Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Case for Weight part 2

Another reason I believe that body size should be a protected characteristic is because it is unlike religion or sexual orientation, which can superficially be concealed. An individual's body size, much like one's race or gender is there upon first impression, and exists immediately and provides that individual with the basis to be discriminated against, much like an individual’s race or gender.

For this reason, I think body size is a characteristic deserving of protection.
I would further argue that the pervasiveness and normalization of thinness and demonization of fatness in our society, specifically by the media, perpetuate biases and further warrant discrimination against individuals with a particular body shape and size. When I took the IAT, was I surprised to have a bias against fat people? Absolutely not, because every time we turn on the television or look in a magazine we are conditioned to accept and therefore normalize the images we see which are typically not of people. These biases are clearly absorbed and taken into the workplace and one study even found that this kind of discrimination is as common as racial discrimination:

Discrimination against overweight people—particularly women—is as common as racial discrimination, according to a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "These results show the need to treat weight discrimination as a legitimate form of prejudice, comparable to other characteristics like race or gender that already receive legal protection," said the study's lead author.

These biases exist in the workplace, and they have real consequences.

According to this MSNBC article, “Obese men and women can expect to earn on average anywhere from 1 to 6 percent less than normal weight employees, with heavy women being the biggest losers when it comes to their paychecks, according to a study by Tennessee State University economists Charles Baum and William Ford.”

I am not arguing that obesity is a good thing and something to strive for, but should these individuals be prevented from making a living or be penalized because of their weight?

**My last and final post in this series will look specifically how the law does help to protect this in some ways in addition to addressing counter arguments, which some of you have already been active in addressing already.


Blogger Ashley said...

I think you bring up a good point by saying weight cannot be concealed. It seems to be harder for those individuals who struggle with their weight to find jobs because of the stigma that all overweight people are lazy. I do not see how a future employer could discriminate against someone, especially if they happen to be overweight as well. I think that society, and sadly the media has done a wonderful job in promoting the idea that “thin is in and fat is out”. This is certainly a change from 200 years ago when being fat was actually looked at as a positive trait to have and thin was seen as unpopular. The trends in our society through the media change how we shape our own opinions. (I’m not saying that this is always the case for everyone, I’m just generalizing.)
It does not surprise me that overweight discrimination of women is just as common as racial discrimination. If you think about it, much of what we see in the media is women who are skinny and “beautiful”. If you think about all of the males that are in upper management positions that need to hire people, they think about this “ideal woman” they will probably pick the girl that may not be as smart as an overweight woman, but she’s at least hot, so it gives them something to look at while they are at work. If you look at many of the weight loss shows on television, there seem to be far more overweight females on the show compared to men. Some of them tell stories about their struggles to fit in with “normal sized” people and I could only assume they also find hardship in trying to find a job.
I think many people believe that being overweight is a choice, and that these people can just work out or get a surgery in order to lose weight. It really is not all that easy. Many people that are overweight happen to be that way due to their genetics. Which is why it should be protected, I mean let’s face it we cannot change our genes, even if we wanted too! Some of these people might also struggle with other issues that cause them to over eat and thus they are obese. It takes time for some of these emotional scars to heal. But if they are always treated in such a negative manner, I’m sure it will be harder for them to take it upon themselves to get motivated or seek the help that they need. They should not be penalized for trying to make a living. It’s horrible to think that we are so consumed with looks that work and credentials do nothing to help a person get a job.

11:19 AM  

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