When a 17-term Republican congressman and former chair of the House Judiciary Committee says the First Lady has a “big butt,” there’s only one way to respond. So with apologies to Seth Myers (and Amy Poehler)…
Really, Jim Sensenbrenner? Really?! While speaking to a constituent–and one who has just expressed her admiration for Michelle Obama to you, no less–you decide it’s appropriate to slag the First Lady’s healthy eating initiative by saying she has “a big butt”? And then when it becomes clear that your impolitic remark might get you in some hot water, you repeat it loudly on the phone in an airport lounge and insist that you stand by your characterization?
I mean, really. Have you seen Michelle Obama’s arms? We should all be so lucky to be half as fit and toned as she is. The relative size of some of her body parts has nothing to do with her health. One of the biggest myths about health and body size is that you have to be rail-thin to be healthy. And, conversely, that all skinny people are healthy. Allow me to provide a personal example. I am slim, slightly underweight, in fact, with a rather small posterior. I also have atrocious eating habits. I may or may not have consumed two cookies, some marshmallows, and half a box of yogurt-covered raisins for breakfast. I eat far too much bacon, red meat, and potato products. And I have the high cholesterol to show for it. I am working on reforming my eating habits, but if I do not, my health will surely suffer, no matter what my weight or body shape.
And, really? You have a problem with the First Lady’s emphasis on healthy eating? Are you aware that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that obesity in the United States results in nearly $150 billion each year in direct medical costs? Even if you think that concern about what we eat is liberal health nut nonsense, surely the economic consequences of unhealthy eating should alarm you.
But really? Your spokeswoman explained your remarks to FishbowlDC by saying that “He doesn’t think the government should be telling Americans what to eat.” There is, of course, no law preventing Americans from stuffing their faces with sour cream Pringles (they are tasty) every day if they so choose. And Mrs. Obama does not sneak into homes in the middle of the night to police the contents of refrigerators. Even so, the U.S. government has a long history of trying to tell Americans what to eat. Right down the street from your office, the National Archives has featured a fantastic year-long exhibit about these efforts–usually unsuccessful–to change American eating habits. I highly recommend it (although it closes on January 3, 2012). Did you know that at one point in the mid-20th century, the government printed posters encouraging citizens to eat donuts as a way of getting their vitamins? (I’m betting that’s one piece of propaganda you could have gotten behind, am I right?)
Really? Going after the First Lady of the United States for her body shape? You know that’s Rush Limbaugh territory, right? Have some dignity, congressman. And, really? Commenting on a woman’s weight? Did your wife slap you upside the head when you got home? Did you miss that part of Being a Sentient Male 101?
And, really. The first African-American first lady and you remark on the size of her tush? What, you decided her hair and skin-tone were off-limits? Michelle Obama is smart and accomplished and yet has spent her three years in the White House being America’s Mom in large part so critics like you don’t go after her and her “radical” influence. (Have you seen her on Nickelodeon? Adorable!) I have one word for you, congressman: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Really.