Friday, February 24, 2006

Fattie Baddie

I was watching Envoye Special last night. One of the themes covered was obesity and the perception of fat people in public. It was all terribly PC and while it made some important points concerning access to medical treatment, was one of the most annoying reports I've seen in a while.

They took a seriously fat girl and a normal-sized girl, and with hidden cameras sent them off with identical CVs into the same job centre a few minutes apart to see what reception they would receive for a job as a salesgirl. Can you guess how they would be received? Duh, me too. The slim girl was asked to fill in a form and told about this or that job. The fat girl was told that the agency only received applicants with a rendez-vous. Note that the job the girls went for was in sales where appearance is most of what counts.

I don't know if the point of the report was to draw our attention to the discrimination suffered by fat people in the job market, but all I can say is that it was a piece of provocative journalism. Had the girls being trying for a job where image was not important, and there are many, I might have found the report more credible, but if your business depends on image, you are hardly likely to employ anyone with an abnormal physique to represent your affairs. Haute couture designers use skinny models to promote their clothes as their clothes look best on that type of figure. The principle applies to any business which deals with the public. Small men often complain they are discriminated against in businesses too, as are ugly people and the disabled. They, however, cannot do anything about their physical appearance. Most fat people can.

There are the 'obese morbide' as the French so picturesquely call them, those with a BMI of over 40 whose obesity is classified as a disease, but they are the exception. Most overweight people eat badly and don't exercise enough. If that is an un-PC thing to say, just consider that it's only in recent years that being over-weight has become such a problem. How many fat people were around in during the Wars of last century? No one had enough to eat, there was no petrol for cars and everyone was physically more active.

French law forbids discrimination against people based on their physical appearance, but it is rampant in the work place, as found by a Sorbonne student doing a thesis on this subject who used computer imagery enhancement to make the faces of slim people fat. She then sent off job applications and found that the fat faces received 25% fewer replies.

It's oh so shocking, spouted the journalists. Okay, it's shocking but is anyone really surprised? People cannot be forced to accept others, and it's a human reaction to be intolerant of those who are different. That includes foreigners, the disabled, the overweight, the small, the religiously different, those with a different skin colour, homosexuals and any other minority you can think of.

The only hope is to help people to help themselves, take responsibility for themselves and encourage tolerance which may even, one day, lead to acceptance.

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