Fat Is The New Black.

Overweight people know what it feels like to be looked at and judged – but maybe EVERYONE knows that? Maybe we all judge each other based on appearance all the time? I know I do it. Do you?


When we are walking down the street, we are constantly looking at people and making quick assessments. Will this person hurt me. Will this person try to mug me. Am I safe here? Is there anyone around not making me feel safe? Logically these are assessments we need to make in order to stay safe. The trouble is, we’re all making wrong assessments. We’re making assessments based on our own history, our past experiences, what we’ve read, what others have told us.

It is no different to you driving past a car accident. How many of you think “He must have been going too fast” “That car must have run into that other car” “He lost control going around the corner”. We want to try and learn from the mistake that driver made. Anywhere you have seen an accident, you will find it difficult to drive past that spot without remembering what you saw. Perhaps not consciously, but your subconscious will do it for you. There’s a whole science to accident investigation. Our assumptions are probably way off. We still make them anyway.

If when you were a kid, Santa scared you, you might subconsciously be scared of men with beards, right? You might have thought, when you saw that above image – that man has a huge beard, I find that scary, I would keep away from him. If you have had bad experiences with people of color, people of a certain sex, people who dress a certain way, teenagers, homeless people, bikers.. you will subconsciously steer well clear – maybe even consciously. People who have had good experiences with those people might give them a smile, approach them and say hi, feel more comfortable in their presence.

A book I highly recommend to change your thinking on many topics is Gavin De Becker’s The Gift Of Fear – here is a quote from it –

Our intuition fails when it is loaded with inaccurate information. Since we are the editors of what gets in and what is invested with credibility, it is important to evaluate our sources of information. I explained this during a presentation for hundreds of government threat assessors at the Central Intelligence Agency, making my point by drawing on a very rare safety hazard: kangaroo attacks. I told the audience that about twenty people a year are killed by the normally friendly animals, and that kangaroos always display a specific set of indicators before they attack:

1) They will give what appears to be a wide and genial smile (they are actually showing their teeth).
2) They will check their pouches compulsively several times to be sure they have no young with them (they never attack while carrying young).
3) They will look behind them (since they always retreat immediately after they kill).

After these signals, they will lunge, brutally pummel an enemy, and gallop off.

I asked two audience members to stand up and repeat the three warning signs, and both flawlessly described the smile, the checking of the pouch for young, and the looking back for an escape route. In fact everyone in that room (and now you) will remember these warning signs for life. If you are ever face-to-face with a kangaroo, be it tomorrow or decades from now, those three pre-incident indicators will be in your head.

The problem, I told the audience at the CIA, is that I made up those signals. I did it to demonstrate the risks of inaccurate information. I actually know nothing about kangaroo behaviour (so forget the three signals if you can — or stay away from hostile kangaroos).

In our lives, we are constantly bombarded with kangaroo signals masquerading as knowledge, and our intuition relies on us to decide what we will give credence to.

Australians are going to have a particularly difficult time forgetting those kangaroo signals, because we see kangaroos reasonably often. ;) Right Aussies? And I can tell you, every time I see one, the above passage is remembered within my skull.

So you may be reading this post wondering – where is she going to talk about fat being the new black? I’ve written before about being one of only two fat people in a room of over 500 high school students to hear a lecture titled “Fat People Are Dirty People”. That was over 15 years ago. Our situation has not improved, people.

Fat people are looked at, judged. People who are overweight can feel the looks of disapproval wherever you go, and they even come from people who aren’t exactly stick thin themselves. If you eat in public, expect disapproving glances. You can almost feel the people thinking “They shouldn’t be eating that”. Fat people are called names, have jokes told about them – and they are expected to laugh! – are taunted, teased.. they find it harder to get a job, they find it harder to be promoted, they find it difficult to travel – seats too small, people don’t want to be stuck next to the fat person.. this list can go on for pages, my friends.

Can you take that previous paragraph and say the same thing about a race, a color? Not these days. It is illegal to discriminate based on race. It is considered inappropriate to shoot disapproving looks at people of color or race. People of color or race are not judged on what they are eating – unless they are also overweight!

