It is no longer acceptable to be fat in Toronto

Rob FordThe apparently tolerant city of Toronto isn’t so tolerant when it comes to fat people.

Following the election of Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto on Monday evening and throughout the campaign critics would often point to his physical appearance as a flaw. Comments reigned in on Twitter shortly after the election results were posted, demeaning him based on his physical appearance.

When questioned about said comments, some Tweeters thought that it was acceptable to mock fat people because it was something that one could control.

“Because Race & Sexual Orientation AREN’T a choice but being morbidly obese IS A CHOICE and fair game,” was tweeted at me.

“You can control your weight,” said another.

Shame on you, humanity.

Obesity is not always a choice.

“It will be a real shame if Fat Ass kills off the TTC Streetcars,” was an example of the many tweets attacking Toronto’s new mayor.

Imagine if that quote read: “It will be a real shame if The Queer kills off the TTC Streetcars” or “It will be a real shame if The Wop kills off the TTC Streetcars.”

Media and human rights groups would be screaming from their soapboxes for justice – and rightfully so. Attacking someone based on sexual orientation or ethnicity are values unacceptable to Canadians and most other citizens of the world.

So why do we accept fat slurs? Why is it fair game?

In a society that has seen its fair share of bullying issues in schools (and even the workplace) we need to set a better example as adults and show that mocking someone for their physical appearance is not acceptable. Furthermore, we complain about the level of political discourse in this country, yet we allow it to get to that level.

Recall the 1993 Canadian Federal Election. The Conservative Party ran an ad campaign attacking Jean Chretien’s facial features. We all know how that ended up for the Conservatives. Canadians rejected the intolerance found in those ads (among other things).

Unfortunately, we sometimes let physical appearance cloud our judgment and discount people with good ideas. Whether you agree with Rob Ford or disagree with Rob Ford or couldn’t care less about Rob Ford, attack him on his ideas, his policies, his track record. Just don’t judge him based on his physical appearance. As human beings, we should not stoop to that level.

After reading some of the election commentary over the past 10 months, it is no wonder we often end up with electoral choices where none of the above is seen as the best option. Who would want to put themselves through all the scrutiny?

Given that the digital age has proven we all live in a glass house, it would be best if no one were to cast a stone.

Some food for thought (pardon the pun): We in the western world mock those who pack on a few extra pounds while other societies appreciate and celebrate largess.

Now please excuse me while I go hit the gym to shed my “MBA 20”.

Lessons Learned:

  • Mocking other people based on physical appearance is wrong.
  • Attack ideas, not people.
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About Jaime Stein

Jaime is the Senior Manager, Social Media at Hootsuite. He is a digital marketer with expertise in social media and content marketing. His experience stems from leading the social media strategy for two national brands. Jaime holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing and Strategy from the Rotman School of Management where he was selected valedictorian by the students of the Morning MBA Class of 2011. He is the former radio voice of the Toronto Argonauts and currently lives in Vancouver with his wife and two sons.
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14 Responses to It is no longer acceptable to be fat in Toronto

  1. Jenn says:

    So true. In the age of digital media, it would be interesting if a campaign was run entirely online with no pictures of the candidate. would people vote for ideas instead of the people behind them? There was a great quote here in waterloo today because a majority (4/7 + mayor)o f the incoming council is female: “In waterloo, gender matters less than substance”. Nobody won or lost because of their gender – the best person won each race.

    • Mezba says:

      I also wonder how the election would be if no polls were published!

      It’s wrong to criticize Ford on his physical appearance. I agree with most of the left policies yet I don’t mind Ford winning. Other people should stop whining about how Toronto is going to break down. We will survive.

      • jaimestein says:

        Good point re: polls Mezba. I think the polls are misused by media to create more hype for the election. Media also do not fully interpret the data, or use the data to tell the full story. I think that influences voters to some extent.

        Thanks for commenting.

  2. So true is the saying ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover’ and in this age of the internet, TV and social media – where every little personal issue is expanded to a greater significance than is necessary, the focus of what counts has often been lost.

    Our society seems to be hungry for negativity and almost desperate to bring everyone down on some base level. Put anyone under a microscope and you are bound to see something you don’t like or agree with.

    It is worthy to note the majority of people are not skinny mini’s – but the average size for women is size 14! The focus on a person’s size or character tells me that the person viewing and commenting on this, MUST be smaller, both in size and in mind.

    Thanks for talking about this subject – it’s a topic that needs discussion!

    All the Best
    Sharon

  3. Sorry for the typo’s – here is the corrected version. 🙂

    So true is the saying ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover’ and in this age of the internet, TV and social media – where every little personal issue is expanded to a greater significance than is necessary, the focus ON what counts has often been lost.

    Our society seems to be hungry for negativity and almost desperate to bring everyone down on some base level. Put anyone under a microscope and you are bound to see something you don’t like or agree with.

    It is worthy to note the majority of people are not skinny mini’s – but the average size for women is size 14! The focus on a person’s size INSTEAD of character tells me that the person viewing and commenting on this, MUST be smaller, both in size and in mind.

    Thanks for talking about this subject – it’s a topic that needs discussion!

