Glamour has been covering the topic of body image for decades — their 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 their reporting on the topic uncovered an interesting nugget that, anecdotally, they 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 have shared how harsh stereotyping can 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, they wondered, and just how damning are they? To answer those questions, they needed good data, and they discovered in their research that that data didn’t really exist. While some studies had 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, Glamour worked with Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., director of research and weight stigma initiatives at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and crafted a survey of 41 questions that would reveal what 1,000 women really thought about their overweight, underweight, and normal peers. Using SurveyMonkey Audience, they sent their survey out to over 1,000 women and collected responses within days.
The data from the SurveyMonkey Audience survey showed that stereotypes towards both heavy and thin women are prevalent. 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. These 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”.
Glamour took these results and included the final piece, “The Secret Way People Are Judging You”, in their June 2012 issue — which became a social media success, with over 75 million media impressions and one of the largest outpouring of reader letters of the year. The data helped crystallize a difficult subject, and made it undeniable that everyone needs to challenge their own attitudes about women and weight.
Read the full story at glamour.com.