I know that everybody out there with a ‘pet cause’ considers it to be ‘the last acceptable prejudice’. A Google search using that term overwhelmingly turned up page after page of anti-Catholicism, anti-atheism, anti-humanism, and anti-thisthatandtheotherthingism. But this isn’t about any of those things. What this is about is ‘sizeism’ or size discrimination. While it is not a ‘pet cause’ of mine, it is something I have dealt with for a good deal of my life.
It’s also something that isn’t talked about often; and on those rare occasions that it is, it’s not usually dealt with in any seriousness. People laugh and make jokes; sometimes the jokes are funny and sometimes they’re cruel. The point of this is, it is not a social taboo to make fun of fat people. You can make jokes and be reasonably assured (in a way that you are not when making fun of Christians, Jews, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, etc) that people will laugh right along with you and not call you out on it. If there happens to be a fat person in your audience they probably won’t call you out, but will sit there and look embarrassed until they’re able to escape and can go be by themselves and deal with their hurt in private.
For the women: When was the last time you were with a group of women and the issue of weight and body image didn’t come up within the first five minutes? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? The obsession with weight is deeply entrenched in our society and the stigma of ‘fat and ugly’ continues. Take a look at some statistics concerning weight and body image
The average woman is 5’4 and weighs 140 pounds.
The average model is 5’11 and weighs 117 pounds.
Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.
Surveys show 45% of women are on a diet on any given day.
Surveys show 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
Surveys show 80% of children who are ten years old are afraid of being fat.
Surveys show 60% of American women are a size 12 or larger.
Studies show that girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing parents.
There are any number of reasons for fat people being the way they are. Some have a thyroid problem, some have a disease, some just really like cheesecake and really hate the gym, and some people are just big. But why should somebody need a reason for being the way they are? Why is it anybody else’s business? Would it even occur to most rational people to say to Wesley Snipes ‘Hey, how come you’re so black? Why don’t you lose pigment?’ Of course it would not, yet this is a question that every big person has heard (if you replace black with fat and pigment with weight, that is) at least once in their lives and usually more often than that. I’ve been asked the question myself; the only reply I felt appropriate was a supercilious stare at the presumptuousness of the questioner.
Never let ‘em see you sweat, that’s what they say. So I would wait until I was alone, and I would let out the hurt where no one could see. Because it does hurt, no matter how much you love yourself, to be singled out as different. I have already related to you all a recent experience; the Israeli fellow from a Yahoo chat room. He was rather creative with his analogy, but it did get to me. Although that is the most recent, it’s certainly not the first time. It hurts to be judged and found wanting. But what hurts even more is the knowledge that you let somebody get to you, and over something so stupid.
When it comes to being judged at your job on the basis of your size or appearance (if you’re not a model), that’s even worse. This Wall Street Journal article titled ‘How to Overcome Weight Discrimination’
kind of chaps my hide, because it doesn’t actually answer any real questions.
Overweight executives interested in moving to another company should recognize that their size almost certainly would prompt initial skepticism among executive recruiters and potential employers. Weight bias is one of the few prejudices that hasn't yet become politically unpopular, and companies whose handbooks proclaim their discrimination-free hiring processes are often the cleverest at crafting rejection messages for people who "don't look right" for a job. The best way to handle the weight issue is to avoid companies where it appears to be an issue and co-opt any concerns a recruiter or client might have about your size.
Recognize high-risk job opportunities. Some types of companies tend to be choosier about their executives' appearance. These include companies in image-conscious industries like film or retailing and organizations that are suffering declining performance. Even Old Economy companies are often hesitant to hire overweight candidates for positions that involve extensive interaction with customers and other external audiences, such as chief executive officers and sales professionals. Unless you can deal easily with rejection, don't waste your time interviewing for jobs at these types of organizations or others where appearance is all-important.
Don't surprise a recruiter. Assuming the headhunter is impressed with your credentials and your telephone interactions have been mutually satisfying, it's in your interest to reveal yourself as a "heavyweight" before meeting each other in person. "The best way to handle it is to come clean as quickly as possible," says Jeff Holmquist, chief headhunter for Search Specialists, a recruiter in Dearborn, Mich. [Come clean, as if you’ve got a criminal record or something ---ed. note]
Wear "the uniform." If you show up for a recruiter interview in a tailored navy wool suit, white shirt or blouse, low-key ties and jewelry, black leather accessories and subtle makeup, you'll win points for dressing like an executive. [This is what you should wear to a serious job interview anyway]
Be the first one to address your size. Knowing how you have dealt with being overweight in prior job experiences can help the recruiter prepare a rationale for presenting you to the client. "It's definitely important that the company is mentally prepared for candidates that are out-of-the-norm," says Mr. Holmquist. You might, for example, tell the recruiter, "When I first joined XYZ Corp., there was some concern that my weight would keep me from being productive. My colleagues were pleasantly surprised when I quickly completed three key projects that their people had struggled with for two years."
This advice is ridiculous. If it doesn’t sound offensive to you yet, replace ‘size’ or ‘overweight’ with ‘black’, ‘Jewish’, ‘Republican’, ‘Mexican’. Basically it’s saying ‘Apologize for who you are, be meek and submissive, and take what you get’. I find that tremendously offensive, but as the article states: Weight bias is one of the few prejudices that hasn’t yet become politically unpopular. I work with the public a great deal, mainly the German public, local village mayors and so forth, and am often seen as the face of my particular organization in certain negotiations. I’ve not personally seen bias of this sort directed against me in my professional life; I am sensitive to subtleties of speech and body language so I believe I would have noticed. In the corporate world, it is probably a whole different ballgame. While I am uncomfortable with the idea of legislating morality, I don’t believe that it would be at all a bad thing if somebody were to sue for size discrimination and win. It’s just human nature for people to try to see how much they can get away with, and people do bring their personal prejudices to work with them, so a lost lawsuit may just show those middle-managers what they can’t get away with anymore.
So, you ask, why don’t I just go on a diet or get to the gym? Well, for one thing, there’s nothing wrong with my diet. I like good food and good wine, but I do not overindulge. I see no reason to starve myself and be miserable just to fit somebody else’s ideal. I don’t like the gym, but I’m hardly a couch potato; I walk around quite a lot at work, and most weekends I’m out walking around a city somewhere. Shopping with me is an endurance trial, sightseeing is even more so. I may not be in the gym pumping iron or running on a treadmill but I stay active.
But why should I have to change? Why should I have to justify this one minor aspect of who I am to people? Why should anybody? Wesley Snipes doesn’t. Were I to start tomorrow eating nothing but rice cakes and spending 8 hours a day in the gym, two things would happen. One is I would probably lose some weight. Two is I would turn into a major bitch. If I kept at that regime for a while, and lost a bunch of weight, it would certainly change me, but I don’t believe it would change me for the better. I believe I am meant to be the way I am. I’m a good person, successful and smart, kind to animals and old people, and I’m a lifelong friend to people I love. I’m stylish, well-put-together, and beautiful. I’ve got good hair and an impressive shoe collection. I am a little vain, but I’ve got it under control. If I were to completely change myself so that somebody would like me, choose me, love me, hire me… they wouldn’t get me
, they would get a bad karaoke version of me. And that would be a shame.