Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Say What You Want but Don't Call Her "Fat" . . .
What is it about talking about Hillary Clinton that makes people want to talk about Bill Clinton that still makes some people want to rant and rave about Monica Lewinsky? Seriously? I don't get it.
I arrived in Washington, DC two-days before Monica Lewinsky became a household name and just months before "infamous blue dress" forever entered our lexicon. Monica, and her relations with then-President Clinton shaped my early DC experience and my perceptions of the city and the people that lived, worked and played there. She EXTENDED my interest in the city and in working in public relations, frankly.
I was every bit as curious about a young woman that had somehow found her way in to worldwide headlines as the next guy (and I do mean the next guy - women never seemed "curious" about Monica . . . other adjectives seemed to apply) but I never really understood one thing . . . what did her weight have to do with it?
More importantly, 10 1/2 years later - what DOES it have to do with it?
Let me explain.
I was chatting with a co-worker yesterday about Hillary's intention and the reason for her scheduled remarks at the convention last night (flawless, loved it, actually CRIED at one point). He didn't get it. This will SHOCK you but Kansas is not exactly Clinton country. Anywho - for NO apparent reason - the conversation turned to Monica Lewinsky and, a few seconds later, for NO apparent reason - the conversation turned to her being "fat."
I bristled - as I always have and probably always will at "fat" comments. I guess my body language sort of said it all and my co-worker sort of moped away.
Well - today - he left me a note to come see him and he apologized for calling her "fat" and then awkwardly tried to make it about me and my weight and that he doesn't think I am fat. Not sure where that came from or where it was going but I just forgave him to end the conversation before it got any more strange.
I explained that it was not such a big deal that he needed to apologize but that a) Monica Lewinsky, while not a "slight" woman at the time was not then (and likely is not now (where do you think she is these days?)) a "fat" woman and that, b) having been a fat (note the lack of quotes) person my entire life - I hated to see people just be labeled as fat and I hated to see people put that part of a person's appearance in to the conversation when it has no place, merit or purpose.
I continued that it is sort of like when you clarify that someone is "gay" or "black" or "Asian" when your story is about the restaurant where you grabbed lunch with that person. It is like saying the guy in front of you in line was in a wheelchair when the story you are telling is actually about how much the barista at Starbuck's stunk-it-up this morning. It is like clarifying a person is Jewish before you talk about how much you loved their ability to speak on world affairs. NONE of it matters. They are just labels. Now - if your story is about how someone could not climb up a flight of stairs because they are obese - fine. If you are talking about how a friend fell down a flight of stairs because he is a clutz - fine.
But - let's just drop the need to physically/racially/religiously/capability clasify people for the sake of throwing it out there.
I'll bottom line you . . . Monica's weight should have ever been part of the conversation TEN friggin' years ago.
Like Hillary said last night - it is time we move on. We need a change. Let's start by letting Monica (who was a junior staffer, NOT an intern at the time (sorry, the Clinton supporter in me can't help himself)) off the hook and THEN let's move on to dropping the word "fat" from the description of a woman who otherwise found herself in the middle of a scandal that had nothing to do with weight or any other part of her phsyical appearance.