Chewing fat: the 10 most offensive stereotypes
It’s hard enough dealing with image issues when you’re a woman. Everywhere you look there are airbrushed models, unrealistic renderings, and lawsuits. As I got older, I realized how false these things were and stopped comparing myself to models and actors.
However, as a plus size woman, I am often bothered by stereotypes and assumptions about us. It’s time for us big girls to speak up and be heard.
I was recently very disappointed when a well-known writers’ conference called them out (rightly so) for deciding not to bring a staff member to this year’s event due to its size. Weight or size discrimination happens every day and it has happened to me.
There are many different reasons why someone might be overweight, which is why stereotypes are so aggravating. But I think it’s safe to say that generalizing to ANY group of people is ignorant, wrong, and dangerous. Overweight women (and men) are no exception.
Below are the 10 most offensive stereotypes I’ve ever experienced and I think it’s time to mention them.
- We are always eating.
Think of the TV sitcom where the token fat person is always pushing the face and has no self-control. This is partly a lazy way of writing for a cheap laugh. But it’s a common stereotype and it’s annoying. And is it really that funny? Hasn’t this joke gotten around enough already?
- We are all lazy.
I am busy from the moment my feet hit the ground in the morning until my head hits the pillow at night. I know of many other overweight people who are the same way. Just because we don’t hang out at the gym like it’s a hobby doesn’t mean we’re sitting on our butts eating candy all day.
- We are all sick as a result of our weight.
I realize that being overweight can increase your risk of a multitude of diseases and problems (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). But it is not a GUARANTEE and it cannot be assumed that an overweight person is experiencing these challenges.
I remember when I got pregnant with my son. He was 37 years old and overweight. Don’t think I didn’t notice the up and down eyeball evaluations he was receiving. I wanted to tell them “Yes! I know I’m fat and you think I’m Methuselah’s age to give birth, but I’m not stupid and I’ll take good care of myself and my child!”
I am not giving advice on this in any way, shape or form. See your doctor for that. But yes, I had a healthy pregnancy and child. I ate healthy and had excellent prenatal care. But I could have done it without all the trial.
- We are jealous of skinny people.
Not too long ago, someone at work (who happens to be skinny) made a great comment talking to me to go on and on about how fat he thinks he’s getting. It is very clear that I am much heavier than her and she was ONLY talking to me at the time. It’s not the first time I’ve been told this kind of thing.
When someone who is obviously skinny says this to someone who is obviously fatter, the first thing that comes to mind is that they want you to say “Oh, I wish I was as skinny as you! You’re not fat at all!” !” It’s an obvious fish for a compliment.
Here’s the thing, I don’t care who’s skinnier than me. I’m not comparing myself to them! And if they need a fat person to envy them to feel good about themselves, then I feel sorry for them.
- We all have low self-esteem and feel bad about ourselves.
I am currently almost at my highest weight (and getting older), I feel better about myself than ever.
I realize that what people find attractive can vary dramatically. The only person I really care about who is attracted to me is my husband, and he doesn’t complain.
I once had a wellness coordinator where I work who patronized me “you’re worth it” as if she assumed that just because I was fat, she didn’t think I deserved to pursue what she felt was good for me.
- We don’t know we’re fat.
More than one person throughout my life has felt the need to point out to me that I am fat. We don’t need people to make us aware that we are overweight. We are perfectly capable of knowing this for ourselves, and believe me, we do.
- We don’t know how to lose weight ourselves.
We don’t need to be enlightened with unsolicited advice as if we were unaware that you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Not all of us are completely helpless in this capacity and for many of us, if we want to lose enough weight, we will!
Sure, there are educated professionals who are highly skilled and experienced in helping people achieve their goals. Nutritionists, personal trainers, coaches, etc., I am not saying at all that they are not important or valuable. What I mean is that we don’t need the “stinky eye” if we indulge in seconds or have dessert.
Once, a co-worker showed me his sandwich, which had a lot of vegetables, and said, “Oh, look at that. Doesn’t it look pretty and colorful and delicious with all those vegetables?” He told me this as if I were a child, as if he was introducing me to the idea of eating vegetables. I’m sure of his condescending agenda because of other things he said to me in the past.
- We are all jolly bums.
Is it really that funny that so many goofy and goofy characters on TV, in books, and in movies are chubby? Do they so often need to be portrayed as lovable, simple-minded goofballs? We are not all stupid and uneducated idiots, but lovable. Think of the beefy kid in the kids’ adventure movie who always needs rescuing or the burly cartoon mouse who always gets left behind… you get the picture.
Some of us are highly educated and successful professionals. We are goal oriented and have a lot to offer an organization with our careers well developed.
- There is a link with obesity and hygiene.
We are also no less likely to see each other or dress professionally to present ourselves well. A member of my family once told me about someone who thought I looked unhygienic (and turned out to be overweight) by saying, “Well, I know fat smells…” My eyes popped out of my head. I’ve been around too many stinky skinny people for this to be an absolute!
We know this is a common stereotype or we wouldn’t see the lazy character in a TV show or movie portrayed as fat. You’ve seen it: stains on his shirt, wrinkled clothes, overall unkempt appearance. This shouldn’t even have to be said, but not all overweight people are unhygienic (to cry out loud…)
- That it is someone else’s business or that discrimination should be tolerated.
What I want to say to these stereotypers is this: if it doesn’t affect you, then don’t judge. It’s really nobody else’s business what someone weighs or what size they wear. It’s not okay to transfer your own low self-esteem onto a fat person to make yourself feel better.
Stereotypes and assumptions are destructive. This is where discrimination is born. This is how we get passed over for promotions and opportunities. It’s not okay to discriminate against someone for any reason, and size is no exception.
It’s out there, the challenge is real. It’s time we talk.