In 2005, psychology professor and researcher Kelly D. Brownell, along with Rebecca Puhl, Marlene Schwartz and Leslie Rudd published a book called Weight Bias: Nature, Consequences and Remedies.
In this work, an idea was put forward that has been taken up by many social movements in recent years: although obesity is a health problem, some of its drawbacks are not limited to the physical discomfort it produces. There is an extra discomfort, of a psychological type, that is produced by a discriminatory bias against overweight people: fat-phobia .
What is fat-phobia?
The concept of gordophobia serves to designate an automatic and usually unconscious bias that leads to discrimination, objectification and underestimation of overweight people, especially if those people are women.
Fat people are automatically associated with a lack of self-esteem, difficulties in living a satisfying sexuality and the need to draw attention to themselves by working hard. In short, it is understood that these people leave with a definite disadvantage that makes them worth less because they cannot “compete” with the rest. Seen through the glasses of gordophobia, these people are perceived as desperate individuals, who will accept worse treatment both informally and formally, and who will be willing to be more exploited in the workplace.
It is, in short, a way of thinking that is characterized by making obese people carry a social stigma. This means that it is not part of a clinical picture, as agoraphobia is, for example.In fat-phobia, being overweight is seen as an excuse to pass off certain people as another moral standard. Somehow, aesthetics dictates the kind of ethics that applies to this minority . Because overweight people are a minority, right?
It’s getting easier to be obese
Gordophobia has a paradoxical aspect. Although obese people are considered somewhat strange and less valuable because they are outside the statistical normality, this same statistical normality is increasingly reduced, especially in the case of women .
While from a medical point of view the standards on what is and what is not obesity are well founded and based on scientific knowledge of what a healthy body looks like, beyond these specialized and professional settings being fat is increasingly the norm. It is not that women are eating worse and worse, it is that the threshold about what is considered obesity is getting lower and lower, it is very easy to cross it.
Even in the world of models, slightly departing from the dictates of beauty can give rise to conflict. Ask Iskra Lawrence, for example, who is especially known for her responses to “accusations” about her weight. The fact that even these women have to deal with these deals serves to give them an idea of what anonymous women have to endure, and of how much or how little they have to endure from the beauty canon.
The word “fat” is taboo
Gordophobia has left such a powerful mark on our culture that even the concept it alludes to is taboo. The fashion industry has had to invent a thousand and one neologisms and euphemisms to refer to large sizes and the morphology of women who, from other contexts, are accused of being fat: curvy, plump, big size… linguistic formulas that are intuitively artificial and that, in a certain way, confer greater strength to the term “fat” due to its sonorous absence.
That is why certain social movements linked to feminism have decided to begin to fight against gordophobia by reappropriating the term “fat” and displaying it with pride. This is a political strategy that is reminiscent of a proposal in psycholinguistics known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which, quite simply, consists of the idea that the way language is used shapes the way we think.
This hypothesis may or may not be true (at present it does not have much empirical support), but beyond this we can imagine that reappropriating that word may be a way to defend oneself from fat-phobia by fighting on one’s own ground. It is clear that the fight for equality involves making these irrational biases disappear, which are psychological but also socially rooted, and which only hinder human relations. And it is also expensive that there is still a long way to go.
Defending the possibility that all people can live in a healthy way does not mean stigmatizing the one who is different .