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.