Bullying — 10 May 2012
Size Bias in the Adult World

I was home one day recently following oral surgery.  There was no way I was going to work that day feeling the way I did; heck, I didn’t even feel like taking a shower. As I lay propped up in bed, working on a baby afghan that  I was making for a colleague, I flipped through the t.v. channels looking for something to watch. Even with over 500 channels available on my dish network, only a handful of channels were actually running anything other than infomercials. I suppose that the networks figure that anyone who is home on a weekday and up at 6am watching t.v is only interested in seeing a 30 minute infomercial.

As if the infomercials themselves weren’t bad enough, I noticed a very disturbing trend in their topics. Out of twenty-five infomercials showing at that hour, only one had nothing to do with weight loss. Several extolled the wonders of diet programs. “We’ll ship our wonderful gourmet food right to your door!” “You will receive three meals plus two snacks and two shakes for every day!” That’s more food than I eat in two days to be perfectly honest.

“I went from a size 12 to a size 2! Thanks,____!” A size 2? Since when is that a normal size? There is even a commercial for one of the weight loss programs where five or six friends sit around and complain about how fat they were after they had a baby and how disgusting it was for them to wear such huge clothing. They all agreed that dressing up and wearing make up when you feel fat is not something you want to do. To make matters worse, the producers of the commercial thought it was a good idea for these spokeswomen to say that women who are naturally big  shouldn’t feel bad. It’s ok to be big and dress pretty, it’s just not for them. EXCUSE ME??  So, it’s okay for me to be a big woman and need to wear a size 18, but not  you? You have to be model slim?

I realize that we have an obesity problem in our country. I understand that we need to be concerned about hearth disease and stroke. I acknowledge that I could shed a few pounds, but I really despise that these ads play on the insecurities of people with weight issues. They advertise their weight loss programs using spokespeople who are  half my size and want me to be impressed that they lost twenty pounds. They charge people a fortune for diets, exercise equipment, weight loss supplements, body wraps and the list goes on and on. They make it sound like wearing anything over a size 8 is tantamount to sin. Not once in any commercial do they mention body structure, age, overall health or genetics. I was a 5’10″ young woman with an hour glass figure and a 19″ waist. I carried that physic around with me, never caring about what or how much I ate until I hit my late twenties. Over the course of a little more than a calendar year I gained approximately 60 lbs. I went to my cardiologist who told me I was fat and lazy and ate too much. He refused to run any blood work on me. I went to my gynecologist who said I was under tremendous stress and felt that once my life settled down a bit I would feel better, but just to set my mind at ease, he would run the blood work. He knew that my grandmother had a goiter and so thyroid disease ran in my family. Two days later, I was at my parents’ house when he tracked me down to apologize, my thyroid was hardly working. I started on medication immediately and started to feel wonderful. I never dropped the extra weight completely. In fact my weight and dress size tends to fluctuate. Am I supposed to feel somehow inferior to the stick insect models on the runways because I have a gland that does not work? Why is our society so obsessed not with healthy weight but with the smallest weight possible, whether health or not?

Just to add insult to injury, there are an ever growing number of catalog outlets catering to larger people. In the mens’ department, they refer to it as “big and tall”. For women, larger sizes have cute terms like “One Stop Plus” and “Woman Within”. They say they cater to women sizes 12-26. Here we go again…size 12. The models in the mens’ catalogs show tall men, large men and tall, large men. In the womens’ catalogs, the models are all tall, slender and…you guessed it, a size 12 (if that).  Now, how are women supposed to interpret that? A size 12 is large? Really? I think not. The outfits, while beautiful and stylish, are all made for slender size 12′s. If you are larger than that and order one, chances are good that you will be sending it back because you look nothing like the model in the catalog.

I have several friends, male and female who, like me, are considered “big”. The men do ok shopping, not that they shop much or really have that many clothes. The women on the other hand hate shopping, they only shop online and still hate it. I love clothes, I’ll admit it. Having grown up in Catholic school I loved the freedom of real clothes instead of uniforms. Since then I love clothes. Unfortunately, clothes no longer love  me…and neither do the designers or the advertisers.

Bullying does not end for those of us who were not born with the grace of good genes. We continued to be bullied by other adults, t.v. commercials, store clerks, and our mail. Frankly I am tired of what it does to not only us, but our children who feel inferior because they came in a larger package.

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About Author


After 16 years in the classroom MaryAnn Byrne became a nationally certified counselor and a licensed professional counselor, specializing in child and adolescent therapy and relational aggression. In 2007, MaryAnn became a certified Olweus Bullying Prevention trainer/consultant. She currently works as a school counselor in both elementary and middle school. Additionally, she supervises Olweus programs at the middle school level. She frequently conducts workshops for private schools, Girl Scouts and professional development for the school system. MaryAnn earned her master’s degree from Virginia Tech in counseling, pupil personnel services as well as a B.S. in special education and early childhood education from Radford University.

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