Combating Weight Bias in the Media
Obese people are highly stigmatized in our society and suffer from inequalities in employment, education, and health care as a result of weight discrimination. Studies show that the media is an especially pervasive source of stigmatization against obese persons. A recent Rudd Center study found that 72% of photographs paired with online news stories about obesity are stigmatizing toward obese individuals. Additionally, we found that 65% of videos paired with online news stories about obesity stigmatize overweight/obese adults, and 77% of videos stigmatize overweight/obese youth. News photographs and videos tend to portray obese individuals as headless (i.e. only from the shoulders down), from unflattering angles (e.g. with only their abdomens or lower bodies shown), and engaging in stereotypical behaviors (e.g. eating unhealthy foods or engaging in sedentary behavior). These images degrade and dehumanize obese individuals, while spreading false assumptions and oversimplifying the complex issue of obesity.
In an effort to reduce pejorative portrayals of overweight and obese persons in media reporting, we have created an Image Gallery that provides a collection of photographs that portray obese individuals in ways that are positive and non-stereotypical. These images provide a fair and non-biased representation of youth and adults who are overweight and obese. Our gallery can help promote accurate coverage of obesity-related topics in news reporting and challenge harmful weight-based stereotypes.