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Over the past few decades, issues related to obesity and overweight have greatly increased. One in four persons in today's culture are overweight, and one in ten youngsters in that country have clinical obesity, according to a study that was conducted there. Excessive fat is a symptom of the disease known as obesity, which increases the likelihood that someone's health will suffer. It does, however, reflect a socially disadvantageous position. The term "social stigma" describes the dislike of those who don't meet the established norms in today's society. The problem creates barriers and has an impact on the victims' lives in all spheres. Some of the challenges associated with obesity stigmatization include negative psychological, physical and societal consequences. What is more, the negative stereotypes contribute to prejudice, stigma, and discrimination against the individuals through different settings such as society, workplace, education institutions, healthcare, mass media and interpersonal relationships.
That makes obesity not only a personal health deficit or own trouble concerning medical issues, dietary practices or physical health of the people living with obesity. Furthermore, the “thin ideal” belief has led to negative stereotypes of obese individuals who are often considered ugly, morally and emotionally impaired, asexual, discontented, weak-willed and unlikable (Myers & Rosen). Several types of research got conducted to demonstrate the relationship between weight discrimination and negative societal consequences. Some of the evidence indicates that obese individuals are more likely to have high tendencies of getting exposed to hiring discrimination regarding the issue of lower economic status. On top of that, they are most likely to experience bullying when admitted into a college.
With a view of the issue, it gets considered that obesity isn’t just a psychological phenomenon but also a social problem where obesity stigma gets labeled by dominant society transforms into significant inequalities in every aspect of life. Concerning obesity, there are various historical contexts in place used to propagate the matter that has made it advance and reach its current state. The historical contexts can best get summed up by various sociological theories and concepts that try to connect and trace the history in determining the origin of the prejudices.
Based on that, one of the common theories is that of the cultural belief system. The theory has long on held to the belief and shaped American viewpoint on the basis that accomplishment and failures either economic or academic are as a result of personal motivation (Klaczynski, Goold & Mudry, 2004). Despite disparities in the position, often certain aspects and fields of life are perceived as the effort of an individual and in limited cases a consequence of environmental factors. The individualism mindset, therefore, poses high bias on people living with obesity. They get bombarded with information and details from diverse sources such as the media, parents, and peers that the perfect body shape is that of being thin. The point of view has far been taken and included in the advertisement of products and other services which exert additional pressure on people living with the condition.
Therefore, the individualistic perceptions tend to make people consider individuals living with obesity as having low motivation in reaching the designated body size. Failure to achieve the required status one gets branded as being weak-willed and lacking skills and motivation to triumph over their bodies. The more one deviates from the cultural setting, the more you get labeled as a failure. Obese individuals are held personally accountable for their conditions and situation since they get seen as lacking the will to alter their circumstances (Klaczynski, Goold & Mudry, 2004).
The other theory that can get used to trace and connect the history regarding people with obesity and the current societal viewpoints is that of the controllability theory. The theory posits that weight bias may stem from attributions of blame directed at obese people for their weight. The method tries to examine the role of perceivers and the aspects that guide them into their outcome. The theory anchors its argument that the capacity to alter a situation is at the disposal of the individual and is a necessary component in determining responsibility. In most instances, the ideologies get demonstrated as having significant discriminatory capabilities against the group with the condition (Schafer & Ferraro, 2011). An instance is of people with obesity who get seen as having all that is required to regulate their situation. The consideration in most cases is biased and has the capability of psychologically affecting the victim.
Researchers, activists and interest groups have tried to obtain different perspectives so as to understand and approach the issue. One the perspective is that on labeling. Tagging creates enormous negative stereotypes on people with obesity. The individualistic assumptions engraved in people’s mind cause disastrous effects. Messages such as the need to take control of your body and illustration of the messages tend to make people fall into believing that weight is controllable through personal actions. The aftermath of internalizing such messages is that they make the victims accept that his or her weight can’t get controlled thereby suffering from self-esteem issue (Schafer & Ferraro, 2011). It is unlikely that perceptions on personal control over weight lead to a direct impact on self-esteem. However, views on the lack of control over weight only result in prejudices on obese people if the message gets internalized and they value the thinness ideology (Schafer & Ferraro, 2011).
