Recently my not-size-0 body has come under fire again by the conservative pundit Laura Ingraham. On her radio show recently, she sarcastically commented that I was “too plus-sized to be a cast member on the television show The Real World” and needled me about my weight with a comment about Barbie's 50th anniversary. Instead of intellectually debating our ideological differences about the future of the Republican Party, Ingraham resorted to making fun of my age and weight, in the fashion of the mean girls in high school. I responded on Twitter by saying, “To all the curvy girls out there, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your body. I love my curves and you should love yours too.”
My mother was constantly slammed for being too skinny, so the weight obsession of the media and our culture goes both ways. It also goes to both parties.
But now that numerous media outlets seem to have picked up on our tiff, I believe it warrants a more thoughtful response than can be contained in 140 characters. I have been teased about my weight and body figure since I was in middle school, and I decided a very long time ago to embrace what God gave me and live my life positively, attempting to set an example for other girls who may suffer from body image issues. I have nothing to hide: I am a size 8 and fluctuated up to a size 10 during the campaign. It’s ridiculous even to have this conversation because I am not overweight in the least and have a natural body weight.
But even if I were overweight, it would be ridiculous. I expected substantive criticism from conservative pundits for my views, particularly my recent criticism of Ann Coulter. That is the nature of political discourse, and my intent was to generate discussion about the current problems facing the Republican Party. Unfortunately, even though Ingraham is more than 20 years older than I and has been a political pundit for longer, almost, than I have been alive, she responded in a form that was embarrassing to herself and to any woman listening to her radio program who was not a size 0.
In today’s society this is, unfortunately, predictable. Everyone from Jessica Simpson to Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey, and Hillary Clinton has fallen victim to this type of image-oriented bullying. Recent pictures of Pierce Brosnan’s wife, Keely Shaye Smith, on the beach in her bikini raised criticism about her weight and choice of bathing suit—as if the woman should be wearing a giant muumuu to swim in the ocean. After Kelly Clarkson’s recent appearance on American Idol, the first commentary I read on the Internet was about her weight gain instead of her singing.
My weight was consistently criticized throughout the campaign. Once someone even suggested I go to a plastic surgeon for liposuction. Afterward, I blogged about loving my body and suggested critics focus their insecurities about women’s bodies elsewhere. On the other side, my mother was constantly slammed for being too skinny, so the weight obsession of the media and our culture goes both ways. It also goes to both parties. Hillary Clinton has consistently received criticism for her pantsuits and figure. Whatever someone’s party, these criticisms are quite obviously both wrong and distracting from the larger issues at play.
The question remains: Why, after all this time and all the progress feminists have made, is weight still such an issue? And in Laura’s case, why in the world would a woman raise it? Today, taking shots at a woman’s weight has become one of the last frontiers in socially accepted prejudice.
I also thought the media outlets that reported on Laura’s comments about me were out of line. I don’t listen to Laura’s show, so if journalists hadn’t picked up on it and reported on it, I never would have known what she said. I wonder how Laura would feel if at some point someone were to criticize her daughter’s weight and broadcast it nationally on the radio.
At this point, I have more respect for Ann Coulter than I do for Laura Ingraham because at least Coulter didn’t come back at me with heartless, substance-less attacks about my weight. All I can do is try to be a positive role model for women of my generation and, I hope, help show that no matter what industry you are in, what size you are has nothing to do with your worth.
Meghan McCain is originally from Phoenix. She graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She previously wrote for Newsweek magazine and created the website mccainblogette.com.