Weighed Down

Living in Boulder, I can definitely say that this city touts a healthy lifestyle. While the implementation of healthful living is by no means bad, I have noticed a malicious affect: obese individuals often feel judged by thinner individuals because of their weight. I have even had a few friends who have left CU because they felt so judged and ostracized.

“Fat shaming,” or the act of treating obese individuals differently because of their weight, isn’t a new phenomenon. Journalists have been reporting on fat shaming for some years now. While I believe that coverage of fat shaming has been sufficient, I don’t think that enough has been done to help explain why these events occur. To be clear, I am only going to discuss incidences that have happened in contemporary America.

Symbolic anthropology can help partly explain why fat shaming occurs. In all societies, people give objects and people symbolic meaning. While inanimate objects such as the American flag symbolize freedom, obese individuals can also be symbolic. To some, obese individuals symbolize laziness and undisciplined. Take for example psychology professor Geoffrey Miller. In August, the Huffington Post[1] reported that Miller had posted this tweet, “Dear obese Ph.D. applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth.” This isn’t just one man’s opinion, but a widespread one. I have met many people that identify with Miller’s opinion. Symbols attributed to obesity contribute to fat shaming because of the negative connotations.

Ruth Benedict’s culture and personality theory adds another dimension to fat shaming analysis. This theory asserts that every culture creates a certain type of individual that is valued. If an individual goes against established cultural norms, then “normal” individuals treat them differently. This theory is demonstrated through weight-based discrimination in the workplace. It was reported in a 2008 Forbes article, “Is Weight Affecting Your Career?”[2] that when a white, obese woman gains 64 pounds, her income drops 9%. This statistic was taken from a 2004 Cornell University study. It has also been shown that obese individuals are less likely to be hired when a thinner individual is applying for the same job. The negative correlation between weight and the likelihood of getting the desired job was reported in a 2002 The New York Times article, “The Trials of Job Hunting Beyond a Certain Size.”[3] The article highlighted Robert Diaz, an obese individual who attempted to get a job. Before a job interview, Diaz would try to make himself appear thinner. Despite his attempts, Diaz reported that the interview was “usually…over almost as soon as they [saw] me.”

Because of how American culture values the thin, and toned body, and the hardworking individual, it’s no wonder why American society is rejecting obese individuals. American culture wants the individual to have this most often times unattainable body type. A person who is not even astronomically close to this body type is rejected and even denied jobs over a thinner individual.

—Dallas M.

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42 Responses to Weighed Down

  1. Stephanie Grossart says:

    Colorado itself is a very athletic outdoorsy place. Therefore many people who are outdoorsy and athletic live here. There will always be a minority that is ostracized in a community. I agree with you that people who weigh more do feel judged by this over exercised town. Im sorry that those people who moved out of boulder resorted to that decision. I don’t think that was the best way to deal with a problem like that. As much as they feel judged it is a nice nudge to move into a healthy lifestyle. Fat shaming is not an ok thing to do but that is unfortunately our society. In other parts of the world being a heavier person is admired. We would have to look at what caused our society to view larger people this way.

  2. Emma Simpleman says:

    This article definitely opened my eyes to how obese people are treated in America. It is interesting to see how people and their weight can be given connotations of being lazy, although it is sad to see how that is how they are seen, rather than their characteristics of being smart, goal-oriented, etc. It was also surprising to hear that a person’s income can drop once they gain weight, which is something I have never heard, or thought about before.

  3. Abi Peters says:

    Using symbolic anthropology and personality and culture theory makes so much sense in regards to a person’s looks. I have always enjoyed learning about social history; basically I love learning about cultures: old and new! A striking element throughout history is how the “desired” look whether it be skin color or weight constantly changes. For instance being tan in higher latitude cultures, especially those of Europe, is now associated with being wealthy and having the time to go to the beach and get tan. Previously though being tan represented being in the fields all day working; being tan was representative of being poor. Even the question of weight today is different across the United States. Here in Boulder we value being slim, but in extremely poor parts of the south or Appalachia being fat is desired as it means that the person has enough food. Interesting how it can change!

