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“Fat Shaming” And Discrimination

(source: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity)

(source: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity)

Imagine this scenario. You’re a hard worker who’s been with an employer for a long time. But year after year, you never get promoted. Eventually, for other reasons, you decide to change your life… part of which includes losing a lot of weight. A few months later, you suddenly get that promotion. Which feels great. But it also makes you wonder…was I passed over all those years because of my weight?

It’s not an unusual situation. In fact, complaints of bias against overweight and obese workers are increasing. For years, the Massachusetts state legislature has considered a bill that would include weight in the state’s anti-discrimination laws. But for the past 15 years, that bill has gone no where.

Until last month, when the bill sailed out of committee. It could come up for a full vote later this year. The sudden turnaround is spurred by many things, not the least of which is the fact that 70 percent of Americans are considered overweight.

Science is also changing its view on obesity. American society… perhaps not so much. What role should the law play here? Obesity is the next chapter in the evolution of anti-discrimination laws, and it’s an especially controversial and complicated one….because much of the debate comes down to the question of choice — can you choose to lose weight, and keep it off? Or do deeper biochemical factors determine your weight?

Guests

Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR’s CommonHealth blog. You can find her piece here.

Rebecca Puhl, deputy director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.

Jay Barrows, represents the 1st Bristol District.

 

 


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  • glenninboston

    Thank you for tackling this important topic.

    I am 100% against this law – where does it stop? The reality is that the abundance of research is that attractive people are preferentially treated in a whole host of situations, including getting ahead in the workplace. Can we say definitively that any discrimination is against obesity per se, or rather that being over-weight is considered unattractive? Can I get protected as a bald person? (please don’t)

    I also don’t believe in eliminating ‘personal responsibility’ from the equation. Let’s not over-state the role of biology or genetics – they certainly create a predisposition, but if personal behavior isn’t a factor, why were our grandparents not also obese?

    This is a cheap answer – the real problem of obesity requires a determined national approach which includes better regulation of advertising and calorically dense food availability.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is the wrong direction, a right idea taken too far.

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