In today’s fat discrimination news: A new study says that male jurors are more likely to find fat women guilty. And just to make you feel a little sadder, the results also suggest that men’s BMI bias involves a heavy dose of gender discrimination, too.
The study, which was run by a group of Yale psychologists, went as follows: They used 471 study subjects of varying age, weight, and gender. They then asked them to play jury: They were all told about a case of check fraud, then shown one of four pictures of defendants: a lean male, lean female, obese male, or obese female. They were then asked to rate their culpability on a scale of one to five.
Amongst the jurors, women showed no significant bias for or against the obese woman or man. Male jurors didn’t show a bias toward the obese man, either, but they did show a clear bias against the obese woman. And worse: Lean male jurors were even more likely to find the obese woman guilty of check fraud, and they also rated her more likely than the lean woman to be a repeat offender.
The study’s authors concluded that their results “indicate that both weight and gender of a defendant may affect juror perceptions of guilt and responsibility.” Dr. Natasha Schvey, one of the study’s authors, told Slate her theory that “stereotypes about obese people paint them as greedy, selfish, and thus prone to defrauding checks.”
The fact that anti-fat attitudes exist isn’t all that surprising, but the study highlights some of the more disturbing trends, especially as they relate to gender discrimination. Obesity has been shown to be associated with negative personality traits, including a lack of control, and it’s also been proven that many people associate being obese with being of a lower socioeconomic class (and therefore, more likely to commit crime or commit check fraud–or so goes that line of thinking). None of that is ok, but the fact that we stigmatize obese women so much more than obese men also points out all the disturbing standards we hold for women–and their bodies–that just don’t apply to men.
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