#MeToo has highlighted a very uncomfortable truth: sexual violence against women is ridiculously common. Just about every female on the planet can recount at least one story of unwanted sexual attention, and far too many can recount multiple abusive experiences. This is utterly horrific.

#MeToo is starting some important and long overdue conversations about this issue. Finally, the veil of shame and secrecy is being lifted, and there’s an outpouring of stories. And for perhaps the first time in history, women are being believed.


Being believed is what makes this moment in time unique, special, incredible. Because if we are believed, there is a chance that serious change can happen. A chance that the fundamental power structures keeping an entire gender oppressed can be shaken.

But there’s a problem: not all women’s voices are being heard. Not everyone’s stories of sexual violence are being told. Reflective of everything else in diet culture, the stories of fat women are conspicuously absent in #Metoo*.

This absence is not surprising: the lives of larger women are routinely erased from diet culture’s landscape. We don’t see larger women on the covers of magazines, or in the lead romantic roles in films. We’re much more familiar with the women who reflect the conventional thin ideal, much more ok it seems to hear the bad #MeToo news from a celebrity like Alyssa Milano rather than a social justice warrior like Tarana Burke.

What would happen if larger women’s stories of sexual assault were aired? Would they be met with the same level of empathy, shared horror, that are meeting the ones from conventionally thin women?

I don’t think so. Scientific research in this area reveals that weight really does impact on the likelihood of being believed in cases of sexual assault. In this study, participants were asked to read a scenario in which Janet and Mark had engaged in sex. Janet was claiming that she did not consent, whereas Mark alleged that she had indeed consented.

In order to investigate the impact of weight bias, the experiment manipulated Janet and Mark’s body weights. While the story remained exactly the same, in one condition, Janet appeared to be in a larger body, and Mark was thin. In another condition, Janet was thin and Mark was in a larger body. In another condition, both Janet and Mark appeared to be larger, and in the final condition, both Janet and Mark were thin. Participants were asked a series of questions about Janet and Mark’s stories.

The results showed that:

  • Males blamed Janet and endorsed ‘obesity stereotypes’ more than female participants.
  • Participants of both genders tended to believe Mark more if Mark was thinner and Janet was larger compared to when Mark was larger and Janet was thin.
  • Participants who strongly believed in both obesity and rape myth stereotypes were much less likely to believe Janet. This effect was particularly evident in the scenario where Janet was larger compared to the scenario when she was thin.
  • Participants ranked Mark as less credible when he was larger than when he was thin.


I love science, for the invaluable information, it gives us. But sometimes the truths that science delivers are downright sobering. This experiment highlights the vast problems of inequity, injustice and continued oppression which impact on women (and men) in their most vulnerable moments.

The scales of justice are supposed to be blind, but they’re not. The scales of justice REALLY ARE SCALES, and that just sucks.

* I acknowledge that there are many, many other voices in the #Metoo movement that are not being heard: women of colour, ethnicities that are not white, queer and transgender and a multitude of other lived experiences whose voices must be centered. This blog post highlighted weight as just one experience of oppression, in reality, many women are dealing with intersections of multiple identities. Until all voices are heard and believed, the fight isn’t over.