The Problem Of Weight

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I was the one who instigated the “late-night beer-enhanced” conversation that led to Sol Chrom’s post over at Posterous, Why making fun of Rob Ford’s weight isn’t cool. For the record, it wasn’t just some idle intellectual exercise, ‘late-night, beer-enhanced’ chatter about the use and nature of language, positions of privilege, etc., etc. Although it was indeed late at night and most definitely beer-enhanced.

The discussion stemmed from an actual exchange I had earlier in the week. Let me take you back (cue squiggly lines) to Monday September 26th, 2011. Taking a break from the special city council meeting, I wandered down to the south end of Nathan Phillips Square to take in the Stop The Cuts rally. Making my way through the crowd, sussing out the situation, firing off occasional tweets with my trademark pithy observations. One such came about when I couldn’t help think that no matter how loud these people yelled, no matter how hard they beat their drums, regardless of the justness of their cause or their fearful certainty that the city they love will be that much worse for wear if this current administration has its way with it, the mayor couldn’t give a shit about them.

That wasn’t thought in any fatalistic way. I wasn’t questioning why these people would be bothering to protest given it was all falling on deaf ears in the mayor’s office. (I don’t imagine the intent of the rally was to change Mayor Ford’s mind anyway. It was to try and change the minds of more and more city residents). I made the observation out of anger and frustration at the fact the mayor was so willing to run roughshod over public opinion, touting some mythical mandate that was nowhere near as strong as it once was and based almost entirely on false pretenses.

Looking around, I spotted a chip truck parked nearby on Queen Street. I then tweeted something to the effect that the mayor wasn’t going to listen to anyone in this crowd until we overturned the chip truck. Just before pressing send, I was struck by the possibility someone would read it and assume I was making fun of the mayor’s weight. Fuck it. That wasn’t my intent. I sent it out.

What was my intent, you might be asking? I spotted something trivial amidst the crowd brought together in a fight against the crucial. Daycare cuts. Library cuts. Emergency service cuts. Cuts that made the already vulnerable even more vulnerable. And I thought the only thing that would get the mayor’s attention would be if the crowd did something out of the ordinary, like overturn a fast food truck. Not because of the food inside but because of the unexpected gesture.

As with any attempt at humour, once it gets put under the microscope for a detailed analysis, it kind of loses its core of funny. Or, very possibly, it was never really that funny to begin with. I’m perfectly willing to accept that. What it most certainly wasn’t, I can assure you, was a shot at the mayor’s weight. I would’ve thought the very same thing, fired off the very same tweet if either dancer thin Doug Holyday or muscle bound Giorgio Mammoliti were mayor. It had nothing to do with the food.

Yet, soon after, I received a reply from what I would assume to be normally a politically aligned point of view. Let’s not descend to fat jokes (or something to that effect). Yep. I guess I should’ve trusted my instinct and not sent out the tweet. Notice how I refrained from saying ‘gut’ instinct lest someone think I’m taking another shot at the mayor’s weight?

So now any reference associated in any way to food can be construed as making fun of Mayor Ford’s weight? Or how about this? Mayor Ford did not exercise acute political judgement on the waterfront issue. What do you mean, the mayor didn’t exercise? Are you making fun of his weight again? See: previous paragraph’s ‘gut instinct’ discussion and make up your own example.

Really? It’s come to that? Those are the eggshells we must walk on when criticizing the mayor?

The thing is, I don’t see Rob Ford as your average person with weight issues. I see Rob Ford as the mayor of this country’s largest city. I see Rob Ford as a highly entitled politician whose approach to public service is to protect wealth and privilege. I see Rob Ford as a politician catering to our basest instincts. I see Rob Ford as many have seen his type of politician:

Any attacks I might make on Rob Ford using his weight is not an attack on anyone else who considers themselves fat. I’d like to think any criticism I may level at the mayor referring to his weight would be seen as more attitudinal toward his politics than his person. To my mind, it would be entirely germane to refer to Mayor Rob Ford as a fat cat or fat head without having to fend off those who might accuse me making issue with his weight.

But the issue is so fraught with emotional landmines that I have been very, very careful to steer clear of intentional references to the mayor’s weight. I’m sure a search of this site will reveal that early on we were less careful. I know we made constant comparisons to then candidate for mayor Rob Ford and the late comedian Chris Farley. We have attempted to heed the advice of many who have rightly pointed that there is so much more to criticize in the mayor than his weight.

We will continue to do so for three main reasons despite still believing that the mayor’s weight, through his politics and attitudes, is fair game.

1) I’m not sure my argument is rigorous enough to withstand oppositional scrutiny even within my own head.

