The Trouble With Size Assumptions
Politics and Activism

The Trouble With Size Assumptions

Do you judge people based on physical characteristics?


I recently took an online quiz called, "Which Body Type Fits Your Personality?" I was asked questions that ranged from what I look for in a romantic partner to what role I serve within my friend group. According to the quiz, my personality aligns with the "hourglass" figure. My results read, "The hourglass is represented by about 8% of all women and perfectly embodies your personality! It is characterized by a small waist with voluptuous hips and breasts."

If you can't already tell, there are a whole slew of problems with this quiz. First of all, it's faulty. I am not part of the eight percent that possesses society's "ideal" body -- "ideal," in this case, meaning small waist and large breasts. Rather, I'm flat-chested with muscular legs and twigs for arms, and I'm tall. But more importantly, what about my personality suggests that I have a particular body type? What does my competitive nature say about my shape? Why does the fact that I look for unconditional love in a partner have anything to do with my size? What would it take for the quiz to tell me I have the personality of a tall, flat-chested woman with muscular legs and twigs for arms? What does any of this say about me?

Well, here's the truth: It says nothing.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that judges people based on size. It's seen in the way we view overweight individuals as "lazy" or "unmotivated" or even "asexual." Although it's a known fact that there are many reasons one can be overweight (including genetics and inability to afford healthy food), many people still assume that it's a lack of effort that makes people overweight -- that if they really tried, they could fit the societal expectation.

In 2012, Glamour magazine conducted a poll, surveying about 1,800 women between the ages of 18 to 40 on their assumptions about overweight women versus thin women. The survey revealed, "Heavy women are pegged as 'lazy' 11 times as often as thin women; 'sloppy' nine times; 'undisciplined' seven times; 'slow' six times as often."

And it's not only heavier people who face the scrutiny of societal assumptions. In the same study referenced above, thin women were much more likely to be labeled as "conceited," "superficial," "bitchy," or "controlling."

There is no winning.

There are personality assumptions that go along with nearly every physical characteristic. As a woman who is 5'9, I've come to realize that there are even presumptions about height. During the first day of classes during my senior year of high school, I sat down before my teacher came into the room. He guided us through the syllabus and introductions, and at the end of class when I stood up to leave, he said, "Wow, I didn't expect you to be tall."

Why did he assume I wasn't tall? What comprises the stereotypical "tall" personality versus a "short" personality? Honestly, I have no idea. But, as shown by my teacher's surprise, there are even stereotypes in our subconscious that we can't explain.

I think it comes down to our fixation with boxes. In Western culture, we have a box for everything. Whether it's race or gender or size or personality, everyone is expected to fit a particular mold. Each box brims with stereotypes that are associated with its inhabitants. If you're a woman, you're assumed to be passive and delicate and nurturing. If you're a person of color, you're assumed to be dangerous and uneducated. If you're heavier, you're assumed to be lazy and slow. Of course, nothing should ever be assumed about anyone, and in a perfect world, stereotypes wouldn't exist. But they do, and we face their consequences every day.

We're too big, we're too small. We try too hard, we try too little. We care too much, we don't care enough. We judge each other.

There is literally no way to predict the personality of a perfect stranger.

So why do we try?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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