Often we see and hear things that may be size discriminationon
television, in magazines, in school, and in our neighborhoods. Can you tell if something
is discrimination? Here are some examples and what we think about them. What do you think?
1. Every time the gym teacher lets the kids pick teams, Mary (who is
fat) gets picked last. Is it discrimination?
Maybe. When kids pick teams they usually pick the best players and their
friends first. If Mary is bad at the game, no wonder she gets picked last. But if Mary is
a good player and she still gets picked last, it may be because the team captains are
thinking about her size and not her playing skills. This hurts larger kids, and often
makes them feel like not playing at all. A better idea is for the teacher to find other
ways to pick teams so everyone feels like playing.
2. Your very fat aunt is coming to Thanksgiving at your house. Your
mother or father gets a sturdy armless chair and places it at the dinner table for her. Is
No, giving your aunt a special chair is not discrimination. Your parents
are trying to make her comfortable and thats good.
3. There is a fat girl on your school bus. Every time she gets on,
some boys make oink noises, and no one wants to sit next to her. Is it discrimination?
Yes. Making fun of someone because of their appearance is wrong. Oinking
noises are based on the stereotype that fat people are messy pigs who eat too much. The
fact is that you cant tell how much someone eats just by looking at their size. (We
all know thin people who eat a lot and never gain weight.) And being a slob has nothing to
do with your size. Slobs come in all sizes and so do neat, clean people.
4. Joe is the fattest boy in school. The other kids tease him, so he
punches one of them in the arm. He gets sent to the principals office, but not the
other kids. Is it discrimination?
Yes and no. The principal should speak to the kids who were picking on
Joe. They need to learn that you can hurt people with words, too. However, Joe crossed the
line when he expressed his anger with violence. He deserved special punishment.
5. Jane, a fat student, is a terrific singer. The school is putting
on a musical play and she is great in her audition. But she only gets picked to paint
scenery because the teacher says she "doesnt look right for the part." Is
Yes. Even though how you look is important on stage, there is probably a
part for Jane to play if the teacher tries to include her. If there isnt a part, the
teacher should find a play that has roles for all the talented kids who want to
6. Even though Barbara likes gym class, she has trouble keeping up
because she is very fat. The teachers decide to give her a special pass to skip gym.
Instead, she has to go to the guidance counselor to talk about her body image. Is this
Yes and no. Learning about body image is good, but its good for
kids of all sizes, not just the larger ones. Barbara likes gym and didnt ask to be
excused. Like all kids, she needs physical activity. Math teachers deal with the fact that
some kids are good at math and others have a harder time keeping up. They find ways to
teach math to everyone. Gym should be handled the same way.
7. The principal announces that every kid who is more than 10 pounds
overweight has to stay after school every Tuesday for a special weight loss class with the
school nurse. Thin and average-sized kids dont have to stay after school. Is this
Yes. It singles out one group of kids based on a physical characteristic
and says they are not okay. A better way would be to teach all kids nutrition and good
8. Theres a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of the
local store. Of the people who apply for the job, Betty has the most experience. The store
owner says he thinks she would be very good at the job, but he doesnt hire her. He
says that she weighs too much. He hires someone thinner with less experience and tells
Betty that if she loses weight, she should try again next time he has a job opening. Is
Yes. The store owner made it clear that the only reason he didnt
hire Betty was because of her weight. This is wrong, just as wrong as if he refused to
hire her because of her skin color, age, gender, religion, or ethnic background.
IS IT DISCRIMINATION?
If you see or hear something that seems to be size discrimination,
but youre not sure, heres an easy way to tell: Imagine the same situation, but
instead of a fat person, imagine the person is black, or speaks with a foreign accent, or
is in a wheelchair. If you think it would be discrimination against any of those people,
its probably discrimination against the fat person, too. ©
Copyright 1993, Nancy Summer, Council on Size & Weight
Discrimination, Inc. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, write: International
No-Diet Coalition, P. O. Box 305, Mt. Marion, NY 12456, or call 914-679-1209. Copying
permitted (with copyright intact).
back to the Kids Project