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by Nia Patterson

May 16, 2024

Understanding and Confronting Fatphobia in Society

In today’s society, one of the few remaining forms of widely accepted discrimination is fatphobia – the aversion to, disdain for, or fear of fatness and fat people. Weight stigma and anti-fat bias are pervasive, leading to mistreatment of and negative impacts on people in larger bodies. In this post, we’ll dive into what fatphobia is, where it comes from, how to recognize it, and concrete steps we can all take to challenge it.

What is Fatphobia?

Fatphobia goes beyond just a dictionary definition of hostility towards fatness. It encompasses broad weight stigma, bias, and overall discrimination against fat people that is widely condoned in society. Unlike other forms of discrimination, like racism and sexism, that have some legal protections, discrimination based on body size is still widely permitted and accepted. It leads to severe negative impacts on the physical and mental health of people in larger bodies.

The Roots of Fatphobia

To understand fatphobia, we have to look at its origins and intersections with other forms of oppression like racism, sexism, ableism, and classism. Fatphobia has deep roots tracing back to the enslavement and dehumanization of Black people, where Black bodies were commodified and degraded. The book “Fearing the Black Body” by Sabrina Strings provides an insightful analysis of how racism and fatphobia are historically intertwined. Recognizing these intersections is key to confronting fatphobia.

Recognizing Fatphobia Around Us

What does fatphobia look like in practice? It can take many forms, such as:
  • Fake “concern trolling” about the health of fat people
  • Unsolicited dieting advice
  • Medical discrimination and negligence towards fat patients
  • Hiring discrimination and lack of promotions for fat people
  • Bullying, shaming, and mistreating people in larger bodies
All of this is also often internalized, manifesting as body image issues and self-hatred. Examining our own biases and thought patterns around our bodies is an important step.

Rejecting Fatphobia and Embracing Body Diversity

To challenge fatphobia, we need to reject the lies that diet culture has ingrained in us – that only thin bodies are healthy and valuable. Instead, we must recognize and celebrate the diversity of healthy bodies. Healthy bodies can come in all sizes, and body size does not determine health or morality. We need more positive representation and visibility of larger bodies in all spaces.

Action Steps to Challenge Fatphobia:

  1. Call out Fatphobic Behavior: Address fatphobic comments and behaviors, whether they are directed at you or others. By speaking up, you contribute to creating a more respectful environment.
  2. Examine Media Depictions: Critically analyze the portrayal of body types in media. Challenge negative representations and seek out diverse and inclusive content that fosters deeper understandings.
  3. Push Back Against Weight Stigma: Advocate for fair and unbiased treatment in medical care for individuals in larger bodies. By actively confronting weight stigma, you can contribute to positive change within the healthcare system.
  4. Support Fat Activists: Show your support for fat activists and body liberation advocates by providing financial support or amplifying their message on social media. By elevating these voices, you contribute to a more inclusive narrative around body acceptance.
  5. Work on Your Relationship with Your Body: Cultivate a positive and nurturing relationship with your body. Engage in self-reflection and challenge societal beauty standards to embrace body positivity and advocate for holistic health behaviors.

In Conclusion

Fatphobia is a pervasive and harmful form of oppression that we must actively challenge. By educating ourselves on what it is, how to recognize it, and taking concrete steps against it, we can work towards a society that celebrates all bodies. This requires pushing back against weight stigma, advocating for fat people, diversifying representation, and doing the internal work to dismantle our own biases. Together, we can create a world with more body liberation and justice for all.


Wellness, Intersectionality

by Nia Patterson

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