ASK Musings

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October 2021



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

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
Everyone, but especially straight-sized individuals, and people who still hold onto ideas about weight as a proxy for health.

In a nutshell:
CN: Diets and all things weight related.

Author Gordon, who describes herself as very fat, explores all the ways in which society fails fat people, offering suggestions for body justice.

Worth quoting:
So much, but I’ll try to limit it…

“Despite a mountain of evidence linking physical and mental health to social discrimination, the conversation about fat and health stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the possible influence of stigma in determining fat people’s health.”

“What we have long considered the health conditions associated with being fat in actuality may be the effects of long-term dieting, which very fat people are pressured heavily to do.”

“We deserve a paradigm of personhood that does not make size or health a prerequisite for dignity and respect.”

“Anti-fatness isn’t about saving fat people, expressing concern for our health, or even about hurting us. Hurting us is a byproduct of reinforcing the egos of the privileged thin.”

“Like men hearing about the pervasiveness of catcalling for the first time, thin people cannot quite reconcile the differences in our daily lives.”

“The marginalization and public abuse of very fat people is so commonplace that it has become accepted, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.”

Why I chose it:
I started listening to the “Maintenance Phase” podcast, which explores all the bullshit within the Wellness and Diet industries, and is hosted by Gordon and a writer from Huff Post. I listened to a year and a half of back episodes in about a week, and when I got to the one about her book, I immediately ordered it.

I am not fat. I mean, according to the BMI (which, as Gordon clearly lays out in her book, is utter bullshit) I am a bit ‘overweight,’ but even at my heaviest I have always been able to shop in pretty much any store and know that something will fit me (except trousers, but that’s about my height). But I’ve dieted, and still find my mood impacted by the number I see on the scale.

More importantly than this, I’ve been raised in a society that seems to think that fat people don’t deserve kind or even humane treatment. A world where Courtney Cox dons a fat suit for laughs on the most popular TV show at the time. A world where the words ‘obesity epidemic’ are shared everywhere as fact without really anything to back up the reality that, even if there is an increase in obesity, there’s literally no proven way for the vast majority of people to lose weight and keep it off. A world where everyone – thin, fat, in-between – is encouraged to judge fat people and keep them ashamed and embarrassed.

Author Gordon explores all of this and much more in her book. She is what she describes as ‘very fat’, and she has experienced a life of doctors, friends, and strangers making all sorts of assumptions about her, and judgments about her life and frankly about her worth. In the book she shares her own experiences, but this isn’t a memoir. It’s a well-researched, evidence-based look at many of the different ways fat people experience discrimination at the hands of thin people, corporations, the diet industry, and society as a whole.

One area she focuses on, which I found enlightening, was the way the body positivity movement — along with other similar areas — treat the concerns fat people raise as ‘insecurities.’ ‘You just need to feel better in your skin!’ But that ignores the reality that fat people can feel as fine as they like in their skin, but that doesn’t mean a lot if they can’t buy clothes in person, or sit comfortably in a restaurant, or receive quality health care that doesn’t assumer every ailment from an ear infection to a broken bone is caused by weight.

This quote: “We deserve a paradigm of personhood that does not make size or health a prerequisite for dignity and respect,” has stuck with me. There is so much that society has decided we need to do before we are granted respect. People are MAYBE allowed to be fat, but they have to be healthy, or actively trying to become healthy. When in reality, none of that matters. People should be treated with humanity even if their BMI doesn’t fit between 18 and 25.

Recommend to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to all the people

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