I bought the cutest dress from Evans. I wore it on Christmas Day, you might have seen my earlier post about that outfit. I just love this dress, it’s so soft and comfortable, and I feel great in it.
On Wednesday this week, I wore it again, but instead of wearing leggings underneath, I wore a pair of rust coloured opaque tights from We Love Colors, and my cute new olive coloured Mary-Janes from Rivers. It felt so cute and fun and I really felt good in it.
But when I got to work, someone who works on the same floor as I do, made a little comment about how short my dress was. Just a little statement of “That’s very short, lucky you’ve got tights on.” The tone was just disapproving enough for me to pick up on it.
The following day, I wore another new outfit, with an above the knee skirt, almost as short as the dress, again with tights. Same person, sees me in the hall, and says “You’re really getting into wearing these short skirts, aren’t you? Bit short perhaps?”
Strangely enough, I heard her the afternoon before say to another young woman who works on the same floor, who was wearing a much, much shorter skirt than mine “Oh, look at you with your cute legs!” No tone of disapproval there.
The difference is, I’m a mega fat woman. The other woman is thin. Petite in fact, perhaps a size 6 or 8.
This is a very good example of the double standards fat women face when dressing for work, or even other events. Clothes that are considered appropriate for thin women, are suddenly deemed inappropriate when worn by fat women. As much as our bodies are desexualised because of our fatness, they are also hypersexualised. We literally have more breasts, more butt, more flesh that may be seen. The same amount of exposed cleavage that is appropriate for a thin woman is deemed inappropriate on a fat woman, simply because she has more breast tissue behind it.
This double standard also stems from people who find fat flesh offensive. It’s perfectly socially acceptable for a thin woman to wear a sleeveless dress or top, or something with spaghetti straps, or strapless, but for a fat woman to wear it, and expose her “back fat” or “bingo wings”, it suddenly becomes offensive.
It’s difficult enough when we have to suffer through disapproving comments on our clothing choices that other’s don’t have to tolerate, but it can even translate into real discrimination in the workplace.
I’m one of the lucky ones, in that I don’t have to deal with that in my workplace, well… other than from narrow-minded people who work nearby. But many people are not as fortunate as I am.
Appearance based discrimination is a very real issue and even particularly so for fat women. Fat women are considered lazy, gluttonous, less intelligent, messy, unprofessional and disorganised, simply because of their body shape and size. When someone who is less qualified gets a job because they are thinner/more attractive than the other applicant, despite qualifications, this is discrimination.
Even once they have a job, fat women are passed over for promotion, pay rises, are treated less equitably than their teammates, and are expected to dress and perform to a different standard than their thin colleagues. Fat women are even held to a different standard than fat men.
Body policing and size discrimination are not something that we imagine. Whether it’s just commentary from people we encounter on a day-to-day basis, or out-and-out workplace discrimination, it’s real and anyone with a fat body is open to it.
So what do we do about taking it on? How do we change it?