do things like go on oprah and spout completely baseless claims that everyone is always quoting... i should buy those two a copy of the Obesity Myth and send them a link to the junkfoodscience blog :)
and some therapy for bill clinton to deal with his childhood experiences as a fat kid, so he will stop dealing with it by spreading misinformation. and for hillary to deal with all the crap she has had to deal with, tho i think she handles it remarkably well.

check this out:

end rant.

cggirl said...

please pardon all the cussing... its late and my inner censor is asleep. this is how i talk in real life but if it offends people u can censor the naughty bits :)

zubeldia said...

The discourse around Clinton - around her body, her nature, her essence - is interesting, though hardly surprising. Reducing women to corporeality is of course given; they (we) bear the burden of bodily representation (although black men face a s similar burder... and I see it going with with Obama - although not about body size, per se, but something else is going on with his body/race in these discussions)...But it's more than just body size, I think - it's about women being rendered to their bodies, about women supposedly being more in touch with their bodies, with their intuition... Consider how much the crying in NH episode was played and played in the media... and how this made her more 'real', as though her bodily display was more genuine and real than her argument and position. Somehow we were seeing the women-Hilary as though tears were reserved for the female candidate, as though now we were seeing all her in-touch-body intuition and feeling. In short, we're getting her female essence - always located in her body...

ANd I think this is why we can then move to body-talk.. is she the 'right' sort of woman? Disciplined and whittled down to an appropriate size? Or is she one of those over-flowing women who does not know her place..? And you can only get to this body talk - it only makes sense - if we're first reducing women's natures down to their bodily form; reducing their wisdom and way of knowing to their bodily intuition.

For men's wisdom is located in their mind... their argument and rationality is firmly in their heads and their bodies are beside the point (I'm referring to white men here)... BUT this is not so simple (height, for instance, plays a part in this crazy system... thus the blocks the candidates stand on to even out height differences during presidential debates).

Thus male and female candidates are conceived very differently, imagined as having different natures. Men and their minds, women and their bodies.

But here's a question for you Dr. S and other psychologists out there - what role has psychology played in creating these gender myths? I don't mean the body-size myths but rather this notion that there are two sexes with two different natures - that men think like 'this' and women think like 'that'? I know that different strands of psychology are implicated in different ways - evolutionary psychology is perhaps the worst offender - although positivist psychology would be a close runner-up.

I should say that I'm a social scientist interested in the construction of knowledge... and the cultural myths underpinning the knowledge produced.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Stacy:

Can you please, please, PLEASE not do as so many "reporters" and news columnists and talking heads do, and disrespect Senator Clinton by calling her "Hillary"? Unless of course you are also going to blog about Barack, John, Mitt, Mike, John, Dennis, Rudi???? Hillary CLINTON, or SENATOR CLINTON, or even MRS. CLINTON would be much more appropriate. Unless, of course, you are a very good friend of hers and are on a mutal first-name basis, in which case I apologize. That's my only comment on this post.


PalmTreeChick said...

I refer to her as Hillary and that's when I'm being nice. Enough said.

drstaceyny said...

faye--yeah, got it.

ptc--I agree.

vesta--good point.

heather--he might not have love handles, but that's not really my point--does she have small breasts? Large thighs? It's just that we're focusing on her appearance.

dtc--you're absolutely right.


cggirl--wasn't that Oprahs's greatest accomplishment, too? Good points. . .

zu--thanks for raising the crying issue, a good one to discuss, too. Yes, those focused on evolution might stress gender differences, biological psychologists might focus on brain/nervous system differences, but. . . I remember when I took a sex roles class in college (taught by notable social psychologist Sandra Bem), the idea was that there are more similarities b/w the sexes than differences and that the differences we see are largely culturally determined. I'm w/that camp. When I hear people exclaim, "I don't understand women!" or "Men!" I can only think that people(!) are difficult and relationships are, too, and that we shouldn't be blaming difficult interpersonal dynamics on gender. Just my .02

anon--I didn't mean to disprespect her at all--politics aside, I believe this was a pro-HC post. Everyone is calling her "Hillary," including her own campaign! ( Haven't you seen all the signs? Her campaign has told us to call her Hillary, in the same way that I've told you to call me Stacey (and not Dr. [last name]). I think it fits her "lunching with regular women" image.

I think, despite my tendency to get my feminist feathers all ruffled, that it's also due to the fact that her husband was president, that we need to distinguish her from him.


Jeni said...

Argh! This makes me so so so mad. So mad. I'm just glad someone is calling it out and ridiculous.

April said...

Dr. Stacey --

Again, another excellent post. Thanks for drawing our attention to this.


cggirl said...

Ah dr. stacey good point about oprah too. Don't get me started on her... She's a wonderful person, but what she does certainly isn't "journalism" and she does not check her facts. Be it obesity or that stupid Airborne scam or whatever, I don't see her really checking facts. And in terms of weight issues - she has had her personal struggle, and unfortunately, she assumed her experineces indicate what's going on with everyone else. But everyone is at the weight they're at for different reasons, and everyone has a different weight they reach with optimal habits (dietary, exercise, whatever) - and i'm sure that changes over time as well.

Also, as for Senator Clinton (or Hillary or whatever we'd like to call her) crying - she didn't even cry. She just got choked up. And of course before that everyone said she was a cold heartless bitch. And after that many people criticized her. Even though male politicians get choked up too sometimes but nobody cares. Anyway, as a woman, she kinda can't win, whatever she does she gets crap.

But that "iron my shirt" thing i linked to before was seriosuly low.

and zubeldia u raise many interesting pionts, as always ur response was very thought provoking and well said.