Should we ever discriminate because of weight?

I read an article on the Daily Mail website this week (yes I know Daily Mail can be very much argument enticing articles but I couldn’t resist) about a lady who refuses to let her daughter be taught by a fat teacher. As I have been both a size 30 and a size 6-8 and various points in between I have a mixture of opinions on this I thought I would share. The article I am talking about can be found here if you are interested.

Large obese lady with neck and chin merging together looking unhappy.
In the article mentioned above the writer, Hilary Freeman, says that she decided against sending her daughter to a particular nursery because the member of staff who would be working with her daughter was in her words “only in her 20s, but she was already obese – morbidly so. She moved slowly and breathlessly, her face flushed.” Hilary also questioned “Would she, I wondered, have the lightning reflexes needed to save an adventurous toddler from imminent danger?”.
I feel that her comment about whether she would be able to save a toddler from imminent danger is partly justified because of course we all want to be sure that when our children are not in our care they are looked after and kept safe. However I also believe the responsibility is with the employer and you need to place your trust in the establishment, in this case in the management of the nursery, to ensure all staff are physically and mentally well enough to look after your child. I think that surely it is just as important that a member of staff does not have a condition which may result in them passing out in the sole company of a child who would not understand and know what to do, a condition like this however is not visually obvious.

In the photo below I was too big to fit into some rides at theme parks as the safety bar could not close (very embarrassing!) however would you think I was too big to teach your child?

Jen in a brown cardigan morbidly obese showing sideways on just face and arm
When I have looked at nurseries and schools for Ben I have always looked as a whole, do I trust they will keep the doors secure so children don’t escape for example (one nursery I rejected based on this) and whether I believe they understand how to entertain and teach children, especially in my case those with special needs. I am not aware of any time that I have even really noticed the size of the staff, or for that matter their hair colour, shoe size or whether they had pierced ears!
You only have to watch a televised event such as the Great North Run or London Marathon to see that people of all shapes and sizes can be fit enough to run 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles respectively. Yet if you saw some of those people in a classroom or nursery based on their size you may doubt their ability to catch your child should they try to escape the building. Unless your child is the next world record holder I think the chances are most people could catch them, especially at nursery age as in the article, after all they are only little people with little legs!
I think the truth of the article is that Hilary Freeman did not want her child to believe fat was ok, she also said this. However isn’t this teaching the child that there is a perfect and anything else is not enough. As someone on my Facebook page pointed out surely this kind of attitude embedded from an early age is not good for a child and could lead to eating disorders. I am inclined to agree. Towards the end of Hilary’s article she says how hard she works to keep her figure a size 10 because she has struggled with her weight in the past, this in my opinion explains (though does not justify) her attitude and I think she is speaking more about her beliefs for herself and then putting those on others when it really is not appropriate!

Ben on his 3rd birthday kneeling on the floor surrounded by presents and balloons

Does a Child of this sort of age (photo above) really care what size the person is they are playing with or learning from? Unless you are eating endless doughnuts in front of them I am pretty sure they wouldn’t notice!
Of course there are some jobs where a person must be of a certain fitness level to be able to carry out the job and many of these are very well known, for example fire fighters, police officers, personnel in the forces, and many more. Every job however will have some necessities whether these are physical, mental, emotional or otherwise. An employers job is to ensure those employed are constantly capable of the job they are paid to do. A teacher generally will not need to run, but they will need to read for example. We surely have to put our trust in people who have much more knowledge than us to ensure this.
If someone teaching your child had a mental health problem that meant they were less attentive would you know this on a visit? Would it be visibly apparent? The answer of course is no, it is very likely you wouldn’t know, so just because we can see someone’s weight doesn’t mean we should judge their ability to do the job does it? Or do you think it does? I would love to know your thoughts and experiences.
When I was at university I was turned down for a job I had the experience for because of my weight! I was around a size 20 at the time and it was bar work in a popular busy bar in the middle of the city. I was told “you do not have the look we are looking for, we like staff who the customers like the look of and who are attractive and slimmer”. I guess looking back I should have complained about this further as this is blatant discrimination but I didn’t. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Other than that the only discrimination or comments I faced were in the streets or nights out by people saying I was fat etc. My partner Stuart had similar comments from people, he reached 37 stone however is not aware of any direct discrimination in jobs though I guess we just never know why we don’t get some jobs we apply for as not all employers are as blatant as the one I experienced. Stuart has an office job which would not be affected at all by his weight.

a photo of Jen holding ben as a baby, jen is in a brown top and smiling. Ben is in a santa outfit. Jen is sitting on a blue sofa.