    • Alana McDowell says:

      Your comment made me think about the culture of Mauritania where women are more desirable the fatter they are. Unfortunately this is so strong a sentiment that mothers force their daughters to gorge themselves on cream and food in hopes that they will fatten dramatically. It’s interesting how certain things (like obesity) can be such symbols in 2 cultures, yet be symbolizing completely different things. Here, because of media and the move towards a more active and health conscious lifestyle (especially here in Boulder) the symbolism of obesity is almost exclusively negative. In Mauritania, obesity is a sign that one has wealth and land, which is cultural significant due to the history of droughts and hunger in that region. It might be worthwhile to look at how the symbolism of obesity varies in across the world’s cultures, and what the implications of those meanings are for the people who live in those societies. For Americans, being obese means facing difficult social circumstances. In Mauritania, normal girls are force fed, and all women are discouraged from exercising. What differences!!

  4. Colleen Godfrey says:

    Culture and personality theory works perfectly when researching weight stereotypes in America. Through media and other forms of publication an unattainable body image ideal has been created for men and women alike. Different countries value different looks and America’s is the unhealthy, thin model or the muscular, macho-man. When someone doesn’t fit into those categories or aren’t trying to change themselves to look like that they are judged harshly. Some obese individuals are that size due to health issues that are out of their control. Not all heavy people are heavy because of a lack of willpower and no person’s ability to work should be based off how they look. This is another form of discrimination that if it continues to get worse could become a right’s movement.

    • Maiji Castro says:

      I agree that this topic could be looked at perfectly through culture and personality theory, especially considering the extreme desired body stereotypes that exist in the United States. You say that United States culture has created an unattainable body ideal for both men and women, and I agree. However, I think the idea of the ideal body is more prevalent for women than men. Women are bombarded every day with images of the ideal body type and when women go on a quest to reach that goal they result to extreme measures. Women are more likely to get plastic surgery to alter their appearance and go on extreme diets to attain the perfect figure. And this extreme stereotype leaves no room for obese individuals to be accepted in American society.

      • Brianne Hart says:

        I agree with both Maiji and Colleen’s comments, culture and personality works really well for the topic of fat shaming and like Maiji, I think women are held to a higher idea of the ideal body type. Therefore, I think viewing fat shaming from a feminist anthropologist view would be really interesting. I also come across pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the internet and they break down her weight, height, and pant size- all of which are much larger than today’s “accepted” weight and pant size for women. A feminist anthropologist might look at how fat shaming varies from women to men as well as looking at how fat shaming has changed over the years. As the author stated, there is a big problem in Boulder with fat shaming but it’s definitely problem that the rest of the U.S. faces but it’s just interesting how women seem to get the harsher end of “fat shaming.”

    • Megan Salzer says:

      This article really opened my eyes to how judged people are around this area based on their appearances. While do agree with Colleen, Maiji, and Brianne’s comments, culture and personality was excellently applied to the topic of fat shaming I disagree with the idea that all women are held to higher standard than men are. I know we women often times feel like we are being judged based on our appearances, and while we might not strive for the same body image, men feel this pressure too. By applying the feminist perspective with this idea I have observed that around Boulder the ideal woman should be lean and fit while the ideal man should be toned, buff, well-dressed, clean, polite, funny, spontaneous, romantic, friendly, etc. Although these might include other stereotypes besides the physical ones of the ideal Boulderite, I know if a guy doesn’t have all the attributes listed, some girls will over look them. While girls may feel more pressure from the media to appear a particular way, I believe men in Boulder also feel this pressure. With all the girls striving their best to look their best, guys feel the pressure to follow in suit.

  5. Greyden H says:

    I enjoyed the authors idea of how people in society can give other people in society symbolic meaning. I had never thought of this before, but I can see how it is true. Creating people to be your idol, in a sense, is associating a symbolic meaning with them. I now see how people can create negative symbols of obese people. I can’t like when I say that I believe obese people are lazy and undisciplined. I understand certain biological circumstances that cause obesity, but because I love exercise and most of all the gym, I can’t understand how others don’t see it as enjoyable either. I do like how the author chose not to use cultural relativism in their paper because this would have been to easy. It is interesting how our country value thin bodies so much, to the detriment of people’s well being and character. In most other countries around the world, being obese is not seen as negatively as it is in the U.S.

