Since the end of summer is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d suggest a selection of books on fat acceptance and fat bodies in general for you to finish the season with. Some of these I’ve read, others I’m in the process of reading. If I have any personal insights on the book I’ll share them with you. Now, let's get to reading. Or at least thinking about reading.
1. Fat!So?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size by Marilyn Wann
Fat!So? was the first book about fat acceptance I ever read. It started me on the path to really loving my body, although I had "relapses" here and there. Recently I got it out to read it again and the information is still pertinent after 12 years. I recommend this to anyone new to the FA movement or anyone who just wants to know more about being fat. Here's the description off Amazon.com:
YA-The pervasiveness and dangers of anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders are undeniable; recent articles on the subject have appeared in periodicals ranging from People to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Wann, a 5'4", 275-pound Californian, states unequivocally that America needs an attitude adjustment. Fear of fat, she says, supports a $40 billion a year diet industry, destroys both relationships and self-esteem, and engenders "loathing on a national level." Her revolutionary idea? Eat right, exercise, and stop worrying about weight. Being thin doesn't automatically equate with either health or happiness, the author reminds readers. She includes information from physicians, health experts, and medical journals to support her assertion that fitness contributes more to longevity than the "the f-word." The book, named after her Web site and her zine, is an engaging blend of fact and humor. Charts, graphics, photos ("visual counterpropaganda"), testimonials, quotes, ideas for sassy comebacks, and much more can help teens of all sizes reevaluate their view of the "flabulous." Fat! So? is irreverent and thought provoking, informative and fun. Dori DeSpain, Herndon Fortnightly Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression by Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco I've been reading Bodies Out of Bounds on and off for about a year now. I'll give you the description off Amazon.com:
Since World War II, when the diet and fitness industries promoted mass obsession with weight and body shape, fat has been a dirty word. In the United States, fat is seen as repulsive, funny, ugly, unclean, obscene, and above all as something to lose. Bodies Out of Bounds challenges these dominant perceptions by examining social representations of the fat body. The contributors to this collection show that what counts as fat and how it is valued are far from universal; the variety of meanings attributed to body size in other times and places demonstrates that perceptions of corpulence are infused with cultural, historical, political, and economic biases. The exceptionally rich and engaging essays collected in this volume question discursive constructions of fatness while analyzing the politics and power of corpulence and addressing the absence of fat people in media representations of the body. The essays are widely interdisciplinary; they explore their subject with insight, originality, and humor. The contributors examine the intersections of fat with ethnicity, race, queerness, class, and minority cultures, as well as with historical variations in the signification of fat. They also consider ways in which "objective" medical and psychological discourses about fat people and food hide larger agendas. By illustrating how fat is a malleable construct that can be used to serve dominant economic and cultural interests, Bodies Out of Bounds stakes new claims for those whose body size does not adhere to society's confining standards.
The Fat Studies Reader by Sondra Solovay, Marilyn Wann and Esther Rothblum The Fat Studies Reader is a book I got recently but haven't gotten around to reading. (You'll find I have many books like that.) I'll give you a sample of a review to whet your appetite:
"With forty essays that span an impressive array of academic and popular approaches, this book is the first to collect the essential texts of the blossoming discipline known as fat studies, which explores why the oppression of fat people remains acceptable in American culture. . . . Fat studies is an arena where the personal, political and scientific converge, and with this book, readers can mount an informed challenge to the medical construction of obesity and size, the diet industry, insurance companies, public policy and popular culture. . . . It may be too soon for the movement to offer utopian alternatives, but these essays offer a rich supply of tools for the activist and scholar willing to start the revolution." - Publishers Weekly
Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere is an engaging book that picks up where Fat!So? left off. With new research and information refuting the unhealthiness of fat, it breathed new life into the fat acceptance movement. Here's a review from Amazon:
When it comes to body image, women can be their own worst enemies, aided and abetted by society and the media. But Harding and Kirby, the leading bloggers in the "fatosphere," the online community of the fat acceptance movement, have written a book to help readers achieve admiration for--or at least a truce with--their bodies. The authors believe in "health at every size"--the idea that weight does not necessarily determine well-being and that exercise and eating healthfully are beneficial, regardless of whether they cause weight loss. They point to errors in the media, misunderstood and ignored research, as well as stories from real women around the world to underscore their message. In the up-front and honest style that has become the trademark of their blogs, they share with readers twenty-seven ways to reframe notions of dieting and weight, including: accepting that diets don't work, practicing intuitive eating, finding body-positive doctors, not judging other women, and finding a hobby that has nothing to do with one's weight.
Viewed as both unhealthy and unattractive, fat people are widely represented in popular culture and in interpersonal interactions as revolting as agents of abhorrence and disgust. Yet if we think about "revolting" in a different way, Kathleen LeBesco argues, we can recognize fatness as not simply an aesthetic state or a medical condition, but a political one. If we think of revolting in terms of overthrowing authority, rebelling, protesting, and rejecting, then corpulence carries a whole new weight as a subversive cultural practice that calls into question received notions about health, beauty, and nature. Revolting Bodies examines a number of sites of struggle over the cultural meaning of fatness. The book is grounded in scholarship on identity politics, the social construction of beauty, and the subversion of hegemonic medical ideas about the dangers of fatness. It explains how the redefinition of fat identities has been undertaken by people who challenge conventional understandings of nature, health, and beauty and, in so doing, alter their individual and collective relationships to power. LeBesco explores how the bearer of a fat body is marked as a failed citizen, inasmuch as her powers as a worker, shopper, and sexually "desirable" subject are called into question. At the same time, she highlights fat fashion, relations among fat, queer, and disability politics and activism, and online communities as opportunities for transforming these pejorative stereotypes of fatness. Her discussion of the long-term ramifications of denying bodily agency in effect, letting biological determinism run rampant has implications not only for our understanding of fatness but also for future political practice.
My purpose in making this list is not to provide my own personal review of each book, but rather to give you a glimpse at some books about fat that might be useful in your quest to learn more about fat discrimination, fat acceptance, and historical ideas about fat. I hope you find these books enlightening and satiating of your desire to learn more about the lives of fat people and the burgeoning field of fat studies. Happy reading!