Fatphobia—that is, the fear, hatred, and loathing of fat bodies—is pervasive worldwide. Studies show that fat people experience discrimination in employment, education, media, interpersonal relationships, politics, and especially healthcare. Fatphobia starts young and runs deep; fatphobic attitudes have been recorded in children as young as three and become more pronounced with age. Cross-cultural studies confirm that socialization to fatphobia is not limited to North American populations. Data from the Project Implicit study, including over 300,000 respondents from 71 nations, demonstrate consistent pro-thin, anti-fat biases. A recent examination of longitudinal trends in prejudicial attitudes toward a range of stigmatized groups found that between 2007 and 2016, both explicit fatphobic attitudes (for example, acknowledging a preference for thin people over fat people) and implicit fatphobic attitudes (for example, associating negative words and phrases with images of fat people) either remained stable or increased, while stigma toward many other oppressed groups showed a downward trajectory.

Despite these findings, fatphobia is rarely seen as an important social justice issue and global social problem. This is because, unlike other marginalized identities, we are taught to see being fat as a “choice,” specifically, a bad choice. In many countries, fat bodies are viewed exclusively through medical and public health discourses that label fat bodies as diseased and therefore in need of prevention, intervention, and cure, regardless of the risks involved. This creates an environment in which fat people are blamed for their own oppression and makes it socially acceptable to censure, intimidate, harass, and discriminate against fat people because of their weight.

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