    All the Best
    Sharon

  4. I was appalled at the fact a couple of my slightly overweight friends were not liking him because he was fat. Umm..okay, the fact he was a domestic abuser – yes, please not like him..the fact that he’s overweight? Sorry, but can you look in the mirror?? :/ My one friend wrote, “I don’t want him speaking about anything about health care if he can clearly not take care of himself.” She is not a size 2, she is by terms “overweight”. I just didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t respond to her. Find something besides appearance as a valid reason for him not to be Mayor, please and thank you Torontonians.

    • jaimestein says:

      Well said and thanks for the anecdote. We are such an open, diverse and vibrant city. We need to keep the discussion and the debate on the up and up. Thanks for the comments.

  5. HeidiTee says:

    I find it interesting how you say that as adults we should be better examples. I would actually put this forth as an argument for why I did not vote for Ford. It’s not that he’s fat — it’s that he’s unhealthy. The way he comports himself, he looks like a candidate for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, to name a few. I want someone that can be a role model for our children and admired as a representative of our fair city. This is partly a some-would-say shallow view of how someone should look, but I think that if you’re in the position that he’s in, you’ve got to have the energy, stamina, and strength to run.

    Yes, it’s hard to get into and stay in shape (and I don’t mean size 0 or cut with muscles, but able to climb a flight of stairs without passing out or sweating profusely), but if it’s a priority, and I do think that one’s personal health should be a top priority, then it can absolutely be done. Not to mention, it demonstrates discipline.

    Thanks for the opportunity for healthy debate, by the way. 🙂

    • jaimestein says:

      Very interesting points Heidi. I like seeing the other side of the coin so to speak. If anything, this is a reminder that we all need to watch our health. For instance, I have eaten waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much Halloween candy this week. Not good 😦 Thanks for the comments.

  6. Mihnea Galeteanu says:

    I think for a lot of people his weight became a proxy for all the ugly qualities people see in him and it was the easiest insult to use (especially on twitter where, as we all know, number of characters and not pounds matters 🙂 ). I don’t mind his weight. I mind his views and the way he comports himself in public. I’m not as worried about my son seeing someone at the head of our city who is overweight as I am worried about my son thinking that people who don’t believe arts matter in bad economic times can make it so far.
    One thing that you didn’t touch on that I wanted to write a post about but will use this venue to express is the following: the social media exploded right after the election with how bad of a mayor he will be, but I don’t remember too much excitement before the election. Perhaps this is another sign that there was no real opposite platform presented that twitterers could get behind and endorse.

    • jaimestein says:

      As usual, Mihnea, you have a pretty good read on the situation. As for your son, I thought he would be more upset about Ford removing the street cars 😉

      • Mihnea Galeteanu says:

        He’ll take whatever is on tracks that has sliding doors. He especially prefers those means of transportation in which the drivers don’t use the “it’s not part of my union contract” excuse to not help his mommy carry the stroller inside said means of transportation.

  7. Interesting blogpost, and interesting reactions in the comments section as well. The attack on the person instead of on his/her policies is typical in political processes, hence the pains that politicians take to come across as ‘looking good’ (Julius Caesar’s famous laurel wreath was supposedly worn so often and fondly to hide a balding spot; Malcom Gladwell writes of the ‘Warren Harding Effect’ in which the handsomeness of US presidential candidates seemed to affect their success in elections etc). Unfortunately, the nature of the attack reveals the sophistication (or lack thereof) of the critics. By all means, attack Rob Ford for his lack of appreciation of the Arts, anti-immigration policies, taking streetcars off the streets etc, but an attack on his physical fitness is mean-spirited and intellectually immature.

    Jamie makes a valid point about whether his obesity is controllable or not (e.g. like being gay, or being a visible minority, or physically challenged), but let me take it one step further: even if his lack of his physical fitness may make him unable to take on a flight of stairs without breaking a sweat, that is not the point. For better or for worse, this relatively unknown candidate managed to win the election. He ran such a strong campaign that even his opponents recognized it: this election was a Ford vs.’the other guys’ election. That did not happen by magic: it took discipline, focus, political opportunism, and a relentless drive to win. I did not vote for Ford, but I don’t think he is letting his lack of physical fitness impede him from achieving his political whatever-they-may-be objectives. Thinner, physically-fit looking people (think Adam Giambrone–we all know how THAT ended!) don’t necessarily make better mayors, and fatter, physically-less-fit looking people don’t make worse ones (think Fiorello La Guardia of New York city).

    Let’s have a good, critical look at WHAT we don’t like about Ford (and there are enough sound, logical, civic and civilizational reasons) without taking a pot-shot at irrelevant factors like his weight. He is not competing for Canada in the next Olympics; he is running Canada’s economic, social and political powerhouse–the City of Toronto! We do Ourselves a disservice, we do our City a disservice, and we do our Children a disservice by resorting to intellectually deficient, or lazy rationale in our criticism of the man. I am a Torontonian, a citizen and a father, and I can only deserve that honor (as Jamie does so well here), by an intellectually honest examination of my society and its issues. Perhaps the best gift we can give our children from this turn of events is in demonstrating through example what we don’t agree with Ford about, why it is important we take a stand on these issues, and equally importantly why we never ever should yield to the temptation to a personal attack. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

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