Is Rob Ford’s Weight an Issue?

On Friday, October 15, 2010 at 7:24pm EST, the Globe and Mail published the following article
 
Rob Ford’s not popular despite being fat. He’s popular because of it
Stephen Marche
 
The mounds of fat that encircle Rob Ford’s body like great deflated tires of defeat are truly unprecedented in Canadian politics.
 
We have had chunky political candidates before, but the front-runner in Toronto’s current contest to be mayor is so fat that his belly is invariably the first thing you notice about him.
 
Yet far from harming his political image, his bulk is the key to his appeal. Neither intelligent nor sympathetic, Mr. Ford offers voters fat. And we want fat. In fat, we see ourselves.
 
Let no one confuse Rob Ford’s obesity with jollity. Every extra pound on Mr. Ford’s frame is an extra pound of rage. His angry fat is perfectly of our time.
 
Fat is the physical manifestation of postindustrial life. It is no coincidence that the obesity crisis in North America has occurred simultaneously with the decline of manufacturing in our cities. The foods that we love to eat originated in a time when the lives of men and women were devoted to manual labour.
 
In the late 19th century, a typical steel-factory worker in the Northeastern United States poured molten steel for 12 hours a day, six days a week. In such conditions, the major problem wasn’t hypertension but consuming enough calories quickly enough to last through an entire shift without wasting break time.
 
Therefore doughnuts, hamburgers and steak-and-cheese sandwiches. Which we continue to eat sitting behind desks while we process paperwork.
 
For men trapping fur or working in a lumber camp, poutine makes sense. Not for kids heading to a bar after a hard day’s telemarketing.
 
Whether through the migration to white-collar jobs or through rust-belt unemployment, we have lost the physical labour but we have kept the diet that once sustained it.
 
Fat is the bodily equivalent of the boarded-up factories in once-industrial powerhouses like Windsor and St. Catharines and Buffalo and Cleveland. Fat in North America is work that is not being done.
 
Before the advent of television, fat politicians such as Mr. Ford were not such an anomaly. In the early 20th century, the enormous body of U.S. president William Taft could be taken as evidence of a humanizing self-indulgence. Gluttony, after all, is the least vicious of the seven deadly sins. A big gut signified that the president was in the end, despite his status, one of the boys.
 
For kings, fatness symbolized luxury, particularly the luxury of not doing any manual labour. Henry VIII weighed so much that he was constantly having new suits of armour designed to accommodate his ever-expanding gut, and his coffin broke through the supports at his funeral.
 
Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, dislikes Cassius because he is too thin. For Caesar, fat men in power are happy, satisfied, forgiving. Thin men are conniving. He says:
 
Let me have men about me that are fat/ Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights:/ Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;/ He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.
 
Television rendered Caesar’s advice moot. Once TV had entered our homes and we became preoccupied with how everyone looked, we needed our political leaders trim; it signified efficiency and self-control, which is why jogging remains one of the most widespread clichés of political advertising, for conservatives and liberals alike.
 
In America, Mike Huckabee, an otherwise unexceptional Republican governor from Arkansas, became a national contender only after he published his polemic against junk food and personal memoir of lifestyle modification called Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.
 
Now all of that is changing, at least in Southern Ontario. Mr. Ford doesn’t run from his fat or hide it – and why should he? His gut embodies the parts of the city and the country hardest-hit by the changing nature of our economy and the evisceration of manual labour from our society.
 
His fat is all he has going for him; it makes him look working-class even though he’s a drunk-driving, second-generation political dilettante, a man who has never been faced with the financial difficulties of ordinary people. Mr. Ford’s body reflects the decline around us better than any story he could tell.
 
Toronto’s current mayor is David Miller, as calm, generous and smart a man as you would want to meet; he achieved nothing in office. The biggest story of his six years was that he managed to lose weight. Newspapers reported on his regimen; the mayor was proud of his accomplishment.
 
And yet with every pound that he lost, it seemed that he became more and more separated from the reality of the city around him, separated from the lives of people who have to get to their jobs and cook meals. Who can blame voters now for wanting a fat man?
 
Stephen Marche is a novelist and the culture columnist for Esquire magazine. He lives in Toronto.
 
***************************************************
 
What!?!
Wait a second, is this acceptable? I’m worried about the weight of Rob Ford platform; I’m not particularly interested in the man’s physical weight. What exactly does this have to do with the issues surrounding the election of Toronto’s next mayor?
 
This article appeared on the Globe and Mail’s web site. Was it actually printed in the newspaper?
 
I’m assuming that somebody in the editor’s office had second thoughts because the article can no longer be found on the Globe and Mail’s web site. I got the above copy from Google’s cache.
 
 
One BC Conservative Blog
Mr. Dean Skoreyko, currently Director and Membership Chair of the BC Conservative Party, was not favourably impressed by the article writing "Just when you think journalism can’t sink any further, Stephen Marche pens this pile."
 
Twitter
Various forums are alive with comments about this article and many find this attack on Ford’s physique not to be good journalism.
 
Not the first time
Here’s a video from March 2008. It shows Rob Ford berating Globe and Mail columnist John Barber after he apparently referred to Ford as a fat f**k.
 
[groan] Exchanges like this make everybody look bad and are truly unproductive.
 
Who is Stephen Marche?
As a novelist, he has published 2 books which has received critical acclaim. As a writer, he pens a monthly column for Esquire magazine and a weekly column in the National Post.
 
Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia article on Mr. Marche has already been updated with information about the above article and the stir it has caused
 
Rob Ford Responds
 
Dear Friend,
 
As you may have already heard, an article was printed in today’s Globe and Mail that I feel is one of the most vile attacks I’ve ever seen in my ten years in politics. I’ve had a fair bit of mud thrown at me in this campaign, but I never thought I’d see a reputable paper like the Globe and Mail attack me for my appearance and my weight.
 
I am absolutely appalled, but not entirely surprised. These personal attacks are coming because of the success of my campaign. I expected attacks like this for the simple reason that there are still many people out there who are resistant to the change I want to bring to City Hall.
 
The entrenched establishment of lobbyists, consultants, and insiders who make their living from the Gravy Train will clearly stop at nothing to prevent me from being Mayor precisely because they know that I’m going to clean up City Hall, put an end to this nonsense, and stop the Gravy Train once and for all.
 
But I can’t do it without your help.
 
The election is only nine days away, and I need you, your family, friends, and colleagues all to get out to the polls and vote for the change we need and that only I can deliver.
 
Advanced polls are open tomorrow from 10 AM to 6 PM all across the city. I encourage you to get out and vote tomorrow so that you can help get out the vote on Election Day.
 
On Monday October 25th, I am very confident that the people of Toronto will elect me as their next Mayor because they know I am the only candidate who can go down to City Hall, straighten things out, and stop the Gravy Train.
 
Thank you for your ongoing support. Please remember to vote and have your voice heard.
 
Sincerely,
Rob Ford
 
So, dear reader…
Have we’ve stooped to a new low? Is the election becoming dirty? Will this final week be marked by more mud-slinging?
Click HERE to read more from William Belle
 
References
 
Wikipedia: Stephen Marche
 
Canada Free Press: Conservative Fatsos fair game for Fathead Lefties
by Judi McLead – October 16, 2010
Cqritical of Stephen Marche and the Globe and Mail
 
2010-10-18
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1 Comment

  1. The Globe & Mail dcomment_ID publish the article in its Saturday edition, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I predict that this is going to backfire on Ford’s opponents – the sheer nastiness of the article will garner sympathy towards Ford (which could translate into more votes from people who are undeccomment_IDed).

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