Can calling someone fat get you charged with a hate crime?

Calling someone fat might be mean, but is it also considered a hate crime? It could be, at least in the U.K. A new report has recommended that members of Parliament should investigate putting "appearance-based discrimination" on the same legal level as racial and sexual discrimination.


Why? Society's focus on appearance and body image has put increasing pressure on people of all ages to look a certain way—even the very young. In the report, Parliament members said girls as young as five years old are now dealing with mental and physical illnesses due to weight concerns and that a quarter of all seven-year-olds have tried going on a diet. And even more troublesome? The document also said that appearance is the greatest cause of bullying among children, leaving some suicidal and others with eating disorders. 

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The disturbing findings have now prompted the parliamentary group to ask officials to look into creating a potential new law or amendment against weight discrimination. Though the Equalities Act 2010 already makes it unlawful to harass or discriminate against anyone because of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability, the report, entitled Reflections on Body Image, also recommends reviewing "the problem of appearance-based discrimination."

Body image and weight discrimination are definitely huge problems all around the world and steps to improve the health of the public needs to be taken both overseas and here in the states. That being said, I'm not sure that making them a hate crime is necessarily the best response. To me, it seems like it falls into a completely different category than the other discrimination laws. I mean, it makes complete sense for race, gender, sex, age, etc to fall within legal bindings because those are things a person cannot change. But weight is a variable that people can control or at least, take steps toward changing.

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And while I'm not saying that weight discrimination doesn't exist, I think any government would be better off spending their time taking more effective actions to improve the health of their public—like exercise programs and self-esteem classes at school for young kids, better food laws, etc. Plus, no matter what, the sad truth is that people will still find a way to bash others for their appearance, even if it's not their weight.

In the end, I don't think a law would do much to change anything. Until the public as a whole stops placing such a strong focus on the "ideal" image, it's up the individual to embrace their own body. 

What do you think of the potential law? Tell us in the comments below!

Image via Thinkstock

Topics: healthy eating  mental health  latino health  overweight