Megyn Kelly, who has assiduously rebranded herself as the A.M. gatekeeper for the #MeToo news of the day, took about five steps backwards when she praised the slimming benefits of fat-shaming during a segment on Thursday's edition of the "Today" show.
Speaking to Maria Kang, the "Fit Mom" blogger who herself was accused of fat-shaming in a post she penned in 2013, Kelly fondly remembered a time in the 1990s when her stepfather was tasked with criticizing her appearance in order to curb her eating.
Telling Kang that she would do well to turn her past propensity for shaming into a a new career (somewhat over Kang's objections), Kelly said:
"You parlay the shaming thing into a professional business, because some of us want to be shamed. When I was in law school and gaining weight, I said to my stepfather, 'If you see me going into that kitchen one more time, you say 'where you going, fat ass?' And it works!"
Kelly ended her statement with an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
Kang responded, "My husband does that to me all the time . . . if I'm eating something like chips, he'll take the bag and he'll hide it, and I don't feel ashamed about it because I told him what my goal was."
"If my husband did that," Kelly joked, "there would be retribution later."
Of course, supporting a loved one as they pursue a self-set goal can be a positive thing — be it getting in healthier shape, fighting a bad habit, improving their career, or otherwise expanding horizons. Sometimes that will involve gentle talking or listening. Sometimes that might require some previously agreed-upon tough love. Ideally, the term "fat ass" doesn't come into the picture.
But all that is beside the point, because, while they talk about it at length, neither Kelly nor Kang seem to understand what fat-shaming is and why it's a problem.
Fat-shaming has become an issue because, ultimately, it can make victims feel bad and drive them toward desperate, harmful situations when there is no reason — outside of a groundless drive to harshly enforce baseless, patriarchal normative understandings of beauty and propriety — to punish them so. To imagine that tearing people down is a helpful, powerful tool in the pursuit of perfection misses the fact that not only are some people happy and healthy just the way they are, but that abuse is a really lousy, ineffective way to lend a hand even when one is wanted.
But you knew that already. You're decent. Megyn Kelly, on the other hand, still has a ways to go.