Fat acceptance movement: Wikis


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The fat acceptance movement, also known as the size acceptance movement, fat liberation movement or fat power, is a grassroots effort to change societal attitudes towards fat people.



Activism concerning the societal acceptance of fat people covers numerous fronts but generally can be described as attempting to alter societal, internal, and medical attitudes.

The movement argues that overweight people are targets of hatred and discrimination,[1] and that obese women are subjected to more social pressure than obese men.[2][3][4] Hatred and disrespect towards fat people are seen in multiple places, including media outlets, where fat people are often ridiculed[5][6][7] or held up as objects of pity.[8] Discrimination comes in the form of lack of equal accessibility to transportation and employment.[9]

Members argue that anti-fat stigma and aggressive diet promotion have led to an increase in psychological and physiological problems among fat people.[2] Proponents of fat acceptance maintain that people of all shapes and sizes can strive for fitness and physical health.[10][11][12][13] They believe health to be independent of, not dependent on, body weight. Thus, proponents promote "health at every size", the philosophy that one can pursue mental and physical health regardless of their physical appearance or size.

Through the works of authors such as Paul Campos and Sandy Szwarc, the fat acceptance movement has argued that doctors should treat the health problems of people of all sizes, believing that health issues are not defined by weight and are shared by people of all sizes, fat and thin. Some in the movement have argued that the health risks of fatness and obesity have been exaggerated or misrepresented, and used as cover for cultural and aesthetic prejudices against fat.

Fat activism faces challenges.[14] Organizations such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) and the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA) have relatively small memberships, and people interested in the movement tend to be clustered in larger cities and spread across medium- to small-sized web communities.


During the early part of the 20th century, obesity was seen as detrimental to the community, by means of decreasing human efficiency, and that obese people interfere with labor productivity in the coastal areas of the United States.[15]

In the Rust Belt, Prairie areas and vast tracts of the Southern U.S. however, obese men were not valued. The term Fatboy is a term of hilarity within the male blue-collar/manufacturing culture of the early and mid 20th century.

This kind of history and visibility gave rise to the Fat Acceptance movement which originated in the late 1960s, although its grassroots nature makes it difficult to precisely chart its milestones.[16][17] Like other social movements from this time period, the fat acceptance movement, initially known as "Fat Pride," "Fat Power," or "Fat Liberation," often consisted of people acting in an impromptu fashion. A "Fat-in" was staged in New York's Central Park in 1967.[18] Called by a radio personality, Steve Post, the "Fat-in" consisted of a group of 500 people eating, carrying signs and photographs of Sophia Loren (an actress famous for her figure), and burning diet books.

Several groups formed during this period to promote a fat acceptance agenda. In 1969, William Fabrey founded a social club promoting "Fat Pride" called the National Association to Aid Fat Americans, subsequently renamed the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). In 1973, a radical NAAFA chapter spun off to become an independent group, the Fat Underground, promoting a stronger activist philosophy. They were inspired by the philosophy of the Radical Therapy Collective, a feminist group that believed that many psychological problems were caused by oppressive social institutions and practices. The Fat Underground, founded by Sara Fishman (then Sara Aldebaran) and Judy Freespirit, took issue with the growing bias against obesity in the scientific community. They coined the saying, "a diet is a cure that doesn't work for a disease that doesn't exist".[19]

Shortly afterwards, Fishman moved to New Haven, CT, where she, along with Karen Scott-Jones, founded the New Haven Fat Liberation Front, an organization similar to the Fat Underground in its scope and focus. In 1983, they collaborated to publish a germinal book in the field of Fat Activism, Shadow on a Tightrope.[20] The book collected several fat activist position papers initially distributed by the Fat Underground, as well as poems and essays from other writers.

The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an increase in activist organizations, publications, and conferences.[16][17] In the 1980s, new anti-dieting programs and models began to appear in the research literature in response to new information dispelling common myths about obesity.[2]

Modern movement

Even though men are under less pressure to conform to a weight ideal than women, the greater degree of emphasis on physical appearance in modern male culture has given some overweight men the same types of body image anxieties seen in many women.

Members of the contemporary movement perceive negative societal attitudes as persistent, and as being based on the presumption that fatness reflects negatively on a person's character, for which it does.[21][22] Currently, the fat acceptance movement continues to strive for change in societal, internal, and medical attitudes toward fat people. Proponents engage in public education about the myths concerning fat and fat people.[23] Organizations hold conferences and conventions: including "NAAFA",[24] the "Association for Size Diversity and Health",[25] the "No Lose Annual Conference",[26] and "FatGirl Speaks".[27] Several books have been written on the topic, including Fat!So? You don’t have to apologize for your size, By Marilyn Wann, Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination, by Sondra Salami, Largely Happy: Changing your mind about your body, by Lynda Finn, and Don’t Diet, by Dale Atrens.

