Today’s post is by Lindsey Mazur, Registered Dietitian, master’s student and founder of Manitobans Against Weight Stigma. You can connect with Lindsey on Twitter at @HAESRD.
Sizeism, or discrimination based on physical size and weight, is a human rights issue with serious consequences. This form of discrimination impacts those of larger body size as well as those of short stature. Like other forms of discrimination, sizeism has been found to lead to worsened health, physically and emotionally, and lowered quality of life .
As a dietitian working primarily in women’s health, I have heard horrible stories of experiences of sizeism from my clients. While I am not able to share specific stories, I can say that, in line with the research , my clients faced weight stigma in the doctor’s office, at school, in the workplace, in their homes, and in public. Their stories inspired me to begin a master’s degree with a research focus on sizeism in health care.
While completing a course in health policy, one of the exam questions was to imagine yourself as a policy maker promoting a new policy to improve population health. My policy idea was to amend the human rights code to recognize sizeism. This prompted me to get in touch with Manitoba MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), Dr. Jon Gerrard who just introduced a bill regarding this in October 2016! MLA Gerrard told me the bill was considered “dead”, meaning it was not passed. Because of the failure of that first bill, I wanted to increase public pressure to push the government to support such a bill, so I founded Manitobans Against Weight Stigma with two goals:
- To increase public awareness of sizeism and;
- To push the Manitoba Government to change the Manitoba Human Rights Code to include “physical size and weight”.
Talking with MLA Gerrard, I found out that his awareness of sizeism increased after years of consulting with the late Dr. Moe Lerner, a medical doctor in Manitoba who faced weight discrimination himself and became an outspoken advocate for the topic.
After talking with other local advocates, I learned of Dr. Jill Andrew’s work in Ontario, founding the #SizeismSUCKS movement and creating an online petition to include recognition of sizeism in the Ontario Human Rights Code in January 2016. Dr. Andrew’s #SizeismSUCKS campaign is now national with over 45,000 signatures for the petitions!
Manitoba is the first and only place in Canada to propose a bill, to change the Human Rights Code to include physical size and weight as a protected characteristic, to be included alongside other characteristics such as race, gender, etc.
As part of the national #SizismSUCKS movement, the Manitoba online petition has almost 9,000 signatures to support this bill.
Here is a timeline of the bill and some of the advocacy activities here in Manitoba:
- October 6, 2016 – Bill 207 was first introduced
- October 13, 2016 – Bill 207 was debated
- Then, Bill was considered “dead”
- November 23, 2016 – Manitobans Against Weight Stigma hosted the Rally to End Weight Discrimination, on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building to push the Manitoba Government to adopt a Bill to end sizeism.
- November 23, 2016 – The Bill was re-introduced as Bill 200
- November 2, 2017 – Bill 200 was voted on, and lost with a vote of 35-16
- October 25, 2017 – The Manitoba Government proclaimed Dwarfism Awareness Day, based on the advocacy work of the Little People of Manitoba and its President, Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk, in an effort to raise awareness and fight sizeism based on short stature.
- March 19, 2018 – The Bill was re-introduced as Bill 216
- October 2018 – Bill 216 to be debated/voted on again
- October 10, 2018 – Flash Mob to Fight Sizeism, organized by Manitobans Against Weight Stigma
Manitobans Against Weight Stigma has organized the Flash Mob to Fight Sizeism for October 10, 2018 to dance or “move” the Manitoba Government to change! We will be dancing on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building to break stereotypes based on weight and size and show that regardless of health status or ability, Manitobans of all shapes and sizes deserve respectful and fair treatment in schools, workplaces, health care and in the public!
You can support these advocacy efforts in the following ways:
- Attending and/or participating in the Flash Mob to Fight Sizeism
- Writing letters or emails to the Manitoba Premier and MLA’s to encourage them to adopt the bill.
- Connecting with Manitobans Against Weight Stigma on Facebook or Twitter/Instagram @MBWeightStigma and signing the petitions in the national #SizeismSUCKS Movement
- Puhl, R. and C. Heuer, Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health. American Journal of Public Health, 2010. 100(6): p. 1019-28.