  6. Allison Kessler says:

    This was spot on and I can understand the overwhelming feeling of coming to a university like CU where a wide majority are fit. It is very true that through media today it is hard to ‘program’ children growing up that is it okay for others to have a different body shape of size. Although obesity has a negative connotation here, in Europe a few hundred years back you would be considered beautiful if you had ‘meat on your bones’ because it was a sign of wealth so that you wouldn’t starve and had a supply of meat and food. I sometimes question how that idea has not carried over to America although the harsh truth is that times have flipped to economy. Those with much money can now buy the healthier food from sprouts or whole foods while a large majority of impoverished are forced to eat fatty food from the dollar menu so there is a class-like hierarchical system shown today between sizes and the amount of judgment handed out.

  7. Drake Williams says:

    I agree that Americans have a lot to say about peoples weight and size and that it is mostly uncalled for and generally nasty. We have, at this point, set an unprecedented standard for what you have called “health.” I think the majority of people who choose to say such nasty things about overweight individuals are, in fact, not actually all that healthy. There are a lot of people in the fitness community who would describe these “haters” as “fat skinny” people. This means that the people are thin and appear to be “fit” when in reality they have a body fat percentage about equal to someone who weighs 40 pounds more than them.
    The U.S, with it’s photoshop, modelling agencies, and notoriously nearly naked billboards, has set an impossible standard for beauty. One’s intellectual ability should not be judged based on a persons relative size to their interviewer, but at the same time, everyone needs to focus more on their own health than on all the other impossible standards to live up to.

  8. dianamorse says:

    Where to begin…
    There were a couple parts in this essay that made me say “Woah”, and in a bad way. If this essay is trying to be “body-positive” and against fat shaming, then some of the language needs to change. “A person who is not even astronomically close to this body type…” Poor word choice in “astronomically”. Are we talking about people or Galactus?

    The problem, in my opinion, isn’t just in fat shaming, but in overall body expectations. Some people judge just about anyone, regardless of their body type. “Too fat” and “too skinny” are really the same problem. It’s not just the media, as some like to say. If the media is truly to blame, why is it such a personal problem. The individual is just as much at fault as the media for perpetuating negative body image stereotypes. It’s not always about eating disorders, either. Anyone who takes the time to get to know me personally would know where my weight comes from.

    To sum up my soap box, the problems with fat shaming aren’t just fat problems, they are overall body image problems that other people spread to their victims. The bullying needs to end, for all demographics.

    • Colton Erickson says:

      I don’t think that the word “astronomically” was in any way meant to offend and is simply there to prove the point that everyone, not just overweight people, are held to an extremely high and often unachievable standard. It’s true, like you said, people will judge just about anyone. I also agree that it is not just a media problem, it is a pervasive ideal within our culture that forms individuals who are brought up to believe that they should look skinny and healthy to be “normal” or “attractive.” It is an idea that is drilled into our heads through social and media discourse over the span of our lives. That is why I think that culture and personality was such a brilliant theory to use in this piece. Even more interesting though, skinny has not always been attractive here in the United States. Back during most of the first half of the 20th century, a woman was considered more attractive if they were close to or just a little overweight.

  9. Blaine Wajdowicz says:

    There is a health movement gaining popularity in practice among health practitioners known as “Health At Every Size.” This principle is an example of practice theory in action. The hegemonic structure of our society as discussed above is to praise a thinner body appearance. Often times, health literature correlates disease and mortality with weight, and stresses the importance of losing weight. Health at every size providers, however, focus on educating their patients to make healthier life choices and not assuming that because someone is overweight they are “diseased.” This rejection of traditional thought and practice regarding health and weight is growing in popularity.

  10. Scott MacDonald says:

    “Fat shaming” is definitely an issue of how much of a value people (mostly in America) put on “perfection” and having that perfect body, as you alluded to in your concluding sentences. It’s unfortunate that people will hurt others or put them down just because they don’t look like a model or have the physique of an Olympic athlete. But again, the value we hold in society determines what we focus all of our media and personal attention to.

  11. Alyssa Ferguson says:

    Your use of the culture and personality was wonderful. I think that most of us fail to see how much of an impact our body type has on us on a professional level. Once you pointed it out, I see how true it is. Most places you go, you are surrounded by fit employees. There are some companies that even offer “running breaks” to keep their employees healthy. It may be that most of these companies happen to be in the Boulder/Denver area and that is the thinnest area in the United States but I still think it shows how much of an importance it has become in our society to be fit and thin. Also, when you walk in to a doctors office and hospital, its hard to take someone seriously when you can tell that they are not healthy. I think that our obsession (if its safe to call it that) has had emotional consequences on many individuals. Suddenly its not only the qualification and the education that employers value but it has also become about physical appearance and size.

