Sizeism is a Fem­i­nist Is­sue

Herizons - - Nellie Grams - By Sharon Hay­wood

To fire some­one be­cause they are preg­nant, or deny them med­i­cal cover­age be­cause of gen­der iden­tity, or turn down their hous­ing-re­lated ap­pli­ca­tion on the ba­sis of re­li­gion is il­le­gal in Canada, thanks to the pro­tected grounds in pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial hu­man rights leg­is­la­tion.

The list of hu­man rights pro­tec­tions are ex­ten­sive and in­clude such el­e­ments of iden­tity as age, gen­der, race, dis­abil­ity and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.Hu­man rights leg­is­la­tion of­fers pro­tec­tion from dis­crim­i­na­tion in the ar­eas of hous­ing, con­tracts, em­ploy­ment, goods, ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties, and mem­ber­ship in unions, or pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions. How­ever, dis­crim­i­na­tion based on body size is not cov­ered un­der hu­man rights leg­is­la­tion, and in On­tario, a cam­paign to pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion based on body size is be­ing led by Jill An­drew, a Toronto-based body-im­age ac­tivist and co-founder of the Body Con­fi­dence Canada Awards.In May, An­drew launched a Change.org pe­ti­tion to have size added as the 18th pro­tected ground in the On­tario code.

Ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada, one in five adults is clas­si­fied as obese, which trans­lates to ap­prox­i­mately 5.3 mil­lion peo­ple who could find them­selves on the re­ceiv­ing end of sizeism in the work­force. A 2015 lit­er­a­ture re­view—con­ducted by oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy re­searcher Be­hdin Nowrouzi at the Cen­tre for Re­search in Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health at Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity, in conjunction with other re­searchers—con­firmed that stereo­types associated with fat peo­ple are com­mon.The stereo­types re­ported in­clude the be­lief that over­weight and obese peo­ple are more undis­ci­plined, have lower job per­for­mance, poorer in­ter­per­sonal skills and are un­healthy com­pared to em­ploy­ees con­sid­ered not fat.Such views are em­bed­ded in North Amer­i­can so­ci­ety and lead to dis­crim­i­na­tion re­lated to hir­ing, pro­mo­tions and earn­ings—es­pe­cially for women.The study con­cluded that “work-re­lated weight bias needs to be viewed as a se­ri­ous prob­lem.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­search compiled by the Rudd Cen­ter for Food Pol­icy and Obe­sity at Yale Univer­sity, weight stigma neg­a­tively im­pacts the health care that over­weight and obese adults re­ceive.Al­though a sig­nif­i­cant body of re­search has shown that the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are un­able to main­tain sig­nif­i­cant weight loss in the long term, doc­tors of­ten view obese pa­tients neg­a­tively and hold stereo­types of them as lazy, non-com­pli­ant with med­i­cal ad­vice and lack­ing in self-con­trol, ac­cord­ing to a Rudd Cen­tre pol­icy brief.

Peo­ple An­drew has in­ter­viewed re­port that doc­tors reg­u­larly at­tribute their weight to be the cause of their health con­cerns, leav­ing them feel­ing ter­ri­ble. “They’d go in with a cold and be told to lose weight,” An­drew said in a CBC ra­dio in­ter­view about her pe­ti­tion.One byprod­uct of weight bias is that pa­tients re­ceive less pre­ven­ta­tive health care, such as breast and cer­vi­cal can­cer screen­ings.

The U.S.is ahead of Canada in leg­is­lat­ing pro­tec­tion against size dis­crim­i­na­tion. Six Amer­i­can cities and the state of Michi­gan have leg­is­la­tion that ex­plic­itly pro­hibits weight dis­crim­i­na­tion.In Canada, the Euro­pean Union and Aus­tralia, obe­sity may be con­sid­ered a dis­abil­ity in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, but at­tempts to ad­dress weight dis­crim­i­na­tion un­der the um­brella

Jill An­drew, co-founder of the Body Con­fi­dence Canada Awards, is lead­ing a cam­paign to have size rec­og­nized as a ba­sis of dis­crim­i­na­tion in the On­tario Hu­man Rights Code.

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