Friday, December 11, 2015

Victim of My Own Body-Shaming

I remember the first time I suspected that my weight had held me back or caused me loss.

It was 2006 and I had interviewed for a job in North Carolina. It was one of those grueling academic interviews that takes 48 hours and you meet with a search committee, a dean, as well as many other groups, and are tasked with presenting a "mock lesson." I didn't get the job, and for some reason, I came away with the impression that my size 18/20 body had something to do with it. The entire search committee was made up of thin-to-average-built people.

Later I convinced myself I was being silly. I was letting my own insecurities cloud my usual rational judgment. Obviously, I wasn't hired because they found a more suitable, more experienced candidate. Someone who was a better "fit." Not necessarily someone who could fit into a size 8. They were hiring a librarian, not a model.

Now, nearly a decade later, during which my weight has bounced around but stayed in the size 16-18-20 range, I have an entire catalog of experiences that have made me question whether or not my weight played a role in a negative outcome. Did I not get that promotion because of my size? Did that guy not call me after our date because he thought I was too big? Did my boyfriend not want to propose to me because I'm fat? Did that saleslady ignore me because I'm obviously too large to be shopping in this store? Did that waitress roll her eyes at me because I'm not ordering a salad?

Even as recently as today, I have wondered if my weight is holding me back professionally. My job duties include going out into the community to recruit students into an academic program as well as convincing local businesses to hire our students for internships and jobs. My whole job is about making connections. I can't help but wonder sometimes if I would have an easier time forging relationships and coming off as professional, polished, and persuasive if I were thinner.

I'm being ridiculous, right?

Do a google search on obesity discrimination or stigma and see if you think it's ridiculous. It's a thing. A real, empirically-studied thing. And because I'm a former research librarian, check out this article in specific, which provides the following quote:

"The present research demonstrates that, in addition to poorer mental health outcomes, weight discrimination has implications for obesity. Rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, weight discrimination increases risk for obesity."

But here's the thing, the thing that bothers me most: I've never felt like other people were to blame for judging me by my size. I always felt like it was up to me to diet and be thinner so I could be more closely aligned with societal expectations and standards.

And that, I now realize, is pretty fucked up.

I'm part of the problem. But that's how deeply entrenched these prejudices run, that even though I consider myself an advocate for body positivism, I am not able to extend that understanding and acceptance to myself. I wrote a whole book on these ideals and I still haven't internalized them for myself.

I have a long way to go.

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