Fat Justice: Recognizing Weightism as a Social Justice Issue

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Fat Justice: Recognizing Weightism as a Social Justice Issue

By: Mae DesTroismaisons 

          Everyone knows that eating plenty of fruits and veggies combined with exercising regularly is beneficial to one’s health. However, as fat justice advocate Sarah Blake (whose name has been changed here for anonymity) explained in an interview earlier this month, “There are fat people who are healthy and eat wholesome foods and exercise regularly, and there are thin people who don't. What's most effective medically is focusing on healthy behaviors and making sure all communities have access to healthy, affordable food.” She also contended on a more philosophical note: “health is not a moral obligation.”

              Blake defined Fat Justice as follows: “Basically, fat justice is a movement that's about fat people being recognized as deserving of human rights, access to equal healthcare, basic needs, and happy lives free of harassment.”

               Fat justice is tied to food justice, as people of lower socioeconomic status are vulnerable to obesity (see Food Research Action Center’s report, “Why Low-Income and Food Insecure People are Vulnerable to Overweight and Obesity” 

              The fat justice movement urges people to stop using fatness as a metaphor for greed and overconsumption, as it is not only harmful to fat people, but a false association.

                Weightism (also known as weight stigma, weight bias, and weight-based discrimination) is an insidious social infection that is not limited to body shaming. It often goes unnoticed or unchallenged by society when the media perpetuates prejudice against fat people. Billboards, magazine covers, health sites, and TV commercials are constantly bombarding people—girls and women in particular—with the message that fat bodies are inherently bad. Blake noted, “Fat people are subjected to daily harassment, being told that our bodies are unattractive, that we're glutens, we're unhealthy and that we're a burden on society. This causes a lot of us to have low self esteem, struggle with eating disorders, and become more vulnerable to sexual violence, because we're told that no one could ever be attracted to us…When we go to the doctor, we often have all our other problems ignored and told to lose weight.”

To learn more about this topic, Blake recommends the following sources:

Radiance Magazine’s article, “Life in the Fat Underground”

Author, activist, and lecturer on fat discrimination and body image Vergie Tovar’s website

Speaker, writer, dancer, choreographer, marathoner, fat person and activist Ragen Chastain’s blog, “Dances With Fat”