Celebrity fat-shaming incidents increase womens’ anti-fat attitude, finds new study
Celebrities, particularly female celebrities, are routinely criticized about their appearance, also called celebrity “fat-shaming”.
Although these comments are passed on as trivial and inconsequential, the effects of these messages can extend well beyond the celebrity target. It creates ripple effect through the population at large.
Comparing 20 instances of celebrity fat-shaming from 2004 to 2015 with women’s attitudes about weight before and after the event, psychologists found these instances were associated with an increase in women’s negative attitude towards weight gain.
Tyra Banks was shamed for her body in 2007 while wearing a bathing suit on vacation and Kourtney Kardashian being fat-shamed by her husband for not losing her post-pregnancy baby weight quickly enough in 2014
“These cultural messages appeared to augment women’s gut-level feeling that ‘thin’ is good and ‘fat’ is bad,” said Jennifer Bartz, one of the authors of the study. “These media messages can leave a private trace in peoples’ minds.”
The research was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
Data was obtained from participants who completed the online Weight Implicit Association Test from 2004 to 2015. The team selected 20 celebrity fat-shaming events that were noted in the popular media, including Tyra Banks being shamed for her body in 2007 while wearing a bathing suit on vacation and Kourtney Kardashian being fat-shamed by her husband for not losing her post-pregnancy baby weight quickly enough in 2014.
They analyzed women’s implicit anti-fat attitudes 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after each celebrity fat-shaming event.
Results revealed that fat-shaming events led to a spike in women’s (N = 93,239) implicit anti-fat attitudes, with more “notorious” events producing greater spikes.
While the researchers cannot definitively link an increase in implicit weight bias to specific negative incidents in the real world with their data but previous research has shown culture’s emphasis on the thin ideal can contribute to eating disorders which are particularly prevalent among young women.
“Weight bias is recognized 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,” said Amanda Ravary, PhD student and lead author of the study.