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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Sizeism

This guide is meant to provide users with a familiarity of many different types of oppression and how to work toward a better world by combatting oppression.

Girls don't just simply decide to hate their bodies, we teach them to.

Sizism refers to the prejudices, biases, stereotypes, and oppression that affect a person or group of people solely due to their size or weight. Anyone, regardless of size, can have sizist prejudices, biases, or tendencies. Sizism is similar to ageism in that there are differing ideals and stereotypes regarding size. For example, in the United States, many advertising campaigns, TV shows, and movies perpetuate the idea that women should be tall and thin whereas men should be tall and muscular. In the past, sizism was most often directed at overweight or obese individuals. Today, however, it is recognized that sizism affects people of all weights and even those of varying heights.

Sizism in America is systemic because it plays a role in our institutions and society, whether we recognize it or not. Victims of sizism may sometimes be a party to this systemic shaming, without intending to act in that manner, and simply because sizism is so ingrained in our institutions, cultures, and societies. For example, a plus-size doctor may dismiss a patient's health concerns as weight-related rather than truly listening to the patient's issues and concerns. 

Sizism most commonly is used in terms of a person's weight; however, it can also refer to oppression based on a person's height. 

Body shaming is similar to sizism, but is the result of more than just a person's height or weight. Body shaming may include criticism of facial features, body shape, physical "imperfections" such as stretch marks or scars, or simply the clothes one is wearing. Body shaming may include criticizing someone else's appearance 


In the interest of full disclosure, the creator of and collaborators for this guide identify with some, but not all of the oppressed identities presented here. As members of the Penn College community, we strive to encourage diversity, inclusion, awareness, equality, and equity. While I have made an attempt to collect and present some of the more timely, relevant, and quality resources on the topics of oppression, I recognize that my collaborators and I are still susceptible to our own implicit biases, privilege, and perspectives. Given our own limited experiences, any thoughts, comments, or suggestions, particularly from members of any marginalized populations, are sincerely welcomed and greatly appreciated.