Ugly politics: Jabs at Trump’s looks will not create change

Ugly politics: Jabs at Trump’s looks will not create change

By Jay Berghuis

On Feb. 7, President Donald J. Trump boarded Air Force One on a fatefully blustery day. The wind lifted his thinning hair off his head, exposing a large bald spot beneath. Shortly after, the ruthless attacks began.

Progressives compared him to Voldemort and even made jokes about scalp reduction surgeries. These jabs came from the usual Twitter trolls, of course, but many articles were also written with headlines that include Vanity Fair’s “Warning! Don’t read this before lunch!”

These headlines highlight something seriously awry among those of us with left-leaning tendencies: Hyper-fixating on a political figure’s appearance is a distraction at best and an actively oppressive waste of time at worst.

This hair debacle comes only a few weeks after the White House released an overview of Trump’s health Jan. 15, which placed him at a BMI of 29.9, just one tenth of a point short of being listed as “obese.” The world was quick to take jabs at Trump’s physique, comparing him to athletes of the same height and weight with more muscular bodies. Many even insisted the stats on Trump’s health must be fake, some calling it a “girther” movement, an allusion to when people demanded to see former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. 

Taking issue with making fun of the president’s baldness or weight does not imply Trump deserves our respect. The issue is that it distracts us from reality.

Trump is racist, sexist, classist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, ableist and more, and none of that is because he is fat or bald. It’s because of a culture that tells rich people they are superior to the poor, white people that they are superior to non-white people, and men that they are superior to women. Trump is a product of our toxic society, and every tasteless joke at him only serves to perpetuate that culture further.

That very culture tells us that thin people are superior to fat and that attractive people are superior to ugly, and a jab at the only areas where Trump lacks privilege is a jab at all people who lack that privilege. We do not gain status by putting others down; we gain status by dismantling the system that tells us we should put them down in the first place.

Yes, it is absolutely terrifying to face the reality that our country is being led by a person—and, as of right now, a party—that dehumanizes millions. It is infinitely more dangerous to pretend that all of these leaders are just brutish, ugly idiots who we can laugh at until they simply go away and life returns to normal. Making fun of Trump’s beer gut will not protect immigrants. Making fun of his bald spot will not save net neutrality, reproductive rights or health care. We have to be smarter, we have to be louder, and we have to punch up.