Brazil: On the Frontier of Fat

A young woman says that although buses in Recife now have special places for overweight people, the turnstiles are not adapted.

The people of Brazil are known for their good looks. Bikinis and thongs are standard wear on the beaches. The country is among leaders in the use of plastic surgery and body sculpting. Beauty is important.

But now Brazil is becoming a country leading in the recognition of the rights of obese people.

“Gordofobia” is the Portuguese term for weight-based discrimination. It is a buzzword in Brazil. The country is joining the U.S. and Europe in featuring full-bodied women in ads and on catwalks. But it is also leading in public policy. The debate went from the media and into city halls, state legislatures, and Brazil’s Congress.

For example, schools are buying bigger desks. Hospitals are purchasing larger beds and M.R.I. machines. Movie theaters are offering wider seats.

The movement has its center in Recife, a city with a population of 1.4 million. Recife is one of the fattest cities in Brazil.

The rate of obesity in Brazil doubled over the past 20 years. It has led to a movement to make life easier for overweight people. The changes are not just about attitudes, but about laws as well.

Measures across the country now entitle the obese to seats on subways, and to receive priority at places like banks. In some cases, there even is legal protection from discrimination.

Lesson plans now include teaching about weight-based discrimination. A day is set aside to promote the rights of overweight people.

An expert said what is happening in Brazil is not taking place elsewhere. For example, a judge fined a comedian $1,000 for making jokes about a dancer’s weight. But passing laws and promoting rights does not change everything.

In the meantime, Brazilians are getting fatter. They are now closing in on the three fattest countries which are Mexico, the U.S., and Russia. An expert said it was because wages are rising in Mexico. People are able to eat more fast foods and processed foods. This leads to health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The “gordofobia” debate is not about health but about image. Brazilian people pump up their lips, breasts, butts and suck out their fat at a rate far higher than most other countries.

The movement for weight acceptance has three goals. The first is to improve the self-image of overweight people. The second is moving Brazil from worshipping shapeliness to recognizing differences in body types. And the third is to just make “chairs bigger.”

Source: The New York Times, February 27, 2022


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