It’s official. The negative stereotyping normally associated with overweight women now applies to thin individuals as well. Heavier women are no longer alone in this brutal world of discrimination and judgment based on body size. The even sadder part is that women are being judged for their body shape, as well as participating in this judgment. These twisted actions have become a normal part of our society, creating a division among women. This must be stopped.
If we, as women, can’t learn to respect each other and form opinions of others based on their accomplishments and personalities, then how can we ever expect the media to respect us for who we truly are and what we’ve achieved? If we want to be judged for our individuality and intelligence, as opposed to weight and body shape, then it’s time we make some changes.
Last week on my flight home to New Jersey, I stumbled across a surprisingly interesting article in Glamour Magazine. And no, I’m not referring to the columns enlightening Glamour’s readers on how to magically improve their sex lives or to perfect the coveted smoky eye with flawless technique. This article in particular stuck with me because it explained how in today’s society, discrimination not only targets heavier women, but thin women as well.
Dr. Rebecca Puhl of Yale University teamed up with Glamour Magazine to create a study focused on bodyweight stereotypes and the common biases associated with slender and overweight women. The study showed that the negative stereotypes most often associated with overweight women included “slow,” “sloppy” and “undisciplined,” while those associated with slim women included “bitchy,” “controlling” and “self-centered.” Even more surprising, the study revealed that slender women view other slim women as “superficial” and “conceited,” and similarly, overweight women view other heavier women as “undisciplined” and “lazy.” So regardless of body shape or weight the detrimental stereotyping still holds true.
We need to break this brutal cycle of constantly stereotyping one another. Forming judgments without ever engaging in a conversation or truly getting to know another person only proves degrading and destructive for both parties. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done it in the past; in fact, I can’t think of anyone I know who hasn’t. Making a quick judgment about another woman based off of her body and appearance has sadly become a normal part of the society we live in today. And if you happen to be an exception to this all too common habit, I truly do applaud you.
Whether you whisper, “She looks like a huge bitch,” to your friend at a party or silently judge the overweight woman next to you in line at Meijer, you are unfairly stereotyping a woman for her body and only adding to this already vicious pattern.
Just because you’re slim doesn’t mean you’re a conceited bitch, and it’s unfair to assume that all heavier women are undisciplined slobs. So why do we think it’s OK to negatively stereotype people we’ve never met or even talked to before?
The world in which we live today places a huge emphasis on body size and shape. Whether it’s the super-slender models we see on the runway or the pictures of celebrities airbrushed to perfection in magazines, this unrealistic representation of woman in the media is unhealthy and detrimental to the minds of young women. In today’s culture, so many women aim for the “perfect body” through dangerous plastic surgery and intense dieting. This concept of the ideal beach bod, however, is completely unrealistic considering we are all shaped differently and have unique traits and characteristics.
If you’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to sit through an episode of E!’s reality show “Bridalplasty,” then I’m sure you know firsthand just how absurd the series is. On the show brides-to-be “compete for head-to-toe plastic surgery” and the chance to become the “perfect bride.” Both overweight and thin contestants compete against each other for the chance to win liposuction, breast implants or, my personal favorite, an invitation to an “exclusive injectables party.”
The insane message this show communicates to its viewers is that the only way to be a happy bride is to be a perfect one, which is attainable solely through mass amounts of plastic surgery and Botox injections. Maybe it’s just me, but the concept of “Bridalplasty” as a whole seems completely degrading to all women involved, especially those viewing it on television.
We need to stand up to the unrealistic representation of women in the media and work to break this vicious cycle of stereotyping one another based on appearance and body size. We’re worth more than this and deserve to be judged by our individuality and intelligence, not our body weight.
If we want to change society’s norms, it needs to start with us. Think twice the next time you’re about to silently judge someone for her body, and speak up when you hear your friends stereotyping girls they barely know. It’s time to stop assuming the skinny girl sitting next to you in class is a superficial bitch or that the heavier girl across from you at the library is a lazy slob. Instead of fighting this battle against one another, we should be working together to put an end to it.
Sarah Skaluba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.