Laurie Toby Edison

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Height Weight Discrimination: Making Progress in Massachusetts

Debbie says:

Last week, the Massachusetts state legislature held hearings on the state’s proposed height-weight discrimination law. Lots of the finest fat activists were there, including Marina Ahmad (quoted at the link), Sandra Solovay (who wrote Tipping the Scales of Justice, Marilyn Wann, and Susan Stinson, who wrote about the experience here.

It brought back memories for Laurie, who lives in San Francisco and thus was much more directly involved than I was when similar hearings were held (successfully) in San Francisco. Here’s what she remembers:

I attended all of the meetings with the board of supervisors in San Francisco in 1999 and 2000, before San Francisco passed its size acceptance law. My role was to talk as a mother about the effect of this kind of prejudice has on kids. Lots of other people spoke brilliantly on other aspects of the issue including Marilyn Wann and Sandra Solovay. Others folks spoke on the issues of height discrimination. Interestingly, one of the supervisors, Bevan Dufty spoke eloquently about the pain of a fat kid.

In 2000 San Francisco became the third city after Washington, D.C., and Santa Cruz, Cal., to legally forbid weight discrimination. Tom Ammiano, president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors at the time, said that the anti-discrimination measure passed because “many San Franciscans were being denied employment, housing and bank loans merely because they were perceived as being overweight.” I was thrilled when it passed here and it has been an effective ban. I have my fingers crossed for Massachusetts.

In the spirit of supporting the ordinance, a couple of links.

Somehow it seems that we managed never to link to Kate Harding’s BMI Project slideshow, although I’ve been aware of it for months. If you still harbor some vague sense that all those doctors and insurance agents must know what they’re doing with BMI, this should take care of those last lingering doubts.

And in this New York Times blog , Rebecca Thomas talks very clearly about what it’s like to be really tall:

Everywhere I go people stare at me. At the grocery store children gawk at me wide-eyed, craning their necks and pointing as they tug their mothers’ shirts. When I pass people on the street, I hear them mumble comments about my appearance.

Next month, Massachusetts. Next year, the world!

I am not deformed or handicapped, I’m not a circus attraction. I have strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. What makes me different is that I’m 6-foot-4, and I’m a woman.

I often wish people weren’t so rude. How can they act so unabashedly shocked when they see someone who is different from them? And I’ve got it easy; I’m a minority only in the sense of height. I can only imagine how those under the burden of a group prejudice based on their race or religion must feel.

This year, Massachusetts. Next year, your state? Ours? Every ordinance that passes helps the next one pass.

Thanks to Kerry for the Rebecca Thomas link.

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4 Responses to “Height Weight Discrimination: Making Progress in Massachusetts”

  1. Susan Stinson Says:

    Thanks for the mention of this here. The next step is for Massachusetts-based folks to write their state legistlators in support of the bill (H. 1844), so if any of your readers are moved to do this, it’ll help.

    The legistlature has to act on the bill by June.

    So wild when issues of discrimination based on height and weight end up at the state house. It would be a beautiful thing for this to pass.

  2. Dariana Says:

    Being tall has really become a problem for my friend too. Apart from the fact that it takes a lot of time for people to accept she’s a normal person and treat her accordingly, she has problems in finding a partner, which, at 27, shouldn’t be a problem at all. It may be her posture that offers her an elitist look (creating the impression of a very very picky and inapproachable woman) which drives men away, but I know better it’s the height. She’s a lovely person in every day life so it’s impossible not to be able to interact with people because of that.

  3. Catherine Says:

    What is the bill # and were can I find a copy of I can forward ed it to my local legislators and get support for this issue.

  4. Debbie Says:

    Catherine,

    It is H. 1844 and the text is here.

    Thanks for asking!

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