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Glamour poll finds thin women stereotyped as mean, heavy women as lazy

By May 8, 2012 12 Comments

Glamour magazine conducted an exclusive survey in which they asked more than 1,800 women, ages 18 to 40, to imagine an “overweight” woman and a “thin” woman. They were told to imagine that they know nothing about either of the women, and to choose from pairs of words to describe them (such as ambitious or lazy).

The findings, published in the June 2012 issue, weren’t very surprising to me. Heavier women were often regarded as lazy, slow, undisciplined, and giving, while thin women were perceived as conceited, bitchy, mean, and controlling.

Even the accompanying image depicts the thin woman as mean! She glares, straight-faced, at the heavier woman, while she subtly smiles at the camera.

Your attention may have been drawn to the fact that heavier women were labeled “giving.” What’s the problem with that? You might be wondering. Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D, tells us, “It just fits into the stereotype that thin women are not that way.”

While weight stereotyping is nothing new, I don’t think I’ve seen many mainstream magazines talk about the ways in which women of all sizes are stereotyped and judged. I’m really glad that Glamour has reached out and contributed to this discussion about how heavy and thin women are affected by harmful stereotypes.

I do, however, have to point out something I found a bit problematic. The accompanying image with the article is typical, at best. It features a heavy woman and a thin woman, but of course they both have long, straight, blonde hair, they are both white, and have skin airbrushed to perfection. Just saying.

Glamour’s “overwhelming conclusion” of this poll states, “All women are now judged by their size.” I don’t think this is anything new, or a secret for that matter. During the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how thin-shaming is just as harmful as fat-shaming. The whole “real women have curves” mantra, for example, suggests that thin women aren’t “real.” What’s up with that?

Another example of this is the internet meme that went around for a while on Facebook and Tumblr (if not other social networking web sites as well), featuring images of very thin Hollywood celebrities, juxtaposed with curvier celebrities of the past. The image featured the text, “When did this become hotter than this?” It asks us when super-thin body types became “hotter” than curvy body types. I knew the image didn’t sit well with me, but didn’t take the time to think about why until I saw the same image at a later date with some editing done on the text part. Someone had crossed out all the text after, “When did” and added, “the shaming of anyone’s body become okay?”

No one should be shamed for their body type, whether it's thin, curvy, anything in between, or anything beyond.

I saw this image and thought, Yes! That’s right! This is exactly why this meme made me cringe every time a friend reposted it. The shaming of anyone for their body type is not okay. Ever. And we have to stop pitting ourselves against one another like this (and letting other people, or internet memes, do it for us). There are as many body types as there are people out there. None should be considered more valuable than others.

This brings us back to the Glamour article. I think it really brings to light, in a more mainstream way, the way that women are constantly judged on their appearances, especially body size, and how it is so frequently done by other women.

I’ll conclude by saying: Stop it. Stop judging other women. I know we’ve all done it before—seriously, no one is innocent—but it has to stop now. You can’t possibly know anything about a woman’s life based on her weight. You can’t know if a heavy woman is healthy, or lazy, or giving, just as you can’t know that a thin woman is superficial, ambitious, or vain.

As the Glamour article concludes, “Hit pause the next time you find yourself sizing someone up. Every time you stop weight-judging in its tracks, you help the world see women for who they really are.” And don’t we all want to be seen for who we really are? Isn’t that, at the very least, what we deserve? I think so.