The recent Time magazine cover of newly re-elected New Jersey governor Chris Christie, calling him the “Elephant in the Room” is more than just a political pun in bad taste – it’s blatant fat shaming.
As described by Wendy Oliver-Pyatt in this blog post, fat shaming or weight stigma, “also known as weightism, weight bias, and weight-based discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on one's weight, especially larger or thinner people. Weight stigma reflects internalized attitudes towards body size that affects how those who are the targets of bias are treated.” In other words, weight stigma says more about the person making the judgment and the society at large than it does about the individual they’re shaming.
Despite its unfortunate prevalence, it is widely acknowledged that weight stigma is dangerous and can increase the risk for adverse psychological and behavioral issues, including depression, poor body image and binge eating.
It is never acceptable to discriminate against someone based on their size, and to make this kind of comparison on the cover of a national magazine sends the message that weight stigma is allowable, even encouraged.
The National Eating Disorders Association encourages Time to consider these facts and issue a formal apology—not only to Christie but to the public for normalizing and perpetuating fat shaming.