Although the above photo was taken a couple of years after the incident when I was turned down for the bar work due to my size I know I was a similar size to the picture. I appreciate I was not skinny, but I certainly was not too big to do bar work.
I got thinking some more about this so I asked some other bloggers for their opinions and thoughts because us bloggers tend to be an open and opinionated bunch! Do you agree with the Hilary Freeman? Do you agree with my thoughts? What do you believe about a persons weight and if we should discriminate against them due to it when looking at jobs? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.
What did the bloggers say?
I did not mention the article when asking the bloggers and not one mentioned a teacher could be too big to teach, interesting really as shows in my opinion the thoughts of this article are probably quite rare!
Samantha says Rather than concentrate on how big a person is we should concentrate on whether they can physically do a job without putting their health at risk. If the answer is yes they can, then there’s no issue about what size they are and nothing is off limits.” Sally agreed and said its only when size stops them doing a job like someone overweight being a formula one driver who cant get in the car that it should matter.
Frances says “Size can restrict you, for example flight attendants need to be able to get down aisles easily and police need to pass a fitness test to be suitable for their job. That’s not fat shaming though, it’s making sure someone can physically do the job they’re paid for.” Raimy agreed saying “I do feel like there are certain jobs where it makes it an issue if you are too big, but no one should be shamed for it”.
Katy shared a rather difficult experience with me, I had a large health visitor come when my baby was a few days old, and asked me when I was going to lose weight. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask a new mum that, and said so, but really I was a bit offended that she was 25+ stone and asking me to lose weight, as I had already lost 2.5 stone while pregnant. I wouldn’t fat shame someone, as I’m overweight myself, but feel there are some jobs being obese isn’t appropriate for. One being talking to others about weight loss.”
A similar feeling is “I find it ironic when people in the health profession who are telling you that you are overweight and need to lose weight are overweight too but I would never fat shame them as you don’t know if there are any reason for it.” says Debbie.
Emma says I think its about health & happiness not fat shaming. Unfortunately being overweight carries many health risks so is an issue. If you are healthy I don’t think your size matters”
Sarah said I am a relatively healthy bigger person (size 18) and while I’d like to be smaller I am happy because my health is good, I have dealt with fat shaming most of my life in the form of bullying at school and into my adult life, during my pregnancy, because of my BMI which we know is b*****ks anyway, I had to have a GTT (Glucose Tolerane Test), even though the diabetes in our family is my husbands side and there are none on mine (third pregnancy, no issues in previous two) I did feel annoyed that because of my weight that they tested, however it’s now all women who are tested.”

Is it fat shaming or safety?
Helen says “I think that the media make everyone feel like this it shouldn’t matter but to most people it probably does.”. I have to disagree with Helen I think the media try to imply it doesn’t matter but the reality is they constantly push people to worry about their bodies and shame celebrities who put weight on.
Kate agrees that health is more important than size however when talking about pregnancy and how weight can affect that she said “as a mum who had her first three babies whilst overweight and with a high BMI and had my last three after loosing three stone, it does make a huge difference to how you feel and your pregnancy. I used to hate feeling ‘higher risk’ and being constantly reminded about loosing weight. Once I had though, I totally understand why they preach so much.”

Christy looks at it from another point of view, of whether fat shaming actually would encourage you to lose weight and she says “I suffer from anxiety and I’m an emotional eater. If someone shames me it’s going to push me into a box of chocolates. If someone talks to me positively about what can be achieved and how then I’m willing to listen and I’m trying my best to improve. I want to improve my health for myself and my family, not because some stranger is judging me.”
Leanne says “I’m overweight myself and find it odd to see largely overweight people in certain professions. For example if I joined a gym and my personal trainer was bigger than me, it wouldn’t exactly motivate me. I’ve been told by a doctor who was quite a few stone heavier than me that I need to lose weight and it felt awkward.”
Sara says I’m in the military and as long as someone can physically do their job and pass the fitness requirements then it’s not an issue. But the standards shouldn’t be lowered as they are there for a good safety reason.”. This of course is a very valid point. Jade agrees saying “you can’t have an unfit person running into a burning building to save somebody, a police officer who can’t chase a criminal or nurse who can’t get around the sides of a patient’s bed.”

Renee sums things up really well by looking at other cultures and says  I don’t think fat-shaming is ever ok. Its presumptuous to think that size = physical fitness. I know a lot of very slender people who are less physically fit than myself as a ‘bigger’ person (Uk dress size 14-16). Think about other cultures, bigger size is revered. Japanese Sumo wrestlers for example eat huge amounts in order to become bigger and therefore ‘more powerful’. Each culture has a belief and to fly against that always ends in shaming. Its sad”

Have you had any experiences that have changed how you feel? What are your opinions on this? Please do share in the comments below.

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1 Comment

  1. September 11, 2017 / 12:01 am

    While personally I think her choice was based on the wrong thing, she does have a right to make that choice for her child. I just hope for the child's sake she doesn't project her own bodily insecurities on him like she did on that teacher, because ultimately, I think that's what this was about. She was thinking of herself when she was bigger and worrying she wouldn't have been able to run around after a child. Surely the school wouldn't keep the teacher employed if that was a real issue.

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