The Problem Of Weight

October 1, 2011

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