Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Weightism...what's up?

Making comments about other people's appearance, what is it about? We are often socialized to give one another compliments on appearance.

"Oh, your hair looks so nice today." "You look great."

On and on it goes. I've been asking lately what people have heard in the way of body comments, it is bizarre.

Yesterday I addressed the shame and stigma that larger sized people face by referencing a NY Times article about Gabby Sidibe.

Today I want to respond to a respond to a readers comments on the discrimination felt by the underweight population. Same thing - different flavor.

Here are some of her thoughts (used of course with her permission):
I read your status on face book, and the linked article, about shame and stigma being used in dealing with obesity. The article got me thinking about another problem on the opposite end of the scale that I’ve experienced but never read anything about.

The obese are discriminated against, but also the extremely underweight are. I have found that people who would normally try to be politically correct when around an overweight person will come right up to an underweight person and tell them what they think. They will openly and bluntly call the person a skeleton, and tell the person that no one wants to see bones, tell them they are going to die if they don’t gain weight, tell them they need to be in the hospital, tell them they look terrible and sick. Our doctors have already warned us of the risks, it is not something we should have to hear when we go to church or come across friends. All of these things may be true, but since the person saying them has no medical background it is none of their business, and is not helpful. It seems as though some people feel that with overweight people they shouldn’t say rude comments directly to them, but they feel it is ok to talk behind their back, but they feel that with underweight people it is ok to state their opinions openly right to them. There is still a lot of stigma and shame and prejudice attached to being overweight, but many people talk behind the persons back due to wanting to appear politically correct and socially proper, but with persons underweight there is no social expectations of what is proper and what is rude. Society has said it’s rude to say you are fat, but society has never told people it is also rude to say you are too skinny, you look gross. As I mentioned I’ve never read anything on underweight bashing being a problem, but it does exist. It will be nice when some day society accepts the person without feeling a need to comment on their weight at all.

I responded to her by saying, "...have heard many people share about folks feeling it is okay to make comments about a thin person's body...maybe one day people will no longer feel a need to make comments about another's I dreaming?"

To which reader replied:

That would be nice if some day people can appreciate the many varieties of personalities and body types without feeling a need to make themselves feel better through comparing.

Thoughts? How about health care providers? Are you stumped as to how to address health issues without being rude about the patient's appearance?

Thanks reader for sharing your perspectives. I welcome comments here.

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