Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
I don’t like fat jokes.
Back in my days as a columnist for the late, lamented Sacramento Union, I served as a “roaster” at a luncheon for a then-corpulent radio personality who has gone on to the top of his profession and now occupies a relatively svelte body.
Every one of the other roasters did fat jokes. One went so far as to bring along a huge set of bib overalls as a prop. I did not make any references to weight, because somewhere in my younger days I came to recognize – or some elder pointed out to me – that my teasing of fat schoolmates was hurtful.
So I reformed, and the reform has stuck.
This comes to mind because of various comics’ seemingly limitless capacity to make light (not a joke) of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy’s poundage. Christy can take it, of course. He didn’t survive as a prosecutor and a campaigner in Jersey politics without developing a thick skin (not intentionally a joke). But this sort of thing is no more clever than locker-room banter, and it’s sexist to boot.
It’s somewhat difficult not to succumb to the temptation to refer to a fatty’s dimensions. Even a great wit like H.L. Mencken fell into it when describing William Howard Taft as “a good man, weighing 400 pounds.” You might find this worth a chuckle, but it’s unfair to men.
You don’t hear anybody making jokes about Hillary Clinton’s weight. Hillary, though not quite as bulky as Christy, is – to put it delicately – heavy. But you don’t hear anybody jesting that she’s going to stand in as a breakwater on the Jersey shore, or that she caused a traffic jam by crossing the George Washington Bridge or is having a new pantsuit tailored at the awning factory.
This is because it would be ungallant to make fat jokes about a woman. A woman can assume the proportions of the Graf Zeppelin, and nobody will suggest openly that she take her place in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. The unchivalrous gent who made such crack could find the object of his “humor” smacking him in the mouth, or worse, dissolving in tears.
Though he might be trying to be an equal-opportunity offender, he’d be faced with the charge of sexism. You can hear the accusations: “Don’t you know what menopause can do to a woman, you insensitive oaf? Would you rather she was bulimic, you unchivalrous jerk? I suppose your ideal woman’s body would look like Barbie, you sick so-and-so.”
So, women get a pass if their hips stick in the limousine door, if they look like they’ve been taking extra gravy on their banquet-circuit mashed potatoes or if the speaker’s platform threatens collapse as they approach the lectern.
This isn’t a call for fairness. I don’t want fat women to receive the same treatment as fat men. I want fat men to receive the same treatment as fat women. That is, knock it off. Weight is irrelevant. Instead, try to stick with the issues.
Rhetorical overreach: “I’m betting you just as soon cut off your right arm before allowing President Obama to continue in office without being held accountable for his secrecy, corruption and constitutional overreach.” So begins a fundraising letter from Judicial Watch.
We might send this outfit a check one day, but for now we’ll just offer some free advice: Don’t write stupid sentences like the one quoted. As for the bet: You’d lose with most citizens. They’d rather keep their brachial appendages and use them to fight the administration.
Rhetorical underreach: Of course, JW isn’t the only outfit trying to raise money by insulting recipients’ intelligence. The Republican National Committee has sent out a survey with such “questions” as, “Do you favor a major overhaul of the federal tax code – currently thousands of pages long – that would replace today’s burdensome tax system with one that is simpler and fairer?”
Then there’s, “Should Republican congressional members stand firm against actions by the Obama White House to bypass congressional approval to circumvent the law and enact new regulations, fees and other freedom-destroying measures via executive orders?”
We’d love to see the tally of how many respondents answered: “No, let’s keep the unfair tax system,” or, “No, we like freedom-destroying measures.”
This is the kind of insult to your intelligence you receive if you make the mistake of contributing to the RNC.
Let us suggest a single question for the committee’s next survey:
“Do you favor the positions we’ve already decided upon, or do you favor the positions we’ve already decided upon?”
It would be a time saver.
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