In another example of prejudice against those considered overweight, Walmart is taking some heat over online advertisements of “Fat Girl” Halloween costumes. The retailer is probably smarting after consumers took to social media complaining about the insensitive and rude manner in which Walmart chose to advertise the plus size costumes.
A Walmart official, Ravi Jariwala, apologized for the language saying, “It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.” The language was removed but the damage had already been done. One tweeter seemed to summarize the impact of the news by tweeting, “Leave it to @Walmart to further isolate people by having a “fat girl costumes” section. Bravo guys.”
Many were upset by the insensitive language but others look at Walmart’s blunder as nothing new. In fact, people like political consultant, Kenlie Tiggeman, might look at Walmart’s unfortunately labeling of Halloween costumes for “Fat Girls” as just another example of the prejudicial treatment that overweight people face in this country. Ms. Tiggeman, who has been refused airline seats because of her weigh, says that insensitive treatment is an everyday occurrence.
Interviewed for an ABC News article, she relayed the following incident, “Just last week I was at the swimming pool in my gym when I overheard a woman on her cell tell a friend she was whale watching. She was looking right at me. I know she was talking about me.” Unfortunately, her story does not describe an infrequent occurrence. In fact, according to research scientist, Rebecca Puhl, who serves as Yale University’s Deputy Director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “Legislation to protect overweight and obese individuals from unfair treatment is badly needed.”
Dr. Puhl and her colleagues have studied the effects of weight bias and determined that it can negatively impact every area of a person’s life. There are no current laws protecting overweight people from negative treatment based on their weight. As a result, discrimination and prejudice against the overweight is sometimes termed the last tolerable form of discrimination. Unfortunately, some of the mistreatment comes from those who should know better.
Overweight people frequently experience unfair treatment in the workplace. Many employers erroneously equate being overweight with being less productive. They assume that overweight people lack self-discipline and are less ambitious than their slender counterparts. According to Dr. Puhl, even healthcare professionals admit responding negatively to overweight patients.
In a study of 400 doctors, conducted by her team, one out of four indicated that they do not respond positively to overweight patients. Many acknowledged categorizing obese patients as having poor hygiene and being dishonest and lazy. Subconsciously, both doctors and nurses sometimes see overweight patients as being sloppy and weak-willed.
Sadly, overweight students can face weigh bias within the education system as well. Obese students are often bullied by other children and some teachers have admitted that there is a tendency to expect less from heavier children than they do from thinner students. Many times, students who are teased and ostracized because of their weight do not respond by making healthier choices. Often, they may eat more and avoid exercise thus perpetuating the problem.
While Dr. Puhl and her colleagues recommend measures like revising human and civil rights laws to include weight as a protected class and forcing insurance companies to cover weight related medical treatment, many argue that it is not that serious. Many people feel that making jokes about weight is all in fun and that overweight people should not be so sensitive. Many more, however, especially those who have experienced prejudice because of their weight, probably do not appreciate the treatment or the fact that Walmart felt it was okay to label its plus sized Halloween costumes for “Fat Girls.”
By Constance Spruill
News Channel 9