Did anyone ever suggest that C. Everett Koop was too portly to be Surgeon General?
Obama's nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, is a distinguished physician and a noted humanitarian. But she's not skinny. Random people on the internet who have never met her guess that she's a size 18.
It's hard to imagine a more qualified Surgeon General. She has been honored with a MacArthur "Genius" grant, a Nelson Mandela Award, a Kellogg Fellowship and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader Award. She's an expert on hot topics like rural health and telemedicine.
Benjamin was the first black woman and the first person under 40 to lead the American Medical Association. She earned an MBA on the side. She treated destitute evacuees after Hurricane Katrina and founded her own rural health clinic that serves as a model for similar facilities nationwide. She did missionary work in Honduras. She's active in the United Way, the Girl Guides the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, and other community groups. She's served select committees and blue ribbon commissions too numerous to name. In her spare time, she enjoys adventure tourism.
Healthy is as healthy does. Dr. Benjamin obviously has a lot of energy. If she's unhealthy, I want to know her secret.
But sanctimonious twerps in the news say it would "send the wrong message" to have a Surgeon General who looks like Benjamin (read: female, black, and curvy). That's really all they're going on. Benjamin's critics have no idea whether she's healthy or what her lifestyle is like.
At first these attacks were confined to fringe outlets like Fox News, but now ostensibly serious publications are concern trolling Dr. Benjamin's BMI. The Washington Post's health blog is actually running a poll asking whether Benjamin's physique should disqualify her outright. The question mirrors the media criticism. Benjamin's fiercest detractors aren't just saying that her weight is one demerit to set against her otherwise impressive resume. They're suggesting that it should bar her from the job.
Regina Benjamin is an incredibly accomplished woman who is being
slandered as fat and lazy(?!) because she doesn't fit some bigot's stereotype of what
good health looks like.
Benjamin isn't the only female Obama nominee to have her fitness for office questioned because of her weight. When Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court, people said
she was too fat to serve. Did we hear that about Antonin Scalia?
If Benjamin's critics cared about "sending the right message" they wouldn't degrade her. In a society where eating disorders are rampant, these meanspirited attacks send the message that no matter how much they achieve, their worth is still contigent on looking a certain way.