The Oppression of Fat People in America
Many people see fat activists as a bunch of whiners who can’t keep their hand out of the cookie jar." — Kimberly, fat activist
Being fat is one of the most stigmatizing attributes in America. One cannot live through a single day without encountering numerous forms of fat prejudice in magazines, on television, in the streets, and even in homes. Erving Goffman’s Stigma delineates three types of stigma: abominations of the body, blemishes of individual character, and tribal stigma of race, nation and religion (4). According to Goffman’s definition, being fat is an abomination of the body. Being fat is a highly visible stigma, unlike the stigma of being queer which does not have an outward appearance. According to research in Women’s Conflicts About Eating and Sexuality, "Fat oppression, the fear and hatred of fat people, remains one of the few ‘acceptable’ prejudices still held by otherwise progressive persons" (Meadow 132). In fact, people are obsessed with noticing fat, not getting fat, and pointing out to people that they are fat without hesitation. Unlike other stigmas, fat people are blamed for their condition. Society believes that if fat people really wanted to they could just lose weight and be permanently thin. Fat is not the problem, rather fat oppression endorsed and reinforced by society is the problem.
I’ve made a conscious choice to use the word fat in this paper; I’ve already used the word ‘fat’ ten times in the first paragraph. The word ‘fat’ and fat itself have negative connotations in our culture, the reasons for which I will explore in my paper, as well as the way people are instituting positive ideological changes about fat. I use to have a hard time using ‘fat’ to describe myself or anyone else because I learned at an early age it was bad. Something made it very different than other descriptors because an individual couldn’t just be fat, they had to be fat and lazy, fat and stupid, fat and immoral. Fat people were not good people, and for that reason I didn’t ever want anyone to point out the fact that I was fat. When my physician pronounced me ‘overweight’ that didn’t make me feel any better than being ‘fat.’ In Fat!So? Marilyn Wann describes why it is important to use the word fat, by explaining the meaninglessness of words like overweight and obese (19). She writes, "Over whose weight? Everyone has their own unique weight that’s right for them." And later, "Obese. This is a doctor’s fancy way of saying, ‘I’m looking at you, and I find you disgusting. Would you like to buy this ineffective but wildly expensive weight-loss treatment?’" The fact is that specialist have never decided on what exactly constitutes being ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ (Wann 19). These definitions fluctuate within the healthcare industry and throughout history.
In our society, being fat discredits the individual and indicates physical and moral shortcomings. The stigma attributed to fat people includes...