The other day I needed an accountant. I asked around, and got the name of someone who came highly recommended. But when I met him, I noticed that he was overweight. And so of course I didn’t use him, because I can’t have an accountant who isn’t completely in shape.
Of course, that didn’t actually happen. But if you listen to the Daily Telegraph, it really should.
According to the Tele, Bill Shorten, the Opposition Leader, is not suitable to run the country - not because of his policies, or his ideology, or his past performance, but because of his… wait for it…
Man boobs. Yes, several column inches have been devoted to Bill Shorten’s man boobs. Image consultants have even been brought in to discuss the problem:
“It doesn’t make him more attractive,” says image consultant Imogen Lamport. (Despite his weight loss) he’s still got an Achilles heel – he’s got man boobs.”
Mark Latham went even further:
"Now, in this more enlightened era, Shorten has a chance to win some key marginal seats with a man boobs-led recovery.
"He needs to start appearing on the campaign trail as a woman, pushing up his boobies in a lovely, low-cut designer dress."
Now don’t get me wrong: I am no fan of Bill Shorten. Quite frankly, I’m no great fan of any of our current crop of politicians.
But this isn’t about politics, and it isn’t about Bill Shorten. It’s about focusing on appearance when appearance is completely and utterly irrelevant.
And it’s about insulting us, the readers, by implying that we care about the chest region of the person potentially running our country.
Attacking a high profile man for his appearance is very unusual in our society. Yes, the media makes fun of bizarre haircuts (think of Donald Trump) and strange clothing (hello, Geoffrey Edelsten).
But over the years we have had overweight male politicians, unattractive male politicians, wrinkled male politicians, balding male politicians… none of them have received the kind of attacks on their appearance that female politicians put up with.
Latham knows this. He is aware that making fun of Bill Shorten for being unfit, or having poor muscle tone, isn’t going to cut it. No-one will care. So he has honed in on Shorten’s man boobs. That’s because, as Latham knows, the one way to insult a man’s appearance, the one way to humiliate him, is to make him seem womanly.
But really, man boobs are just a distribution of fat in the chest area. They don’t indicate anything more significant than that. And they absolutely don’t hint at what kind of a leader Bill Shorten will be.
My obstetrician may have had man boobs. I didn’t ask to see them when I was booking into hospital, but it is possible. It certainly didn’t impact upon the safe delivery of my baby. The man who installed my computer might have man boobs, too. The principal of my son’s school might have them. The butcher who sells me that lovely brisket. The leasing agent for my apartment! My lawyer! Every single one of them could have man boobs under their shirts.
And so what? It isn’t the slightest bit relevant. It doesn’t make them less capable, or competent, or even masculine, any more than my cellulite or pot belly or soon-to-be-tuckshop-lady arms makes me less of a writer. They are just body parts.
As I said, I’m no fan of Shorten. But we just diminish ourselves when we try to diminish others this way. And we should judge our politicians on their policies, and not the bumps that appear under their shirts.