Researchers call for fat-shaming to be made illegal

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Thursday, 11 October 2018, 12:44PM
Today is World Obesity Day and Otago University Researchers are demanding an end to fat stigma and discrimination. Photo / Getty Images
Today is World Obesity Day and Otago University Researchers are demanding an end to fat stigma and discrimination. Photo / Getty Images

Researchers from University of Otago and two other universities are calling for the Government and the media to help end "fat stigma" in society.

University of Otago senior lecturer Lesley Gray, Massey University senior lecturer Dr Cat Pause, and Victoria University of Wellington lecturer Caz Hales put out a joint statement today, World Obesity Day .

Ms Gray said in their statement, the trio made a deliberate choice to use the term "fat" rather than overweight because it had been reclaimed by fat activists.

"They prefer that as a designation."

The trio said they wanted to see the Government pass legislation to make it illegal to discriminate against fat people.

In the classroom, teachers needed to ensure stigma against fat people was not reinforced by course materials and lessons about bodies and health.

"Fat stigma contributes to decreased physical and mental wellbeing for fat people and presents a barrier for fat people to access evidence-based, bias-free healthcare."

The media had a role to play, with stories often containing negative stereotypes about fat people.

Ms Gray said frequent use of images of a "headless fatty, a fat person without a head" to accompany stories about "fatness" led to stigma.

"It allows the reader to consider fat people to be less than human."

Dr Pause said the media had  " a responsibility to tell stories that do not focus on fatness as a problem. Where are the positive stories about fat athletes or CEOs?"

In April, researchers held a seminar at the University of Otago's Wellington campus, to educate health and social care professionals on the stigma fat people faced. 

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