Paris is to host its first "anti-sizeism" day, including an extra-large fashion show, as part of a week against all forms of discrimination.
Friday’s event at the city hall dedicated to the fight against "grossophobia" (fatphobia) comes after a woman hit headlines with her book on being fat in France, recounting how she lost her job and ended up homeless over discrimination. She currently lives in a youth hostel.
Paris town hall defines "grossophobia" as "a specific form of rejection, disdain, hostility and discrimination targeting overweight people".
It can come in "many forms," it said, from insults from strangers or the victim’s entourage to discrimination from institutions, and can lead to guilt and self-hatred.
Organisers say the event’s aim is to place the French capital at the forefront in the fight against discrimination.
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"We have not found any public action in France on this issue. The fight against ‘grossophobia’ is conspicuously absent from the fight against discrimination," Helene Bidard, head of gender equality and discrimination at Paris town hall, told Buzzfeed.
Activists, bloggers, academics, health practitioners, education professionals, fashion and garment industry representatives will take part in two panel discussions.
Participants will include French writer Gabrielle Deydier, author of book You’re Not Born Fat, which sparked national debate on the issue this autumn in a country where women are reputedly obsessed with staying slim at all costs.
Ms Deydier, 38, who weighs 150kg, or 23.5 stone, says that being fat in France is considered to be a grotesque self-inflicted disability. Her book recounts her mistreatment by doctors, employers and strangers, one who even ordered her to "cover up" on a beach during a shoot.
She said she had lost a job because a colleague objected to her obesity, and was told that it was “well-known” that fatter people had lower IQs.
Other participants include American "body positive" blogger Jes Beker who has also written two books, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls and Landwhale, as well as sociologists and medical professionals.
"What a magnificent thing to have happen in France and I’m so honored to be asked to be a part of it," she wrote on her blog.
The event will end in a "militant fashion show" using "non-professional models" wearing "large-sized" designer clothes.
The aim is to promote body diversity and to "question norms linked to ‘beautiful’ or ‘acceptable’ bodies" in French society, said the town hall.
A recent survey suggested that an overweight Frenchwoman is eight times less likely to be employed than one seen as respecting weight norms.
Despite its reputation of being a nation of svelte people, an extensive study published last year found that half of the French are overweight, with around 16 per cent of men and women obese.