From the Boston Medical Center’s Glossary for Cultural Transformation:
Fatphobia, also known as anti-fat, is the implicit and explicit bias of overweight individuals that is rooted in a sense of blame and presumed moral failing. Being overweight and/or fat is highly stigmatized in Western Culture. Anti-fatness is intrinsically linked to anti-blackness, racism, classism, misogyny, and many other systems of oppression.
Fat activism has been present in the U.S. since the 1960s, and yet anti-fat bias remains one of the most socially accepted forms of discrimination in our modern society. With this display, we hope to highlight the important work being carried out by activists, center fat people’s telling of their own stories, and encourage our library community to challenge their own unconscious biases around fat bodies.
If you look at the body positivity movement, it overwhelmingly centers white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual, conventionally attractive (and etc.) people. While their experiences of body stigma are valid, these are usually not the people most affected by anti-fat bias.
We chose “fat activism” because it is a political stance that centers people who experience significant marginalization from society. Self-love is an important ideal, but prioritizing it as your main message doesn’t take into account the daily embedded messages of stigma and fatphobia. For further information, we refer you to this excellent video from writer and activist Virgie Tovar.
“Fat” is the expression used by activists. For many, it is a way to reclaim a term that has become highly stigmatized in Western culture. Using euphemisms replicates existing systems of power, which seek to hide fatness and fat people behind more “socially acceptable” terms. Everyone has the right to use whichever terms they’d like to refer to their own bodies! We chose to follow the ones put forward by these activists.
Please re-read the manifesto! The purpose of fat activism is not to force other people to take on other lifestyle habits - it is to dismantle the discrimination that fat people face every day so that they can exercise their equal rights. The aim is justice, not glorification.
We also invite you to look at our display items more closely! A number of our books focus on the myth that thinness equals health and provide evidence that bodies can be healthy across a wide range of weights and sizes. We even have some books specifically dedicated to leading active lifestyles!
Education is the first step! Take the time to read perspectives from fat activists - our display is a great place to start - and tell other thin allies about what you’ve learned. Beyond that, take your cues from fat people. The question “how can I best support you right now?” is one of the best ways to center fat people’s comfort and safety.
We invite you to email jchern [at] uw [dot] edu and jsalv [at] uw [dot] edu with your feedback!