One of Fox’s most painful-to-watch moments (and that's saying something) aired on Tuesday, when the hosts of Outnumbered assembled to discuss Michelle Obama’s campaign to promote healthy eating in schools. After the hosts agree that the First Lady is “kind of annoying” for pushing better nutrition for children, the lone male host on the show, Keith Ablow, MD, leans back and adds his two cents: “And, how well could she be eating? She needs to drop a few." Other hosts gasp, but Dr. Ablow is undeterred: “Who are we taking nutrition advice from?... There’s no French fries happening? That’s all kale and carrots? I don’t buy it.”
“I like her booty,” fellow host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery offers up timidly, by way of rebuttal. But, the good doctor will not be swayed: “She’s up at night in the White House kitchen,” he insists. If this exchange sounds unbelievable, the video proof is above. After we managed to pick our jaws up off the floor and stop seeing red long enough to type, we put together a brief list of the levels on which Dr. Ablow’s comments are very, very wrong.
In jumping to the First Lady’s defense, some commenters have pointed out that she is, in fact, in fantastic shape, and could crush Dr. Ablow with a single, toned bicep. Plus, allow us to remind the doc that it's impossible to tell how fit or healthy someone is based on appearance alone. (We'd also like to ask: When did promoting nutrition and eating occasional French fries became mutually exclusive?)
But, all of this is beside the point. Michelle’s physique does not matter. Whether or not she ever eats a French fry, in the White House kitchen or elsewhere, does not matter. What matters here is that a pundit and licensed doctor — Ablow is a psychiatrist, not a nutritionist, but unfortunately still a man with a title that lends him a platform and, ostensibly, authority — feels it appropriate to publicly judge a woman’s body. The idea that the physical appearance of any woman, First Lady or not, is up for judgment on television, without her permission, is abhorrent. And, in that sense, Dr. Ablow is no better than a frat boy informing a woman where she falls on a scale of one to 10.
Montgomery, a.k.a. Kennedy, who contributed her quiet approval of Michelle Obama's behind, is hardly any better. It's unclear how any opinion of Obama's "booty," whether positive or negative, could add to what Fox bills as a serious political discussion. The scrutiny under which we place the bodies of women in power is an attempt to neutralize and diminish them — to deflect attention from their ideas and their work. While this scrutiny is not usually so easy to spot as in Fox's charming commentary yesterday, it continues to permeate the conversation surrounding public figures who just so happen to be female. We as women (and we as a society) deserve a higher level of discourse. And, we deserve better from our news media — Fox or otherwise.