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.
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?
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.
Great piece Larkin! I wholeheartedly agree that there is no room for body politics in public office. What in the world does body size have to do with successfully running any sort of organization, really? I recently heard a talk show talking about a potential political canidates wife and how she was reamed for not smiling enough in photos, looking “sullen”. This struck me as horrifyling sexist and unfair. In general the Internet can be a den of wolves no doubt because it is easy to throw swords behind computer screens, but backlash on a public level and media scruitiny just continues to be loathsome and it’s especially upsetting when women are trying to raise awareness about health issues.
I think this reaction to her body was due to the idea that men are threatened by influential and powerful women and that was a way to reduce her worth back down to her appearance. I mean, look at her. She’s obviously gorgeous and obviously accomplished and intelligent. He just HAD to find something about her to snark on, and a lot of people know how sensitive women are about their appearance and what others think of their appearance, he knew that would hit a nerve. If that’s not the case, then we all know there are some pretty awful shallow people out there. It’s a shame these are grown ass people behaving this way.
When I first saw/heard Meghan during her father’s Presidential campaign I was pretty impressed with her. I don’t agree with her completely since she’s Republican and slightly Conservative, versus me being Democratic and very Liberal, but she had good ideas and seemed more open to the differences in people (likely due to her age). I don’t remember seeing the commercial mentioned here, but seeing these pictures of her, and from what I remember of her, she certainly is beautiful. Why Glenn Beck needed to comment so drastically is likely connected to his obvious need for attention – everytime I see or hear of him it’s because he is whining about something…usually something unimportant. The media will hold on to this idea of theirs that women should be stick figures for as long as they can, and unfortunately there are too many women out there who either feel the same way or feel shame when they should not.
As far as political women’s looks go, look at Sarah Palin! She was apparently wonderful in the Republican media’s eyes, yet I still question the reasoning for ever allowing that woman to voice some of her opinions. She is a good example of a political woman being chosen for looks over her mind, and while some people do like Palin’s opinions (which is fine), some of the Republican party cringed when she would agree to do an interview.
There’s a site dedicated to calling out this kind of lopsided gender political crud (beyond Miss Representation.org I mean) It’s called NameItChangeIt.org with the subhead, “when you attack one woman, you attack all women” I’m going to tweet this to them now… 🙂