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Why do people dislike fat people?

30th October 2009

Writing for the BBC News Magazine, Denise Winterman explores why fat people are often abused.

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Marsha Coupe was attacked by a middle aged woman as she travelled on a train.

"Fat people are fair game for everyone," says Ms Coupe, who weighs 22 stone.

It seems the normal rules about behaviour, respect and common courtesy do not apply to people who are overweight.

This is what could be called “fattism”, an unprovoked attack, but not it seems an isolated incident.

But why are people so intolerant of fat people in a society where discrimination on many other grounds of frowned upon?

Susie Orbach, psychologist and author of Fat is a Feminist Issue, believes it comes down to control, based on the assumption that overweight people have lost their self control.

However, this is annoying to many overweight people because it associates them with laziness and greed.

Psychologist Ros Taylor suggests the aggression towards overweight people comes from a lack of understanding of the issue.

But another reason is "mass-moral outrage" whipped up by the media and the government over the issue of weight, despite some larger people being happy with their size.

Health professionals are now also forming the view that the way the obesity issue has been handled has actually increased negative attitudes towards fat people and created social stigma.

Experts say this often means people who need the most help do not seek it and are left feeling “guilty and undeserving.”

Constant “fat-bashing”, say campaigners, often leads to overweight people retreating from society.

 

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