Mum calls for an end to 'thinism'

05:19, Jul 11 2012
Miranda Johnson
BULLIED: Miranda Johnson says strangers come up and tell her to eat.

Miranda Johnson is still traumatised by childhood bullying that saw her dubbed  ''chicken legs'' by a teacher.

As a St Martins School pupil in Christchurch she was teased by teachers and peers for being thin.

Now the 25-year-old, size-6 mother of one, standing 1.67 metres and weighing 44 kilograms, is too self-conscious to go swimming.

FAT AND PROUD: Massey University lecturer Cat Pause says "obesity is not a big health problem".
FAT AND PROUD: Massey University lecturer Cat Pause says "obesity is not a big health problem".

''I love swimming, but I hate getting into the pool in the daylight because people stare at me and I hear them whispering,'' she said.

''I like going to the Tekapo hot pools because in the dark nobody can see me.''

Johnson, an interior design student juggling her correspondence study with the care of 2-year-old daughter Xanthe, said even as an adult she was hassled about her weight.


''I have had strangers come up to me in shops and tell me I need to eat something,'' she said.

Facing the opposite problem is Massey University lecturer Cat Pause.

She has called for New Zealand to be the first country to outlaw discrimination against fat people.

She said ''fattism'' was the last socially acceptable form of prejudice.

Fat people lived in a culture that openly hated them, she said.

''We always hear about the war on obesity, and any time a politician or someone studying public health policy talks about solving the obesity epidemic ... they're talking about a programme of social eugenics to get rid of me.''

Pause, 32, has organised New Zealand's first fat studies conference in Wellington this week.

Being slender runs in Johnson's family, with her mother facing similar taunts.

Despite eating far more than her tradesman husband, and having a sweet tooth, Johnson does not put on weight.

She said popular culture portraying thin women as ''mean'' did not help.

''If you look back through Disney films, the evil woman is always the thin one. Look at Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations.''

She said it was time people stopped ''thinism'' as well as ''fattism''- taunting others because of their weight.

''If we are going to stop teasing people for being overweight we need to stop teasing people for being considered too thin,'' she said.

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