From any teenage girl’s perspective, there is nothing more glorious than waking up in the morning, stepping onto the scale, and finding out that she’s lost a few pounds. Depending on how far one’s desperation goes, the weight loss can spark determination, instill superficial joy, and monetarily shut up the voice that tells a girl that she’s fat. However, there’s a much greater stigma attached to being overweight that stems from a much deeper source than one’s health.
A study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University asked one hundred randomly selected women if they would rather be overweight or be subjected to several other stigmatized illnesses, including chronic depression. Shockingly, one in four women responded that they would rather be chronically depressed than overweight. When asked to extend on their response, many of them simply replied, “I just really don’t want to be fat.” Clearly, being overweight is a fear that many people have but cannot rationally explain. One could contribute this to impossible beauty ideals imposed in media, or maybe the correlation that obesity has with poor health… but maybe it could also be the rising stereotypes surrounding the present day thin-obsessed culture. Fat people get labeled lazy, incompetent, and ugly. All of these are blanket statements, but they have been perpetuated and thrive in today’s world. But what does this all mean, or more importantly, how does it affect those of the teenage demographic?
This week, I did an investigative poll asking Rosslyn students whether they would rather be overweight or suffer from blindness. I asked one hundred students, ranging from eighth graders to twelfth graders. The number of students did vary slightly from those recorded by the Arizona State University in that I did not just ask female students. I asked fifty male students along with fifty female students. Surprisingly, Rosslyn’s results did not quite match up to those of the Arizona University’s study. Out of fifty boys, twenty of those said that they would rather be blind, while thirty said that they would rather be overweight. Upon first observation, the boys that said they would rather be blind tended to be athletes and heavily involved in sports. This also reflected in the girls’ responses; however, fewer girls said that they would rather be blind. Only nineteen girls said that they would rather be blind, and most of these girls were also athletic. Ger Ogot said that she would rather be blind because “I understand how difficult it can be to lose weight if you’re too obese.” Loretta Alcamo (9th grader) on the other hand said that “I don’t see the point in being blind over overweight. You can always lose the weight while there’s no certainty that you’ll regain your sight.”
So as one can tell, Rosslyn students may not feel the same fear in being fat as women in America, but this does not mean that fat phobia is a dead issue. Inherently, many of us want to live up to those oppressive standards of beauty that have been predestined for us by popular media. For girls, it’s the “flawlessly tanned skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, size double zero” model thrown at us from every corner. For guys, it’s looking like a tall, dark, and handsome underwear model who spends more time in the gym than with his friends. Nowhere in this equation does cellulite, stretch marks, thighs that touch, or love handles appear. So when we do see someone who may be a little on the chubby side, it seems like a reflexive action to crack a few jokes or smirk when those jeans don’t fit on him or her the way they should. However, this only reflects on our own insecurities with ourselves and does nothing else but make us feel bigger than those we deem “ugly.” Instead of harping at those we call imperfect, we should spend our time getting comfortable in our own skin and not being a propagator for repressive societal ideals.
– Milkah K.