Monday, October 04, 2010

Fatism rears its ugly head in Toronto mayoral race.

Rob Ford is a 41 year old mayoral candidate running in Toronto's upcoming elections.

Politically Ford has certainly provided folks with ample ammunition to go after him, but just last week, retired anesthesiologist Dr. Marvin Kay went after him just because Ford was ample.

According to the column in the Toronto Sun, Kay commented at an open mike,

"I'm a physician and I look upon you as a possible patient. I am concerned about your weight. Do you think you'll be able to handle a four year term"
Because everybody knows fat folks can't possibly handle politics - just ask Winston Churchill.

Later in a radio interview Kay continued,
"I was quite disturbed by his obesity. He’s a very heavy man with a large belly and double chin. He was sweating quite a bit. Several times he picked up a towel or a napkin to wipe his forehead ... his weight could become a problem and perhaps lead to a heart attack or stroke."
Really Dr. Kay? You've seen a lot of 41 year old obese men drop dead of heart attacks and strokes?

Sadly there are a lot of Dr. Kays in this world, including many who are indeed physicians.

I suppose the only silver lining in this story is that Dr. Kay has retired and consequently he's no longer bringing his brand of all too common bias to the bedside.

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  1. The bad thing is this has been reported in the paper and some people will give it undo respect since Dr.'s comments even though he is retired.I was unaware that being mayor required any particular fitness.

  2. Anonymous9:10 am

    Thank you for pointing out those biases, but a doctor no less. This is what a lot of people sense when they see doctors for regular health visits - the talk always steers back to that look on a doctor's face (somewhat scrunched up) asking us or telling us *they'd* like us to lose weight, like they have to live with it or look at fat on us every day somehow. It's like they're stuck in some groove. And they always throw in something like, "I'd hate to see you show up in the ER suffering from a heart attack/stroke/worse." The implication is that doctors hate fat patients. They're difficult to deal with, and they'd rather not be hassled. They're doctors. They took oaths to treat everyone regardless of who they are and what the problem is. If doctors want to see patients for a total of five minutes each, without complications/questions/hassles, they're in the WRONG business.

    Now... having said that, who dies at 41 from a heart attack or stroke? My father. And he was 31. And he basically ate, drank and smoked himself to death. This was 42 years ago. I doubt he would have been able to get away with that lifestyle today without everyone and their dog weighing in on how he should life his life. He killed himself out of ignorance, gluttony and impulsive binging behaviours, but everyone lived that way back then. We, his surviving seven kids and wife, accepted that. We're not happy about it, but we accept his consequences.

    Fat isn't always from lifestyle, but when it is, it's not just you who may pay the price. Double edge sword.


  3. No doubt there are folks who die from heart attacks and strokes at 41 with smoking certainly being a tremendous risk factor.

    Of course we don't as a general rule scrutinize the medical histories of our politicians and certainly if we were to do so, it'd be quite a slippery slope. Would we require genetic testing to look for potential problems? Should we have them undergo full body MRIs to rule out potential health landmines?

    Or perhaps we should judge them on those qualities that matter with a politician - their policies and political words and actions.

  4. Lindsay9:37 am

    The real threat to Toronto if Rob Ford wins the mayoral race is to the active commuter cycling community when he makes good on his promise to dismantle the bike lane network we have worked so hard to establish. It's clear from Rob Ford's complaints about cyclists and even marathon runners that he sees any non-car use of city streets as a pest and a nuisance. So, in a way, his physical condition does make him a bad candidate, not by threatening his short-term health, but by blinding him to the habits of more active citizens. He clearly drives everywhere he goes, and sees any impediment to his own habits as a problem to be eliminated. Lord help Torontonians if he wins.

  5. Anonymous9:52 am

    Lindsay, I'm so with you on this one. When I lived in TO, I loved that the city was so condensed I could, and did 90% of the time, walk everywhere. We're talking across the Viaduct down Bloor, and hanging a left on Yonge all the way down to the train station and back most week nights just for something to do and to get some fresh (smog) air. I was thrilled to trip over (literally) bike trails in the middle of that jungle one weekend. I was like finding lost treasure for someone like me. And all of the dog parks with lots of grass? I'm sure he'll find away to appropriate it and throw up office buildings and condos. Yeah, so based on my biases, I wouldn't vote for him either. He just doesn't respect those who do use the natural treasures TO possesses even if he doesn't enjoy them himself. Sad. Ford completely ignores that daytime populations of TO are close to 8 million, but the nighttime/weekend TO dwellers are half of that, and a great deal of them love to get out and walk, bike and run in addition to spend gobs of money boosting the local shops. He's very short sighted.


  6. Much as I detest Rob Ford and what he is advocating for my city, I too was shocked by the narrow-mindedness of that doctor.

    I believe in HAES (health at every size), but it looks clear to me that Rob Ford is not in great shape. His desire to keep us all in our cars is certainly telling.

    BTW, this is my first visit to your blog via Obesity Panacea. I think I'm going to become a regular reader!

  7. You have written a very compelling piece which speaks many truths. YOU ARE VERY RIGHT size discrimination, as I like to call it, is a very real and debilitating form of discrimination in North American society. I think that we need more academics to further explore and examine the points you have examined in your blog, there needs to be more recognition that this form of discrimination not only exists but is prolific in all spheres of life.

    Although the comments made about the candidate are appallingly ridiculous, they do not surprise me one bit. What these comments inadvertently speaks of, is how prolific the forgotton ‘ism’ in size is. For example, would one's race, gender, class, ethnicity or religion (or even sexuality) be publicly spoken about in the same context? I think NOT.

    Who cares what the stats indicate about heart attacks at the age of 41, the point here is that they were discriminiatory comments and should not have been spoken, that Doctor should know better and his comments only further perpetuate the stereotypes that unjustly exist regarding size. Did he think that he somehow had the right to discredit this candidate based on size because he is Doctor?? Ridiculous.

    Furthermore, the majority of the comments regarding this article and comments following other articles and blogs examining similar issues are reflective of the very argument and the fact that size discrimination is possibly THE most common and incapacitating form of discrimination existent in today's society!! Sadly, many people just do not get it.

  8. FYI: I speak of this issue as someone who lives in the Ottawa area and who does not know what this candidates platform is, I am simply responding to the articles and opinions that have come about to discredit him based on size, which i feel need to be challenged.