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Political thought and commentary by Mark F. Sharlow
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Statement on Weight Prejudice
and the "War on Obesity"
Though most people do not realize it, a negative attitude toward people who are heavier than average is a form of prejudice. Weight prejudice is caused by unreasonable beliefs and attitudes, including the false belief that being "fat" typically is a person's own fault. Prejudice against heavier people is a serious form of intolerance that has damaged many lives. We should not ignore this kind of prejudice or dismiss it as unimportant.
Weight prejudice is a pervasive problem in many societies. Unlike most other forms of prejudice, weight prejudice remains socially acceptable even among educated and so-called "enlightened" people. Many consider this prejudice to be a laughing matter instead of the destructive and damaging attitude that it is. For these reasons, we are giving weight prejudice special attention on this site.
Prejudice against fat people has no basis in fact, as the "fat" physique is rooted in genetics and other physical causes, and does not imply vice or personal weakness. Nowadays the ill-conceived "war on obesity" fuels weight prejudice. This "war" depends largely on mass hysteria, and on scientific studies which actually fail to prove most of the health risks that the anti-fat crusaders tell us about. Another aspect of weight prejudice is the idea that all fat people are ugly. This idea is nothing but a socially constructed myth peculiar to some cultures.
Many people think anti-fat prejudice is not a serious matter. In reality, this prejudice ruins the lives of naturally large children by promoting rampant bullying, self-hatred, social rejection, and eating disorders. Prejudice against fat people also forces adults into lives of misery, by depriving worthy large-sized people of romantic partners, friends, and jobs. No matter what one thinks about the effects of weight on health, weight prejudice can only make matters worse.
We must stop weight prejudice before it ruins more lives. As part of this effort against prejudice, we must demand that our governments stop making "war" against large-sized people. There is a social and political movement, called the size acceptance movement, that works for equality and respect for people of all sizes. We should support the size acceptance movement in its quest for these aims.
Additional Materials on Weight Discrimination
1. See Campos, 2004, chapters 5 and 14, and Harris, 2004.
2. See Campos, 2004 for supporting information and ideas; see especially p. 174. See also NAAFA, 2004.
3. See Campos, 2004 and Szwarc, 2004.
4. See Campos, 2004, pp. 49-50, and NAAFA, 2004.
5. From the author's personal observations and general knowledge; also supported generally by the information in Campos, 2004, especially chapter 14.
6. Information on the size acceptance movement is widely available on the web and in a number of books. The references cited below are good places to begin reading.
(Campos, 2004) Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health, New York, Gotham Books, 2004.
(Harris, 2004) Paul Harris, "Fat Is Fabulous, Insist Anti-Diet Protesters," Guardian Unlimited, 8/8/2004 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,11381,1278716,00.html); accessed 10/8/2006.
(NAAFA, 2004) National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, "Dispelling Common Myths about Fat Persons" (http://www.naafa.org/documents/brochures/myths.html); accessed 10/8/2006.
(Szwarc, 2004) Sandy Szwarc, "The Emperor's New Crisis," TCS Daily, 4/8/2004 (http://www.techcentralstation.com/040804F.html); accessed 10/8/2006.
Updated 12/10/08. Minor edits 11/4/10.
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