You Can’t Afford To Be Fat At Work

the-drew-carey-show-mimiThe penalty for being fat in the workplace, especially as a woman, is considerable, says science, via xoJane. Like, it will cost you real dollars.

a 2010 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology that analyzed pay discrepancies between people of different sizes found some dramatic differences. This study broke women’s body sizes down into categories of “very thin,” “thin,” “average,” “heavy,” and “very heavy.” It found that when compared to women of average weight, “very thin” women earned $22,000 more a year, while “very heavy” women earned almost $19,000 less.

And lest you think these burdens are shouldered only by the extremely obese, a weight gain of 25 pounds predicted an annual salary loss of approximately $14,000 per year — or even more, if the woman gaining the weight was previously thin, as thin women who gain weight are penalized more harshly than already-overweight women who do so. Even being as little as 13 pounds overweight resulted in $9,000 less per year. I hope this demonstrates that this issue is not exclusively of concern to the very fat, but women in general.

“Even being as little as 13 pounds overweight resulted in $9,000 less per year.” You hear that? That’s the sound of my eyeballs exploding like grapes in the microwave.

In case you think this is merely a correlation / causation issue — like, maybe fat women tend to be poorer and have less education and so work in lower-paying jobs — there’s more. 

Every pound gained lowers the likelihood of a woman working in higher paying jobs that involve interaction with the public, or other forms of personal communication. And if they do get these jobs, they earn an average of 5 percent less than their average-weight counterparts anyway. … fat men do not experience the same pay discrepancies based on weight. Fat bias in the workplace — at least when it comes to a paycheck — is a consistent and severe problem for women at all levels of employment, background, and education, which ought to make gender the central feature.

There are no protections against being fired, or overlooked in the first place, for your size. Anyway, discrimination is notoriously difficult to prove in court. What is not notoriously difficult to prove is that we, as a society, need some serious re-education, because we judge books by their covers. (When we read at all.) We demand that women look a certain way and we will even reward them for meeting expectations, up to a point. But we will certainly punish them when they do not.

As someone I know pointed out on Facebook, the next time your skinny girlfriends gather around their salads and complain about how they feel so fat these days, remember that what they’re actually doing is voicing their very real fear that their privilege might be taken away from them — their social capital and, with it, their actual capital. Considering that women are, on average, paid less to begin with, who can afford to pay that price?

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