MARK YOUR CALENDARS! September 24-28th is the second annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week and Fierce, Freethinking Fatties will be devoting a week of blogs on the issue of weight stigma. Sadly, I have no doubt that there will be plenty to write about on the topic when the end of September rolls around. After all, for those of us impacted by weight stigmatization, EVERY week is NWSA Week. If a week goes by and we haven’t witnessed, or been the victim of, weight stigmatization… well… quite honestly, I don’t think that has ever happened to me. But one of the purposes for declaring these kinds of awareness events, whether they be a day long (e.g., International No Diet Day), a month long (e.g., Menopause Awareness Month, also in September (click here for information on the The Hot Flash Mob Event)) or a week long is to educate those outside of our circle, and possibly change some behaviors and attitudes, while recruiting new allies.
This means we have to do some homework to prepare and I am happy to help! Here is some background to get you started.
bring awareness to a common and entrenched social injustice that often results in serious physical and mental health consequences for those affected. Whether it is children being teased and bullied in school because of their weight, adults being discriminated against in the work place, or patients being shamed in a physician’s office, weight stigma insidiously affects a variety of people… We want to raise awareness around weight stigma and how a focus on weight rather than health and placing a higher value on “thin” can, in fact, have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of a person-of-size — especially those who have or are predisposed to eating disorders.
BEDA defines weight stigma as:
- Shame placed upon individuals based on weight or body size
- Judgment and biases predetermined by weight or body size
- Judgment of a person’s character, work ethics, and personality based on weight or body size
- Inequalities in employment, health-care, and educational settings due to negative stereotypes that overweight and obese persons are lazy and incompetent
Sound familiar? I thought so. There is no shortage of infuriating, relentless, and heartbreaking weight stigma scenarios from our personal and professional lives. What is also not a brain teaser? Don’t panic, there won’t be a test test or grades, I promise! In fact I am giving you the answer.
- The myriad of ways that people are stigmatized because of weight
- The deleterious effects that stereotyping has on: a. self-esteem, b. employment opportunities, c. healthcare services, d. peers, e. family, f. sexual relationships, or g. all of the above
Add to that the relentless overt and covert fat abuse by the media, and it is easy to feel vulnerable when trying to fight the stigmatization by yourself. Recently a member of one of my Fat Acceptance groups asked, “How do you handle the hate? How do you handle the constant message that FAT=BAD FAT=BAD FAT=BAD?”
A lively, and sometimes humorous (thank goodness for humor!), discussion ensued and I even threw together a Letterman-esque “Dr. Deah’s Top Ten List of Fat Hate Management Techniques,” which I’ve included at the end of this post. The refreshing aspect of an awareness week is knowing that groups of people will be banding together and addressing this issue as one voice. Is it too cliché to say that there is power in numbers? Even if it is an illusion, to me it adds a sense of safety and support. And if it turns out that someone we connect with has even the slightest moment of insight and realization that there is another point of view… even better!
So your homework assignment between now and September 24th is:
- Spread the word about the upcoming event through “cybershouts” using Twitter, Facebook, or other social media
- Use the hashtag #weightstigma and “cybershout” about the topic as much as possible
- Read the Weight Stigma Statistics and other information provided on this page to use in your “cybershouts” during the week of the 24
And remember to come back to Fierce Fatties during National Weight Stigma Awareness Week and see what we are writing about!
Now, as promised:
Dr. Deah’s Top Ten Fat Hate Management Techniques
(or how I maintain my sanity in an insane world)
- I write letters and comment on anything and everything about weight stigma and fat hatred that I have time to comment on. Whether or not I have ever changed a single person’s mind I may never know. I doubt it. But I will not go quietly into that dark night.
- I limit my exposure to television and when I am smacked in the face with the constant media barrage of anti-fat propaganda, I write a blog about it and find it a bit healing.
- I soak up the positive energy from my Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size® support systems and trust that if I am becoming too much of a sycophant (or psychophant) they will tell me and I’ll back off.
- I keep my deflector shields up.
- I intervene when I see someone being mean (as long as I am certain they don’t have a gun).
- I keep up to date with research, so I don’t get caught unawares of changes in the literature.
- Vodka helps.
- See number 7.
- I demand that my health care providers treat me as a woman and not as a fat woman; if they don’t, I fire them.
- I treat people the way I want to be treated and if I am mistreated, especially about my body, I educate and then evacuate (you can interpret evacuate any way you would like and would probably be correct!).
What would your top ten list be? (Or even a few, you already have enough homework). Let me know!
See you in late September!