In recent years, more writers have written to promote fat acceptance: related online zines includeFat!So[28] and Figure 8,[29] related blogs include Kate Harding's Shapely Prose,[30]Big Fat Blog,[31] and The F Word.[32] Several websites have sprung up to help connect fat people with fat-friendly service providers and products. Many books have been published challenging the medical claim that fat produces ill health and highlighting the issue of weight-based discrimination that fat people are subjected to by medical professionals and society at large.[33][34] Size discrimination has been increasingly addressed in the arts, as well. Performance art groups such as The Padded Lilies, Big Burlesque and the Fat Bottom Revue, among others, intentionally feature fat bodies in their shows.

There has also been an emerging body of fat political and sociological studies, some with a fat activist agenda, developing within the academy. The American Popular Culture Association has an area in fat studies and regularly includes panels on the subject. In addition, student groups with a fat activist agenda have emerged in a number of colleges including Hampshire, Smith, and Antioch colleges.

In addition to what the movement is doing to raise public awareness, there have been a surge in studies both for and against fatness in scientific journals.

Issues within the movement

Self-described fat activist[35][36] Kira Nerusskaya feels that how people describe themselves depends upon their comfort level with their bodies.[37]

One point of contention in the movement is found between those fat people who are attempting to lose weight and those who are not. Opponents of weight loss attempts cite the high failure rate of all permanent weight loss attempts, and the many dangers of "yo-yo weight fluctuations" and weight loss surgeries.[citation needed]

Due to intrinsic linguistic misunderstandings and differing definitions of the word acceptance, some fat activists believe the phrase refers to any fat person fighting for equal rights and opportunities, regardless of whether or not that person believes that the pursuit of reduction in a person's body mass is feasible. Other fat activists define fat acceptance more strictly, applying that phrase only to fat people who are not pursuing a reduction in their body mass, and use phrases such as fat activist to describe fat people and allies working more generally on civil rights issues pertaining to fat people.

An additional issue with regard to language is that many in the fat acceptance movement find the terms "obese" and "overweight" offensive, as they are often used to make overtly prejudiced statements seem more clinical or scientific. The word "fat" is generally preferred.

In practice, the only way to know the position of any particular individual member of the group on weight loss attempts is to ask, or read specific position papers on the issue.

Another common division in the fat acceptance community is the differing attitudes towards general society, specifically thin people. The fat acceptance community generally divides into two categories. One is those who feel discrimination towards thin people hinders their cause. The other side views thin people as the enemy, or the partial cause of their social stigma; some cater to this group with mockery of thin people.[38]

Related law

Michigan, Washington, D.C., and the California cities of San Francisco and Santa Cruz have passed laws prohibiting weight discrimination.[citation needed]


Health problems

Despite advocates' claims to the contrary, many studies show that fat people are more likely than others to be in poor health, at a time when health care costs are rising,[39][40][41][42][43] though activists claim this may be partially attributed to fat people avoiding doctors because of perceived weight discrimination in the medical profession.[44] In 2006, the CDC estimated that 10 percent of current health care costs are due to obesity.[45] A Dutch study concluded that lifetime cost of obesity are less as these individuals die at an earlier age, while obese individuals have higher annual health care costs.[46]

There are many health related problems associated with obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and joint problems caused by overloading the skeleton with too much weight. One study found that obesity reduces life expectancy.[47] Public health officials regard widespread obesity as posing significant costs to society.

Social criticism

Fat acceptance advocates' positions have sparked criticism. Some critics, while acknowledging that fat and obese individuals are subject to inappropriate discrimination or pressure, contend that fat acceptance advocates' goal of unconditional acceptance of obesity is itself unhealthy. They contend that accepting fatness will make people less likely to aspire to achieve a healthy weight.

In addition, the common fat acceptance mantra that "diets don't work" is considered by some critics to be an oversimplification that may discourage a person in need of a healthier lifestyle from making responsible and potentially beneficial changes in eating habits.

