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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. Everywhere you look there are airbrushed models, unrealistic representations and judgement. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized the lie in these things and moved on from comparing myself to models and actors.
As a large woman, however, I am often irritated by stereotypes and assumptions about us. It’s time for us big girls to speak up and be heard.
I was recently very disappointed when a well-known writers’ conference got booed (rightfully so) for deciding not to bring a staff member back to this year’s event because of her 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 the stereotypes are so aggravating. But I think it’s safe to say that generalizing ANY group of people is ignorant, wrong, and dangerous. Obese women (and men) are no exception.
Below are the 10 most offensive stereotypes I’ve experienced and I think it’s time to call them out.
- We always eat.
Think TV sitcom where the token fat person is always shoving their face and has no self control. This is partly a lazy way of writing for a cheap laugh. But it’s a common stereotype, and it’s annoying. And is it really that much fun? Hasn’t this joke run enough into the ground already?
- We are all lazy.
I’m 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 feel the same way. Just because we don’t hang out at the gym like it’s a hobby doesn’t mean we sit on our butts eating candy all day.
- We are all sick because of our weight.
I am aware that being overweight can increase the risk of a wide range of 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. I was 37 years old and overweight. Don’t think I didn’t notice the up-and-down eyeball ratings I got. I would tell them “Yes! I realize I’m fat and you think I’m as old as Methuselah to give birth, but I’m not stupid and I’ll take good care of myself and my child!”
I am not giving advice on this in any way, shape or form. See your doctor for that. But yes, I had a healthy pregnancy and child. I ate healthy and had great prenatal care. But I could have dispensed with all judgment.
- We are jealous of thin people.
Not too long ago, someone at work (who happens to be thin) made a big point of talking to me to go on and on about how fat she thinks she’s getting. It is very obvious that I am much heavier than her and she ONLY spoke to me at that time. It’s not the first time I’ve had something like that said to me.
When someone who is obviously quite 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 that thin like you! You’re not fat at all!” That’s an obvious fish for a compliment.
Here’s the thing, I don’t care who is thinner than me. I don’t compare myself to them! And if they need a fat person to envy them in order to feel good about themselves, I feel bad for them.
- We all have low self-esteem and feel terrible about ourselves.
I’m currently almost at my peak weight (and I’m getting older), I feel better about myself than I ever have.
I realize that what people find attractive can vary dramatically. The only person I really like 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 I didn’t think I deserved to pursue what I felt was good for me.
- We don’t know, we’re fat.
I’ve had more than one person throughout my life feel the need to point out to me that I’m fat. We don’t need people to tell us that we are overweight. We are perfectly capable of knowing this on our own, 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 we don’t realize 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 trained professionals who are very skilled and experienced in helping people achieve their goals. Nutritionists, personal trainers, coaches, etc., I’m not at all saying they aren’t important or valuable. What I mean is that we don’t need the “stink eye” if we happen to indulge in seconds or get dessert.
I once had a colleague show me her sandwich that had lots of vegetables on it and say “Oh look at that. Doesn’t it look nice and colorful and delicious with all those vegetables?” She said this to me as if I were a child, as if introducing the idea of eating vegetables to me. I am certain of her condescending agenda because of other things she had said to me in the past.
- We are all funny nonsense.
Is it really that much fun for so many silly TV, book and movie characters to be chubby? Do they need to be represented as simple-minded, adorable fools so often? We are not all stupid and uneducated yet lovable idiots. Think of the fat kid in the children’s adventure movie who always needs rescuing, or the portly cartoon mouse who always lags behind… you get the idea.
Some of us are actually very well-educated, successful professionals. We are goal-oriented and have a lot to offer an organization with our well-developed careers.
- There is a link to 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 unsanitary (and happened to be overweight) by saying “Well, I know it smells greasy…” My eyes rolled out of my head. I’ve been around too many stinking skinny people for this to be an absolute!
We know this is a common stereotype, or we wouldn’t see the chubby character in a TV show or movie portrayed as fat. You’ve seen it—stains on their shirt, wrinkled clothes, general unkempt appearance. This shouldn’t even be said, but not all obese people are unhygienic (for crying out loud…)
- That it is someone else’s business or that discrimination should be tolerated.
What I want to say to these creators of the stereotypes is this – if it doesn’t affect you, don’t judge. It’s not really anyone else’s business what someone weighs or what size they wear. It’s not OK 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 passed over for promotions and opportunities. It is 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 we speak out.
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