Robust American Women

How our Persecution has been Embedded into our Culture

Slim Hopes with Jean Kilbourne
(If your computer is having difficulty downloading this film, try viewing at this link:

Women living in the USA today are often the targets of direct persecution through size discrimination by the media.

When the average American woman is about 5'4 and 142 lbs. and the average American supermodel in popular advertisements flaunts a 110lb. weight at 5'10, the discrepancy between what women in the US are meant to believe is realistic and what actually is creates major insecurity about the female body and appetite. This anxiety equals big business opportunity for advertisers bent on selling women with low self-esteem everything they need to become “beautiful,” a key reason why the dieting industry is currently a $42 billion powerhouse.


  • Only about 5% of women are born with the “media-inspired” desired body type.
  • The majority of photos seen in TV and print ads have been manipulated through air-brushing, computer retouching, or incorporate body parts of more than one woman (alas, that photo of the perfect female isn’t actually a photo of a human).
  • 95% of dieters will gain back all the weight they lose and then some within 5 years of initial weight loss.
  • Many food companies are aware of the high failure rate of dieting, and market their products specifically towards women on the edge of quitting a diet. (Do the phrases “wicked indulgence” and “sinful pleasure” remind you of any dessert package taglines?)
  • There currently exists no federal law protecting overweight people from size discrimination.


  • Today, 10 million American females are living with serious eating disorder
  • 80% of ten year old American girls are on diets
  • Liberation groups, such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance and the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, promote tolerance
  • Instances of weight discrimination in the workplace increasing (A 1998 survey found that 16% of interviewed employers would never hire an obese woman; 44% would only do so under special circumstances).

Weight discrimination was in the news most recently, November 2006, when talk-show host and model Tyra Banks donned a 350 lb. fat suit on the streets of New York City, curious about the reaction she’d receive from passers-by. The normally slender celebrity was appalled. “The people that were staring and laughing at my face—that shocked me the most,” Banks confided to ABC News reporters. A noble experiment on Tyra’s part, but it’s still a bit ironic that in order to make the public take notice of fat persecution, the subject has to be researched and presented by a thin person.

Sources and Links

“Activism! NAAFA Protests Casino’s Weight Control Policy.” NAAFA Online Newsletter. Spring 2005. 23 November 2006.

“FAQ about Weight Discrimination.” Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, Inc. 23 November 2006.

“Health of Fat Women: the Real Problem.” Fat Underground. 1974. 22 November 2006.

Jacobsen, Michael F., and Mazur, Laurie Anne. “Sexism and Sexuality in Advertising. Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 1995. 23 November 2006.

Madamepresident20. “Teen Pressures: Overlooked Attackers.” Youth Noise. 2006. 22 November 2006.

“Seven Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image.” Ed Referral Online. 16 February 2006. 25 November 2006.

“Sizing Up Weight Based Discrimination.” Tolerance in the News. 22 November 2006.

Slim Hopes. Dir. Sut Jhally. MEF, 1995.

Thomas, Lisa. “Weight, Metabolism, and Dieting.” Centre Syracuse Partial Outpatient Hospital. 26 April 2006.

“Tyra Banks Experiences Obesity Through Fat Suit.” ABC News Online. 4 November 2006. 25 November 2006.

“Weight Bias: Legal Issues.” Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University. 2005. 23 November 2006.

Mattie V.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.