Updating Long-Held Assumptions About Fat Stigma: For Women, Body Shape Plays a Critical Role
Heavier bodies—particularly female bodies—are stigmatized. Such fat stigma is pervasive, painful to experience, and may even facilitate weight gain, thereby perpetuating the weight-stigma cycle. Leveraging research on functionally distinct forms of fat (deposited on different parts of the body), we propose that body shape plays an important but largely underappreciated role in fat stigma, above and beyond fat amount. Across three samples varying in participant ethnicity (White and Black Americans) and nation (United States, India), patterns of fat stigma reveal that, as hypothesized, participants differently stigmatized equally overweight or equally obese female targets as a function of target shape, sometimes even more strongly stigmatizing targets with less rather than more body mass. Such findings suggest value in updating our understanding of fat stigma to include body shape and in querying a predominating, but often implicit, theoretical assumption that people simply view all fat as ‘bad’ (and more fat as ‘worse’).