Are Jurors Biased Against Fat Women?

10950859361151CDPResearchers at Yale University recently conducted a study with 471 mock jurors. Each of them was given a hypothetical criminal case of cheque fraud, together with photographs of four fake defendants.

The four accused consisted of a portly man, a slender man, a svelte woman and an overweight woman. The jurors then assessed each accused’s guilt on a scale of five, based on their appearance.

The study results showed that male jurors consistently found the fat woman to be guilty, and the bias against overweight women was even greater if the male juror was a thin man. Curiously, this weight bias did not apply to male jurors assessing the guilt of overweight men and female jurors displayed no discrimination against fat people.

Natasha Schevey, who led the research, concluded that weight-based stigmatization is now on par with rates of racial discrimination. In other words, overweight people are vulnerable to bias and discrimination similar to racial prejudice, based on stereotyping that depicts overweight people as “greedy, lazy, unmotivated, and lacking in self-discipline and will power”.

The results of this study are no surprise to researchers who specialize in obesity. Similar studies at Yale have shown that the medical community holds disdain for fat people under their care, even in cases where the physicians themselves specialize in obesity.

Other studies have shown that young people choosing partners would prefer a disabled partner rather than an obese one, and employment research indicates that overweight people are 37 times more likely to suffer employment discrimination.

Statistics Canada says that almost one-third of Canadians aged five to 17 are overweight or obese.

Using World Health Organization standards of measurement, 31.5 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds — an estimated 1.6 million Canadians — were classified as overweight (19.8 per cent) or obese (11.7 per cent) from 2009 to 2011.

Among children aged five to 11, the percentage of obese boys (19.5 per cent) was more than three times that of obese girls (6.3 per cent), the agency said.

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation 60% of Canadian adults are overweight or obese.

What is shocking is that gender, disability, sexual orientation, and racial bias is protected by law, but weight discrimination has no legal protection. The victims of weight bias suffer in silence.

Is it even possible to change public opinion?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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