Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can you say disconnect?

That's the only word that came to mind when I read this story on about the extra costs women pay for being obese.

According to researchers at George Washington University, women who are obese lose twice as much money—nearly $5,000 a year—as their obese male counterparts. But not because they use more health-care dollars. The difference comes mostly from discrimination.

Fat women are paid less than women who aren't fat; fat men, on average, earn comparable salaries to men who aren't fat. So women are penalized by employers for being fat.

This says something about how women are perceived in our culture, and it's not news. But it is newsworthy, because, damn it, it's 2010 and we're supposed to be better than this as a society. All the young women who don't identify as feminists because they don't have to fly that flag anymore should take note of studies like this one. Gender discrimination is alive and well in 21st-century America.

But that's not where the writer of this story went. No, her conclusion was quite different. She wrote, It's bad news, but maybe it will help fund better prevention strategies and new treatment methods for this growing scourge.

Excuse me? Did I hear you right? The answer to discrimination is getting rid of the quality that's being discriminated against? How about taking on the concept of discrimination instead? How about educating people about the emotional and other costs of fatphobia, and about how discrimination (and its attendant stressors) actually makes people fatter?

I'm not surprised; this is exactly the kind of disconnect I've seen over and over in the media. It's as if we are constitutionally unable to see the logical extension of our behaviors around weight, especially when it comes to women.

Big fail.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I am fortunate enough to earn really good money doing what I do (sales and marketing). But I travel daily, including flying while fat multiple times a week.
Just today my company decided to have logo shirts made for an upcoming conference and ( bless her!) the admin emailed the group to ask what sizes we wanted and even attached (a sucky!) size chart. Let's say I very, very carefully worded my request for a 3xl by saying the size chart wasn't clear and I could tailor down to get what I needed.

It's tough trying not to address that elephant in the room thing when it should have NOTHING to do with my effectiveness or qualifications!

Yep- let's change the discrimination. NOT our bodies. Doesn't work! How many times do we have to explain that!

Lindsay said...


Jessa said...

Which would make the solution to discrimination against racial minorities, getting rid of race? And the solution to gender discrimination, getting rid of gender differences? Um. That isn't just a little bit absurd.

Bill Fabrey said...

Great piece of writing!

The disconnect has been going on since at least 1920. And there are those who, unbelievably, applaud size discrimination on the grounds that it will help "motivate the fatties to lose weight." That's never worked, and never will, because a lack of motivation to lose weight is not one of the 30 or so things that cause people to be fat.

And, discrimination against someone because of their size, gender, religion, sexual preference, age, and so forth, is simply wrong, regardless of how they came to be included in those groups.

Bill Fabrey
Council on Size & Weight Discrimination
Mt. Marion, NY

Hetty said...

Discrimination only leads to more obesity. It creates more shame, more self-hatred, more isolation, more guilt which leads to more eating, which leads to more obesity.
Let's get real here, punishment never works, understanding. love and finding a soulution does.

Anonymous said...

I read the article...I wonder if they can calculate the cost of this kind of discrimination to our whole society and to the self esteem of teen girls who feel the only way they can be worthy is to undergo a difficult surgical procedure, starve themselves, etc. to be a certain size? My sister was an obese teen. I can't claim that I suffered in as much as she did. But watching some of the things she went through effected me profoundly. When will we learn that discrimination effects everyone? How can we change when we are so disconnected with what is really going on?

Molls said...

Thank you for speaking up!! I have to admit that when I read the conclusion of the article, WW2 flashed before my eyes! There too, Hitler's solution was elimination instead of acceptance and love. Thank goodness, we won the war...
We need to recognize the same is true whether it is the color of your eyes or skin, your weight, your ethnicity your religion, or your sexual preference!

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised at this. Their latest cover story made me want to scream. Not only is it more of the same pressure larded on to expecting mothers, a pregnant woman's naked body is on the cover, sending a very clear message that her body is not her own. As the bearer of our future, her body has become the property of everyone else.

And I'm actually not surprised at all either at the wage gap, or the proposed "solution". My sister stopped getting promotions, stopped getting raises, basically stopped getting respect (not that her boss was the kind to give it anyway) when she started gaining weight. Sexism and sizeism is alive and well kids.

Anonymous said...

"a pregnant woman's naked body is on the cover, sending a very clear message that her body is not her own."

I disagree, her body is her own and she can show it off even if it is in a form that some would say to cover up. Good for her and good for Time for the cover photo (note: I'm not commenting on the article, just the choice of cover photo).