In a news article yesterday, the BBC recounted the plight of an overweight train passenger who was beaten up by another commuter for taking up two seats. The aggressor yelled "you big fat pig" before she kicked the victim in the stomach. In addition to suffering verbal and physical abuse, overweight people who are speaking out say they are victims of systemic discrimination. For example, many airline companies in the US now charge larger passengers for two seats. Such a policy is considered illegal discrimination in Canada, where there is a one-person-one-fare law. The US has no such rule, nor is there a federal law forbidding employers from firing people because of their weight. (Michigan is alone in prohibiting employers from firing people for being overweight.)
Last year, a study from Yale revealed that weight discrimination is tolerated because many believe that people have control over their size. The truth is more complicated. Economics, health issues like type 2 diabetes, and genetics can affect a person's weight.
The study also revealed that overweight women are twice as vulnerable to discrimination than overweight men. If you want to find out if you have implicit biases against overweight people take this quiz developed by Harvard researchers. You might be surprised by the results.
Would you like to see a federal anti-weight discrimination law?