The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
Mocking other people for eating disorders is not funny. When adult leaders in the Croton community engage in food-shaming, dietism, or fat shaming, it signals to children and teens that such bullying behavior is acceptable in Croton.
Orthorexia is a relatively new term for a problem that has been around for decades: a fixation on pursuing a “healthy” diet. Hollywood celebrities have long pushed fad diets, normally to women. As fat-shaming has become less acceptable, diet-shaming has come to serve the same purpose and possesses the same misogynistic applications.
Here in Croton, it is an organization led by 2 men (Chairman Richard Masur and Mayor Brian Pugh) that has chosen to use their official Facebook page to not only mock someone for diet, but also to hold that someone’s dietary choices are “Not evidence of the best judgment.”
The theme that Mr. Trump’s consumption of McDonald’s food and Diet Cokes is related to his professional qualifications is not new; last year physician James Hamblin even wrote in The Atlantic that Mr. Trump’s dietary and exercise choices “would seem to offer insight” into Trump’s North Korea policy.
I don’t know what Mr. Pugh eats, what his Body Mass Index is, nor how much Mr. Pugh exercises (if at all). Nor do I care. If Mr. Pugh was being mocked online for his personal life choices, I would be the first person to tell the bullies to knock it off.
But let’s be honest here: Mr. Pugh has critics of his policy positions, and some Croton residents have said that his fondness for increasing Village debt is evidence of poor judgment, but nobody has ever said that Mr. Pugh’s diet is relevant to the question of how he fulfills his official duties.
I wonder why none of Mr. Pugh’s colleagues told him that the Facebook post should be removed. Sherry Horowitz is an educator. Does Ms. Horowitz permit her students to gang up on a student who brings the “wrong” type of food in their lunchbox? Does she tell her students that classmates who go to McDonalds have parents with bad judgment? Does she tell her class that it is OK to diet-shame so long as the target has different political views?
If Ms. Horowitz does not permit her 5 year olds to bully and mock based on diet or body image, then why does she tolerate such behavior from grown men?
Diet-shaming of a man is rare, probably because of the gender double-standard. MarketData Enterprises notes that 90% of Weight Watchers’ members are female, and when looking at social media posts from victims of diet-shaming all of them I could find were from women, with several specifically from mothers who had been shamed for taking their children to McDonald’s.
Online posts such as the one authorized by the Croton Democratic Committee are not only in bad taste, they can also serve as a trigger for persons with eating disorders and body image issues.
In addition to the gender element of this online bullying, there is also a classism aspect. Going to Five Guys or Smashburger is a signal of woke millennial trendiness, but McDonald’s is so déclassé that the taxpayers of Croton issued a bond to pay for the $900,000 purchase of a plot of land that McDonald’s once threatened to purchase.
In the video currently posted on the CrotonDems page, when presented with a McMuffin the male actor sarcastically says it “truly is fine dining” and then proceeds to belch loudly and inform us as to the consistency of his bowel movement the next day. The woman puts the Diet Coke in glassware and says she is “pretending this is wine.”
Croton is a relatively wealthy and homogenous community. The last thing that our Mayor should be reinforcing is a classist bullying based on personal food choices.
The National Eating Disorders Association tells us that we should address our concerns in a “loving and supportive” way. Michelle Obama did much good work with her “Let’s Move” campaign and the “Chefs Move to Schools” program. Ms. Obama was always supportive, and even those who disagreed with some of her positions on school cafeteria diets knew that she was coming from a perspective of love and compassion.
I hope that Mr. Pugh gives some thought to expressing his views on diet in a more loving and supportive manner. Eating at McDonald’s and consuming Diet Cokes may be tied to health problems, but it is not a moral failing. Being overweight and insufficient exercise are issues most of us struggle with, but those are not moral failings.
Mocking people online for their diet and lifestyle choices is a moral failing, and a bad example for our young people. It needs to stop.