Too Fat? Discrimination Against Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Regina Benjamin

Too fat to be Surgeon General?

Too fat to be Surgeon General?

Too Fat to Be Surgeon General?

Discriminatory Claims Circulating Against Dr. Regina Benjamin’s “Fitness” to Be Surgeon General

Dr. Robyn Silverman

There have been some unfortunate derogatory groans about Dr. Regina Benjamin’s Fitness to be President Obama’s pick for Surgeon General.  Her weight is throwing opinions of her fitness for the job off kilter.

Case and point from one angry blogger:  “Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less.”

Someone else asked: “How can Dr. Benjamin promote healthy eating if she herself is obese?”

and

“One of the greatest health threats in our population is obesity. Now we have an obese Surgeon General as a role model. How is she to impact the nation’s health if she can’t even take care of herself?”

Of course, her qualifications speak for themselves:

  • Bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Attended Morehouse School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982
  • Received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1984.
  • Completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 1987
  • Founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 in Alabama
  • Serving as Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic its CEO since.

Today, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is speaking out saying that Dr. Benjamin “personifies the message of NOW’s Love Your Body Day (LYBD) campaign, which promotes equality for all people regardless of physical appearance.”

My friend and body image book contributor, Chenese Lewis is also an actress, plus-sized model, and chair of the LYBD committee for Hollywood NOW. She had something to say on the topic:

“Discrimination based on appearance is wrong in any form, period,” Lewis said. “It’s unfortunate that this is even an issue when Dr. Benjamin is more than qualified and capable of handling the position of Surgeon General. This is yet another example of how society puts more value on outer appearance over ability, integrity, and character.”

Zoe Ann Nicholson, President of Pacific Shore NOW, was also outraged about the discriminatory slaps Dr. Benjamin was receiving due to her weight:

“When I see Dr. Benjamin, I see a woman I can trust,” Nicholson said. “If I have chest pains, it might not be a heart attack or something related to weight. She might understand that just because I am big, a doctor should not give me double doses. Both of these things have happened to me. Since most American women are size 14 or more, I am really encouraged to have a Surgeon General who can see us as people, not as number on a body fat scale chart.”

So…what do you think?  Should the Surgeon General pick be thinner? Does weight negate her stellar qualifications? Give us your opinion.

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Trying to get the body to fit the swimsuit or vice versa?

I think we can all learn a very important lesson here (Thank you, Tracy).  Stop trying to make your body fit the clothes and start looking for clothes that fit your body!  Why do girls and women berate themselves when the clothes don’t fit us well?  Somehow, the size and shape of the clothes in the store become our own private dictator telling us we must lose weight, get surgery, and do dangerous things to ourselves just so we can fit into them. Who made them king?  Take back the power– find the clothes that fit you and that make you feel beautiful.  You deserve it.

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Share your body image stories and perspectives here!

The Impact of Dads on their Daughters’ Body Image

dads and daughters

Dads impact on Daughters Body Image

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Do dads have an impact on girls’ body image development? You betcha!

I just finished a great interview with Joe Kelly aka “The Dad Man” in preparation for writing the chapter on Dads for my body image book.

Number 1 question on my list: How important are Dads when it comes to girls’ body image development?  After all, moms and daughters have been studied, analyzed, discussed, and discussed again—but issues of Dad’s and daughters have taken a back seat.

The impact of Dads (and step dads) on their daughters is profound.  As the first man in their lives, Dads set the precedent of how daughters believe men see them.  What do they value?  Are looks a major issue?  Do they see their daughters as a full “human” with thoughts, feelings, interests, and principles—or simply as a girl who should look and act a certain way?

Studies tell us that what parents say– yes, that includes Dads too– have a powerful influence on how girls see themselves, their dieting habits, and their overall views about body shape and size. Fathers, who tend to tease their children more than Moms, have been reported to have a very harsh impact on their daughters and their self image. In fact, girls whose dads made fun of them are far more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies,  to exhibit eating disordered  behavior, to have low self-esteem, and suffer from depression. Of course, Dads can also have a positive impact on girls and how they view themselves– so what can you do, Dads?

Mr. Kelly underscores that Dads need to see their daughters as individuals not just as girls.  Every girl is different—every child is different—what is their daughter all about? Certainly weight shouldn’t be the first thing (if at all) that comes to mind! In fact, weight should be irrelevant considering looks change constantly and should not have a bearing on who your daughter is as a person.  Weight is a cultural issue now—it shouldn’t be YOUR issue.

