Orlando Sentinel – Hunters Creek Neighborhood Blog
January 6, 2008
With the rate of obesity in the USA rising, so are the voices of the obese in their claims of discrimination for their size. It seems that every message forum I read on the Internet has made mention of this topic in the past few weeks, and I thought it important enough an issue to comment on here. Because I happen to agree – Sizism is a real problem in our society.
The experts are saying that 65% of all Americans fall into the “overweight and/or obese” category – with 35% of all Americans classified as obese or morbidly obese. Florida’s obesity rate is below that norm – with just 20-25% fitting the obese category. Sizisim appears to be the first form of bigotry against a majority group, and some of that problem lies among those that fall into the overweight category. Fat people are often the first to make fun of not only themselves, but their peers as well. Just look at our obese comedians – they know that fat jokes are in and often make themselves the center of their jokes.
Some of you are asking yourself – what exactly is Sizism? This is discrimination towards an individual based solely on their physical weight – or the appearance of their size. Forms of this discrimination occur almost anywhere other discriminations would take place .. the only difference is .. that Sizism has become a socially acceptable taboo and is often encouraged.
My personal experience with Sizism has taken place over the years. I’ve spoken about them on my personal site a few times – most notably my inability to obtain management level employment in the Marketing field. I’m hesitant to even attempt to find another job now because of the amount of widespread discrimination that occurred during my last search right here in Central Florida. While I was more than qualified enough for 8 different jobs to land in the #2 position for consideration – the job always went to the slimmer candidate in every case.
My most recent memorable encounter with Sizism occurred last year as I was traveling out to LA – my first time in First Class. I was told at the ticketing booth that I’d be allowed to bring my carry-on, my small purse, and another small bag for my needlepoint as carry-ons. When I got to the gate and was attempting to board the plane I was told that I would have to try and “cram that purse into your case”. I made the attempt – standing beside the entrance to the gate as I did so – and watched as other first class passengers were allowed on with four large carry-on items a piece!! I was outraged to say the least, but could do nothing to stop it from happening. The stewards smug grin on her face was enough to prove to me that she was happy with my embarrassment and discomfort. She eventually said “Oh go on – you’re just in the way now,” and let me board the plane.
I was dismayed to see other stories spring up on the internet. Some claiming to be ignored by store clerks while trying on clothing, others having mean comments shouted out as they walked for exercise in their own neighborhood! Two men were even banned from an all-you-can-eat buffet. One individual too was asked to purchase a second seat on their flight home for the holidays – which they were more than happy to do – only to discover that the airline had later went ahead and sold that second seat to another passenger! She paid for two seats – she should get to sit in both those seats!
I’ve seen reports that show companies are refusing to hire overweight and obese individuals because it causes the companies insurance costs to increase. The show Boston Legal even touched on this subject of sizism when the character Denny Crane fired a young lady because he was afraid he’d “catch fat” – having read a Harvard study that indicated the presence of obese individuals in an office environment often encouraged the slimmer workers to “pork up”.
Those of us who are obese know it … we don’t need to be reminded of it on a daily basis. Some people are happy exactly as they appear – and who are we to stop them from reveling in their fabulousness? Then there are those like me who are making a concentrated effort to get HEALTHY. Thin isn’t our goal – we just want to be the healthiest people we can be. Our efforts should be applauded – because making a lifestyle change this significant isn’t an easy task. Walking down the street for exercise shouldn’t’ be an embarrassing event, and certainly being scoffed by the buff when we head to the gym shouldn’t happen either.
So what’s the answer to this growing discrimination? It’s easy enough for me to say … well .. people just need to STOP. I don’t see why we as humans can’t judge one another based on WHO we are rather than what we look like. It’s a simple enough concept .. if only we could lay aside our prejudices. But I’m realistic enough to know that people do judge based on appearance. Perhaps we can learn to tolerate one another .. if we can’t accept. I for one would be VERY happy in my next job search to find an employer who wants to hire me for my outstanding resume, and not because I fit into their perception of the perfect image.