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Chewing the Fat – Top 10 Most Offensive Stereotypes
It’s hard enough dealing with image issues when you’re a woman. Airbrushed models, unrealistic depictions and judgment are everywhere. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized the falseness of these things and moved on from comparing myself to models and actors.
As a plus size woman, however, I am often bothered by stereotypes and assumptions about us. It’s time for us big girls to speak up and listen to each other.
I was recently very disappointed when a well-known writers’ conference called them out (rightfully so) for deciding not to bring any staff members to this year’s event due to its size. Weight or size discrimination happens every day and it has happened to me.
There are many different reasons why someone might be overweight, which is why stereotypes are so aggravating. But I think it’s safe to say that generalizing ANY group of people is ignorant, wrong, and dangerous. Overweight women (and men) are no exception.
Below are the 10 most offensive stereotypes I’ve experienced and think it’s time to call them out.
- we always eat
Think of the TV sitcom where the token fat person is always shoving their face and has no self control. This is partially a lazy way of writing for cheap laughs. But it’s a common stereotype and it’s annoying. And is it really that fun? Isn’t this joke over enough already?
- We are all lazy.
I am busy from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning until my head hits the pillow at night. I know many other overweight people who are the same. Just because we’re not hitting the gym as a hobby doesn’t mean we’re sitting on our bums eating candy all day.
- We are all sick because of our weight.
I understand that being overweight can increase your risk of many diseases and problems (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). But it is not a GUARANTEE and you cannot assume that an overweight person suffers from these challenges.
I remember when I first got pregnant with my son. He was 37 years old and overweight. Don’t think I didn’t notice the up and down eyeball evaluations I was getting. I wanted to tell them “Yes! I am aware that I am fat and you think I am as old as Methuselah to give birth, but I am not stupid and I will take good care of myself and my child!”
I’m not giving advice on this in any way, shape or form. Consult your doctor for this. But yes, I had a healthy pregnancy and child. I ate healthy and had great prenatal care. But I could have done it without all the judgment.
- We are jealous of thin people.
Not too long ago, someone at work (who happens to be thin) took a big interest in talking to me on and on about how fat he thinks he’s getting. It is very clear that I am much heavier than her and at the time she was just talking to me. It’s not the first time I’ve been told this kind of thing.
When someone who is obviously very thin says this to someone who is obviously heavier, the first thing that comes to mind is that they want you to say “Oh, I wish I was as thin as you! You’re not fat at all!” It’s a obvious fish for a compliment.
Here’s the thing, I don’t care who is skinnier than me. I’m not comparing myself to them! And if they need a fat person to envy them in order to feel good about themselves, then I feel sorry for them.
- We all have low self-esteem and feel bad about ourselves.
I’m currently almost at my highest weight (and I’m getting older), I feel better about myself than ever.
I realize that what people find attractive can vary dramatically. The only person I really care about being attracted to is my husband, and he doesn’t complain.
I once had a wellness coordinator where I work condescendingly tell me “you’re worth it” as if she assumed that just because I was fat, she didn’t think I deserved to do what she felt was good for me.
- We don’t know we’re fat.
I’ve had more than one person in my life feel the need to tell me I’m fat. We don’t need people to make us aware that we are overweight. We are perfectly capable of knowing this for ourselves, and believe me, we do.
- We don’t know how to lose weight ourselves.
We don’t need to be bombarded with unsolicited advice as if they weren’t aware that you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Not all of us are completely helpless in this capacity and for many of us, if we want to lose weight bad enough, we will!
Of course, there are educated professionals who are very skilled and experienced in helping people achieve their goals. Nutritionists, personal trainers, coaches, etc., I’m not saying anything that isn’t important or valuable. What I mean is that we don’t need the “stink eye” if we hang out for seconds or have dessert.
I once had a co-worker show me her sandwich, which had lots of veggies, and say “Oh, look at that. Doesn’t it look beautiful and colorful and delicious with all those veggies?” He told me this as if I were a child, as if introducing me to the idea of eating vegetables. I’m sure of his sponsoring agenda because of other things he’s told me in the past.
- We are all merry fools.
Is it really so funny that so many silly, clueless TV, book and movie characters are fat? Do they so often need to be portrayed as lovable, simple goofballs? We’re not all stupid and uneducated, but lovable idiots. Think of the chubby kid in the kids’ adventure movie who always needs to be rescued, or the chubby cartoon mouse who’s always left behind… you get the picture.
Some of us are highly educated and successful professionals. We are goal-oriented and have a lot to offer an organization with our well-developed careers.
- There is a link with obesity and hygiene.
We are also no less likely to look or dress professionally to present ourselves well. I once had a family member tell me about someone they thought looked unhygienic (and was overweight) saying “Well, I know it smells like fat…”. My eyes popped out of my head. I’ve been around too many smelly skinny people for that to be an absolute!
We know this is a common stereotype or we wouldn’t see the slob character in a TV show or movie portrayed as fat. You’ve seen it: stains on your shirt, wrinkled clothes, overall unkempt appearance. This shouldn’t even go without saying, but not all overweight people are unhygienic (for crying out loud…)
- That it is someone else’s business or that discrimination must be tolerated.
What I want to say to these stereotype makers is this: if it doesn’t affect you, don’t judge. It really isn’t anyone else’s business what someone weighs or what size they wear. It’s not okay to transfer your own low self-esteem onto a fat person to make yourself feel better.
Stereotypes and assumptions are destructive. This is where discrimination is born. This is how we get through promotions and opportunity. It’s not okay to discriminate against anyone for any reason, and size is no exception.
It’s out there, the challenge is real. It’s time to talk.
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