Stigma Against the Obese the Last Acceptable Prejudice
At a time when obesity is seen as a serious public health threat, research has found a growing prejudice against fat people.
Last week, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University published a study suggesting that male jurors didn’t administer blind justice when it came to plus-size female defendants.
Female jurors displayed no prejudice against fat defendants but men — especially lean men — were far more likely to slap a guilty verdict on an overweight woman and were quicker to label her a repeat offender with an “awareness of her crimes.”
Another recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that top managers with a high body mass index were judged more harshly and seen as less effective than their slimmer colleagues by their peers, both at work and in interpersonal relationships.
Rebecca Puhl, one of the Yale researchers who co-wrote the juror study, said these displays of fat stigma are par for the course.
“Thinness has come to symbolize important values in our society, values such as discipline, hard work, ambition and willpower. If you’re not thin, then you don’t have them,” she said.
Previous research by Puhl and her associates found that prejudice against fat people was pervasive and translated into inequities across broad areas of life.
Some examples: Fifty percent of doctors found that fat patients were “awkward, ugly, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment” and 24 percent of nurses said they were repulsed by their obese patients. Nearly 30 percent of teachers said that becoming obese was “the worst thing that can happen to someone” – and more than 70 percent of obese people said they had been ridiculed about their weight by a family member.