Sizeism is discrimination based on a person’s size. It is a word that covers both discriminations based on height and weight. Its primary focus is on anybody whose size can be considered ‘abnormal’.
Like any other form of discrimination, e.g. gender and race, size-based discrimination; especially fat-shaming is rife. It is evident in the difference in opportunities that fat and slim people have.
Even in the media, there is not enough representation for all the different sizes that abound in the world. It has taken decades of activists and supporters of the anti-sizeism cause to even get to where we are today. Still, in the real world, there is too much work to be done; people with ‘abnormal body sizes’ still face prejudice in their daily lives. From using public transportation to school, work and being out in public.
Specific anti-discrimination laws to stop sizeism have not yet been passed. Judgment for being too short, too tall, too skinny or too fat falls under this category. There are so many stereotypes/problems associated with sizeism- like only tall people can play basketball. But we will look at those that solely affect the plus-size:
- That the plus-size body is undesirable: Nobody tries to see past the fat. The media has fed us with a false image of what humans; especially female bodies should look like. It is especially difficult for people and even you to see yourself as a sexual being. Finding love and acceptance as a plus-size woman is usually more laborious, but it is not impossible.
- Public facilities: most facilities are built based on the ‘socially accepted’ body type, e.g. elevators, doorways, toilets, staircases. Etc. Assumptions are made during the design of these facilities about the size (height and weight) of the users. Plus-size users are rarely factored in their plans and therefore, would eventually pose a problem.
- Sports: In many sports, weight requirements are prevalent. These restrictions, while necessary, have entirely excluded the plus-size person. Weight regulations were usually to balance the playing field for athletes and make the contests fair. Yet there seem to be very few categories for the plus-size.
- Health and Fitness: This is probably the most common misconception that a plus-size person can neither be fit nor healthy. Even when plus-size people are represented in the media, they are generally depicted as unhealthy or unfit. Even medical professionals sometimes have the same biases against fat people like the general population, which is why as a plus-size person when you go to the hospital, even with sicknesses that have nothing to do with size, the doctor will recommend weight loss automatically even when it has no bearing on your ill-health. Besides, it is very disrespectful to assume that every plus-size is trying to lose weight; it might just be the body they have desired all along. Unless you request fitness advice from a doctor, or your weight is in the way of your health, it is out of place and unprofessional.
- Work: It is assumed that a fat person must be a lazy person. Compared to the slim person, it is more difficult for fat people to get employed. Of course, most spaces do not tolerate any form of discrimination. Still, a lot of the time, the personal prejudices of these hiring managers come to the surface during the employment process. After employment, you find yourself putting in extra work because you are sure to face additional scrutiny as a minor error would get you fired. It is a common belief that a plus-size person is lazy or faces work in a lackadaisical manner.
As far as sizeism goes, it is not a myth. It very much exists in this time and day. Sometimes you might begin to believe these things are true; maybe you deserve to be oppressed or discriminated against, and you even go as far as putting yourself down.
But to break down the walls of stereotypes, it has to start with you. The moment you realize your worth, your confidence returns, and you will able to set clear goals for yourself and clear every obstacle in your way. Remember, without you, there will be no variety on the planet. Imagine a world without the plus-size woman!
Photo credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt