President's letting fat people down, say pickets in D.C.

August 26, 1994|By Tom Webb | Tom Webb,Knight-Ridder News Service

What's eating fat people? Well, there's a big list and it includes President Clinton, according to the fat folks who picketed the White House yesterday.

Chanting "two-four-six-eight, see the person, not the weight," about 150 women and a few male members of a national "fat acceptance" group chided the president for ignoring their concerns -- which they find ironic since he, of all people, should know the cruelty people with weight problems face each day.

"It is disturbing that President Clinton has distanced himself from these issues, particularly since his weight has often been the focus of media attention," said Sally Smith, executive director of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

And what are the group's concerns? Rampant discrimination, the protesters say. They believe that the 38 million significantly overweight Americans are hired less often than thin people, denied health insurance more often and misunderstood almost daily.

"I think society puts a lot more pressure on women in terms of body size," said Janet Meyers, a registered nurse from Philadelphia. "So while society has a role for a 250-pound man -- he can be president or a longshoreman -- it's never OK for a woman to be that size.

"There's a whole range of stereotyping. People look at me and automatically decide that I'm lazy, I'm stupid, I have no self-control. The way people look at me, you cannot believe it, just the amount of hatred."

Not to mention the difficulties obese people have with airline and theater seats, with doctors, with hospitals, with clothing stores and with the general public, they say.

The sight of 150 fat people waving protest signs attracted TV cameras, not to mention amazed stares from tourists.

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