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Regina Benjamin’s Nomination Sparks Sexist Commentary

Media commentators have made inappropriate criticisms this week of Regina Benjamin, MD’s weight. Dr.Benjamin is President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General. Critics, including Fox News guest Michael Karolchyk, owner of a now non-operational gym in Colorado, argue that Benjamin’s weight disqualifies her from the job of Surgeon General of the United States. Karolchyk argues that Benjamin is “lazy” and “makes poor food choices.” He compares Benjamin’s nomination to having “the head of the Fed Reserve to be a guy in a cardboard box,” in an interview on Fox News.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville quotes blogger MediaGadFly, at Left In Alabama., who wrote, “the sexism and flat-out fat hatred that requires someone to bemoan the weight of a health care professional they’ve never seen in person and know absolutely nothing about is something that goes on pretty much every day, from Judge Sotomayor to […Benjamin]. What would you rather have in the Surgeon General spot? A good-looking television guy who doesn’t have any problem shaming you about your body, or a more than qualified health care professional who may just understand every body is unique?”

Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association, said “for the surgeon general to fulfill her responsibility goes beyond anything such as a physical metric. What we need are health care leaders who are qualified, passionate, results-oriented and part of a team for the great good. She is all that,” reported ABC News.

Dr. Benjamin, a family physician, founded the Bayou La Batre Health Clinic on the gulf coast of Alabama in 1990 and served local residents through Hurricanes George and Katrina. Her clinic treats patients regardless of their ability to pay. Dr. Benjamin also has advanced degrees in medicine and business administration. She received a genius grant last year from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and was named as one of America’s best leaders by US News and World Report.

Sources:

Fox News 7/21/09; Shakesville 7/21/09; ABC News 7/21/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 7/14/09