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

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.

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?”

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.


12 thoughts on “Glamour poll finds thin women stereotyped as mean, heavy women as lazy

Add yours

  1. I totally agree with this article and love the message – we women need to stop shaming each other for whatever size one might be. However, I think it’s important to note that the point of the picture above (the one which shows pictures of “new” stars as compared to the stars of yesteryear) is not to shame women for being thin. The point is that women should not feel the pressure to be super thin when they naturally are not. The point is that the Hollywood ideal of a super skinny woman is not the only size of beauty. I feel like it’s more of a “feel good about yourself, even if you aren’t that modern Hollywood super skinny ideal.” No one should torture themselves (mentally, emotionally or physically) to try to be something they are not in order to please others. Be happy with who you are and love yourself – treat yourself with respect!

  2. Hi Amy, thank you so much for your supportive and informative comment! I like your take on the second image I talked about here- I never thought of it that way. You’re right- women should not feel that pressure to be super thin. And while maybe the person who first created the image might have had that thinking in mind, I somehow doubt it. I still read those images that were (probably still are) going around online as praising a certain body type over another. You bring up a good point though. It makes me wonder about the image being ambivalent in its meaning. Maybe if the text had been worded differently, but for now, I guess it’s up to our interpretation. Thanks again for the feedback!

  3. I do agree that body-shaming of any sort is not cool. I had a friend in high school who we teased for her thinness; one day she blew up on us. Turns out, she hated being so thin, but simply could not gain weight. It never occurred to us that she could possibly be ashamed of her thinness.

    That being said, there is a reason. It’s simply a backlash against the rampant fat-shaming that has been going on for decades. It’s like when women, tired of being objectified, turn the tables and objectify men. It’s not right, because no one should be dehumanized that way; and yet, because of the power and privilege of men, and the history of objectification of women, it can’t be held on the same level. I feel the same about the new thin-shaming trend. No, it’s absolutely not right, and certainly not nice (especially when we’re talking to/about individuals). But sometimes, that kind of backlash is to be expected, and should be viewed in it’s proper context. The truth is, the overwhelming trend is still thin=worthy, everyone else=not worthy. Yes, we should be fighting the system, not the privileged; but every once in awhile it’s just a little satisfying to get that jab in there, to feel the tables turned for a moment.

  4. Nicely written Stacey.

    As someone who is naturally on the curvy side, I have come to realize I don’t want to be stick thin. Not only is it impossible for my body to reach those proportions, I don’t want to look like that. But I have girlfriends who do, and they’re beautiful. And gosh damn it so am I! Amy had a good point that Hollywood’s idea of beauty isn’t the only form of beauty. The person who made the second image didn’t take modern day celebrities who are curvy into consideration: Mindy Kaling, Amy Poelher, Beyonce…just to name a few. These women are gorgeous and talented, but they aren’t on this picture. It’s like the person who made that second image is pissed at all of the really thin people in Hollywood.

    And THANK YOU for using the word THIN. Skinny is just as derogatory and mean as fat.

  5. I am not a skinny person, but have been smaller from time to time. One thing I did notice is that when I dropped something as the larger me, no one stopped to help me pick up the item.

    When I look at larger ladies I think to myself there is a lovely personality inside that person who might have children and who has great love to share and has feelings. My heart loves them.

    We must not judge people from physical appearance. There most likely is a jewel encased within.

  6. In my opinion, the issue isn’t as much as how women’s bodies look from then and now. I think the women from the before pictures have nicer hairstyles, maybe that’s what creates more of an appeal. Also, the women on the top were at the beach wet, and nobody’s hair will look good soaking wet, except maybe Bo Derek when she had dreadlocks. It makes it an unfair comparison, the before women have the nice hairstyle advantage over the after women.

  7. Now THIS is an article about body image! Finally! Thank you Stacey, for being the first author of this type of article to actually get it. Quit with the body bashing people!

  8. If you want to start talking about overweight people being “not worthy” and thus “turning the tables” you should do some historical research first. I’m not going to bother explaining beyond this simple fact; extremely poor people who are unable to have more than one meal per day are “thin” and, I’m fairly sure they feel pretty unworthy of that second helping the obese person next door just got. Also, for most of history, being curvacious, even obese was considered indicative of wealth.You can’t say it’s a “turning of the tables” when one side gets the whole table…

  9. some places in America are very superficial. I live in one. I get women in my family and community being very abusive to me. I get called paranoid, victimized and delusional. Just because you have no physical flaws DOES NOT give you the right to tell a woman heavier that she is your emotional doll sometimes friend. I’m SICK OF IT! SOCIETY YOU NEED TO CHANGE!!!!!!! & JUST BECAUSE I GO TO CHURCH AND GET BULLIED have never deserved to be treated this way. I will say it to the gals face her friends face the interviewers face and anyone elses face who doesn’t like me because guess what I DO LIKE ME INSIDE AND OUT AND MY 35 LBS OF OVERWEIGHT BODY.

  10. Hi Jennifer. I’m positive that these people who treat you this way DO have physical flaws. No one is “perfect,” whatever perfect may mean. I hate that you and countless others are treated this way. Stay strong, keep loving yourself no matter what. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *