– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Celebrity fat shaming makes women more judgemental about their own and others’ weights, according to new research.
Psychologists from McGill University in Canada have selected 20 notorious instances when female celebrities were publicly criticised for their weight between 2004 and 2015, including the time Tyra Banks was described as “fat” after she was photographed in a bathing suit in 2007.
They examined the responses of 90,000 people who had completed the Weight Implicit Association Test, designed to test broader attitudes to body shape in society, two weeks before and two weeks after each instance, and found spikes in women’s negative reactions after notable fat shaming.
“These cultural messages appeared to augment women’s gut-level feeling that ‘thin’ is good and ‘fat’ is bad,” said Dr. Jennifer Bartz, one of the authors of the study. “These media messages can leave a private trace in peoples’ minds.”
The team’s research focused on implicit, split-second reactions to whether something is good or bad, rather than explicit considered responses – and found that the bigger spikes in negative gut responses came after events that made a bigger media splash.
They also found an increase in women’s implicit negative attitudes towards weight towards the end of the time period, after later media fat shaming, such as when Kourtney Kardashian was criticised by her then-boyfriend Scott Disick for not losing her post-pregnancy baby weight quickly enough in 2014.
Amanda Ravary, a Ph.D. student who led the study, added: “Weight bias is recognised as one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination; these instances of fat shaming are fairly wide-spread not only in celebrity magazines but also on blogs and other forms of social media.”
The team behind the research now hope to undertake tests under laboratory conditions to discover the exact causal effects of different negative messaging around weight. Their current work is published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.