Why are fat people abused?

November 2nd, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  8 Comments

From BBC News:

Shouted at, spat at and even attacked, overweight people are campaigning for laws to protect them. Why is “fattism” seen by many as an acceptable prejudice?

Verbal attacks are part of daily life for some of the overweight. From people commenting on the contents of their shopping trolleys to shouting abuse at them in the street. In extreme cases there can even be physical abuse.

Why are many folk so intolerant of fat people? Discrimination on other grounds is widely frowned upon, so why is weight different?

One study in America found attitudes towards overweight people are more negative than other types of stigma often seized on by children, such as wearing glasses or having a physical disability.

That doesn’t mean they can’t control their actions toward overweight people. But the more fat people are portrayed as social pariahs, the more justified people feel in attacking them.

“Society’s increasing hatred of fat and obsession with thin is creating appalling prejudice,” says Ms Orbach. “It is allowing people to feel justified about abusing fat people.

“Every overweight person has become the person we must not be.”

Ms Coupe says the pressure to be thin is the only reason she can think of for her attack.

“I can only imagine this woman did what she did because she has been on a diet for most of her life and resents it. She probably hated me because I have accepted my weight and am happy with it.”

Full story


  1. Zsuzsa says:

    November 2nd, 2009at 1:59 pm(#)

    So what do you think about this, Krista?

  2. Mistress Krista says:

    November 2nd, 2009at 2:07 pm(#)

    I think that abuse is never cool.

    (Unless it’s mutually consensual. Then it’s a sport.)

  3. Trishy says:

    November 2nd, 2009at 2:43 pm(#)

    How sad for that woman.

    I have seen a few articles lately on this phenomenon of “fattism”, triggered by the debate on health care reform currently raging in the States. Many people are screaming about the cost of health care increasing because the overweight can’t be bothered to take care of themselves, or something like that (the same argument appears many times in the comments section of the posted article). But the issues of health insurance rates for overweight people, and verbal (and apparently physical) abuse of overweight people are two very separate issues. Alcoholics are a danger to society and also a drain on the health care system, but we don’t go around beating the crap out of them: we encourage them to get help so that they can get control over their demons. Maybe this is because being overweight is so visible that it is easily attacked, unlike most other addictions? Or maybe there are deeper psychological roots than that, like the article argues.

  4. Sarah says:

    November 2nd, 2009at 3:23 pm(#)

    I think it’s akin to the bad old days when people thought that leprosy was something you got because you were a sinner or whatever. I think the vast majority of people overestimate the degree to which virtue (for lack of a better word) actually controls weight – it’s a complex mess of personal circumstance, culture, will power, inborn preference, hormones, genetics, opportunity, socioeconomic status, parenting, and who knows what else. It’s also a very visible social liability, in our country of socialized health care.

    Whatever, it shouldn’t be tolerated any more than stoning lepers is. If we have to persecute people, I vote for right-wing politicians, unapologetic laissez-faire capitalists, and Ponzi-scheme operators.

  5. Noel Lynne Figart says:

    November 3rd, 2009at 3:47 am(#)

    unapologetic laissez-faire capitalists

    I know you were trying to be funny. But the problem with that sort of thing, is that whenever you try to dehumanize a class of people, you’re going to get violence. Turning people into things is always the first step.

    I’m a fat laissez-faire capitalist. I suppose I should be fearing for my life now?

  6. Michelle says:

    April 15th, 2010at 3:08 pm(#)

    One of the things that I’ve struggled with the most in the past few years has been my emotional relationship with both food and exercise. The fat bullies only make this worse – when you feel like crap, you eat like crap, have low energy, don’t want to work out, and voila, you’re in a slump.

    Maybe people should start making it a social norm to encourage overweight people by walking with them at lunch, or inviting them to sporting events and bocce ball, or using our free bring-your-friend-to-the-gym pass to show them the ropes…

  7. Wingard says:

    December 16th, 2010at 1:21 pm(#)

    Nice article. Totally agree with the you. Keep it up.

  8. Gollnick says:

    January 14th, 2011at 4:41 pm(#)

    Perfect post!

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