Weight is not a number on a scale or a BMI. It is a social construct. Weight, like race and gender, is socially constructed. It is imbedded with cultural meanings by social actors. Weight is not simply a “neutral” number on a scale, but a socially constructed ideology that ranks human bodies in terms of their supposed health, attractiveness and overall value.
Right now we live in a virulently fatphobic society. To put it bluntly, fat people are hated. I am fat. Therefore I am hated. I am hated because fat people are hated. We need to stop with the tepid language. Weightism is a social justice issue. I feel like I spend so much of my life saying this. The reason is that fat and weight are viewed in this country through the lens of “health.” Allegedly. But my own view is that this emphasis on health is often just a smokescreen for thinly veiled anti-fat prejudice. Be that as it may, fat people need to not be discriminated against, just like women and transgender people and People of Color need to not be discriminated against.
I am going to define some of the terms we need to have in our toolkit to describe the systemic hatred directed against People Of Size [POS]. Fatphobia is the irrational, ubiquitous fear and hatred of bodies that are socially designated as larger than average and the individual and interpersonal prejudice directed against fat people based on negative perceptions of their weight or body size and the many stereotypes that circulate in the culture about People of Size. Fat Shaming is a form of Body Shaming. It is unsolicited comments, slights, put-downs and other micro-aggressions leveled against People of Size to make them feel guilty, ashamed and inferior due to their weight. Fat shaming can also make POS hate their own bodies and internalize their own oppression. Weight Stigma is the bullying, teasing, negative body language, harsh comments, discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s body size or weight. Body Policing is the practice of monitoring, surveying and appraising the value of people’s bodies (particularly women’s) based on hegemonic notions of what constitutes a desirable or attractive weight and appearance. Related to Bodysnarking, which is cruelly talking about and dissecting another person’s body (either directly at them or privately with others) in order to reinforce weightest and looksist norms and ideals. Weightism is institutional practices, policies and structures that cause discrimination and oppression against people of size. Weightism is also caused by cultural representations and embedded cultural values that promote the defamation and degradation of fat people and the supposed superiority of thin or average-sized people. Fatphobia + Power = Weightism. Thin Privilege is the unearned resources, advantages, access and power granted to thin people based solely on their dominant social group membership. Privilege is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why privilege is almost always invisible to those who possess it.
Just as people come in a spectrum of colors, genders and sexualities, people come in a diverse spectrum of weights, heights, body shapes and sizes. Weight/Size Diversity should be acknowledged, affirmed and celebrated just like racial, gender and sexual diversity. The Fat Acceptance Movement is a social movement seeking to eradicate fatphobia and weightism in our society, as well as affirm and celebrate weight and size diversity. The movement grew out of the various other social movements of the 1960s to challenge the routine denigration of fat bodies, as well as the virulent discrimination faced by People of Size in employment, education and the medical establishment. Besides its political role, the fat acceptance movement also constitutes a subculture that acts as a social group for its members through activities such as conferences, fashion, art, athletics, the blogosphere, burlesque, dancing, performance and more. The Fat Acceptance Movement encourages People of Size to have Fat Pride by being unashamed of their bodies and affirming a sense of their worth and self-respect through unabashedly celebrating size diversity. Alongside the Fat Acceptance Movement has grown the field of Fat Studies: An emerging, interdisciplinary area of study that researches fat identity, politics, media representation, culture and oppression, among other topics. Fat Studies has an explicitly fat activist agenda and is the academic arm of the fat rights movement. There are now many books, articles, and conferences dedicated to the academic exploration of Fat Studies topics. Health At Every Size (HAES): HAES is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor one’s body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and wellbeing (rather than narrowly-focused weight control). HAES encourages: accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes; Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite; and finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.
The viewpoint I have proffered in this blog entry goes against the dominant narrative in every way. As fat people we are supposed to hate ourselves. We are supposed to be ashamed. We are supposed to beg for acceptance by embracing the diet industry. At least we are trying to lose weight, right? I reject healthism and reject the diet model. I embrace HAES and size acceptance movement. And I hope all who read this, whether thin, average size or people of size, will embrace this new model of thinking about weight.