Today in Fat Hatred

[Content Note: Fat hatred; bullying; body policing.]

Here is a cool headline: "Obese women experience much more negative social stigma than previously thought, study finds." Previously thought by whom, exactly? Because I'm pretty sure that fat women have long been aware of how much "negative social stigma" we get.
Women who are obese experience many more incidents of stigmatization because of their weight — an average of three incidents a day — than previous research has reported, according to a study published in the Feb. issue of the Journal of Health Psychology.

Past research has tended to suggest that people who are overweight or obese experience negative weight-related stigmatization only a few times during their entire lives.
LOL! It's kind of incredible to me that anyone could actually believe that, if you even have any meaningful interaction with fat people. Or even just look at how fat public figures are treated and the enormous amounts of ridicule to which they're subjected.

But: "Those studies relied, however, on asking people to recall any past experiences with weight-related stigmatization. This new study had women keep contemporaneous diaries." Which suggests how unfathomably normalized fat hatred is for fat people. We are obliged to navigate a world so full of fat hatred that to ignore or deny an enormous amout of it is a crucial survival strategy.

It also suggests to me how pernicious fat stigma is: There are undoubtedly a lot of people who are ashamed to report incidents of fat hatred, because we tend to internalize that it reflects badly on us, rather than the people who bully and shame us.
As background information in the current study explains, the stigmatization of overweight people has increased significantly over the past two decades. These negative attitudes have disproportionally been aimed at women, even though the rates of obesity are similar for both men and women.
Sure. Because men's bodies aren't considered public property and men aren't regarded as a sex class who are expected to conform their bodies to the sexual expectations of every random woman on the planet.
Weight-related stigmatization can take many forms, such as interpersonal (being ridiculed or shamed for your size), institutional (not getting a job or promotion because of your size), or physical barriers (not being able to find clothes that fit or chairs in theaters or restaurants that can accommodate your body).
And "interpersonal" fat hatred is not merely just "weight-related stigmatization," if and when it's delivered by someone close to you. The article notes: "The most frequent sources of the nasty comments, by the way, were spouses, friends, and family members." A stranger harassing you is also classified as "interpersonal," but when a spouse or partner or friend or family member does it, that's not just fat hatred, but emotional abuse.

Which is something this study, like most studies of fat stigma, doesn't address. Emotional abuse is further damaging, and fat stigma is on its own damaging in myriad ways:
Such stigmatization has been linked to low self-esteem and increased rates of depression, but it can also have physical and health consequences. People who report weight-related stigmatization are more likely, for example, to become binge eaters and to avoid exercise and other healthful habits.
This, of course, is something I have been saying for years: I have been a fat person who hates her body, and let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is no incentive to take care of a body you hate. No one has ever gotten healthier, in any way, by being constantly treated like garbage. And no one has ever gotten bullied into feeling better about themselves.

This study is hardly the first to find fat stigma to be harmful. And it's not like there haven't been outspoken fat people saying that very thing for a very long time—not that most people, especially fat haters, care to listen to us and regard us as authorities on our own lives and experiences.

And most of the people who engage in fat hatred under the auspices of "helping" have to know that it doesn't work—which ultimately reveals that its true intent isn't to help but to harm. To punish fat people for having the unmitigated temerity to be fat in their presence.

At this point, we don't need more studies saying that fat stigma is prevalent and destructive. What we need is a culture that agrees and decides to start disincentivizing the harassment of fat people.

[Related Reading: Today in Things Fat People Have Been Telling You.]

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