On Friday a friend of mine, the lovely LitDiva, had a post on her blog detailing the agony of getting a bra fitting while no longer size two. In the not-so-distant past LitDiva was a tiny wee thing, a mere size two, and shopping was bliss. I don’t know what size she is now, nor do I care since her intrinsic worth is not determined by the numbers on her clothing tags, but I do know it is no longer a size two. She is now having to deal with the fact that everything has changed:
“The universe is built for the size twos. Everything flatters and everything fits. And what’s more, everyONE compliments and is obsequious and sweet and polite … speaking for the non size twos of the world–the universe isn’t made for us. We are told to wait. We are sniffed at. We are judged tacitly on our appearance. I wanted to stomp my foot and say Respect me! I have a child! Poodles! A home! I teach! I read! I am WORTHY. But instead I slumped and nodded and accepted the treatment I’ve come to expect. And, honey, ain’t nobody acted like that when I was smaller.”
She now weighs enough to have to deal with fat-hate, and it sucks. LitDiva, being an awesome person, was always aware there was fat-hate, just as she was aware that there is still racial prejudice. However, there is a big difference between awareness and fighting the problem versus waking up one day to find out the problem will be happening to you, too. It’s like waking up one day as a Latina in Arizona. Sure, you’ve always known it’s a dick move for the cops to demand citizenship papers based on your appearance, but no matter how empathetic you’ve tried to be it is still startling to find out how humiliating it is when it happens to you.
Nor is LitDiva just imagining it, because she feels body-conscious now. Nope. An award winning psychological study published in 2005 showed that thin women who donned a fat prosthetic to shop experienced significant and real discrimination. Moreover, “the discrimination observed … was manifested in covert, interpersonal forms rather than in traditional or overt forms, which is consistent with modern theoretical conceptualizations of prejudice.”
The researchers found that fat women were treated differently based on the perception of the sales people on whether or not the bigger women were trying to be thinner, more worthy, people. For example,
“the casually dressed obese shoppers experienced more interpersonal discrimination than the professionally dressed obese shoppers and both the casually dressed and professionally dressed average-weight shoppers. The professional attire implied that the obese shopper was making an effort to improve her appearance, which removed the justification for prejudice … another variable was added: the shopper carried either a diet cola or an ice cream drink. The diet-cola drinker called attention to her drink and mentioned that she’s on a diet and just completed a half marathon. The shopper with the ice cream drink also called attention to her beverage and mentioned that she’s not on a diet and could never run a half marathon … the perception that the latter group was making an effort to lose weight lowered the justification for discrimination against them. The obese shoppers with the ice cream drink received the greatest amount of interpersonal discrimination, presumably because they fit the stereotype of overweight people as being lazy.”
Fat hate is a learned behavior. Most preschoolers have learned to despise fat people as “bad”. If Western culture doesn’t stop sending the message that fat people are bad then the discrimination against me and others like me will only continue to escalate.
I call bullshit on that.