Why are thin, fat people bullied?

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Status: 04/01/2020

  • Fat people are often bullied, excluded and faced with numerous prejudices.
  • Stigma and discrimination make it even more difficult for fat people to get out of the vicious circle.
  • The "ideal" body images conveyed in the media have nothing to do with reality.
  • Legally, fat people have so far not been able to defend themselves against discrimination. Other groups can do that, they are protected by the General Equal Treatment Act.

Today's ideal of slimness is more of a new phenomenon. Tall and slim supermodels have only come into fashion since the 1960s. The models usually have to starve to look like this. Historically, the opposite was usually desired: a voluptuous body. Because that was already considered a sign of prosperity by the Romans. As in other cultures. Especially where food was scarce and most people were malnourished. Even experts do not agree on why being skinny is so idealized today.

Body mass index

There is no objective norm of what is "fat", "thin" or "normal". In order to create measurable criteria, medicine works with formulas such as the "Body Mass Index" "Body Mass Index" (BMI). It was developed by an American life insurance company and sets body weight in relation to body size. This supposedly results in a kind of normal weight. Those who weighed more than this should pay higher contributions.

Not all masses are created equal

The BMI is controversial because it doesn't differentiate between muscle and fat. With the effect that even athletes with high muscle mass can fall into the overweight and fat category. In Germany, more than half of people over the age of 18 are considered overweight. Men more often than women.

"It was always like: 'You are too fat, you are too fat, you are too fat.' You think, 'Okay, something is wrong with me.' "

Christian Fandrey, 2018 world champion in video clip dancing, plus size model

Body measurements in the media: not normal

  • Influencers present themselves in such a way that they are as ideal as possible. So: 90-60-90 (bust-waist-hips). Often, however, such a representation is only possible with the help of image processing.
  • Studies show: Those who intensely look at videos and posts with "idealized" bodies are all the more dissatisfied with their own bodies.
  • Models must be at least 1.74 m tall and wear a maximum of size 36, but German women are on average only 1.63 m tall and wear size 40 or more.
  • Boys and men are also under pressure to trim their bodies perfectly: broad shoulders, narrow hips, washboard abs and muscles. Most are naturally built differently: almost 63% of boys and men wear size 50 and over.

Facts and Figures: Sources

"Can't you just let other people be the way they are? Does everything always have to be stigmatized, or can't there just be differences?"

Sarah Sako, who was excluded from school because of her weight

Being excluded means stress

To be fat, to feel fat or to be called fat: This is what many of those affected describe as great stress. Because "belonging" is extremely important for people as a social being. Feeling left out, for whatever reason, is usually worse than feeling, "I have a few pounds too much." Especially since you can't say what is "normal" or "unhealthy" anyway. But the pressure to be different in order to be accepted is counterproductive. Sometimes those affected eat even more to distract themselves from it or to "treat themselves to something" and thus temporarily feel better.

More individuality, more tolerance

Everyone has a different figure, and no two people with the same BMI are the same. Respect and tolerance mean that we perceive more of each other than one or two traits. This also means that we pay close attention to what we think and say when we meet someone we perceive to be "fat". If we pigeonhole people or label them with pejorative terms, that says more about ourselves than about these people. Those who accept differences recognize more easily that the most diverse people have more in common than they divide. That, in turn, makes it much easier to develop understanding and benefit from differences.

"Dear people, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Just go ahead and trust yourself!"

Christian Fandrey, 2018 world champion in video clip dancing, plus size model

"I want to tell you that human dignity applies unconditionally. That means it is not linked to any weight. There is no right out there that someone insults you or wants to rule over your body. Physical self-determination also applies to you."

Natalie Rosenke, activist and chairwoman of the Society for Weight Discrimination

Author: Monika von Aufschnaiter