or fat-positive feminism
is a form of feminism
that argues overweight women are economically, educationally, socially and physically disadvantaged due to their weight. Because of this, fat-positive feminists promote acceptance for women of all sizes and oppose any form of size discrimination. Fat feminism originated during second-wave feminism
, and did not meet mainstream acceptance until recently. While very closely affiliated with the fat acceptance movement
, fat feminists focus on women who are discriminated against because of their size.
According to Monica Persson, over 56 percent of obese or overweight women have answered that they have been treated disrespectfully by their physicians, and 46 percent view their physicians as uncomfortable with the women's weight.
Fat feminists argue that the likelihood of women to experience discrimination increases proportionally with body size; women who are naturally larger than the norm would be forced into a chicken or egg cycle of poverty and social discrimination.
Also argued is that size discrimination is associated with, and is similar to racism, sexism, and ageism. This view has been rejected by many other minority groups. Biologically, females tend to have more body fat than men, leading to the view that size discrimination affects women more so than men. Size discrimination is associated with racism, as some suggest that size is affected by race. The ageist argument stems from the view that women gain weight naturally with age, especially after childbirth.
Fat feminists oppose the concept of a fixed "ideal" figure for women imposed by the society. They scorn fat jokes on sitcoms, and the promotion of skinny figures seen on television, in Hollywood
and on fashion catwalks
. A supermodel
weighs 23 percent less than an average woman, and less than 5 percent of the female population have figures like her. Fat feminists criticize these body-type ideals for the reason that for many real-life women, these figures are impossible to achieve, pointing to the statistics that 95 percent of diets fail. They believe this would put women at risk for distorted body image
, or other eating disorders, which can lead to death, especially among the young.
Fat feminists contest the belief that one cannot be overweight and fit at the same time. Instead, they believe that the figure one would naturally have through consistent exercising, balanced nutrition, and maintaining an active lifestyle is a person's ideal figure, which is not limited to one size.
Fat feminism and the related fat acceptance movement
originated in the late 1960s during which second-wave feminism
took place. During the late 60s and 1970s, activists such as Sara Fishman, Judy Freespirit, and Karen Jones, now known as Karen Stimson, emerged. In 1973, Fishman and Freespirit released Fat Liberation Manifesto
in which they opposed size discrimination as sexism. Their movement was met with mixed reactions during the 1960s, the same decade when Twiggy
-esque figures became fashionable. Some of the feminists, such as Gloria Steinem
and Jane Fonda
active during the decade believed that removing traits of "femaleness" was necessary to gain entrance to a male-dominated society. Activists continued to hold demonstrations and continued their course of action. When the fat feminists did not get support from National Organization for Women
, they founded organizations to advocate size acceptance, such as NAAFA
, Fat Underground
, and The Body Positive.
During the 80s, the movement had mixed success. More organizations and publications against size discrimination were founded. The first fat feminist book, Shadow on a Tightrope: Writings by Women on Fat Oppression
, by Lisa Schoenfielder and Barb Wieser was published in 1983. The first issue of Radiance: The Magazine for Large Women
was published in 1984. Clothing brands and fashion magazines were founded during this time that targeted a plus-size audience. Fat feminists continued to sue diet programs for fraudulent claims. However, the popularity of the diet industry did not wane as it was boosted by the fitness boom during the 1980s. Americans continue to spend over $33 billion on diet products and programs.
In the 1990s, fat feminism was officially supported by National Organization for Women when the organization adopted an anti-size discrimination stance with no dissenting vote, and started a body image task force. In 1992, Mary Evans Young, a fat activist in England, launched No Diet Day, which was planned as a picnic. Due to the rain, her plan failed, although 25 states participated in its second annual celebration. International No Diet Day continues to be observed on May 6 each year.
In 1993, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Toni Cassista who filed a lawsuit against Community Foods, a store in Santa Cruz, California when she was not hired because of her size. This put an end to work discrimination based on weight in the state of California.
During the 90's the zine movement, the riot grrrl movement, and the fat liberation movement converged for many young activists, resulting in the publication of numerous fat feminist zines. Among these publications were Fat!So?: for people who don't apologize for their size, by Marilyn Wann, I'm So Fucking Beautiful by Nomy Lamm, and Fat Girl: a zine for fat dykes and the women who want them, produced by a collective in San Francisco from 1994-1997. Nomy Lamm was named by Ms. Magazine as a "Woman of the Year" in 1997, "For inspiring a new generation of feminists to fight back against fat oppression.. In 1999 Marilyn Wann expanded her zine into the book Fat!So?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size. In 2005, former Fat Girl collective members Max Airborne and Cherry Midnight published Size Queen: for Queen-Sized Queers and our Loyal Subjects.