Posted 31 March 2022

Book review ‘What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat’ by Aubrey Gordon

Emma one of our members of staff has written a review of Aubrey Gordon’s book ‘What we Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat’

Aubrey tackles personal and institutional fat phobia. She examines the scholarship on diets and the culture which has decided that weight is the only indicator of health. The BMI has notoriously racist and eugenicist origins. The narratives around body size tell us it is all personal responsibility and we are in control of our bodies. But 95-98% of diets fail and poverty and genetics are the biggest influencers of weight. Some scholarship shows that experiencing weight-based discrimination is actually more damaging to people’s health than their weight.

The body positivity movement has started to undermine restrictive beauty standards and diets, but the issue goes far beyond self-esteem and representation. Worryingly, weight bias is actually increasing among the population. Weight based discrimination and oppression is so prevalent we mostly don’t notice it. 

There are a lot of takeaways for feminists. Women are more likely to be fat than men. Women’s salaries become lower the heavier they are but the same does not happen for men. Fat women are also seen as being ‘unprofessional’, lazy and lacking leadership potential. Fat women are even less likely to come forward and report sexual abuse and domestic abuse. When they do, fat women are likely to be disbelieved as they are expected to be too unattractive for anyone to assault and grateful for any attention. Fat people are stripped of their humanity by the constant demeaning jokes, public humiliation ‘fatcalling’ and ‘tough love’ comments. There is a sense of entitlement to fat people’s bodies which leads to surveillance and control. Even more so for fat women. Fat people are routinely denied medical care until they lose weight. When fatness is combined with other oppressions there can be even more dire consequences.One thing is clear we need to make room for fat women’s voices in feminist spaces. 

I feel that everyone needs to read this book or engage with fat justice movements in some way. It is eye-opening in so many ways. Aubrey Gordon also co-hosts an excellent podcast called Maintenance Phase which addresses some of the same issues and health and wellness scams. Aubrey’s website is www.yourfatfriend.com

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