One of the best things about being a fat activist is the community that you get to be part of. Thanks to my work in fat activism I’ve been able to meet (both online and off), some of the most amazing people, a number of whom I now call good friends. Of course, there are those who treat fat activists like we are some kind of giant hive mind that all think the same things and have had exactly the same experiences in life, but that’s not true. I’ve met fat activists from all walks of life, some of us get along really well, some of us disagree vehemently and some of us simply don’t like one another as people. That’s good in a way – it shows we’re have a good balance of people, approaching fat activism from all angles. It means we have robust discussions that nut out all the thorny bits of activism.
Another great thing is that we share resources. Recently I was lucky enough to have bestowed upon me a fantastic collection of fat studies reference books by a fellow fat activist who was moving house at the time and needing to downsize her library. It was an absolute joy to have parcel after parcel arrive in my PO Box full of books about fat. Check these glorious piles of literary goodness out:
One of the things that struck me as I catalogued these into my own collection (yes, ever the librarian) was that people have been talking about fat politics, and particularly fat stigma and fat hatred, for a very long time. This collection alone spans about thirty years, and it is by no means a complete collection of fat studies works. These titles approach fat politics from almost every angle imaginable – sexuality, health, feminism, fiction, media, sociology, childhood development, eating disorders, psychology, food, exercise… you name it and someone has raised the topic in relation to fat politics in one of these books.
To put it bluntly, people have been talking about this shit for a long time and from a lot of perspectives.
However, listen to any of the many (and boy are there many) critics of fat activism, they will have it that we’re just making this stuff up as we go along. It usually falls into two categories – either that we’re in some kind of denial about how horrible fat is, or that we’re just trying to find ways to “justify” being fat. Let’s put aside the fact that I personally don’t focus on justification of my fatness – I am fat, the reasons are irrelevant – but am focusing on fat people’s right to live their life with dignity and respect, and without discrimination or persecution, no matter what in their life led them to be fat. We’ll also put aside that I’m in no denial that there are negative issues that correlate with being fat, but are not caused BY being fat, and don’t forget to include those issues that are caused by society’s loathing of fat.
But here in these books, and the many more out there, you have evidence that people have been examining fatness and society’s attitude towards fatness for a very long time. I’m not the first person to discuss the subjects I do here on this blog, I’m certainly not the most formally educated person to examine the subjects I do here on this blog, and I’m definitely not making this shit up as I go along. Unlike the majority of those who criticise fat activism, I spend an awful lot of time researching fatness, it’s effect on people and how society responds to it. I certainly have not yet read all of these books, but I’ve spent almost 5 years reading an awful lot of them, along with an incredible amount of material online from all perspectives, which is a lot more than can be said from the average fat hating commenter who turns up with “But! But! But! EVERYBODY KNOWS fat is bad!!” Despite the fact that there is an incredible amount of material published from all over the world that disputes that supposed “everybody knows” knowledge.
The one thing I do know – fat haters do not present us with any new information or perspectives and have not done so for a very, very long time. The very same arguments that the earliest of fat studies literature responds to are the same arguments that we are presented with today. One would think, considering the amount of information we have presented over the past 30+ years as to why fat stigma and fat loathing are so damaging and erroneous, that a new perspective or new information would have come into play from the anti-fat brigade. But alas, no.
What I do know is that there are people who have far more qualifications after their name than myself, and certainly more than the majority of the anti-fat brigade, listed amongst the authors of these books. These are a learned bunch, and they’ve got very important things to say, and the evidence to back it up.
Something you will hear often in fat activism is “Educate yourself.” Because it’s not our job to educate you in our oppression and how it affects us. Many of us have spent years educating ourselves in the subject, we’ve spent our own time, money and energy to learn what we have learnt as fat activists. If you wish to engage in the subject and dispute us, the least you can do is educate yourself. Of course, there are always those that have excuses, saying they don’t know where to start or can’t find resources (Google is your friend people!)
However, I’m going to do something very generous. I’ve created a resources page here on this blog, where I’ve listed all of the books in this collection, and others that I have read. Now I know not everyone can afford all of these books, but you see, I’m a librarian, so I’m more than happy to encourage you to go and get a library card to get your hands on these resources. If your library doesn’t have them, talk to your local librarians and ask them if they can add them to their collection, or organise an inter-library loan for you. Librarians LOVE help with collection development, it’s a big job, any help we can get is always welcome.
For those of you who genuinely want to broaden your horizons and hear about the experiences of fat people, especially for those of you who are fat yourselves and need to know you’re not alone, this is a good place to start.
If you know of any other great resources, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will add them to my “to read” list.