2) Because I read this in the above Sol Chrom post. My issue is with the mayor, his views of government and those who support him. I hardly want to inflict emotional damage on others because I’m going for an easy, obvious shot.

3) Finally, and to show that my politics trump both empathy or any concern about being an intellectual lightweight, I try to refrain from going at the mayor with weight references because it gives succour to his backers. It gives a line of rebuttal where otherwise there would be none. As Sol argued in his piece, it puts the mayor in the position of being the underdog, the little guy, the put upon people’s spokesman dismissed because he doesn’t look the part, the anti-politician. It gives him justification to chase much better men from the room.

thoughtfully submitted by Cityslikr

13 Responses to The Problem Of Weight

  1. lloydalter says:

    There are things that you cannot control; I happen to be very short, and others happen to be ugly, and none of us will be particularly successful in politics. (the tiny perfect mayor has a few inches on me).

    But fat is reviled because it is assumed to be a matter of choice and discipline. I know that it often is not, but those red bulls that Ford sucks back on are like 400 calories each. If you cannot manage yourself in such an obvious way, can you be trusted to manage the affairs of the city?

    I do not think it unfair to point out his girth. Michael Kinsley just wrote that Chris Christie is unfit to run for President of the USA because he is too fat.

  2. JANICE says:

    Rob Ford is morbidly obese and I think that has political implications. I think he lacks normal physical stamina and that may be why he allows his brother to be the mayor so often. If you have ever been 30 lbs overweight, you will probably find that you tire more easily than when you were normal weight. Rob Ford is a lot more than 30 lbs overweight and besides, he looks terrible for his age. He looks about 15 to 20 years older than he is and has the florid complexion of an alcoholic. If he is an alcoholic, it must be pretty advanced for him to look so bad. If he is not an alcoholic, he must be very ill. Either way, his mind is no more vigorous than his body. This all has political implications.

  3. Andrew says:

    If Rob Ford wasn’t a populist, but a progressive you would all think he is “jolly”. Anytime you discount someone’s abilities because of their weight you are bigots and fatists.

  4. pielrick says:

    If Mayor Ford was jolly, we’d probably joke about needing “some magic” to squeeze the fat out of the chimneys at city hall.

  5. Jake says:

    The Chris Farley comparisons were never meant to be “fattist” and were only partially based on appearance. The comparisons were made to characters that Farley played, especially the inarticulate overbearing underachieving rageaholic motivational speaker on Saturday Night Live who tried to scare teenagers off pot.

  6. Rob Ford is Toronto’s Henry VIII, and as with Henry his weight is a symptom of his lack of self control, as someone above mentioned, sucking back 5 400 calorie Red Bulls in less than an hour as I saw him do at the deputations on the 19th of July, shows that he doesn’t care about his health or he is willing to compromise it for a quick hit of energy, just like he is willing to sell of public assets for a quick hit of cash. I guess what I am saying is that his weight problem to me is a symptom of a bigger issue and that is one of his own self control. We don’t need to make fun of his weight, but I do think we need to take into consideration the reason that he is the size he is and isn’t because of a glandular problem, it is because he doesn’t have the forethought to consider how this is going to effect his health later in life, just like he refuses to look at how any service cuts are going to effect our city in the coming years.

  7. Andrew says:

    Watching someone drink Red Bulls on a single occasion is an indication of the person, his weight, etc.

    You are all Bigots for calling him fat, Chris Farley, Blob Ford, etc. Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk…waves the figure of the progressive, I know better, nanny state guide individual with one hand on their hip.

  8. Ford’s fatness impacts his politics. And if he’s going to insult and threaten me as a cyclist, I am going to insult him back.
    “What I compare his fatness to is swimming with sharks, and sooner or later he’s gong to be bitten by massive health problems or be ridiculed for his immense girth. My heart bleeds for his problem of obesity but it’s his own fault at the end of the day”.

    I can understand why he would resent people who are capable of doing more physical activity than turning the key in a car’s ignition, but his threats and actions against commuting cyclists are not going to go without a response. And not only is he fat, he is wrong or deliberately lying because I (and many others) ride a bike to work all year long. Even when it’s too cold for a fatass like him to spend any time outdoors.

  9. Ford’s fatness also partly explains why he’s in favour of a huge mall in the Portlands. I expect his vision is that of riding around in a motorized cart from store to store. And he’s against the city owning the Metro Zoo and Riverdale farm, because those places require people to walk around on their own, which is far too much effort for him to even consider.

  10. I don’t need to be better than him, I’m not a politician. He needs to be better than a citizen.

    • Andrew says:

      Really, is that a rule? Then you should rant against all politicians. It’s easy to critique from your armchair with your Doritos stained fingers.

      Do you criticize others who are fat? Do you think ill of others that you work with because they are overweight?

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