Media outlets broke the alarming news on Monday that the morning after pill, commonly known as Plan B, may not be as effective for women who weigh over 165 pounds, and might lose its effectiveness entirely after 176 pounds. But while reporters rushed to (rightly) panic about this possible major flaw in pregnancy prevention, some outlets tinged their coverage with a hint of judgement about women’s weight.
Despite the fact that medical professionals believe 176 pounds is a normal weight for a woman over six feet, NPR’s headline declared that the pill was going to be ineffective specifically for “obese” women. Other outlets joined in, detailing that the pill doesn’t work for “overweight” women:
Contrary to the headlines, a woman who is over 5’10” can have a normal, healthy body weight of 165. She is not “overweight” by the standards of medical professionals in the U.S.
And on top of that, the measure of “healthy” weight is already problematic. Studies suggest that a healthy weight may be different for black women than it is for white. And the most common measurement of “healthy” weight, the Body Mass Index, is debated among obesity experts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average woman in the United States weighs 166 pounds. But the media still regularly presents a false representation of women’s bodies — one that can negatively effect a woman’s mental health — and shames women who are considered overweight by conventional beauty standards. People who are heavier also report being ostracized or facing discrimination because of their weight. Weight discrimination in the U.S. increased by 66 percent over the last decade.