Jennifer Lawrence takes on red carpet media for “weight bullying”

by | Jan 6, 2014

It always lifts my spirits when a young celebrity steps up and takes on the media establishment, especially on something as important as weight bullying. But why don't we vote with our remotes?

Jennifer Lawrence, star of The Hunger Games trilogy lucidly challenged the image stereotyping mafia of the red carpet media and the "mean girl" culture on the Barbara Walters show last month.

Jennifer Lawrence and weight bullying

Jennifer Lawrence and weight bullying

She is taking them to task for creating and perpetuating a culture where it is cool "to be mean" and for "weight bullying."  This is crucial not just because it is a trend which  has become damaging  for young people,  but it has also perniciously percolated  into our wider culture.

I'm not sure what happened to the old adage "If you can't say anything nice - don't say anything at all",  but this type of  public belittling and humiliation associated with the metaphoric dissection of the rich and famous,  is also a common bullying tactic that  spills over from  red carpet fashionistas into  all areas of our lives and of course ultimately the workplace.  The United Nations calls this these tactics of covert bullying  "the silent epidemic."  It is four times more common than overt harassment. It is also the commonly chosen weapon  bullying tactic of  women,  together with exclusion and negative body language.   All of these are very difficult to audit or prove.

Lawrence  calls on the media to drop it's overly zealous preoccupation with body image and the ubiquitous adulation of  size zero, which contributes  significantly to a lowering of self-esteem for many  women.  It is estimated that a record two out of three women attempted some sort of diet last year.

"I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV," said Jennifer. "Why is humiliating people funny? If we're regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren't we regulating things like calling people fat?"

Has your career ever been impacted by  weight bullying or any other kind intimidation? Think about reviewing your career with a 3Plus coach.

Wider implications

I actually don't care that much about celebrities swiping at each other, in the "who are you wearing style."  But it is about far more than that. It is the wider implications that bother me.  In real terms the discrimination of overweight women moves from being simply verbal to the practical and translates into their salary slips.  Weight bias can cause much as a  $19000 discrepancy  between  the salaries of  average weight counterparts. Lisa Quast in Thin is In for Executive Women  quotes the research of  Mark Roehling and Patricia Roehling, “It appears that the glass ceiling effect on women’s advancement may reflect not only general negative stereotypes about the competencies of women, but also weight bias that results in the application of stricter appearance standards to women.”

Interview and appearance

Claire Soper, 3Plus Image Coach, shared in her Mini-Coaching session last month,  recent EU research that suggests that in the recruitment process a woman's appearance is third in the assessment criteria,  but for men it is eighth on the list.   Additional findings from Mark Roehling and Patricia Roehling indicate that in the U.S. “between 45 percent and 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight (BMI between 25 and 29)” but “only 5 percent – 22 percent of top female CEOs were overweight. 

The researchers concluded :  “This reflects a greater tolerance and possibly even a preference for a larger size among men but a smaller size among women.”  

Vote with your remote

We  can't overlook the fact that Lawrence is indeed able to take on the establishment exactly because she is talented,  young, successful and beautiful.  Somewhat incredulously I read that she has faced criticism for weight issues and has been a target of "weight bullying" during her career. Although happily not a social x-ray, she is still slim and athletic looking by any standards  and as a high profit maker for the studios, we hope she will be taken seriously.

But if she can use her success to reduce the public sniping at the dress and bodies of famous people, which seems to make up the toxic daily diet of the mass media,  then that is already one step in the right direction.

The other alternative is for us, the public, to vote with our remotes and simply stop watching.

What do you think?


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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