COST-2606EL Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Sizeism, Class Discrimination, Erving Goffman

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Week 8:
Body Sizes
Thinking About Bodies, Size, and Visibility
What is the size of a "normal" woman's body?
8, medium
What words describe it?
Body mass
What is the size of a "normal" man's body?
Large
What words describe it?
Not really known/defined
Concepts and Theories
Appearance
"What you look like, rather than who you are, often determines how people respond to you"
Garland-Thomson argues that as long as we (both our behaviours and our bodies) behave in
ways that are socially compliant, then our bodies often remain invisible - even to us
In terms of size, what do socially compliant bodies do?
Not stand out
Erving Goffman's 'Stigma'
Any mark or attribute that sets a person or group of people apart from others
The mark or attribute signifies these people as having a bodily defect or character defect that
spoils their social identity
Stigmas are socially constructed
Goffman believes that the vast majority of people possess stigmatizing traits, but we believe in
the illusory "normal" people
Controlling/Controlled Bodies
Modern theories of social control emerged as a sociological field of study in the early 1900s
Social processes/systems that regulate individual and group behaviours, leading to conformity
and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group
Feminist sociologists also refer to this as social regulation
There are two main forms of social control:
Internal control: we internalize norms and values through socialization
External control: external sanctions are placed upon us, which can either be positive ("rewards")
or negative ("punishments")
Social control occurs in formal pathways via government, policing, education, etc. And informal
pathways, such as our relationships, interactions, etc.
Sizeism
Like other forms of discrimination, sizeism isn't always explicit. It involves the perpetuation of
stereotypes and the attitudes that support those stereotypes, such as the idea that 'all fat people
are lazy' or that 'all tall people are good at playing basketball'
Sizeist attitudes can also take the form of expressions of physical disgust or disdain when
dealing with people of certain sizes
Sizeism (in relation to weight) often connects classist attitudes also
Sizeism is a form of discrimination that is based on the size of the person or group who is being
discriminated against
Sizeist attitudes are often deeply ingrained in society, which can make combatting it complex
The form of prejudice can be based on height, weight, or both
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