Wearing Weight Bias
Why fat-shaming Halloween costumes are still around — and why they shouldn’t be
Weight stigma comes in many forms, and a new costume promoting an eating disorder has brought attention to this issue. A popular topic of discussion this week has been a costume named “Anna Rexia,” that has received backlash from individuals who have been affected by eating disorders, being referred to as “distasteful” and “disturbing.”
This isn’t the first time that weight has been the source of amusement for a Halloween costume. The OAC reached out to our members in 2011 asking them to contact HalloweenCostumes.com regarding their “fat-suit” Halloween costume, and asking for the costume’s removal. While the two costumes may seem to be a complete contrast on the surface, at the heart of both eating disorders and obesity there is a serious health condition that shouldn’t ever be represented through something as trivial and innately dismissive as a Halloween costume.
Many of these types of costumes are still sold today, and after a quick search online of costumes that perpetuate weight bias and stigma, we found a variety on sale this season that play into the exact same stereotypes that research says hurts individuals affected by excess weight and obesity more than it helps them, such as:
- “Supnerd American Hero Adult Costume”
- “Fat Vampire Funny Adult Costume”
- “Rubie’s Costume Lots of Love Officer Glutz Costume”
- “Super Size Caricature Fat Mask”
- “Inflatable Ballerina Adult Costume”
Retailers target individuals affected by excess weight in ways beyond humorous costumes, too. Last year, Walmart issued an apologyfor housing a section on their Web site titled “Fat Girl Costumes.” Obviously, it was offensive to people when they were the ones being called “fat” themselves, so why are people still choosing to wear costumes that stigmatize individuals affected by obesity and promote weight bias?
According to the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, weight bias stems from beliefs that:
- Stigma and shame will motivate people to lose weight; and
- People are responsible for their own weight and only fail to lose weight because of poor self-discipline and lack of willpower.
The Rudd Center also mentions that weight bias exists because our culture allows it by valuing thinness and perpetuating a message that obesity is the “mark of a defective person.” Our culture blames the victim, and allows the media to portray individuals affected by excess weight and obesity in a biased and negative way.
You’re probably asking yourself: “If we know these costumes are wrong, why are companies still selling them?” Basic economics says this – because people keep buying them.
“Obesity carries with it one of the last forms of socially acceptable discrimination,” says OAC President/CEO Joe Nadglowski. “We, as a society, need to make every possible effort to eradicate it from our culture.”
How We Can Create Change
Creating change starts by asking for it. If you see these costumes in stores or online, don’t buy them — and encourage your family and friends to stand with you. Share our resources on weight bias, and explain to your loved ones that mocking someone because of their weight does more harm than good.
If these costumes no longer sell, and companies get the message that it’s not entertaining or going to make them any money, they’ll stop selling them.
The fight against weight bias doesn’t end with Halloween costumes. If you’re passionate about putting an end to fat-shaming and weight bias, sign the OAC’s petition to Ban the F Word : Fat-shaming. By doing so, you’ll stand alongside hundreds of other individuals who are working towards a world free of shame and ridicule based on someone’s weight and appearance. Fat-shaming is never right, and by signing the petition, you’re telling the world it needs to end, and taking action to do so.