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What’s Size Got To Do With It? Sizeism and Appearance Privilege in the Workplace

When we talk about privilege, many of us readily identify its intersection with race, gender, and sexuality. Yet, there's a less-discussed privilege that we see, literally, every day but may find challenging to pinpoint—thin privilege. This privilege is woven into the very fabric of our society, creating an environment where sizeism goes unnoticed by many.

Let's begin by demystifying some terminology...

Fatmisia, derived from the Greek miso-, meaning “hatred” (akin to misogyny), sheds light on the hatred and bigotry of anti-fat attitudes. Though the term might not be as readily familiar to many, it speaks directly to the negative and judgmental perceptions surrounding larger bodies.

Sizeism is a bit more straightforward, defined as “discrimination or prejudice directed against people because of their size and especially because of their weight.” Although it covers a broader spectrum, it’s essential to understand that, predominantly, fat people bear the brunt of anti-fat behaviors and policies.

Sizeism in the Workplace

The corporate world, like much of society, has its biases. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, it was found that overweight applicants were 26% less likely to be recommended for hire compared to their thinner counterparts, despite having identical qualifications. This unconscious (or sometimes even overt) bias demonstrates the silent privilege that thin individuals unknowingly hold.

Furthermore, according to a report from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, larger individuals earn approximately $1.25 less per hour than their thinner peers, amounting to a staggering wage disparity over an entire career.

Such statistics not only highlight the blatant discrimination but also show the cultural bias towards specific body types. These biases aren’t limited to hiring processes but permeate every facet of professional life—promotions, office camaraderie, and even office wear norms.

Sizeism in the Culture

Beyond the workplace, society's gaze has always been judgmental, even more so with the rise of social media and "ideal" body presentations. Pop culture, movies, advertisements, and even casual conversations may unintentionally promote thin privilege. The "ideal body" is often portrayed as fit, thin, and tall, marginalizing a significant portion of the population and reinforcing harmful stereotypes.

What You Can Do to Combat Sizeism in the Workplace

  • Educate and Advocate: Knowledge is the first step towards understanding. Encourage discussions around sizeism in diversity and inclusion seminars. Being vocal about biases can help in reshaping workplace policies.

  • Question Your Own Biases: Introspect and analyze any unconscious biases you might harbor. Remember, acknowledging them is the first step towards change.

  • Promote Size-Inclusive Policies: As with any DEI initiative, having clear policies that promote size-inclusivity can make a significant difference. This includes fair hiring practices, inclusive health, and wellness programs, and representation in marketing and internal materials.

  • Celebrate All Body Types: Whether it's through office events, team-building activities, or daily interactions, ensure you create an environment where every individual feels valued, irrespective of their body size.

  • Seek Feedback: If you're in a position of authority, create channels where employees can share their concerns related to sizeism or any form of discrimination, ensuring confidentiality and timely redressal.

While acknowledging thin privilege may be uncomfortable for many, it's essential for creating more inclusive spaces. Remember, every individual, irrespective of their size, brings unique skills, talents, and perspectives to the table. Embracing diversity in all its forms, including body size, only enriches our society and organizations.

So next time you find yourself in a meeting, a conference, or even a casual chat, take a moment to recognize, reflect, and combat sizeism. It's not just about reshaping policies; it's about reshaping perspectives.

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