Sisterhood Blog

Too Fat for Surgeon General — Or for a Shidduch

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

Last week, President Obama nominated widely respected Dr. Regina Benjamin, to be the country’s next Surgeon General. It took no time at all for the question to be asked whether the winner of the coveted MacArthur “genius” award is too fat to hold the post because she appears to be overweight.

Even at a time when the rise in obesity rightfully makes regular headlines, it is a shocking question. Based on her credentials — the things that are supposed to count — it would be hard to find a more qualified candidate. According to this blog post from The White House:

She was chosen as President of the Medical Association of Alabama in 2002, becoming the first African-American woman to be president of a state medical society. She was also the first African-American woman and physician under 40 to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998, among other honors.

Accomplished. Dedicated. Smart and industrious. What more could anyone want in a U.S. Surgeon General?

In the world of conservative talk shows, apparently you would want her to be skinny.

As reported by the Huffington Post, Fox News host Neil Cavuto had on a guest this week who described Dr. Regina Benjamin as “50–60 pounds overweight,” “obese,” and unfit for duty. This fitness “expert,” Michael Karolchyk, is such a classy dude that he went on national television wearing a T-shirt touting the slogan “no chubbies.”

The issue in general seems to be in the air right now.

Just as the Dr. Benjamin story was breaking, pediatrician Perri Klass wrote, in her column “18 and Under” this week in The New York Times how difficult it can be to bring up food issues with an overweight child-patient when the doctor is hardly a paragon of fitness herself.

Issues of food, weight and mental health are certainly of current concern in the Jewish community.

Last month the Orthodox Union and eating disorders treatment facility The Renfrew Center, which recently launched a treatment track for Orthodox Jewish women, held a conference examining just that. It was covered by the Forward here.

Pressure to be very thin has been going on for a while in the Orthodox world, where young men and women are set up by professional shadchans, or matchmakers, and men have been known to ask about the woman’s mother’s dress size, to try and predict how his date might look in 20 years. This funny blog, called “Bad for Shidduchim,” awhile back had a related post about the issue.

But is her weight relevant to Dr. Benjamin’s ability to do her job? The discussion should obviously be not about her weight, but rather about her ability to do the job.

Here’s a hard-working medical professional devoted to serving impoverished, isolated people in rural Alabama, often traveling by pickup truck to see people in their homes, who three times rebuilt her clinic after it was destroyed by hurricanes and a fire. If she can handle that, what about the Surgeon General post would be too much for her to handle?

Hopefully members of Congress, during the Senate confirmation process, will be smart enough to avoid Karolchyk’s way of thinking, and focus on the things that matter.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Surgeon General, Shidduchim, Regina Benjamin

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
SBriz Mon. Jul 27, 2009

While I agree a person's credentials should be what matters - there is a point here. It's no different than someone who smokes advising another to quit or being worked on by a dentist with bad teeth.

The SG, however, addresses a multitude of issues, matters related to health is only one of them. It may be unfair, but we live in a society where what's on the outside counts just as much, if not more, than what's on the inside. It comes with the territory.

Daria Mon. Jul 27, 2009

Would we really be calling Dr. Regina Benjamin overweight if she was a man? Obesity is an issue in this country - but she should be judged by her job performance not what she looks like. Besides I think she looks like a normal sized person to me. We have to stop comparing everyone to tv characters who are sticks and only 17 years old.

David Tue. Jul 28, 2009

Firstly, you really cant compare being a little overweight to smoking. Being overweight is not necessarily bad for your health, it can be caused by many things, genetics beinga mojor one. Smoking is a destructive attack on ones body. Secondly, even if you think that being overweight is 'bad'. Would you not go to the worlds best cardiologist if he smokes? Would you not go to the best plastic surgeon if he has a mole on his nose.

She is very qualified, very talented and her waist line should be out of public discussion.

I wonder if anyone would comment on her waist line if she was a man!

Susan Tue. Jul 28, 2009

Whosever bringing this are either conveniently forgetting or didn't know that C. Everett Koop was not exactly thin!




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.