  12. katie van amson says:

    I really like that someone chose to write about this topic because I have defiantly noticed this fat shaming phenomenon growing in recent years. It seems like ever since the movie supersize me came out all that you hear about it how many calories are in things, and trans fats, and how healthy everything is. I don’t like it, ever since finding out that as a whole America has a weight problem everyone is obsessed with it, no matter their weight. And people who are really overweight are often times assumed to be lazy or have no self control. This is wrong, just like anything else you never know a persons story and individuals should never judge based on something that shallow and something thats often times a result of something bad that happened to that person or their family. And I also agree with many of the comments before me saying pretty much how skinny isn’t healthy. I know multiple people that weigh the same as me who look completely different, more and less healthy. I think that health should be less defined by a number on a scale and more just how you feel about yourself. I liked how you talked about weight as a symbol in the symbolic anthropology point, and I feel like you can kind of apply that to many physical features, like hair color, skin color, etc. It’s interesting to think about.

  13. Anastasia M. says:

    This topic is extremely relevant to Boulder and the common Boulder lifestyle, and I give you kudos for your unbiased or opinionated stance. In addition to the ideas you have brought up with symbolic, as well as culture and personality theory, I feel as though some people may see an unhealthy body as a reflection of an unhealthy mind, and thus an unfit worker. But I wonder, if you carry your body, regardless of size or weight, with confidence and energy, how does that effect your presence in an interview? It is said that taller men and women put forth a demand for respect and attention just with their body type alone, could the same be said for overweight people? Their bodies do draw attention to themselves, so maybe with the right confidence, this body type could be a blessing.

    • Charles says:

      I think it is not simply your body type that gains respect but rather one’s body type affects the way in which they develop their personality. That being said I agree that perhaps someone’s attitude, regardless of size, is a key factor in getting jobs or demanding respect. In that way, looking at this using culture and personal theory, it could be said that while the body type is something that Americans value what is really valued over body image is personality.

  14. Rachael Sheehy says:

    One could also utilize practice theory to evaluate fat shaming as one of the behaviors that Boulderites, and many other groups, are perhaps shamed to admit is happening. As the so called “liberal epicenter of Colorado, ” Boulder often advertises itself as extremely tolerant, and while that tolerance is apparent to many visitors and residents, it is not unanimous. This practice of fat shaming illustrates a conflict between what is upheld as appropriate and what may be more deeply embedded into individual’s mindsets. Growing up, I, like many of my peers, experienced a stigma put on overweight or obese individuals, the source of which was my parents. Though the discrimination against these individuals was explicitly forbidden, the ability to transition to a judgement free mindset is difficult because this outlook has been ingrained into many of us since our formative years. Though this does not mitigate the fault in fat shaming, just as growing up in a racist environment does not grant impunity from being racist, it is important ti consider as one of perhaps the most poignant sources of fat shaming.

  15. Jacklynn Sanchez says:

    “Fat Shaming” is an awful awful thing, because many “obese” individuals are they way they are because of genetics or other body implications. Practice theory could have also been used when arguing this because in America we hold the promise of individuality and being different and original, and yet individuals get upset and shame those who are overweight or not to the ideal standard. We say that we don’t care what others look like, but the media holds the truth of what we really want people to look like, which is not okay.

  16. Gabe DuPont says:

    This was an interesting essay to read. Growing up in Boulder, I can definitely notice a difference in the lifestyle when you travel elsewhere in the U.S. Obesity is pandemic in our country, so this is an important issue to tackle. For the 1st time in hundreds of years, children born in the United States have a lower life expectancy than their parents, and that is directly correlated to Type 1 Diabetes, one of the many risks of obesity. While it is wrong to judge others based on their weight, one cannot deny that this national pandemic needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. Overall, this was a good essay and I commend you for your courage to take on this sensitive subject.