It is not illegal to discriminate based on weight. An excellent article you should read is Do We Really Need A Law To Protect Fat Workers? – a couple of quotes from the article but I hope you will go and read the entire thing.

“Hiring, firing, discipline, training, wages, we’ve got more than 40 studies now in both the lab and the workplace,” says Mark Roehling, a management professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “People in all of them tell you they discriminate on the basis of weight. I had one guy tell me there was one kind of person he absolutely wasn’t going to hire – a fat girl. And the punch line is, this guy was overweight himself.”

Consider Roehling’s survey participant, the one who told him “there was one kind of person he absolutely wasn’t going to hire – a fat girl.” Now replace “fat” with “black.” It’s the textbook definition of discrimination. And because it would be so unfair, so wrong, so illegal to follow through with it, it’s hard to imagine that anyone in today’s society would dare.

Another very good example of what I am talking about appears to have reared its ugly head on Facebook. According to mo pie from Big Fat Deal in the blog post Face! (Book) which I have put a couple of quotes from but again, I encourage you to read the full article –

Although Facebook does crack down on religious and racial hate groups, fat hate groups are flourishing. I’m not suggesting that these groups should be shut down; I think the worst ones (like “let’s kill all fat people”) have been, and I’m more inclined to let people say their piece than be censored, where possible. Even so, I did a couple of searches and poked around and found hundreds of groups dedicated to fat hate.

Here are some more Facebook groups: “Dammit, I Hate Fat Chicks!” “DISLIKES- FAT GIRLS WHO WEAR SKIRTS AND TIGHT CLOTHING” “Fat Chicks – Exercise or die!” “Fat people should go on starvation diets” “God d@mm!t I hate fat people!!!” and “If you’re fat…we aren’t friends.” A group simply called “I Hate Fat People” has 529 members.

Replace fat with black, hispanic, asian, any race, any culture – would it be accepted? No way! Facebook cracks down on religious and racial hate groups because LEGALLY THEY ARE REQUIRED TO DO SO. They are not required to do so when it comes to weight.

The sooner “weight” is added to the civil rights act in the US the better. The law says (in part, you can read the whole thing here) –

to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

And maybe a couple of other things should be added there – ie sexual preference and possibly others – what would you add?

Until then, it is accepted that you can say whatever you like about fat people, refuse to employ them, refuse to promote them, treat them with disgust, treat them without respect – and there is no way those people can do anything about it, other than to lose weight. I wouldn’t bother, personally. Losing weight does not always solve the problem, because once you’ve been a fat person you will always appear that way in people’s minds. I’ve experienced that myself as I wrote in my previously mentioned post..

So in the meantime, we overweight people have to accept ourselves as we are, and refuse to hear those who want to treat us badly. As Martin Luther King said –

Don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have the compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight; we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.

Thanks for reading my article, if you liked it, stumble it so the word can get out to more people. If you have a spare moment, please leave your thoughts in the comments. ;)

This post is a part of a two week special on Race, Society and The Internet in conjunction with the Hump Day Hmmm.

Similar Posts:

Hump Day Hmmm, life lessons, politics, what not to do, wrong world

14 thoughts on “Fat Is The New Black.

  1. 1. Eating.
    2. Light sensitive?
    3. Probably has a motorcycle, wonder if it’s a refurbed Harley.

    Honest Abe.

    I’m not sure that the conclusions we all draw are all negative, even if they are snap or possibly erroneous.

    I mean: light sensitive?

    I thought that—semi-proving your point—because his glasses are like those my stepfather wears and he’s light sensitive. (I just totally ruined that dude’s cool, didn’t I?)

    But I agree that we view the world through our own experiential filters.

    Good points to ponder.


