Photographs of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison walking on Sydney’s Bronte beach wearing only a pair of speedos have been published. They are found easily on the web. Some comments focused on his decision to relax on a Sydney beach after his Hawaiian holiday while the fires still burn. But many dwelt on his body.
Morrison is a large-framed 51 year old man with a sedentary job that almost certainly leaves him little time for serious physical activity. His schedule would include many working breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
No one would have therefore been surprised to see that he is considerably overweight.
The photographs gave license to some to add personal ridicule to the widespread anger and contempt that many feel about Morrison and his government’s policies on issues like climate change and asylum seekers, and his sycophancy with Trump. I personally loathe his politics, and contribute my share of denunciation in the hope that his support will reduce.
The photos reaped the expected response across social media, with uninhibited expressions of disgust about a sight wits argued could never be unseen, calls for him to wear boardshorts and a rash shirt to spare us all from the “trauma” of seeing such a sight (Check the twiter hashtag #PutSomeBoardiesOn)
Body shaming is often a toxic combination of fat shaming and unadulterated ageism. When it comes to older men, a very Victorian puritanism is also thrown in: while it is just fine for lithe and muscular young men to wear speedos that can hint at their hidden endowment, it is never OK for anyone with less than a fully cut body to do so. Older men must do all they can to appear asexual. Tony Abbott, with a fit body, was constantly pilloried for wearing speedos as if he was somehow putting it out to all that he had a cock he wanted us to notice. Morrison too should wear swimming shorts or boardies, the mob insists.
Princess Anne inspects the Australian rowing medalists at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
No one other than strict Muslims insist that women should wear swimming gear that covers all suggestions of the existence of breasts. But no man with less than George Clooney magnetism should ever wear speedos and hint that they may have a penis. – that seems to be the message that resonates with many today.
The message being sent to Morrison is a message that is also received by everyone with an older and less than perfect body: stay out of public sight. We find you repulsive. We shouldn’t have to look at you. You should understand how bad you look and keep your awful body covered up.
These messages can have serious repercussions. A large majority of the population don’t measure up to this standard with its neo-eugenic sub-texts: the old and anyone falling outside some ideal body type covers millions of Australians. The net impact of this sort of shaming across the population for feelings of low self-worth, esteem and acceptance manifests itself every day in dieting, anxiety and depression.
Morrison deserves all the criticism he gets. And more. But sorry, body shaming should never be acceptable.