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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rob Ford: Toronto's Poster Boy for Fat Hate

Few things bore and frustrate me as much as politics. Basically, I lump all politicians into one general category: corrupt, overpaid, underachieving thieves who lie every time their lips move.

So this blog post is not about politics. It’s about a politician where I live, in the city of Toronto.

Rob Ford became mayor of Toronto in 2010. Since his induction as mayor, his critics have been relentless. They claim it’s his politics and his financial cuts that they don’t like. But I think what really galls them is the fact that he’s fat.

Rob Ford weighs over 300 pounds. How did such a fat man ever get to be mayor of Toronto? Fat people aren’t supposed to get prestigious jobs like that! People probably scratch their heads when they ask themelves that question. I’ve asked it myself, when I see all the rampant fat hate Ford has been subjected to.

The ridicule began (naturally) during the mayoral election. While ridicule and public embarrassment among opponents in political campaigns is a given, the ridicule Ford received has been beyond insipid and juvenile. There were all kinds of demeaning, insulting images of him with either a pig head or a pig body (we’re talking grade school humor here):

Once elected mayor, Toronto’s notoriously left-wing NOW magazine produced this crude and lewd cover to commemorate the occasion:

That isn't Ford's body, by the way .... just his head superimposed on another fat guy's body. It's nothing new; the media has been lopping off fat people's heads for decades and either ignoring them completely or sticking them on other bodies as a joke. I guess the editors at NOW figured, close enough.

I have lived in Toronto for most of my life, and I can never recall a mayor receiving such hateful, intense criticism or deliberate humiliation before – and certainly not for how he looked. This, despite the fact that one of our mayors, Mel Lastman, was definitely no beauty, and whose claim to fame before becoming mayor was his clownlike commercials for his furniture store, Bad Boy.

Our previous mayor David Miller (directly before Ford) was definitely deserving of intense criticism when he sloppily mishandled a garbage strike that was a total disaster for the city. But he got off pretty lightly, because he looked like this:

Yeah, that smoulderingly sexy Kennedy vibe gets ‘em every time.

Our current mayor can do no right, though. He has been harassed and ridiculed from day one, simply because of his weight. Respect for him as a human being (never mind a public servant) is simply non-existent. In one notorious incident that backfired quite dismally for the CBC, comedienne Mary Walsh felt perfectly justified accosting him AT HIS HOME (in his driveway) one morning on his way to work, causing him to call 911 and supposedly cuss and swear (allegations that later proved to be untrue).

Would any rational person blame him for cussing and swearing, though? I would’ve spat in her face if she’d pulled that crap with me. (Maybe that’s one reason I’m not mayor.) He handled the situation with dignity and class, much to the CBC's chagrin.

I’ve watched all the disrespect, insults, humiliation, and ridicule about his weight since the election, and depending on the incident, I’ve been mildly to moderately disgusted. A lot of people say: Well, he signed up for this. It’s part of public life. The other day, however, the fat hate displayed towards Ford plummeted to the lowest level I have seen yet.

Part of it was due to poor judgement on Ford’s part. He does have a tendency to invite controversy. In January 2012, he and his brother Doug undertook a “weight loss challenge” in which both of them vowed to lose 50 lbs. by June. Why did Ford do this? Was he truly looking to change his size and lifestyle for his own reasons? Or was he simply caving in to the public pressure and scrutiny about his weight? Did he think people would start to like him if he showed that he was “making an effort”?

Whatever his reasons, it was an incredibly stupid move, because as any dieter knows, DIETS DON’T WORK. They are guaranteed to fail sooner or later, and he should have known that when it started failing, his detractors would be even more critical of him than before.

Ford’s progress on his diet has been standard. After an initial quick few pounds dropped at the beginning of the diet (water weight), he has been making slow progress down the scale. Now he has started to yo-yo. He started his diet at 330 pounds. The other day (about four months since the diet began), he weighed in at 312, a pound up from his last weigh-in.

Here’s what happened that made me so disgusted. Some woman videotaped him walking into a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant to buy dinner. Her justification for this breach of privacy was “If you’re not committed to the diet that you committed to … how can you be committed to the taxpayers of Toronto and making changes in Toronto?”

Meanwhile ... Are you ready for the punchline? The woman was feeding KFC to her toddler at the time. There’s great parenting skills for ya. I’d love to videotape her doing a diaper change … probably all kinds of diaper rash (and who knows what else) on that poor kid’s behind. This woman is supposedly a child care worker. If you watch the video, you'll hear her laughing her ass off when she sees Ford entering the KFC, ridiculing him. Surely you'd want to hire this compassionate "child care worker" to look after your child, wouldn’t you?

In case you’re wondering, her justification for feeding greasy junk food to her child was this: “I got a four-piece chicken, gravy, and french fries, and I enjoyed every bit of it. … I know teaching my child to eat french fries at KFC – that’s not fine. But you know what? I didn’t commit to a weight loss challenge. He did.”

Crotchety Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington’s comments on the incident incensed me even more. Here’s a sampling of his take on the matter: “At his last weigh-in, he went from 311 pounds to 312 pounds. That’s not much of an advertisement for lunches of rye crisp and celery.”

Has this ignorant fool ever been on a diet in his life? Does he have any clue about the body’s metabolism, how it battles to fight starvation, and the incredible difficulty in taking weight off no matter how little you eat? Obviously not. But if you think this was the last of his ignorance … you’re mistaken. The old boy was just getting warmed up.

“Trim your diet, Rob, if you’re serious. It’s not hard. … Considering his size, Ford has no aversion to consuming medium-rare steaks and KFC, as evidenced by a recent video posted to YouTube. He surely didn’t get so ‘robust’ by concentrating on crackers and veggies. … who cares if the mayor is a tubby, addicted to cream puffs and malted milk shakes.”

I love how judgmental people get when they feel they have a free pass to judge others. They’re usually people who have never had a weight problem in their life … and that’s why they feel entitled to spout off so bombastically. It’s really scary how uneducated, ignorant, and just plain mean people are about weight … but it’s certainly not news. I just happened to get a real local taste of it this past week.

If you’re not a fan of Rob Ford’s politics, that’s one thing. If you dislike his proposed cuts, his demeanor, his attitude towards the working class and cyclists, and what some believe is his lack of support towards Toronto’s gay community, you (as a citizen) have the right to criticize him for those things.

But SHUT THE FUCK UP about his weight. The man is a human being. Whether he loses it or not is his business, NOT yours. As soon as you utter one detrimental word about his weight, your intelligence disappears and you reveal yourselves for the fat-hating bigots you are.

Well, that’s it for now from lovely, progressive Toronto, home of the thin and privileged and home of one lone fat and privileged (maybe not so privileged) beleaguered mayor. I shudder to think … what if our mayor happened to be a 300-pound woman instead of a man? Something tells me that the abuse Rob Ford undergoes on a regular basis would be nothing compared to the hate she would receive.

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