Cultural Trends/Popular Culture

Male Bodies Now Treated as Political Objects Too

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Men's bodies are making political news these days; Chris Christie's girth, Scott Brown's nudity. Caryl Rivers says that's changing the body politic and giving guys a taste of what women have long endured.

(WOMENSENEWS)--For the first time that I can remember--in some four decades of observing national politics--a male candidate's body has become the subject of serious criticism by pundits.

Some have raised the issue of whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's weight makes him ineligible to run for president. (Christie's dropped out for now and endorsed Mitt Romney, but he's seen as a prime candidate for 2016)

Michael Kinsley, a columnist for Bloomberg View, recently wrote, "Look, I'm sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat."

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Kinsley says that we should judge presidential candidates on character and he thinks that Christie just hasn't shown enough discipline. "With a determined, disciplined effort, Christie could thin down, and he should; because the obesity epidemic is real and dangerous. And the president inevitably sets an example."

At The Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson urged the governor to "eat a salad and take a walk."

And Scott Brown's nude torso has become a factor in his Massachusetts senatorial race against Elizabeth Warren. When Warren replied to a question about how she got through college, she joked, "I didn't take my clothes off."

She was of course referring to Brown's nude posing for Cosmopolitan Magazine to help pay his way through law school.

New Chapter

This is indeed a new chapter in U.S. politics. In the past, men's bodies were pretty much off limits.

Of course, fit and attractive pols have found ways to display that fitness, usually in the guise of the sporting life.

JFK was often photographed swimming, sailing and playing touch football. Ronald Reagan chopped wood and rode horses. George W. Bush rode his mountain bike and cleared brush. Barak Obama shoots hoops and swims in the ocean in his native Hawaii. John Kerry windsurfs.

But many pols simply stay buttoned up.

You rarely saw Richard Nixon in anything but a shirt and tie. Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson never wore Speedos in public. And I doubt you'll see Ron Paul, Herman Cain or Chris Christie in one any time soon either.

Specific male body parts are rarely the subject of scrutiny in politics. (Yes, there was that news flurry over ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner sending photos of his private parts to random women. But that was about inappropriate sexual behavior, not physiology.)

The lone exception may be Mitt Romney's hair, too perfect and too immobile.

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