In What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat, Aubrey Gordon unearths the cultural attitudes and social systems that have led to people being denied basic needs because they are fat and calls for social justice movements to be inclusive of plus-sized people’s experiences.
From the creator of Your Fat Friend, an explosive indictment of the systemic and cultural bias facing plus-size people that will move us toward creating an agenda for fat justice.
Anti-fatness is everywhere. In What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat, Aubrey Gordon unearths the cultural attitudes and social systems that have led to people being denied basic needs because they are fat and calls for social justice movements to be inclusive of plus-sized people’s experiences. Unlike the recent wave of memoirs and quasi self-help books that encourage readers to love and accept themselves, Gordon pushes the discussion further towards authentic fat activism, which includes ending legal weight discrimination, giving equal access to health care for large people, increased access to public spaces, and ending anti-fat violence. As she argues, I did not come to body positivity for self-esteem. I came to it for social justice.
By sharing her experiences as well as those of others–from smaller fat to very fat people–she concludes that to be fat in our society is to be seen as an undeniable failure, unlovable, unforgivable, and morally condemnable. Fatness is an open invitation for others to express disgust, fear, and insidious concern. To be fat is to be denied humanity and empathy. Studies show that fat survivors of sexual assault are less likely to be believed and less likely than their thin counterparts to report various crimes; 27% of very fat women and 13% of very fat men attempt suicide; over 50% of doctors describe their fat patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly and noncompliant; and in 48 states, it’s legal–even routine–to deny employment because of an applicant’s size.
Advancing fat justice and changing prejudicial structures and attitudes will require work from all people. What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is a crucial tool to create a tectonic shift in the way we see, talk about, and treat our bodies, fat and thin alike.
If you are fat, you need to read this book. If you are thin, you especially need to read this book. If you work in healthcare or care about discrimination and oppression, you need to read this book. If you are working towards being anti-racist, you need to read this book. Basically, if you are breathing, you need to read this book.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is a mix of memoir, research, and cultural criticism all focused on unearthing our social and cultural attitudes towards fat people, along with the impacts those attitudes can have on fat people.
Where do I start with reviewing this book? This is one of the most important books I have ever read. What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat brings to light the discrimination and oppression people face because of body size which is simply ignored, never acknowledged, or blamed on the fat individual with the incorrect notion that our bodies are our own failures. As Gordon states, “Our bodies are just bodies, not synecdoche for our character, not a badge of work ethic – just bodies.”
I want to clarify that What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is about body justice and not body positivity, which are two very different things. Body positivity being incredibly problematic.
I especially related to this book as someone working in public health and health care who is fat. I feel constantly judged, not to mention being applauded for exercising and eating healthy. This book really highlighted how much abuse I have internalized and the work I need to do to let go of the magical thinking of thinness. Some chapters resonated with me more than others but all are crucial to this story.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat ends with a call to action and recommendations for the work that needs to be done both on a personal level and a societal level.
I cannot recommend this book enough! It will be a book I recommend to everyone forever.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat
Nonfiction – Social Issues
November 17, 2020
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