Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Americans discriminate against other fat Americans

Every once in a while I see an opinion piece in which someone asserts that there's no discrimination against fat people in the U.S. As evidence they often use the large numbers of fat people we have in the U.S. This is just ill-informed. Such writers clearly don't know that the greater the numbers of a target group, the more threatening they become to the general population and the more discrimination grows.

But in case such people are unable to understand that idea, I submit this article as the latest evidence that there is indeed a strong bias in the U.S. against fat people: Thinner U.S. political candidates get more votes. The majority of Americans have a bias against fat people, even though the majority of Americans are fat. I don't know why it is. Do we think that fat people are too dumb to stay slim (as if it were a matter of intelligence), so they must be dumb in general? Do we associate hardness with the masculine and softness with the feminine so that fat discrimination is another form of misogyny (I lean towards this explanation)? Or maybe the idea is that a bigger, mushier body is harder to protect against physical attack and we're repulsed by that vulnerability. I wonder what is so horrible about carrying around pounds and pounds of saved energy? Is it just an atavistic aversion?

I don't know. I just know that the following seems true: in the land of the chubby, the majority still prefers to vote for non-chubby people.

[Added 5/21: Fat discrimination doesn't just happen in the U.S, but I write about what I know. But this morning I see how they do it in the world of classical music.]


Jessica Young said...

I'd consider what our entertainment or "art" looks like. Overweight people are profoundly underrepresented on TV and in movies, relative to what the numbers bear out about Americans. We've got a deeply internalized bias about what thin means, and what fat means, and it shows up everywhere: in the polls, in the movies, in our magazines, etc.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Yes, Jess, and I don't see a way out anytime soon. Americans turn everything into a moral issue and so have we done with size. We definitely need more fat people as the MAIN CHARACTER in mainstream TV, movies and even novels.