Stigma Against Fat People The Last Acceptable Prejudice? Doctor To Host ‘Tweet Chat’ To Discuss

Kenlie Tiggeman was attempting to board a Southwest Airlines plane when the gate attendant refused to let her on the plane. According to Tiggeman and witnesses, she was stopped at the gate by airline employees who proceeded to quiz her loudly about her weight and size. Ultimately, they deemed her “too fat to fly” and denied her access to the plane.

Tiggeman, who has lost 120 pounds and has about 100 left to lose, says its not the first time she’s been treated differently because of her weight. “Just last week I was at the swimming pool in my gym when I overheard a woman on her cell tell a friend she was whale watching,” Tiggeman toldABC News. “She was looking right at me.”

And Tiggeman isn’t the only one. Recent studies have suggested that the stigma against fat people is the last acceptable prejudice, with people doing little or nothing to stop the verbal abuse. More and more examples are now coming into the light about how society treats overweight people differently, and often without mercy. And, unlike many other stigmas, there are no laws to protect the overweight.

Last week, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University published a study suggesting that male jurors didn’t administer blind justice when it came to plus-size female defendants. While female jurors showed no prejudice, men — particularly lean men — were far more likely to proclaim an overweight woman guilty, and even label her a repeat offender.

Another recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that top managers who were overweight were judged more harshly by co-workers, and seen as less effective leaders than their thinner colleagues.

The Inquisitr reported a study done by Dr. Alexandra Brewis of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Brewis said that people’s responses to obesity and overweight were often attached to a “negative moral message” about obesity.

Rebecca Puhl, one of the Yale researchers who co-wrote the juror study, notes: “Thinness has come to symbolize important values in our society, values such as discipline, hard work, ambition and willpower. If you’re not thin, then you don’t have them.”

In attempt to talk about this prejudice, Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical correspondent, is planning to host a one-hour “tweet chat” on Twitter. The chat will be open today from 1-2 p.m. ET, and the doctor will address questions and comments regarding not only the problem of obesity, but the stigma surrounding “fat” people. The event’s hashtag is #abcdrbchat.

More studies have backed up the claims that society looks at fat people differently. Fifty percent of doctors reportedly found fat patients to be “awkward, ugly, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment.” Twenty-four percent of nurses said they were “repulsed” by their obese patients. Nearly 30 percent of teachers said that becoming obese was “the worst thing that can happen to someone.”

These stigmas reach beyond the professional world and into the homes of overweight people. More than 70 percent of obese people said they had been ridiculed about their weight by a family member.

Tiggeman's experience is not an isolated one: is prejudice against fat people the last acceptable prejudice?

Tiggeman, who runs a blog cataloging her weight loss, says she’s taking a stand. She’s suing Southwest, not for monetary gain but for the airline industry to address its policies regarding overweight people.

“I have no problem being held to a standard, but I think that standard shouldn’t be applied arbitrarily based on how an airline employee feels about my size,” she said. “We need to know if we need one seat or two, because this eyeballing happening at the gate is incredibly discriminatory, and it’s so unnecessary.”

Do you think that the stigma against fat people really is the “last acceptable prejudice” in our society?