Stigma Obesity

Laura Mealer 4/11/12 Essay #9 Stigma: Obesity The fat stigma is becoming a global problem according to an article in the New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope. “Dr. Brewis and her colleagues recently completed a multicountry study intended to give a snapshot of the international zeitgeist about weight and body image,”(NY times). ‘The findings were troubling, suggesting that negative perceptions about people who are overweight may soon become the cultural norm in some countries, including places where plumper, larger bodies traditionally have been viewed as attractive,’ according to a new report in the journal Current Anthropology.

Dr. Lear, who is studying rising childhood obesity in that country and in Canada, agrees the potential for stigmatization exists. ”We know in developed countries that obese people are less successful, less likely to get married, less likely to get promoted,” he said. The researchers elicited answers of true or false to statements with varying degrees of fat stigmatization. The fat-stigma test included statements like, ”People are overweight because they are lazy” and ”Some people are fated to be obese,”(NY Times).

Using mostly in-person interviews, supplemented with questions posed over the Internet, they tested attitudes among 700 people in 10 countries, territories and cities, including American Samoa, Tanzania, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Argentina, New Zealand, Iceland, two sites in Arizona and London. Dr. Brewis said she fully expected high levels of fat stigma to show up in the ”Anglosphere” countries, including the United States, England and New Zealand, as well as in body-conscious Argentina. But what she did not expect was how strongly people in the rest of the testing sites expressed negative attitudes about weight.

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This leans us toward the age-old anthropological challenge of better understanding what drives the cultural diffusion of new ideas and feeds their gaining salience. Our findings hint that newer forms of educational media, including global public health campaigns, may be driving this trend. Whatever their source, it is important to understand the dynamics of fat-stigmatizing cultural models because of their potential influence on both physical and social well-being of individuals in a wide range of socioecological contexts. ”(JSTOR)

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