I hate to admit it, but somehow, I missed a landmark publication from NYU Press. (This is all the more shameful in light of the fact that I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. from NYU.) The book in question came out in November, 2009, and it marked a watershed moment in fat studies, in particular, the field of women’s fat studies. (I kid you not.)
I’m speaking of The Fat Studies Reader, edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay, winner of the 2010 Distinguished Publication Award from the Association for Women in Psychology as well as winner of the 2010 Susan Koppelman Award for the Best Edited Volume in Women’s Studies from the Popular Culture Association.
According to the blurb, “Edited by two leaders in the field, The Fat Studies Reader is an invaluable resource that provides a historical overview of fat studies, an in-depth examination of the movement’s fundamental concerns, and an up-to-date look at its innovative research.”
Perhaps I was not the only one ignorant of the field of “fat studies” or the existence of a “fat pride” movement? But this is meant to be serious stuff, starting with the Foreword by Marilyn Wann: “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution.”
A fat pride revolution?
Part 1 of the book is entitled, “What Is Fat Studies? The Social and Historical Construction of Fatness,” containing these two foundation-laying chapters: “The Inner Corset: A Brief History of Fat in the United States” and “Fattening Queer History: Where Does Fat History Go from Here?” (I’m not making this up.)
Part 2, “Fat Studies in Health and Medicine,” includes chapters like, “Widening the Dialogue to Narrow the Gap in Health Disparities: Approaches to Fat Black Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Promotion,” and “Quest for a Cause: The Fat Gene, the Gay Gene, and the New Eugenics.”
If you think you see a pattern emerging (fat pride and gay pride; a fat gene and a gay gene), you’re right, as confirmed in Part 3 of the book, with chapters on, “Fat Youth as Common Targets for Bullying” along with “Double Stigma: Fat Men and Their Male Admirers.” Indeed, LGBT parallels are prominent in the book, especially in the chapter “No Apology: Shared Struggles in Fat and Transgender Law.” And, just as “gay” replaced “homosexual,” this book makes clear that “fat” should replace “obese.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.