The injustice of fat stigma

Bioethics 33 (5):577-590 (2019)

Rekha Nath
University of Alabama
Fatness stigma is pervasive. Being fat is widely regarded a bad thing, and fat persons suffer numerous social and material disadvantages in virtue of their weight being regarded that way. Despite the seriousness of this problem, it has received relatively little attention from analytic philosophers. In this paper, I set out to explore whether there is a reasoned basis for stigmatizing fatness, and, if so, what forms of stigmatiza‐ tion could be justified. I consider two lines of reasoning that might be advanced to defend fat stigma. The first is broadly consequentialist. It seeks to justify stigmatizing fatness based on the public health benefits that might be produced by doing so. The second argument takes stigmatizing fatness to be a warranted response to the mor‐ ally blameworthy failure to slim down exhibited by fat persons. Clarifying and assess‐ ing each of these two lines of reasoning is the main task of this paper. I argue that, upon careful examination, both these attempts to justify the stigmatization of fatness fail.
Keywords fat shaming  health inequalities  public health ethics  responsibility  social equality  stigma  weight
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DOI 10.1111/bioe.12560
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