    • Ashley Sanks says:

      Gabe, I completely understand where you are coming from with the obesity pandemic for both children and adults in the United States. Obviously the issue of obesity is becoming more global (Mexico for example), but for this essay it is easier to focus on the states themselves. I think that you may have missed a point in your perception of the obesity issue because it is not just citizens at fault.
      I think you could sum this up a bit by using Practice Theory. From the outside, what is perceived? People ‘not taking care of their bodies’ by choosing to eat specific foods and not go to the gym, hike a mountain, whatever. However, looking closer, what about socio-economic status? People who are impoverished in an inner-city for example, live in food deserts where the closest actual grocery store is miles away, and far more expensive than a Big Mac or Jr. Whopper. When the government subsidizes meat and other products for huge calorie whopping foods (looking at fast food specifically), but lets a price for a typical salad fall around 8 dollars, people have to make a choice to eat or not. The obesity pandemic is a crisis in the United States, no doubt. But more so than individuals at fault, it is worthwhile to look at what institutional factors have been set up that play into it as well.

  17. Steve Goddard says:

    I often think of this topic in Boulder since moving out here it 2008. When you mentioned that people often associate being obese with laziness and being undisciplined, it got me wondering if that stigma will ever go away. In contemporary society we have established that obesity can be linked directly to genetics, but I don’t know if people will ever stop “fat shaming” because of that. In a place where overweight people are a minority, It’s hard to imagine too much will change, which is sad. Applying the historic turn to this topic could help us better understand where this ostracizing derived from and why. What specific cultural events led to people thinking this way? I always assume that in American culture it stemmed from fashion and media, which is omnipotent in todays society.

    I am curious what a cultural ecologist might say about obesity in America. Is it because there is such an availability of cheap and fatty foods that people find themselves overeating. Comparing for example how people barely eat in Tibet during the winter and how the U.S is completely opposite, might shed some light into the cultural effects of obesity around the globe.

    Good Stuff!

    • Martha Daley says:

      I agree with a lot of what you have to say, Steve, and wanted to add a few things. I agree in that I think it would be interesting to look at how the Historic Turn could be applied to the type of body valued by our current society, for if you look back, not even that far, just to the 1950s, you see bodies like Marilyn Monroe valued, who had a healthy, curvy body, very different from the skin-and-bone thinness dominating the runway these days which was prompted in the 60s from models like Twiggy, who was known for her slim frame. I also think it would be interesting to look at this with cultural ecology, but what you’re talking about sounds you would use political economy as well. The fact that many fattening foods, such as high fructose corn syrup, have come to be cheaper and more available because of high government subsidies, and therefore are consumed by the lower-class members of society who cannot afford to eat anything else would be interesting to look at through political economic theory.

  18. Amanda B says:

    Your analysis on weight being a factor in one’s work offers sufficient, thoughtful reasoning as to why fat shaming occurs in US. You can also make a connection between the American Dream, which symbolizes hard work and persistence to be successful, and weight being a factor affecting that. Referencing the statistic you used about women’s salaries decreasing after weight gain can be seen by a symbolic anthropologist as society viewing overweight women as less able than an ideal thinner woman. It is an unfortunate truth in our society how people are so harshly judged based on weight, and especially in a town like Boulder, which seems to place even more pressure on being the ideal version of fit.

  19. Brianna Dascher says:

    It seems many of the comments look at the practice of fat shaming as harsh but unstoppable truth. This leads me to wonder what has caused us to believe that being thin is equivalent to being more beautiful or successful or useful, and furthermore what makes us believe it can’t be changed? If this were analyzed from the lens of practice theory, theory would state that no one should be discriminated against because of their outward appearance, that worth doesn’t rest on anything presented on the surface. However, as seems to be the common belief, practice shows that even one’s salary or ability to get a job rests on his or her weight. I would venture to attribute this to what is prized in media. This stigma against those that are overweight rests not so much on that those that are overweight are thought of as lazy or less disciplined, but on how much this extreme level of perfection is highlighted in everything we see, read, or listen to all the time, and how perfection is equated to being thin. Thus, those who don’t fit into this ideal notion are thought to have the opposite traits. I think if this were to change, then the practice would adjust in tow.