    Ravin’ Picture Maven

  2. It’s not three words, but the man reminds me of my neighbor since he dresses like that.
    I think you made some great points. Despite what label you fall under you can be targeted I’ve faced all the issues that you’ve mentioned as a Vegan and a few other labels I happen to fall under but the one that sticks out most, besides my race is “Vegan”. I was asked, in an interview, if the fact that I was Vegan would “affect” my interactions with others. I used my email “vegan momma”.
    Although it is “illegal” to discriminate against minorities, it’s still done. Occasionally I still get followed when I’m in stores although I’m dressed nicely. I still have people inaccurately assume that I eat “black foods.” You still don’t have companies hiring minorities or promoting them to managerial positions.

    My brother works for a prominent company, and he is one of only two blacks that are in top executive positions (he’s a regional vice-president.) Up until a few years ago they had only a handful of minorities in the management position. I still get the looks. I could go on about the ways I still see the laws not working, but I’m not.

    I believe one of the ways we can make positive steps to making changes is for each individual to realize that all discrimination is unfair whether you label because of race, politics, religion, sexual preference, etc.,

  3. It may be illegal to discriminate based on race, but it still happens. I think people see weight as a changeable circumstance and thus treat the overweight as lacking self control. We always look for reasons to separate ourselves from others, either by nationality, race, religion, weight class, accent or shoe size.

    Great post as always Snos. ;)


  4. 1. biker
    2. aging hippie
    3. liberal

    But I could be all wrong. ;)

    I think people make assumptions because we instinctively like to classify and label. It’s so much easier (and lazier)than having to deal with human complexity. In truth all of us are many things – often contradictory – but that’s what makes people so interesting.

    I have not ever been overweight but I am appalled at how cruel society has become towards these people. Here in the U.S., it’s like obesity has become Public Enemy No. 1. I think it has made people feel entitled to nag and criticize those who are overweight, as if it’s some kind of patriotic duty to be thin.

    Sometimes I think we are so busy making assumptions that we stop seeing other people as individuals with their own individual story. Sanctimony leaves no room for respect.

  5. Man.

    That’s it. And for the record, thinking thoughts about people without knowing the truth is sometimes fun to me. I love to make up stories—not mean ones, about people I see on the street, where they are going, what is their deal…

  6. Hairy, Biker, and Interesting.

    I must be hanging out with too many bikers or something. My second thought was “I wonder what kind of bike he rides?”

    Great post Snosk, as usual.

  7. I guess we are all guilty of assumption-running at some level.

    Honestly? My first thought about the picture is that he is the sort of person who would appeal to me. I like unusual people, people who are not afraid to express themselves in a non-mainstream way.

    The second.. not so positive.. assumption I made was when reading about FaceBook. I thought “People who would be on FaceBook or MySpace, I hardly expect Mensa-level thinking.”

    So.. it goes both ways.



  8. 1. Older
    2. Guy
    3. Who likes black.

    I am completely behind you on size discrimination. It is an evil and pervasive thing and way too socially accepted. And I personally do my bit to fight it where I can, though I am not and have never been fat.

    But there is still racial discrimination, and class- and sex- and orientation- and ability-based discrimination too. A black Canadian blogger I really like (writing is fighting) wrote recently about how growing up in Toronto in a predominantly-white neighbourhood, not too long ago, she heard the n-word applied to herself on a frequent basis. Racism’s not even that closeted, necessarily. And Toronto is one of hte most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with a very high degree of diversity of all sorts, which prides itself on tolerance.

  9. One Too Many
    …of something… (as I hum ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’)

    Does passing laws prevent us from making wrong assessments? Being in favor of less lawyers, less government, etc. I actually believe that we should each have more personal responsibility for ourselves and each other and that this would improve society and human relations considerably.


  10. Biker eating lunch.

    I also noted that he was a senior and grey. Liking the few bikers I know there were no negative associations.

    Regarding civil rights, US law – shouldn’t it also be illegal to discriminate on grounds of disability?

    Interesting article – have stumbled.