Furthermore, the relationship between overweight and self-esteem seem to get related in one way or another. Global self-esteem is a result of specific domains. The more a particular area gets emphasis for success the more self-esteem issues rise. The thinness ideology gets much consideration for personal and economic success, therefore, an internalization of the meditation of self-esteem and weight issues. People fall into believing that weight is controllable hence leading to subjecting of prejudices to obese individuals. They tend to exhibit lower self-esteem outcomes which impact on their personality (Schafer & Ferraro, 2011).
The other perspective is that on criticality. It relates to inequalities of obese people in societal situations. There is the thought of self-esteem issues getting tied to the abilities of a particular group which forms their determination basis and gauges the superiority of the group. An example is that being of obese individuals. The higher the status a group gets associated with, the more members are likely to gain from its affiliation. People who closely identify with a particular group are less likely than those not affiliated to derogate outgroups. Therefore when people are closely about something that would benefit them, they only tend to consider it and disregard others. An illustration would be the portrayal of obese population in a bad light which leads to subjecting them to inequalities (Myers & Rosen, 1999).
Since most people tend not to be in the situations that overweight people are, they discriminate and look down on them. They harshly critique the victims occasioned by beliefs propagated by diverse mediums. The current society tends to favor the analytical criterion that gauges someone so that they may fit and gain acceptance. It tends to sideline obese people as they are seen as lazy and ill-motivate since they don’t conform to societal expectations consequently translating to the inequalities leveled on them (Myers & Rosen, 1999).
The other perspective is that on the Thomas principle. The theory states that “if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequence.” Actions get affected by subjective perceptions of situations. The theory suggests that any suggestion of a situation is often likely to change its present. What is more, after series of definitions of the individual it gradually influences a whole life policy and personality of the person. Thomas puts more emphasis on matters such as family and education among others as crucial to the role of the situation when detecting a social world. In such cases, subjective impressions can get projected as in life thereby becoming real to the projectors.
An example is how obese people get labeled as being ugly and unlikeable which translates to lowering of their self-esteem. The belief began some time back but never got much consideration. However, as a result of the constant emphasis on the topic and analyzing it based on skewed judgments and beliefs, it became the norm. Labeling obese individuals as ugly and lazy among others has now become a framework cultivated in the society to distinguish and castigate them (Myers & Rosen, 1999). That explains why the subject has now become projected in real life which was occasioned by the constant emphasis on the subjective impression making it almost impossible to overcome.
For a solution to obesity stigmatization, certain matters need to be put into consideration to assist in getting the issue at hand. Some of the recommendations that could be of help include cultural shifts. There is a need for the society to overcome setting of standards that are used to determine various societal aspects. An example is the thinness belief that used to determine success and economic prosperity. A shift from the thinness ideal would play a significant role in incorporating everyone in the society and make them feel appreciated. Each and everyone’s faults needed to get equal consideration and embraced instead of being condemned to assist in obtaining a solution.
The other recommendation geared towards reduction of obesity stigmatization would be policy level approach. It would incorporate regulation of how various institutions use different platforms while delivering certain messages. An example would be the control of biased advertisements and media promotions and messages which tend to ridicule and castigate obese people. The move would aid in eradicating set preconceptions and avoiding psychological effects on the disadvantaged groups. Better alternatives should get the consideration that tends to appreciate diversity and unite people instead of dividing and categorizing them based on unrealistic expectations.
Individual level activity is the other recommendation. People should focus on ensuring integration instead of supporting established misconceptions. It’s everyone duty to fight the beliefs and create awareness on the need to take the stigmatization matter seriously. Consideration should begin focusing on the issue from different perspective and dimension ranging from the effects and impact it has on the victim. It should act as an eye-opener on the need for change and assist the affected to overcome their situation. Also, it’s to improve their health and overall well-being and provide them the necessary aid.
In conclusion, the issue of obesity is crucial with consideration to its effects. From the sociological theories and perspective, they need intervention that would combat the matter. Discussions need to wholly examine the subject to uncover root causes that would be of help in coming up with satisfactory responses.
Klaczynski, P. A., Goold, K. W., & Mudry, J. J. (2004). Culture, obesity stereotypes, self-esteem, and the “thin ideal”: A social identity perspective. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33(4), 307-317.
Myers, A., & Rosen, J. C. (1999). Obesity stigmatization and coping: relation to mental health symptoms, body image, and self-esteem. International journal of obesity, 23(3), 221-230.
Schafer, M. H., & Ferraro, K. F. (2011). The stigma of obesity: does perceived weight discrimination affect identity and physical health?. Social Psychology Quarterly, 74(1), 76-97.
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