A systemic stigmatization of fat people

Sammanfattning: The aim of this work was to develop knowledge about and awareness of fatness stigmatization from a systemic perspective. The stigmatization of fat people was located as a social problem in a second-order reality in which human fatness is observed and responded to, in turn providing it with negative meaning. Four separate studies of processes involved in this systemic stigmatization were performed.In study I, the association between weight and psychological distress was investigated. When controlling for an age-gender variable, this association was almost erased, questioning the certainty by which a higher weight in general is approached as a medical issue. In study II, the focus was on stigma internalization where negative and positive responses combined were connected to fat individuals’ distress. We found that both responses seemed to have a larger impact on fat individuals, suggesting that the embodied stigma of being fat sensitizes them to responses in general. In study III, justifications of fatness stigmatization was explored by a content analysis of a reality TV weight-loss show. The analysis showed how explicit bullying of a fat partner could be justified by animating the thin Self as violated by the fat Other, thus downplaying the evils of the bullying act in favor of highlighting the ideological value of thinness.The implications of these studies were related and seated in a context comprising a historical aversion toward the fat body, a declared obesity epidemic, a new public health ideology, a documented failure to reverse this obesity epidemic, and a market of weight-loss stakeholders who thrive on keeping the negative meanings of being fat alive. The stigmatization of fat people was intelligible from a systemic perspective, where processes of structural ignorance, internalized self-discrimination, and applied prejudice reinforce each other to form a larger stigmatizing process. In paper IV, it was argued that viewing fatness stigmatization as oppression rather than misrecognition could hold transformative keys to social change.