The Daily Beast has a great article up by Paul Campos.
Within hours after the news broke that Souter was resigning, concerns arose that Kagan and Sotomayor might be too fat to replace him. A commentator on the site DemConWatch.com noted that of the three most-mentioned candidates “the oldest (federal judge Diane Wood) is the only one who looks healthy,” while Kagan and Sotomayor “are quite overweight. That’s a risk factor that they may not last too long on the court because of their health.”
At The Washington Monthly, a commentator claimed to have employed a more scientifically rigorous method: “To all the short-sighted libs who are clamoring for the youngest-possible nominee… Right idea, wrong methodology. You want someone who will serve the longest, i.e. with the greatest remaining life expectancy—and that involves more than simple age. I tried assessing their respective health prospects, and ruled out all who even border on overweight. Best choice: Kim McLane Wardlaw, whose ectomorphitude reflects her publicly known aerobic-exercise habits.”
(Wardlaw’s “ectomorphitude” also gets rave reviews at legal gossip site Underneath Their Robes, which describes her as “Heather Locklear in a black robe. This blond Hispanic hottie boasts a fantastic smile and an incredible body, showcased quite nicely by her elegant ensembles.”)
Meanwhile, a letter writer at Salon comments on Sotomayor’s candidacy, “How do you say 55, overweight, and diabetic in Spanish?” (Sotomayor was diagnosed with Type I diabetes—which doesn’t correlate with higher weight—when she was a child).
All this would be easy to dismiss as meaningless Internet chatter, if it didn’t obviously spring from some widespread cultural assumptions—assumptions also reflected in such things as Rehnquist’s bizarre and offensive letter.
Three of these assumptions—that a woman’s appearance is far more important than a man’s, that extreme thinness in women is especially desirable, and that weighing slightly more than average is a major health risk—have become interrelated in subtle and invidious ways.
In the cases of Kagan and Sotomayor, the absurd idea that their weight represents the sort of health risk that ought to be taken into account when considering whether to appoint them to the Supreme Court illustrates both how hysteria about being “overweight” has gotten out of control, and how such concerns often camouflage less-respectable impulses.
His takedown is bang on. No matter what the accomplishments of women there are those that feel it is necessary to reduce us to our physical bodies in a way that would never be deemed acceptable for men. It is further problematic that health is associated with weight as though skinny people don’t suffer from diseases or ever die early. These social myth exist solely to perpetuate our system of hierarchies.