Our society has a very negative view of overweight and obesity. They tell us that being fat is an extremely unattractive and undesirable way to be and is a state to be avoided at all cost. This hostility towards fatness has been compared to other common social prejudices, and the striking conclusion drawn is that anti-fat attitudes are currently at the stage that racism was some fifty years ago; namely, that anti-fat attitudes are overt, expressible and widely held (Crandall, 1994). More negative characteristics are associated with being fat than nearly any other stigma (Allon, 1982 as cited in Crandall & Biernat, 1990). An anti-fat attitude (or fatism) can be defined as a stereotype, prejudice, or discrimination based solely on an individuals perceived membership in a specific social group. Understanding the research that has uncovered the anti-fat sentiments that are held in our society is extremely important, as this provides some glimmer of insight into both the origin of the problem and possible means of eradication.
Anti-fat biases are entrenched within our society, and therefore delving to the roots of their origin is a daunting task. Studies repeatedly indicate the pervasive nature of this issue, and reveal the negativity that is closely associated with these perceptions. Interestingly, studies indicate a definitive unconscious component to anti-fat biases, which serves to complicate the issue even further.
Constructs of obesity Stereotyping / Anti-fat Attitudes
Understanding how society expresses biases against obese individuals requires an understanding of the constructs of anti-fat attitudes. In other words, what is the basis of such biases? What is it about our society that creates these impressions and opinions in the first place?
It is important to understand that the degree to which issues of physical appearance are engraved in our society is indeed significant.