  11. Your whole article seems to be a self apologizing piece, designed to make yourself feel better about your short comings. We make conscious decisions about our actions and you choosing to be ok with your weight doesn’t mean it is ok. I generally like people. I have a number of very over weight people in my life whom I consider my friends, but every one of them, when they were honest will tell you they feel shame because they know they could do something about it if they were not weak. It is sad that weight is so obvious while other personal transgressions are not so easy to see. Over eating/under exercising is a personal flaw, but no different than gossip, alcoholism or any other bad personal behavior. We all have some trait that needs to be changed so it is best not to judge too harshly, but it is also good to be honest with our selves about who we are and why we are that way. One has to acknowledge before one can change. Peace and Honesty.

  12. Just so ya’all know mine –

    Harley Rider

    In the state I come from, there are two major biker gangs. Most people are terrified of bikers because of it. I was lucky enough to have a friend whose father was in one of those gangs and I met a lot of bikers who are some of the friendliest, nicest people. If I saw a biker, I’d be one of the people to say hi and smile.

    I find bikers are *always* surprised by that. They tend to be treated like they are invisible, or like people want them to go away. They are so surprised that they can’t help but be friendly back.

    Plus, I loved the biker from the village people.. so.. :) all that leather!

    I am scared *for* them, though. In two ways. I am scared they will fall off their bikes and get hurt badly. I am scared that someone will try to pick a fight with them, too. That happens a lot.

    River – I didn’t realise it was a Maccas hotcakes thingy – ours look a little different in Australia. ;)

    Julie – thank you for illustrating the point so wonderfully. ;) The book I mentioned by Gavin De Becker helped me to examine some of those filters of mine and I am so grateful for it.

    Opal – I don’t think any amount of laws will ever put a serious end to discrimination. That’s a sad fact. However the laws do make it more difficult for people to actually get away with active and outright hating on people publicly, which is what is going on with Facebook there.

    There’s no one size fits all solution to any of this, but I think exactly as you say – each individual can make their own commitment to be fairer to all, and we can work on our small circles of friends and family to try and help them do the same. Also we can make an active decision not to allow others to discriminate in our presence, and make certain we report people who break the laws that exist each and every time we see it. I think we have a responsibility to do that, too.

    Many of us will stand by and say nothing because it is easier, it is simpler, it keeps us out of trouble. But some things are worth standing up for and speaking out about.

    Cugat – It does still happen. My sister had to take her employer to court for firing her when she was pregnant. Believe me when I say that’s not a mistake he would make a second time, because it cost him a lot of money. For people like him, the only way to get the message through is to make it cost big cash. The same goes for all employers.

    Pieces Of Mind – It is really bad in the US from what I hear. It’s a little better here in Australia but there is still that disgust for overweight people. Assumptions are something I try to steer clear of but it is something I had to become conscious of first. We do so much of it subconsciously.

    My biggest issue was with groups of teenage kids. That’s because of my own experiences in that area. I would see them on the street and immediately feel uncomfortable. That’s on my end, not theirs. It’s not anything they are doing.

    Liv – I love to do that at the airport.

    Tornwordo – Thanks for being brave and leaving a comment! ;) I love your blog.

    Jhianna – me too :)

    Chani – There’s a lot of people using facebook for social networking. I am determined not to touch it with a barge pole myself, especially after reading about these hate groups. But yeah, we are all guilty of making assumptions – when we can become conscious of it, we can begin to change it. ;)

    Andrea – I agree the things that have laws still happen, I’ve seen it too – and said nothing. I don’t intend to do that anymore. If I let people get away with it, then shame on me. :(

    Vera – I think laws stop employers from allowing such things to happen, especially once they have been caught doing it and made to pay. True, some employers do not care and allow it to go on, but when someone stands up and fights them it won’t take long for them to realise it is a costly thing to do. They are worried about the profit, so that is where they need to be hit, in the pocket.

    I also think we have to be more responsible on a personal level too. Take for example, drink driving. I would never do it. I know it could seriously hurt someone. But there’s heaps of people out there who think it is fine to do it, and they regularly do it – until they are caught and punished, they will continue to do so. The laws make it possible for the police to enforce responsibility in that area.

    Julie – I agree, disability should be on the list too.

    Thanks everyone for dropping by and leaving a comment, sorry it took me a little while to get back on these, it’s been a crazy few days.


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