So how can Dads have a positive affect on their daughters’ body image development?

Mr. Kelly’s advises Dads to stop buying into all the cultural crud and see their daughters as multifaceted people. Show her that the media , the “product” world, the celebrity world and the advertising world fosters a bunch of lies and the measure of a woman is based on who she is, who she helps, how she feels, how she uses her mind—not on how she looks, how much she weighs, and what size she wears.

He also wants Dads to remember that for every advertisement out there– imagine your daughter’s face on the model or actresses body.  Would you really want that to be YOUR daughter? Do you really want her receiving THESE messages? For example (thank you for this ugly gem,  Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth, of which I am an advisory board member)

I know…yuck.

Remember, Dads, your daughter is looking to you to understand how she is viewed by 49% of the world.  What do you want her to see when she looks in the mirror? What do you want her to think when she is around boys—and later, men?  Talk to her about it.  Show her how you feel.

And for those of you who are telling your daughters that they are “too fat” or some other form of appearance criticism, please know that you are overtly contributing to the body image problems your daughter has now and your daughter will have in the future.  But to those Dads who are remaining silent, don’t think you are in the right.  By saying nothing at all, you are covertly contributing to the problem.  Yes, by saying nothing at all, you are letting the world speak for you.

Take a stance—then take a stand. Be the father she needs and deserves.

**Have a story about how your Dad or step Dad influenced your body image (negative or positive)? Please send me your story for the book (to be published in 2010 by Harlequin Books)!

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One Girl’s Reaction to Teen Celeb OverExposure

Gossip Girl age 15What’s a parent to do with all these overexposed teen celebrity images?

Celebrities are wearing skimpier outfits everyday. Of course, there is less of them to cover these days too, having lost so much weight.  After all, that’s the “new normal” isn’t it? What are parents supposed to do with all these images? Hide away our girls forever? It’s no wonder some parents have contemplated it.

My opinion has always been that we need to open up communication with the teens themselves with regard to these images.  What do they think?  Sharing your values but also listening to their concerns and opinions are vital if we are to make any progress in this area.

Miley_VanityFairThat’s why it shouldn’t surprise you when I post teen responses to these questions. I always love it when teens write in with their perspective.  Perhaps they can teach us a thing or two?  Here is one teen perspective from a 15 year old girl– still stinging from the Miley Cyrus debacle (radio interview here) last year along with other overexposed celebs.

Ok Miley Cyrus and all those celebs maybe a little too young to understand this but being a celebrity is not all about money, fame, fashion and getting your hair done whenever you want. If  you want to be a  celebrity you should try to be perfect, i know it sounds crazy but that’s the cost of being a celeb. She KNOWS that young girls look up to her and i still consider those pics a little too provocative (even i’m 15 and make sure that i’m all covered up in public). Therefore posing for them is a BIG MISTAKE.  Someone said parents should control what their kids should see and hear but that would seem impossible with the media at every inch of this world. It really is time parents start paying more attention to whom they consider their role model. I mean my parents don’t even know who miley is and if they did they’ll ban me from the net.

I look up to girls that are ‘tough’ and not too girly and not afraid to be themselves like the old avril lavigne. Yes she has changed and i used to loathe her for being a party animal but her music esp. complicated, when you’re gone, slipped away and innocence had a big impact on my musical interests. She has real talent and her lyrics are just amazing with the exception of girlfriend of course!

It’s important for parents (of girls esp) to start acting when they’re young and innocent. First of all parents are a child’s primary influence and i personally think that controlling the type of toys would really help.  Though crazy it might seem girls shouldn’t be adorned with so many teddy bears, dolls, pink stuffed animals. This makes their personality ‘too girly’ and this is what makes them think it’s ok to look up to   britney, miley(hate her!), Lindsay lohan and you name it……..

As a  baby my parents never adorned me with more than about 20 toys. They bought me very few dolls (only about 4) and more towards animals. As a result today at 15, I hate pink, i don’t like the conventional boyfriend gossip, i don’t act like dadda’s lil princess. Instead i’ve taught myself to look more towards reality….like world issues (my dad encouraged me at a very young age to watch news) and no this doesn’t mean forcing cnn down kids’ throats, i mean let them step outside of confinement and look at what they’re surrounded with………..let them sympathize with the poor, needy . This will automatically have a big impact on their personality and in no time their taste of music will change from pussy cat dolls to u2.

I know this may sound nerdy but nerdy is better than…….you-know-what…….

So…is it? What’s your take? How should parents deal with these young celebrity images anyway?

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