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isn't it sad?
fatism: socially acceptable discrimination
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)
6.27.11
news

I started off writing the following as a comment on this article form the TIME magazine news feed, on a study that finds the heavier a woman is the less money she is likely to make in the workplace. In an interesting addition, the article doesn't just talk about disparity with overweight women. Average weight women are also likely to make less than 'skinny' counterparts.

After my initial draft I realized it wasn't enough. I pulled my comment and started expanding on my thoughts. Because honestly, the article wasn't a big surprise. I could've told you that thinner women make more money. I also know, from-previous-studies, that thinner women are also more likely to get the job in the first place, so it's their 'fat' counterpart who has to take the lower-paying job. I could've told you this was going on, just from personal observations. But it was ultimately the comments of this article that pissed me off in a serious way.

Fat really is one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice. 

Among the first dozen comments on the TIME article there are suggestions that thinner women are more driven and therefore more successful. There are suggestions that this discrimination might not be so bad because it encourages a healthier life style. There are suggestions that somehow thinner women are perceived as better or more productive employees. Attractive and hardworking women forgive me for this generalization, but how many offices have you worked in where the perceived 'pretty girl' was the hardest worker? There are even comments that the heavier you are the more likely you have blood-sugar issues which could affect your cognitive abilities.

And not a single one of those is stereotyping 'fat' people as lazy, stupid, worthless slobs, right? 

Because there is an obesity problem in this country - which can be directly tied to unhealthy habits we were taught in school (i.e. stuff like the old food pyramid),an excessive push of carbohydrates caused primarily by the needs of the farming industry, and a shift from agrarian to technology drive society - we are now justifying paying someone less to do the same job because they are of AVERAGE WEIGHT?

Meanwhile the obesity problem in this country has also been tied to the income disparity, since healthy food costs substantially more than other food (to this day a head of lettuce costs twice as much as a box of mac n cheese). So now we're justifying keeping poor people poor, and paying them less than their existing experience and work has earned, because we perceive them to be lazy worth-less slobs.

So which overweight people are we allowed to discriminate against? If we're going to do this, we need some ground rules. Is it everyone, or just the ones we are sure are lazy slobs? I mean...

  • Does this apply to the people who gain weight because they have to use steroids to control crippling arthritis?
  • Does it apply to the wheel-chair bound? Do we only give them a pass if they are poor and can't afford appropriately trained physical therapists?
  • Does it apply to people who've had double-knee surgery and can barely walk much less jog, since they could technically find ways to work out sitting down?
  • Does it apply to the ones who actually do have a thyroid condition, or one of hundred or so other medical conditions/medication reactions which can cause excess weight gain?
  • How about the divorced mother who's been in a state of heavy depression for a couple of years and really let herself go... time to slap her into reality, right? Up your zoloft and hit the gym woman.

There are millions of obese people in this country, and you'd be hard-pressed to find one who genuinely doesn't want to be in better shape. Some of them have motivation issues (which, surprise, have been found to be genetic), some of them eat lousy (on purpose or for access reasons), some just don't get enough physical activity. Some have medical issues combined with one of these other problems. And yes, some really are just lazy and don't care. But you'd also be hard-pressed to find a 'fat' person who doesn't acknowledge that at least some of it is their own fault. This notion that all fat people are out there searching for the study that abdicates them of all personal responsibility is, to put it plainly, bullshit.

But the most important thing to remember is; when you see a 'fat' person, you have absolutely no way of knowing what made them that way. And as such, you have absolutely no right to judge anything about them based on their weight.

You should hire and pay people based on their qualifications, talent, skills and worth ethic. No one should be denied a job, a promotion, or an equal wage based on something to do with their body type/size any more than they should experience that based on their gender, ethnicity, age, sexual-orientation or personal beliefs. Because every single time you do that, your actions are based on nothing but stereotypes and prejudices.

There is no justification for that action, no matter who you are discriminating against. And implying there is any justification is literally adding insult to injury.


ABOUT KATHERINE L (AKA CLEVERTITANIA)

When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

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