Glamour Magazine has been covering the topic of body image for decades (our first survey on the subject was printed in the magazine back in 1984; readers sent in their answers and staffers tabulated more than 10,000 responses by hand).
The latest in our reporting last year on the topic uncovered an interesting nugget that, anecdotally, we knew to be true: whether people know you or not, they make certain assumptions about you based solely on your size. Those judgments aren’t just the body snarking comments that have become common online; they are deeper than that, and about your personality and capabilities on the job and in relationships.
Experts told us how harsh such stereotyping could be—that overweight women are perceived as lazy, for example, or skinny women are thought of as self-centered and vain—but how widespread are these prejudices, we wondered, and just how damning are they? To answer those questions, we needed good data, and we discovered in our research that that data didn’t really exist. While some studies have been done about the bias against overweight people—research out of George Washington University, for example, has found that overweight women earn as much as $5,826 less than their normal-weight counterparts—none illuminated views on all weights and sizes.
So working with Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, we crafted a survey of 41 questions that would reveal what women really thought about their overweight, underweight and normal weight peers. Then SurveyMonkey took the poll to their Audience, and within days we had data to analyze and dissect and compare (no tallying ballots like the 80s!).
We had hoped that some stereotypes would be waning; in fact the survey showed quite the opposite—that heavy women are pegged as “lazy” 11 times as often as thin women; while thin women are seen as “conceited” and “superficial” eight times as often as heavy women. The results even surprised Puhl: “This is the first survey I’ve seen to put hard numbers to the idea that skinny women, and women of all shapes and sizes, are unjustly characterized,” she told us.
The final piece, “The Secret Way People Are Judging You,” in our June issue, became a social media success, with over 75 million media impressions and one of the largest outpouring of readers letters of the year. The data helped crystalize a difficult subject, and made it undeniable that we all need to challenge our own attitudes about women and weight. Read the full story at glamour.com.
Wendy Naugle is the executive editor of Glamour Magazine