Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton (Associate Professor, Psychology) published an interesting blog post today on the subject of prejudicial attitudes towards the obese. In it, he asserts:
[…]Prejudice against fat people continues to be one of the deepest and most widely shared prejudices that the public holds. Research has shown, for example, that even the parents of overweight children discriminate against them. In addition, the overweight suffer drops in self-esteem when prejudice is directed towards them, suggesting that overweight people themselves believe that somehow they are to blame for their condition (Crocker et al., 1993).
At the root of these attitudes is a suspicion of flawed character– namely, one is fat because one lacks self-regulation. In more biblical terms, one is guilty of gluttony and/or sloth.
The notion that obesity is the result of flawed character is something that Taubes visits and revisits in both his books, and has been much on my mind of late. Denton’s assertion that it’s one of the most pervasive prejudices in our culture is fascinating to me. If this is true, surely the ramifications extend far beyond interpersonal interactions and into the realm of policy, research funding, medical advice, etc.