Are We Ready to Throw Our Weight Around?
Fat Studies and Political Activism
Deb Burgard, Elana Dykewomon, Esther Rothblum, and Pattie Thomas
The authors of this volume are a force to be reckoned with. They constitute over fifty writers, researchers, and activists who are thoughtfully critiquing the status quo of fat-related practices. And they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are now over one hundred books written from a fat-affirmative perspective, including many autobiographical pieces and works of fiction for children, adolescents, and adults. They are stating that the so-called medical reality of weight is all smoke and mirrors.
We can imagine a world in which body size is not particularly salient. It would not be one of the dividing lines used to define beauty/ugliness, winning/losing, health/ disease. In that world, “fat studies” might seem strange and irrelevant. But in our world, body size can determine one's quality of life. This is, in fact, the argument used by many of the people hawking weight loss: “Use our product/service so you can escape from the stigmatized group!” So how can we organize as fat activists, and what are the barriers?
The “War on Obesity,” proclaimed by former U.S. surgeon general C. Everett Koop in 1996 (CNN, 1996), has become one of the most successful government campaigns. The micro-level battle is often fought between patient and doctor, client and insurance company, employee and employer, or student and school. But the fact that this battle is also fought in the national public policy context creates a perpetuation of this suffering and tends to solidify the construction of fatness as “bad,” thereby leading to more suffering.
Stigmatization of fatness creates a catch-22 concerning health because stigma is known to damage the health of the stigmatized both directly, by creating mundane yet pervasive stress, and indirectly, through poor access to and execution of care. Understanding the role of stigmatization of fatness in this public policy debate suggests