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September 27 2016

A Weighty Issue in the Presidential Debate

Patrice L. Onwuka

Alicia Machado. If you didn't know her name before last night's presidential debate, you probably do now.

At the age of 19, this Venezuelan beauty won the title of Miss Universe in 1996, but gained weight and was taken to task by the Miss Universe Organization, owned by Donald Trump.

Now a Clinton campaign worker, her name was dropped on the main stage as an example of a Trump’s female problems. Coupled with an ad of young women starring at their bodies in the mirror, the intent is clear:  to target (young) women voters by making them angry about an example of body-shaming. Earlier this Year, the New York Times reported on Machado’s story:

I told the president of Miss Universe, a very sweet woman, I said I need some time to recuperate, to rest, to exercise, to eat right. I asked them to bring me a doctor to help me — to have a special diet and get exercise, and they said yes. They took me to New York, installed me in a hotel. The next day, they took me to the gym, and I’m exposed to 90 media outlets. Donald Trump was there. I had no idea that would happen.

I was about to cry in that moment with all the cameras there. I said, “I don’t want to do this, Mr. Trump.” He said, “I don’t care.”

In a response on, "Fox and Friends," this morning Trump said:

“That person was a Miss Universe person, and she was the worst we ever had. The worst, the absolute worst. She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her, so Hillary went back into the years and she found this girl.

This Machado incident is a lot of he-said she-said. And no one should be humiliated over her  body. At the same time, if you take a job that requires maintaining specific physical attributes, you have to accept the responsibility to do your part and maintain that look or else face the consequences.

More important to the point: Why is this even an issue? Female voters (like male voters) were listening to hear how any leader –especially two auditioning for the highest office – will get America on the right track. More than 70 percent of Americans say we are on the wrong track.

Talking about the waistlines of beauty pageant contestants does nothing to put food on the table of a stay-at-home mom or a working woman. It does nothing to address childcare expenses that cost more than rent in some cities. It does nothing to address the four and five-digit student loan debt amassed by young women and men who will postpone buying a home, starting a business, and getting married.

Alicia Machado has done well for herself on-screen and off-screen with TV and film credits to show. If she felt “shamed” for her size, it’s not a national tragedy. Instead it’s become a ploy to get young women riled up.

As a millennial woman, I'm finding myself riled up by an incident in a beauty pageant many years ago, but I am concerned about federal policies that stifle opportunity for all of us. 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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