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Opinion – New York City discrimination bill is a sign of progress

In a city known for its diversity and progressiveness, New York City has once again made headlines by taking a bold step in the fight against discrimination. 

This week, America’s cultural capital announced a new law prohibiting weight-based bias in employment, housing, and public accommodations. It’s a surprisingly positive legal turning point, given the contentious state of Western politics in recent years.

Amongst violent anti-trans legislation and archaic turns in female reproductive rights, NYC’s decision to outlaw weight-based discrimination sends a decidedly powerful message, particularly given America’s status as a generally overweight country.

This new ruling has the potential to redefine societal attitudes toward weight, not just within the city, but across the Western world – as one city’s determination to challenge the status quo could pave the way for a more inclusive society.

In a culture obsessed with appearances, the impact of weight-based bias is palpable, affecting the lives of countless individuals who don’t conform to society’s narrow standards of beauty.

But this week’s announcement brings a glimmer of hope to those who have long suffered significant prejudice.

By declaring that weight-based bias will no longer be tolerated, and that people should be judged based on their character and abilities rather than their appearance, the new law amounts to more than just a legal document.

NYC has sparked a powerful catalyst for shifting societal attitudes toward weight. The city sets an example that other cities and regions in the Western world could – and should – follow.

With the stroke of a pen, outlawing weight-based discrimination unravels years of deeply ingrained beliefs that equate thinness with beauty and success – a trend that is even more pervasive in the age of social media.

Regardless of the new rulings success in practice, it has already made an impact by addressing a long unspoken problem in American society.

The stigma around weight has meant that not only do those struggling with obesity and severe weight-related illnesses endure oppression and alienation from wider society, but the discomfort around discussing weight also means that adequate treatment isn’t readily available.

By opening up space for dialogue and critical examination of harmful biases, NYC is challenging the long-held notion that one’s worth is determined by the number on a scale.

Mayor Eric Adams, who was a crucial figure in passing the bill, shared his own experiences with weight-based stigma with The New York Times earlier this week.

Adams had even published a book on his personal weight loss journey and experiences eating a plant-based diet.

‘Science has shown that body type is not a connection to if you’re healthy or unhealthy,” he said. “I think that’s a misnomer that we’re really dispelling.’

transpire through communities, workplaces, and social media platforms.

Individuals are recognising the ways in which our environments are built for smaller-bodied people – a reality which only exacerbates negative weight-related discourse.

The New York Times reported that an NYC student expressed concerns her desks were too small for her.

The on-going debate around airline seats for overweight people has also highlighted the bigotry and lack of inclusivity shaping day-to-day service providers.

Given the fact that more than 40% of American adults are considered obese, these attitudes are considerably baffling.

The journey towards a more inclusive society (by any means) is far from over. But the crack-down on issues like weight discrimination proves attitudes are shifting.

Whether these attitudes will migrate from legislative infrastructure to daily interactions remains to be seen.

But the new law is said to take effect in 180 days. Shaun Abreu, one of the bills’ sponsors, hopes it will make people think twice about the factors they based their judgements upon.

‘Its […] about changing the culture in how we think about weight’ Abreu told The New York Times.

Given NYC is embracing the body positivity movement beyond a simple rejection of diet culture, it seems like that change may just be on the horizon.