  20. Elliott Cairns says:

    Fitness is definitely a sign of mental determination and strength, however telling individuals just to “lose it” is a empty piece of advice. Going to the Rec center can be an intimidating experience especially for people who are just starting out. The one thing that comes to mind when being at the Rec is Louis CK’s quote “why are you here? You’re already done!” Basing your success on another’s is a sure-fire way to never accomplish a goal but losing weight is not an easy thing to do. Like the above comment, stigma against weight is a subtle yet visible hindrance on people who are naturally overweight whatever the cause. In our society we value traits that show superiority or success. Though obesity is not good for individuals, telling people just to “lose it” is no way of telling them to deal with their problems

  21. McKenzie A says:

    I can definitely see how living in Boulder can influence people who feel they aren’t fit enough to leave the school. Boulder is a very healthy and fit town. I, who recently moved here, was in shock to see people running in the snow. In my head I was thinking “its too cold to workout” but people in Boulder obviously do not have the same opinion as me. I disagree with ‘fat shaming.’ I think its unfair to judge a person from their size because you really don’t know what is going on in their life, there may be a reason for their weight gain.I found the use of Culture and Personality theory very interesting because now that I think about it, you really don’t see seriously obese people in the workforce, which also goes with the use of laziness as a symbol of obese people. Maybe these people are lazy by nature but because of the embarrassment they get from going out and being judged by people when they try to get out and be active.

  22. Stephanie Sanchez says:

    I enjoyed this article because this is something that I have never heard of, although not something I like to hear. I wonder if since colorado is one of the most healthy states in the United States and boulder at the forefront that, that label adds more to fat shaming. It would be interesting to see how a symbolic anthropologist would look at this. If the idea that colorado must remain thin plays a role on attitudes around campus and around the boulder general area? It might also be interesting to look at the amount of eating disorders on campus. If eating disorders are high the idea of a thin, healthy boulder would no longer fit. This could also be addressed by symbolic and also through culture and personality theory.

    • Kayla Clancy says:

      In a philosophy class I took last semester, we spent a part of the semester looking at women’s body issues. I remember that the level of eating disorders among the student body of CU Boulder is the highest in the entire nation. So yes, it could be debated that Boulder is not just focused on healthy but on thin. It does make sense that the “active” lifestyle in Boulder would lead to a fitter population, but it also makes people who are not active feel they are overweight. So I believe that people that do not like to stay active feel the need to look like they are, and turn to other methods to do so. What is valued is what is seen on the outside, which is body size. Many people, girls especially, associate having a small body size as being healthy. When in fact it is often much healthier to be overweight with muscle and fat, than it is to have too low of a body fat percentage. Therefore, I think practice theory fits this specific example. The healthy lifestyle is what the culture accepts and promotes, but in practice people just want to look a certain way even if it goes against being healthy.

  23. Kitman Gill says:

    As a heavier individual, I can attest personally to the fat shaming in Boulder. I have very strong Northern European ancestry. I was born with big bones and a healthy appetite. And even though I know that my weight tied to a biological imperative, it still hurts when an extremely fit, thin person looks down on me because of my weight. This essay taught me quite a lot, and not all of it was good. I had no idea that my size could potentially prevent me from getting a job. This isn’t heartening news. However, it is good to know.

    Adding on to your culture and personality take, I think it also bears mentioning that very few people are actually born with the types of bodies hailed as the perfect and normal image in America. How is it that something that is a minority has become what we consider normal? Has mass media and the intentional selection of beautiful people warped our view of what’s normal? Probably. If this is true, I think it is possible to reverse this trend and make it so that all body types, as long as the body is healthy, is normal. Maybe then, there won’t be a shame and a stigma attached to one’s body weight.

  24. Sam Calahan says:

    It seems that Biopolitics offers a perfect lens through which to view this issue. The denial of employment of overweight people by those in power is a clear example of how the powerful can manipulate and control the actions, courses, and even bodily expectations of individuals. As such, it fits perfectly into a poststructuralism examination of power relations in our society. Perhaps we could fit hegemony into the equation too – some people, I’m sure, stay lean and fit precisely to project an appearance that meets society’s demanding expectations, even thought they’d much rather indulge in delicious foods to their heart’s content, and they really don’t feel like exercising all that much. Sure, he’d LOVE to eat that cookie you offered him, but what’s his boss gonna think when he gets fat??

