Saturday, February 9, 2013

Michelle Obama’s Butt, Chris Christie, and Fat Bias

I fell asleep with the television on again (such a bad habit), and I woke up to hear the panel of Fox News’ Red Eye discussing whether, if Chris Christie were a woman, we’d be hearing all this stuff about his weight. 

Each panel member said, no, of course not. If Chris Christie were a girl, it’d be completely unacceptable to talk about her appearance. As proof, somebody mentioned that coach who was suspended for saying that Michele Obama has a “fat butt,” and I don’t remember much else because (a) it was nearly 3:00 AM and (b) I’d already written this conversation off as stupid because … hello?? If Chris Christie were a girl, I’m pretty sure her large self wouldn’t have been voted Governor in the first place, okay? But that possibility had apparently escaped our panel’s attention, so I was done with them.

Hardy har har ...
(And by the way, that coach commented on a heck of a lot more than Michelle Obama’s behind. While his sidekick chimed in by calling Ms. Obama “a big fat gorilla,” the coach talked about how the country “is going in the wrong direction” and how he “[doesn’t] like being around queers.” 

Hmmm … well, I’d rather have a big ass than be a dumb ass, so how you like them apples, coach?)

But where was I? Oh yeah—bias against large women. 

So, I was totally taken aback that no member of the Red Eye panel considered the bias against large women during the commentary. Sigh. Exactly where have these people been?

For example, a recent Yale University study found that thin male jurors are more likely to convict a large woman than a large man, a thin man, or a thin woman. 

Repeat. Thin male jurors are more likely to convict a large woman than a large man, a thin man, or a thin woman. 

The abstract for the study, which appeared in the International Journal of Obesity, states, “The results of this novel study indicate that both weight and gender of a defendant may affect juror perceptions of guilt and responsibility.”  

The pretend female jurors in the study didn't display this bias, so that’s some good news. Why this bias exists in thin men is anyone’s guess, but it’s commonly perceived that obese people are slothful, greedy, and lacking in self-control, so of course they’d commit more crimes, right?

But this is nothing new. A 2008 study found that “society is less tolerant of weight gain in women” and that a man has to gain a lot more weight than a woman does before he experiences the same level of fat discrimination. 

And, a 2012 study found that some women still experience fat bias even after they lose the weight.

But if all that’s not bad enough, numerous studies suggest that many doctors don’t like fat patients in general, and guess what? They like fat female patients even less than fat male patients.

So, I’m sorry, but I think a conversation about whether Chris Christie’s weight critics are sexist is just silly. Christie may have to fend off rude comments about his weight, but he’s doing it from his Governor’s seat, and I doubt that a woman as large as he is would even have that option.

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