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Meghan McCain body-shaming bridges the political gap

By April 3, 2012 4 Comments

Despite my political disagreements with her family, I really feel for Meghan McCain. Reporters always feel the need to critique the styles of the potential First Ladies, and this seems to extend to the styles of political daughters as well. Mrs. McCain’s hair always received quite a bit of attention (how a hairstyle has any impact on running a country is beyond me), and Meghan got hit with – what else? – criticisms about her body.

What's more important: Skin cancer, or your opinion of my body?

Meghan recently told the Huffington Post that she saw a therapist to help her cope with the onslaught of hurtful commentary. Sadly, this didn’t really surprise me.

This woman manages her own well-followed blog, serves as a political commentator, and is even writing a book with a well-known comedian. She is developing a professional career independent of her father (which can be hard for people with famous parents), yet look at what she’s had to deal with.

The example of this that I found most disturbing is when Meghan was part of a public service announcement last year for skin cancer. In the commercial, she and a group of other women speak to the camera about being “naked,” which in this case meant not wearing sunscreen – and then commenting on the risks of not protecting your skin from the sun.

An important health message, no doubt. But one that was apparently not as important as how she looked in the ad. Glenn Beck, a very conservative former radio talk show host, actually devoted time on his show to slamming her – he pretended to throw up after watching the ad, claiming to be so disgusted by her weight that he vomited at the sight of her bare shoulders. Really? The woman is helping to educate people on ways to prevent skin cancer, and your response is that she’s too big? Now a woman’s size trumps cancer knowledge in terms of important conversation topics?

Let's acknowledge women's accomplishments before tearing them down about their appearances.

So, it’s no wonder that this is what she said to the Huffington Post: “Now I’m very sensitive to any pictures taken of myself at photo shoots and whatever because the Internet has this very weird…especially people in politics…this very weird reaction to my body because I’m not super skinny, I have large breasts, I know, they’re real, I can’t do anything about it, and like the Internet just has this really weird reaction to my body…I’ve seen a therapist about it.”

Think about that. A professional, accomplished woman has seen a therapist because of how intense and negative the reactions to her natural body are all over the Internet (and also, I feel you Meghan – the Internet is a beast of its own, and so often comments and cruelties go unchecked). Do you think that someone of her standing and capabilities will eradicate the claims that media has no impact on mental health? Somehow I doubt it.

This is unsettling, but I’m glad that Meghan came out and told people that the way the media treated her was really damaging. I love that she publicly dismisses the notion that as soon as a woman steps in front of a camera she needs to shed pounds. That’s an idea that should certainly cross political lines.

Larkin