See also


(A) Medical Practitioners' Guide to Benefits of Adapting Environments for the Obese Michigan State University study by Angela Berg MD and Joyce Burke MD MSU.edu

  1. ^ Enoughdiscrimination.com
  2. ^ a b c B. E., Robinson; Bacon, J. G. (1996). "The "If Only I Were Thin..." Treatment Program: Decreasing the Stigmatizing Effects of Fatness". Professional psychology, research and practice (Arlington, Virginia, United States: American Psychological Association) 27 (2): 175–183. ISSN 0735-7028. OCLC 8996897. 
  3. ^ Official Policies & Newsletters, National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
  4. ^ Council on Size and Weight Discrimination - Discrimination FAQ
  5. ^ Health 24 - Diet, Weight loss - Related
  6. ^ Council on Size and Weight Discrimination - Weight Discrimination on Television
  7. ^ Greenberg BS, Eastin M, Hofschire L, Lachlan K, Brownell KD (2003). "Portrayals of overweight and obese individuals on commercial television." Am J Public Health. Aug;93(8):1342-8.
  8. ^ Weighing in - Time Out Chicago
  9. ^ Maranto, C. L.; Stenoien, A. F. (2000). Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 12: 9–1. doi:10.1023/A:1007712500496.  edit
  10. ^ Ikeda JP, Hayes D, Satter E, Parham ES, Kratina K, Woolsey M, Lowey M, Tribole E (1999). "A commentary on the new obesity guidelines from NIH." J Am Diet Assoc. Aug;99(8):918-9.
  11. ^ Naafa Policy On Physical Fitness, naafa.org
  12. ^ ISAA's Respect | Fitness | Health Initiative
  13. ^ Sizediversityandhealth.org - Home - Mission
  14. ^ Big Trouble | Bitch Magazine, bitchmagazine.org
  15. ^ Chang, V. W.; Christakis, N. A. (2002). "Medical modelling of obesity: a transition from action to experience in a 20th century American medical textbook". Sociology of Health & Illness 24: 151–177. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.00289.  edit
  16. ^ a b Life In The Fat Underground by Sara Fishman
  17. ^ a b Big As Texas 2001 Event-Keynote Address, members.tripod.com
  18. ^ "Curves Have Their Day in Park; 500 at a 'Fat-in' Call for Obesity," New York Times. June 5, 1967, pg. 54
  19. ^ The Fat Underground, largesse.net
  20. ^ Shadow on a Tightrope: is Writings by Women on Fat Oppression, eds. Lisa Schoenfielder and Barb Wieser. Iowa City, IA: Aunt Lute Books, 1983
  21. ^ Murray, S (2005). "(Un/Be)Coming Out? Rethinking Fat Politics" Social Semiotics Vol. 15 No. 2
  22. ^ Puhl, R.; Brownell, D. (Dec 2001). "Bias, discrimination, and obesity". Obesity research 9 (12): 788–805. doi:10.1038/oby.2001.108. ISSN 1071-7323. PMID 11743063.  edit
  23. ^ NAAFA has a brochure titled Dispelling common myths about fat people
  24. ^ NAAFAonline.com
  25. ^ SizeDiversityAndHealth.org
  26. ^ NoLose.org
  27. ^ FatGirlSpeaks.com
  28. ^ Fatso.com
  29. ^ Geocities.com
  30. ^ KateHarding.net
  31. ^ BigFlatBlog.com
  32. ^ The-F-Word.org
  33. ^ The Obesity Myth (2004) by Paul Campos republished as The Diet Myth
  34. ^ Sandy Szwarc’s in depth examination of obesity research in the online magazine “Tech Central Station”
  35. ^ State weighs law against size discrimination, Dan Ring, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 26, 2008
  36. ^ Dating in NYC, Time Out New York
  37. ^ Wikinews interview
  38. ^ "The Top 8 Things Skinny Girls Can't Do". BBWCupid.com. Cupid Media. http://www.bbwcupid.com/the-top-8-things-skinny-girls-cant-do.cfm. 
  39. ^ NIH.gov
  40. ^ Harvard Medicine, hms.harvard.edu
  41. ^ Harvard Medicine, hms.harvard.edu
  42. ^ Harvard Medicine, hms.harvard.edu
  43. ^ Obesity Raises Cancer Risk - MSN Health & Fitness - Breast Cancer
  44. ^ Stigma and Discrimination in Weight Management and Obesity, xnet.kp.org
  45. ^ SciGuy: Should fat people pay higher insurance premiums?, blogs.chron.com
  46. ^ Van Baal, H.; Polder, J.; De Wit, A.; Hoogenveen, T.; Feenstra, L.; Boshuizen, C.; Engelfriet, M.; Brouwer, B. (Feb 2008). "Lifetime medical costs of obesity: prevention no cure for increasing health expenditure." (Free full text). PLoS medicine 5 (2): e29. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029. ISSN 1549-1277. PMID 18254654. PMC 2225430. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029.  edit
  47. ^ Calle EE, Thun MJ, Petrelli JM, Rodriguez C, Heath CW (October 1999). "Body-mass index and mortality in a prospective cohort of U.S. adults". N. Engl. J. Med. 341 (15): 1097–105. PMID 10511607. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/341/15/1097. 


Academic journals

Other publications

External links

Fat Acceptance at the Open Directory Project


Fat Acceptance organizations

Other organizations

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