  25. Erica Blais says:

    I agree with some of the comments mentioned above that since Boulder is made up of many fit and athletic individuals this issue of “fat-shaming” sadly seems inevitable. I am not saying that it is right, but the dynamics and beliefs of this society, as you mentioned, have caused this group of people to often feel ostracized. The American society as a whole seems to be fixated on body image, not just Boulder. I actually wrote my body essay on how the ways women are portrayed in the media and high fashion skews our culture’s view of women and causes women to feel the need to conform to an unrealistic body standards. While this is not exactly what you discussed, I feel that there is a connection between the two. I honestly feel that not just heavy people feel the effects of how athletic the individuals of Boulder seem to be. I know plenty of individuals who are self-concious about their bodies and feel judged by others even if they would not be considered heavy by others. I myself often compare my own physique to other individuals on campus. I think it would be interesting to take a feminist approach to your topic and examine how gender may effect the way heavier people are judged. Is there gendered difference in the treatment of individuals? Is there harsher criticism towards heavy females? Women are often stigmatized if they do not have the smaller, petite frame that is thought to be the “ideal” female body. I believe that “fat-shaming” is a part of a bigger issue involving our cultures overall expectations of body image.

  26. Saskia Newkirk says:

    I agree with the points you have made, and I think using symbolic and culture and personality to explore this was a wise choice. However, if you want to investigate further how these practices against obese individuals came to be seen as normal of commonplace, you may want to use the Historic Turn as a theoretical approach. This theory states that all cultural practices must be historicized if we are to understand how they came to be. This may be useful in further exploring how this phenomenon came to be.

  27. Charles says:

    I agree with some of the other comments stating that this is a perfect example of Bio politics. My critique is that true there is a great deal of judgment in America and especially in school but how much of one’s insecurities come from so called “fat shaming.” The type of lifestyle that leads to a majority of obesity is one that can literally make you feel depressed and unproductive which manifests in a number of ways. Is the real problem “fat shaming” or is the problem obesity in America?

  28. Ellis Hughes says:

    From the perspective of the Historic Turn, it is very interesting to see the different traits which have been or are no longer desirable. In some cultures around the world and even in the history of our own Western culture, weight was a deciding factor for opposite reasons. The heavier one was meant they enjoyed more prosperity. Because they were prosperous, they could enjoy greater leisure, they did not have to work because they had people doing it for them. But this idea just proves that desire is completely subjective. But it is a difficult dilemma because what we find desirable in others is definitely influenced by culture. It is a frustrating situation, one that makes finding confidence a daily struggle among the victims of negative judgement.

    • Mateo says:


      I like your play with The Historic Turn by relating it to historic obesity as a sign of wealth and leisure. If there was no word limit, I believe a Post-Structuralist or Feminist argument could have been made for for a social power structure within the US media culture prizing extremely thin women over all other women. As such thin, not necessarily healthy, is the norm. Similarly, while men do suffer some of the same judgements, they are generally not covered under this discourse.

    • John Cooper says:

      I completely agree that this concept needs to be historised and but unto the context of American culture. Mainly how has body type been used to symbolize a charitoristic of a person threw history and today. Wile in the past getting enough food to rally gain a substantial amount of weigh meant you had worked to earn it to day that is not the case. Today hard work can be symbolized by fitness and or restraint to eat certain foods. I realize that some peoples weight is out of there control and that still others that struggle to control there weight are in complete control over the rest of their life but it is not about the individual case, it is about what it general simbolizes in culture.

  29. Miles Agan says:

    Fat shaming is a great topic to look at regarding culture. The majority of people in Boulder are pretty fit, but I also have noticed that people here are pretty accepting and would make fun of someone for being overweight. It is interesting that if you were overweight in the past that it represented wealth and now it represents the opposite because of how our society views it. Very interesting paper.

  30. Ashley Gates says:

    I am glad that you wrote on this controversial topic because this is something that has been labeled as a topic that is not really discussed. I definitely agree with the theories that you have provided but I also feel like this topic would be rather interesting to Post-Structuralist such as historian and philosopher, Michel Foucault. He was interested in power, biopolitics, subject positions,and what he called “The Order of Things”. Foucault also made the point of saying that to really see and experience all of these items we need to look at marginal areas. With this in mind I think that Foucault would have seen fat shaming as intriguing (in a bad way of course). He would have thought that fat shaming is the product of power being used in biopolitics, or the controlling of bodies. In the United States today, as you said, being skinny is preferable to being overweight…but why? Power has been used to establish the control over our bodies and the weight in which we find acceptable. It could even be argued that our bodies are being disciplined through the discipling of our mind. We see it daily, through media, the ideal, skinny, tan, clear skinned woman (or man) and we mentally strive to be like them. This same means can explain why people would hire a fit individual over one who is not…they have it in their minds that their business’s image would be better if the fit individual was associated with it.

  31. Pingback: Weighed Down | Ragnarok Connection

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