Body snarking: A DIY workshop

31 Aug

The other day I was listening to coverage of the Republican National Convention on NPR, and there it was: a DIY workshop moment.

You remember the protocol? I’ll share the scenario, and notice what your gut response is. Then you’ll have a chance to pause, reflect and brainstorm what you could say or do if this happened live in a situation where you could–and thought you should–stand up.

As context, you should be familiar with Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, Republican star and fat man. Notably, as his prominence within the Republican Party has grown, so has attention to his size. As women’s health and wellness site Blisstree reports:

One story [about Christie] on Newser begins,

“GOP conventioneers might have been transfixed by New Jersey Gov. Chris  Christie’s hard-hitting speech last night, but there was something else they  couldn’t help noticing: He seemed larger than ever. The portly politician has  said in the past he needs to do something about his weight, but he’s apparently  losing the battle.”

… And in case you think it’s just Newser, here’s a headline from the L.A. Times: “Chris Christie, the Republican heavyweight, is really heavy.” And Newsday: “Chris Christie’s biggest fight may be weight.” Let’s not even get in to all the Twitter comments because they’re downright horrible (http://blisstree.com/look/chris-christie-weight-fat-shaming-937/#ixzz252o2oi7r).

Blisstree‘s point? “Body snarking” about Christie seems, somehow, to be fair game anytime he steps into the spotlight.

Now back to NPR. When one of the commentators noted that you wouldn’t want to miss NJ Governor Chris Christie, one of the slated Republican Convention speakers, another commentator said, “Chris Christie? You couldn’t, even if you wanted to, he’s so big.”

So I ask you:

  • What’s your gut reaction?
  • Where does that reaction come from? Consider your size identity, your social experiences around and cultural norms.
  • What do you think the commentator’s motivation could be, in making this joke about Christie?
  • Imagine you were on air with this commentator: whom would you be concerned for–yourself? Christie? your fellow commentator? the listening public? What do you hope for those about whom you’re concerned?
  • With that intention in mind, what do you think you could say or do in this moment on air with this commentator? I’ll tell you what I heard: his colleagues collectively paused. Then there was nervous laughter from a woman and what I interpreted as a “bad joke” groan from another man. But it’s hard to say because no one said anything in response.

And if you have the opportunity, try it aloud. Maybe even with a friend. See how what you have to say sounds.

Thanks for practicing with me.

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