by Chloe Jones
Fat phobia is a social stigma of obesity broadly defined as bias and discriminatory behaviours targeting people overweight and obese.
Fat phobia is an appealing term as it is self-explanatory and easily defined as a fear of fat people. Fitting the template of other phobia-suffixed oppressive attitudes: homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia.
However, it is vital to address that discriminatory/oppressive behaviours and attitudes are not a mental illness. Phobias are mental illnesses and conflating them with oppressive attitudes and behaviours invites greater misunderstanding of phobias and mental illness.
Describing bigotry as phobia negatively perpetuates mental illness and the stigma. Using terms like anti-fatness may help denote that it is not really a fear but more a hatred for fat people.
When we look at ourselves with disgust and shame for being over the average weight, how do we separate what is innate insecurity or general societal fat phobia/ anti-fatness conditioning we internalise? We subconsciously judge ourselves and others for being fat.
Still, the word carries so much weight and can feel uncomfortable to say when it has such negative connotations, the word has been demonised, we should be using it freely and remember its purpose as nothing but a descriptive word, using it in this way may help combat our own prejudices.
Comments from young girls saying they started to become body conscious from as young as 4, harrowingly often due to comments from their mothers as well as comparing their own body type to others in the school.
Overweight teenagers hearing slimmer friends describe their own bodies hatefully with words like ‘huge’ ‘fat’ ‘obese’ and saying they needed to diet, these toxic terms would equate to people of over average weight and sizes, feeling uncomfortable and ashamed.
Girls also reported their mums commenting on portion sizes and claiming certain clothes don’t look good on bigger bodies. Projecting their own anti-fat ideologies onto the younger generation as this was also instilled in them throughout their lifetime through media, the mainstream porn industry, and the beauty industry.
This generation of mothers come from a time when the models were still non-curvy, skinny, and tall, however, the beauty standards are forever interchangeable, and we are growing to be more representative than ever.
The beauty industry relies on people’s insecurities and would not work without capitalism, it is worth billions and would be non-profitable if people loved and accepted themselves the way they came out of the womb.
Not only were there reports of mothers controlling portion sizes but also fluctuating between different unsustainable diets. The diet culture preys on the insecure.
Working only in a capitalistic society, encourages weight loss, compromising people’s money, time, and energy to fit into a rigid, unattainable model of beauty.
Diet culture promotes thinness, with health, happiness, and moral virtue. Lastly, it is a large advocate for whatever body type is fashionable and conventionally attractive at the time, whilst demonising anybody outside of that.
The medical bias encompasses the endorsement of negative stereotypes of patients with obesity. The bias can lead to patients receiving poor treatment, inaccurate diagnoses, and delayed diagnoses.
The shame felt when experiencing this bias leads to an increase in stress and depression which is proven to affect someone’s weight. Depression can cause heart disease.
Whilst we understand white privilege, pretty privilege, and class privilege, we must address slim privilege.
A slim person is endowed with privilege, will be treated differently in job interviews, and receive better healthcare as they are not often deemed as lazy and weak-willed.
The argument is that the fat person could be eating healthier and doing more exercise but find it harder to lose weight, factors such as lower thyroid glands and slower metabolism will affect someone’s ability to lose weight. They won’t be offered the same opportunities for this.