Wow, what a week. On the one hand I got a nice mention in Women’s Health magazine. On the other hand, a rabid group of haters found my YouTube channel and I’ve spent the week combing through literally thousands of very hateful and unbelievably stupid comments to see if I could post any of them on the site. The answer is, “nope”. But I do need to shout out and say “Thank You Haters” for bumping up my views even if they are to leave me comments about my sexual preferences, my intelligence and my smell that will never see the light of day.
And right smack in the middle of this crazy week, I came across this press release about a recent study that indicates that fat stigma may be a lot more prevalent than they originally thought. It turns out that a lot of the previous studies that attempted to measure weight stigma relied on people remembering episodes of fat hatred from as far back as 30 years ago. Not surprisingly, people recounted some very severe stories of weight stigma, but reported that weight stigma didn’t really happen that often. A new study from Western New England University used a different approach to measuring weight stigma. They are the first to use a daily diary approach to measure incidents of weight stigma among fat women. It’s probably not that hard to imagine that the Western New England University study found that weight stigma was more common than originally thought. And I mean a lot more common. 50 “overweight” and “obese”* women were studied. Over the period of 1 week, the women reported 1,077 stigmatizing events. That averages out to 3.08 events per person per day.
What’s more, Jason Seacat, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts and the study’s lead author says that the source of this stigma might surprise you. “A surprisingly high number of stigma events came from close family members or friends,” Seacat says, citing experiences like a woman whose boyfriend’s mother withheld food and called her lazy. He goes on to say:
“We have probably underestimated the size of the weight stigma problem,” he says. “People are encountering more barriers on a daily basis than is reported in the literature. Standing in line and overhearing someone comment on your size, having to ask for a lap band extension on an airplane, going into a clothing store and not finding something in your size… Those are all stigmatizing events, but we as a general public might not realize the effects those events can have on people.”
I have to admit, that it’s mighty tempting for those of us that are perpetrating the crime of living in the world while fat to respond to all of this by saying, “Duh!” When you are filtering your 37th email in one day calling you a fat c**t, you might be tempted to call Mr. Secat Captain Obvious. Even so, I’m glad we are doing more to measure this problem in a more meaningful way.
Because I’m sick and tired of hearing about how we are being oversensitive. I’m really done with hearing people tell me that fat folks are not really oppressed–that asking for basic human rights while fat is some sort of crime against decency and humanity, and that we should just stop eating and stop whining and consent to be miserable. And all of this denial of fat oppression is happening at the same time that fat grad students are told “not to bother” applying for a doctoral program, and that fat people can’t be researchers or scientists because they just might more than their share of the departmental pizza.
So, yes. I’m very grateful that this research is being done. Just don’t expect me to be surprised by these results.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
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*This is what the study called them. I’d just call them fat.
I may have to forward this to my dad. He’s normally very considerate and supportive, but he insists that I’m imagining most if not all of the slights and insults I’ve received since I gained weight. I’ve tried to explain to him that his experience as a slightly overweight middle-aged man is worlds apart from my experience as an obese young woman but he doesn’t believe me. People tend not to harass me or bother me when he’s with me so he never actually sees it for himself and doesn’t understand why I don’t like to go out to eat or go shopping in crowded stores or malls anymore. I used to like walking, swimming, and skating but I don’t want to deal with the harassment I get now when I try to do those activities in public, I just can’t take it anymore. I’ve tried explaining to him that people yell insults or even throw things if I exercise in public and he tells me to go when the “teenagers are in school”, even though I’ve told him it’s actually adults who are the worst about it. He tells me to grow a thicker skin, and I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work. It takes all the enjoyment out of the activities I used to love.
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In other news, grass grows, birds fly, sun shines, and Donald Sterling is a racist, satchel-faced waste of blood and organs.
I join you in being sick and tired of being accused of being oversensitive about the stigma. The ugly truth is that we experience what we experience because this hatred is encouraged. Thankfully there are people willing to stand against the tide of acceptability of fat shaming who point out that it accomplishes nothing and is harmful to those on the receiving end. That it takes a study to show that wrongness is infuriating. As @Helena Handbasket commented, we shouldn’t need a study to prove we’re telling the truth. We should be believed for experiencing what we experience. *sigh*
Great post Jeanette! I am so saddened by your reports of hateful replies to your posts, which I love. These replies alone prove your point. These people hate you for your exterior, knowing nothing about your kind personality and determination to provide options for people of all sizes to exercise and be healthy. It baffles me as to why people need to spew hatred and refuse to change their point of view in the face of obvious evidence contrary to their viewpoint. Keep up the good fight!
Thanks Maggie! I think they also hate me because I refuse to be afraid and ashamed. I think there are many reasons why folks feel the need to spew hate. In some cases, I imagine it is because they are hurting. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. I shall keep on keeping on. :o)
In other news, water is wet. Film at 11.
Yes and bears poo in the woods and the Pope is indeed Catholic. ;o)
The sun came up today. Bears have been known to poop in the woods. 😉
In all seriousness, though, I’m glad someone has undertaken this sort of study. One of the most common reactions I’ve experienced when I talk or write about body policing or fat-hating thing that’s happened to me is, even among folks who believe that the individual incident happened… a lot of them are insistent on treating it as an isolated and random incident. It’s a lot harder to convince them of any kind of context of misogyny and fat hate. It will be useful to have numbers to say, “Nope. This really does happen regularly.”
When will people start listening to us and believing us? These are experiential issues, not issues that should require study. I mean, yes, they should be studied, but they should be studied to figure out the extent, not to “prove” that we’re telling the truth about our experiences.