The Top 10 Most Offensive Stereotypes I Hear as a Plus-Sized Woman
It’s hard enough dealing with issues of image when you’re a woman. Everywhere you look there are air-brushed models, unrealistic representations, and judgment. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized the falsehood of these things and have moved on from comparing myself to models and actors.
As a plus-sized woman, however, I’m frequently annoyed with stereotypes and assumptions about us. It’s time us big girls spoke up and were heard.
I recently was disappointed when a well-known writers’ conference had the whistle blown on them (justifiably so) for deciding not to bring a staff member back for this year’s event because of her size. This happens every day, and it has happened to me.
There are many different reasons someone could be overweight, which is why the stereotypes are so aggravating. But I think it’s safe to say that generalizing any group of people is ignorant and wrong and dangerous. Overweight women (and men) are no exception.
Below are the top 10 most offensive stereotypes I’ve experienced and what I think people should know about them.
1. We’re always eating.
Think of the TV sitcom where the token fat person is always shoving their face and has no self-control. This is partially a lazy way of writing for a cheap laugh. But it’s a common stereotype, and it’s annoying. And is it really all that funny? Hasn’t this joke been run into the ground enough already?
2. We’re all lazy.
We’re also not all lazy or inactive people. I’m busy from the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning until my head hits the pillow at night. I know of many other overweight people who are the same way. Just because we’re not hanging out at the gym like it’s a hobby doesn’t mean we’re sitting on our butts eating candy all day.
3. We’re all sick as a result of our weight.
We’re not all wracked with health problems, either. I realize being overweight can increase the risk of a multitude of diseases and issues (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). But it’s not a guarantee, and you can’t assume an overweight person has these challenges.
I remember when I first became pregnant with my son. I was 37 years old and overweight. Don’t think I didn’t notice the up-and-down eyeball assessments I was getting. I wanted to tell them, “Yes! I’m aware I’m fat and you think I’m as old as Methuselah to be giving birth, but I’m not irresponsible, and I will take good care of myself and my child!”
I’m not giving advice on this in any way, shape or form. See your doctor for that. But yes, I had a healthy pregnancy and child. I ate healthy and had great prenatal care. But I could have done without all the judgment.
4. We’re jealous of thin people.
Not long ago, someone at work (who happens to be thin) made a big point in speaking to me to go on and on about how fat she thinks she’s getting. It’s clear I’m much heavier than she is, and she was speaking only to me at the time. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this type of thing said to me.
When someone who is obviously quite thin says this to someone who is obviously heavier, the first thing that comes to mind is they want you to say, “Oh, I wish I was as thin as you are! You aren’t fat at all!” It’s a fish for a compliment.
Here’s the thing: I don’t care about who is thinner than I am. I’m not comparing myself to them! We are not all jealous of thin people.
5. We all have low self-esteem and feel awful about ourselves.
We don’t all have low self-esteem, and we’re not all depressed. In fact, even though I’m currently almost at my highest weight (and I’m aging), I feel better about myself than I ever have.
I realize what people find attractive can vary dramatically. The only person I truly care about being attracted to me is my husband, and he’s not complaining.
I once had a wellness coordinator where I work tell me “you’re worth it” as if she assumed just because I was fat, I didn’t think I did deserve to pursue whatever I felt was good for me.
6. We don’t know we’re fat.
I’ve had more than one person in my life feel the need to point out to me that I’m fat. We don’t need for people to make us aware of being overweight. We’re perfectly capable of knowing this on our own, and believe me – we know it.
7. We don’t know how to lose weight ourselves.
We don’t need to be enlightened with unsolicited advice as if we aren’t aware you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. We aren’t all completely helpless in this capacity, and for many of us, if want to lose weight bad enough, we’ll do it!
We aren’t all completely ignorant on how to lose weight. Sure, there are educated professionals who are skillful and experienced in helping people reach their goals. Nutritionists, personal trainers, coaches, etc. I’m not at all saying they’re not important or valuable. What I mean is, we don’t need the “stink eye” if we happen to indulge in seconds or have a dessert.
I once had a co-worker show me her sandwich, which had plenty of vegetables on it, and say, “Oh, look at that. Doesn’t that look nice, colorful and delicious with all of those vegetables?” She said this to me as if I was a child. I am sure of her patronizing agenda because of other things she’d said to me in the past.
8. We’re all jolly slobs.
Is it really that funny for so many silly, bumbling TV, book and movie characters to be chubby? Do they so often need to be represented as simple-minded, adorable goofballs? We aren’t all uneducated yet loveable fools. Think of the chunky kid in the kid’s adventure movie who always needs to be rescued or the portly cartoon mouse always lagging behind…you get the picture.
Some of us are educated, successful professionals. We’re goal-oriented and have a lot to offer an organization with our well-developed careers.
9. If we’re overweight, we must be unhygienic.
We also are no less likely to look or dress professionally to present ourselves well. I once had a family member tell me about someone they thought seemed unhygienic (and happened to be overweight) by saying, “Well, I know fat smells…” My eyes about rolled out of my head. I’ve been around too many stinky skinny people for this to be an absolute!
We know this is a common stereotype or we wouldn’t see the slob character in a TV show or movie portrayed as fat. You’ve seen it: stains on their shirt, wrinkled clothes, general unkempt appearance. This shouldn’t even have to be said, but not every overweight person is unhygienic (for crying out loud…)
10. That it’s anyone else’s business or that discrimination should be tolerated.
What I want to say to these creators of the stereotypes is this: if it doesn’t affect you, don’t judge. It’s not really anyone else’s business what someone weighs or what size they wear. It’s not OK to transfer low self-esteem toward a fat person to make you feel better about yourself.
Stereotypes and assumptions are destructive. This is where discrimination is born. This is how we are passed over for promotions and opportunity. It’s not OK to discriminate against someone for any reason, and size is not an exception.
It’s out there. The challenge is real. It’s time we spoke out.
Getty image by Mik122