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Fat feminism or fat-positive feminism is a form of feminism that merges with fat acceptance movement and specifically addresses how misogyny and sexism intersect with sizeism and anti-fat bias. Fat-positive feminists promote acceptance for women of all sizes. Fat feminism originated during second-wave feminism. However, fat-positive feminism is a growing field within third-wave feminism.
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 70s, activists such as Sara Fishman, Dr. Franklin Igway, 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 60s, 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 Fat Underground, The Body Image Task Force (Santa Cruz) 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. By the late 1990's, Americans were spending approximately $40 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 size-positive activist in England, launched International No Diet Day (INDD) which was planned as a picnic. Due to the rain, her plan failed, and the celebration was held indoors instead. In 1993 many American feminist groups joined in and 25 states participated in INDD's 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 90s 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. In 1996 Toronto-based activist and performance art troupe Pretty Porky & Pissed Off (PPPO) was founded by Allyson Mitchell, Ruby Rowan and Mariko Tamaki. PPPO grew to include other members and worked as a collective until 2005 publishing their zine series, Double Double. 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.
The 2000s saw an increase in internet feminism and internet fat activism, which have often converged. The fat acceptance blogosphere has been dubbed the "fatosphere" and has enjoyed some positive publicity in mainstream publications. Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, who are prominent fat bloggers, released a co-written self-help book in 2009 called "Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body", which has 27 chapters devoted to different topics, including body positivity, health at every size, and intuitive eating. In 2005 Linda Bacon conceived the Health at Every Size belief system, which rejects dieting and the weight-based paradigm of health. This has been adopted by many fat feminists. Beth Ditto, frontwoman of punk band The Gossip, who is vocal about fat acceptance, attained celebrity in the mid-2000s with the popularity of her band's 2006 album Standing in the Way of Control, which has raised awareness of the movement.
Intersections with other forms of feminism
Many of the authors in Shadow on a Tightrope: Writings By Women on Fat Oppression are lesbians, and many were involved in lesbian feminism. Their experience of fatness is different from that of straight fat women because of their experience of combined discrimination based on their sex, size and sexual orientation. Fat women of color have a different experience than fat white women because of their intersectional experiences of not only size discrimination and misogyny, but racism as well.
- Body image
- Fat acceptance movement
- International No Diet Day
- International Size Acceptance Association
- Marilyn Wann
- Nomy Lamm
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