Sizeism, according to dictionary.com, is “discrimination on the basis of a person’s size, especially against people considered to be overweight”. In class today we discussed whether being fat is the “last safe prejudice”; I think that discrimination against people who are not thin is rampant in American society today and that it is truly the one type of discrimination with no real legal repercussions. Racism and sexism have had some legal barriers put up in attempts to end them, and we are moving toward equality in marriage for homosexuals, but there are no laws that I know of that specifically prohibit sizeism in its many forms. Sizeism continues through the way we view ourselves and other people. Sizeism continues as long as we continue to put more significance on weight than health.
Maybe people don’t recognize that sizeism exists—after all, even the Word 2010 program with which I am writing this blog post doesn’t recognize it as a word! Maybe people equate being fat with being lazy and unhealthy, just as we talked about in class today…but that just isn’t the case. Below is a photo I came across of a girl who actually gained fourteen pounds and still looks fitter than before.
Even in that photo, should we really care about the girl’s weight at all? The more important issue is whether or not she is healthy. One can only hope she began working out for health reasons, and not in an attempt to lose weight. Her thinness should be a side effect of a healthy lifestyle, not the holy grail of it.
Sizeism is inescapable, simply because weight is immediately apparent and unavoidable in itself. Who hasn’t looked at others and assumed they do not exercise at all, or certainly not enough, just because they are overweight? It simply defies logic. I have equated weight with health many times despite being a psychology major, knowing about anorexia and other eating disorders, and knowing the notion of “thin equals healthy” to be flat-out fictional. I study body image in many of my classes and I still worry about my weight and the possibility of becoming “fat”. What is “fat”, anyway? Just how big do we have to be to be the victims of sizeism?
These are the questions we should be asking ourselves—not “how can I lose weight?” but “why should I care if I gain weight?” Why do we care so much about others’ weights? Why do we care so much about our own? Our weight doesn’t make us better or worse people. It doesn’t make us better students, friends, or leaders. It doesn’t even reflect on our health. Sizeism is acting on the assumption that weight does all of these things—just how logical is that?
photo credit: Pinterest.com user Camille Juco