Respect in the Media
Images used in online media often depicts people living with obesity in a stigmatising way, increasing feelings of blame and implicating individual responsibility. This creates an environment of shame and guilt which we urgently need to steer away from. Given the power of media today, we need to be increasingly careful about the type of images and language we use. On this page, you will find some general information about weight stigma, media recommendations and more.
What is weight stigma?
Weight stigma refers to negative behaviours and attitudes that are directed towards individuals solely on the basis of their weight. Unfortunately, stigma surrounding one’s weight is still very widespread and certain stereotypical characteristics often associated with overweight and obesity remain very prominent. These include laziness, lack of willpower, a lack of moral character, bad hygiene, low level of intelligence and unattractiveness. Importantly, overweight and obesity is often identified as an individual’s personal responsibility, despite the fact that the evidence increasingly stresses that obesity is a multifaceted disease with multiple causes.
For the following reasons, it is urgent that we stop weight stigma:
- Stigma does not just have emotional effects. Because of the fear of being stigmatised, many people avoid seeking medical care which can have severe physical effects. In some cases, it can also lead to disordered eating behaviours and an increase in suicidal ideas and acts.
- Stigma can also impact people’s social lives and relationships. Due to the fear of being stigmatised, people engage in social isolation and avoid social situations.
- Weight stigma can be internalised. Many people who have experienced weight stigma feel powerless to challenge it. This can therefore lead to individuals believing that the negative stereotypes attributed to them are true, and therefore that they deserve such stigmatisation.
- The stereotypical and widely perceived causal attributes of obesity such as laziness and overeating play an integral role in the generation of weight bias.
- Media are one of the main perpetrators when it comes to the stigmatisation of weight. Many online media and stories contain negative stereotypes that are often portrayed through negative language and images.
Interested in learning more? Check out all of the resources developed and made available by the World Obesity Federation here.
Also, make sure to check out their image bank which offers many non-stigmatising images, are completely free to use and easy to download.