Recognizing Size Bias
By Shaunta Grimes on April 03, 2011
Gender bias refers to assumptions about men and women. Race bias does the same with regard to Caucasian and non-Caucasian populations.
And size bias refers to assumptions about fat and thin people.
Sometimes size bias is unconscious. Sometimes it's misguided tough love. Sometimes it hides. Sometimes it's so right in your face that it feels like a hard, sharp slap.
Size bias is fat people always being describe as gluttons.
Those headless fatty photos? The before pictures that are the photographic equivalent of a waa-waa-waa sad trombone followed by bright and shiny after photos? Size bias.
Size bias is the heroine always being tiny--and if she isn't, it's big news. It creates buzz. Because if there is a fat girl in a movie or in a book or on TV, she's the best friend. Sometimes they do us a double diversity favor and the best friend is a fat black girl.
Fat bias is assuming the fat one will make you laugh and will do anything to get laid.
All of those correlations being mistaken for causation that FA folks talk about? Those are examples of size bias, too.
Size bias assumes that anyone who doesn't fit the fat=unhealthy mold is an exception to the rule. It forgets that the mold itself often is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It also suggests that all a person has to do to be healthy is be thin, which we all know is a giant crock of shit.
Size bias says that fat women can't be strong and, conversely, that all thin women are fit.
The wide-eyed wonder, followed by the glint of skepticism I get when I tell someone that I'm not trying to lose weight is size bias. Because fat women try to lose weight. I would get the same response if I my weight was anywhere north of a supermodels. Fat women diet. It's what we do. It's as much women's work as doing the damned dishes and changing diapers, right?
We are so biased toward slenderness that some people consider weight loss a consolation prize for illness. Ever heard or read something like: I had the flu all week, but at least I lost five pounds. That's the mild version. (Have cancer? So sorry--but look at how thin you are! You look great!)
Fat women are expected to eat less in public, and we are expected to do it in a quiet and orderly fashion. We are expected to do this to combat the size bias that says that fatties are gluttons while skinnies are not. This particularly bizarre size bias says that women indulging in the sensual process of eating are sexy, as long as they are also very thin. It's a convoluted mess.
Size bias assumes that everyone is either thin or wants to be.
Size bias assumes that fat people are both unhappy and jolly, a confusing state that could be reversed with successful dieting.
Size bias assumes that thin people have nothing to worry about.
Size bias assumes that fat people eat McDonald's several times a week and that thin people shop at Whole Foods and let nothing non-organic pass their lips.
Size bias assumes that fat people are hiding behind their blubber and would blossom if only we ate less and exercised more, which also assumes that thin people have no barrier to all the wonders and joys of the world.
The idea that fat people are lazy, don't care about how much of the health care they're consuming and that they are stealing tax dollars right from the mouth's of thin people's babies is fat bias. So is the assumption that a thin person is not at risk for "life-style diseases."
When a thin person is praised for her restraint, this is size bias. So is the look you get from your mother when you bite into a donut in front of her.
Fighting against any kind of bias requires critical thinking. If you want to combat it, you have to become aware of your own biases. You have to look at any you come across through the lens of skepticism. (ALL fat people are unhealthy? We're ALL going to die early and painfully? Really?) Blanket assumptions a good indicator of bias.
Dig a little deeper when you read a study or hear someone suggest that you are on the verge of death--even if that expert is your doctor or the First Lady of the United States.