When Election Season Requires A Trigger Warning, Think Twice About The Jokes You Make

My face was turning the color of Hillary Clinton's first debate pantsuit as I felt my eyes fill with tears. I had to keep it together. I was at the office.

The tweet that had set me off came from an unlikely source — Sen. Claire McCaskill, a senator I respected, had worked to help elect, had donated to.

She said: "The D women Senators have talked & we're concerned about Donald's weight. Campaign stress? We think a public daily weigh-in is called for." I know, I know — she was making a point that his comments about weight are stupid. But she still did it by fat-shaming him a little. And I did not appreciate it.

When I was a sophomore in college, I developed an intimate knowledge of the bathrooms and toilets of my university's campus. I could tell you exactly when each bathroom would be desolate, which ones echoed the most. After nearly every meal, I could be found purging whatever I had eaten.

And I wasn't exactly eating enough to where I needed to cut calories, let alone in such an unhealthy way. I was averaging about 1200 calories a day — half of my recommended daily intake.

But every once in awhile, a fat-shaming comment will hit me in the gut. And coming from an ally, this one hit hard.

Sometimes, while crammed into a stall listening for footsteps, I would wonder how I had gotten there. Was it my mother's constant insistence that I go on diet plans, cut out carbs, or forget about soda? Was it the girls in ballet who had whispered and giggled when I had started to...shall we say, fill out? Or was it the three guys on my high school track team — one of whom I, of course, lusted after — who had a song about me titled "Tubby Tubby Tub Lard?"

I couldn't tell you.

I could tell you that I had it better than most. Recovery was a long process, wherein I feigned a gluten allergy to cut out bread, pretended to be an animal right's activist to cut out meat, and frequently relapsed into a purge. But I had supportive friends and access to mental health services. I ended up just fine.

But every once in awhile, a fat-shaming comment will hit me in the gut. And coming from an ally, this one hit hard.

This entire election cycle should come with a trigger warning. Not just for those, like me, who are recovering from eating disorders. But for all women, for sexual assault survivors, and especially for people of color ... only a select few are spared from the brutality of this year's rhetoric.

Most of it, of course, comes from Trump. The man has called women "bimbos" and "pigs" and fat-shamed a Miss Universe winner. He's claimed that Mexican immigrants are drug dealers, criminals, and rapists. And now there's video of him bragging about sexual assault. Trump is the stuff of trigger warning nightmares.

A friend of mine maintains that there is no insult too low for Donald Trump, and I agree. I believe we should call him a litany of names. Racist. Xenophobic. Islamophobic. Sexist. Horrible. Rude. Dangerous. Scary. There are many unprintable insults I use to describe him, as well.

The problem comes in when people other than Donald Trump are brought into the punchline. The problem comes in when we, too, start to marginalize the already-marginalized in our jokes — especially when the people making the jokes have a lot of privilege. We should not — we cannot — stoop to his level by simultaneously insulting other marginalized groups of people. We shouldn't be putting up statues of him with shriveled genitalia. We shouldn't be fat-shaming him — because when we do, we're also shaming all fat people.

This election cycle has been hard enough on so many people. I don't want those of us fighting Trump to add to the vicious, harmful rhetoric. I know people are angry and I understand why. I'm angry too. But for those of us who can afford to stop and think about what we say, we need to rise above his level. We can help stop the cycle. After all, to borrow a phrase from Hillary Clinton, love trumps hate.