I ran into a fellow grad student after class, who has recently switched from the stodgy annuals of European history to gender studies. Amy and I are both presenting papers at an upcoming history conference and I let her know that I found her topic on the sexualization of the Spice Girls interesting. She’s incorporated art history to present a multi-faceted look of the individual Spice Girls with their artistic counterparts. She said she will send me her paper so I could post snippets of it here.
We’re both really interested in the representation of women in mass culture, particularly in fashion and in women’s magazines. Discussion led into how the standards have continually shifted and become higher and harsher for women. And then Amy told me this little anecdote and gave me permission to share here.
In 2006, Amy took a year off school and had to apply for health insurance. I assume she didn’t have a job in which health insurance was available. Amy was denied for health insurance through Blue Cross/Blue Shield for two reasons: She had a preexisting condition of migraines which had required hospitalization twice in 25 years; and she was declared overweight.
Amy stands 5’0 inches and at the time, weighed 125 pounds. Her height and weight placed her BMI at 24.4, which falls within the range the government has deemed to be average.
Amy said she wrote a strongly worded appeal, emphasizing her healthy diet and lifestyle and castigated Blue Cross/Blue Shield for imposing unrealistic standards. She added that she is especially sensitive to the verbiage because as a dancer, she’s seen many of her classmates and friends go on to develop eating disorders. Unfortunately, Amy only received further form letters reinforcing her denial.
“Could you imagine if I wasn’t as confident?” asked Amy. “Being denied health care could have put me right over the edge.”
I have heard of people being denied health insurance for being overweight, but I often hear of these cases at the upper end of the weight stratum, usually with the obese or morbidly obese. The fact that one can be well within average weight standards and yet be declared overweight and denied health care is mind-boggling.