In Moschino’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, designer Jeremy Scott had models walk down the runway in lavish, multi-layered cakes and petit-fours. Inspired by Marie Antoinette, The New York Times took up the phrase ‘Let them wear cake!’ and quoted Scott’s concerns about “how stretched and tenuous the idea of democracy has become.” He explained that our times reminded him of pre-revolutionary France, with all its decadence and excessive wastefulness. In order to raise questions about privilege, elites and the distribution of wealth, Scott turned to food. Since the dresses were made of simulations of real cakes and were not edible, his invocation of food to make a point, however, pales in comparison with an outfit that is as memorable as it is provocative:  Lady Gaga’s meat…

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States in the early months of 2020, national media outlets have featured photos of lines of cars outside food banks in cities across the country. Such images serve as a shocking reminder that, yes, hunger exists in America. In this piece, I highlight how drastic changes in American food programs in the 1970s shaped contemporary food welfare policies. Enacting a politics of austerity, presidents and politicians began to place limits around food welfare spending within government, opening the door for a more far-reaching politics of disentitlement in the 1980s. These changes created lasting legacies that impact our relationship to hunger in America today, including normalizing the reliance of millions of Americans on…

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The “personal is the political,” a slogan of second-wave feminism, was also embraced by fat feminists in the 1960s and 70s. A founding member of the Fat Underground, a fat feminist liberation group, Vivian Mayer explained that they taught women to “relate ordinary ‘personal’ problems . . . to political injustices. The goal is to teach people how to support and encourage one another, and how to work together to change oppressive social relations” (xi).  In recent stories circulating around Boris Johnson’s (fat) body and his experience of COVID-19, the personal is political in a very different and problematic way. At the time of this writing, the United Kingdom has over 40,000 confirmed deaths related to the disease. The government’s…

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A recent study about body image and eating behaviors of almost 900 young adults in the U.S. conducted by the Center for Body Image Research and Policy at the University of Missouri concluded that “40% of women and 46% of men agreed that it would be worse to gain 25 pounds during social distancing than to become infected with COVID-19.” From this follows that weight gain through less movement and more emotional eating due to stay-at-home regulations is currently seen as more life-threatening than the Coronavirus by a large portion of individuals because of the ways body size determines social survival and cultural acceptance. Diet Culture in 2020: COVID-19 and Instagram Trends In the early months of 2020, social media…

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Popular culture produced, circulated, and challenged ideals of the female body in the 19th century as much as in the 21st century. Serials, novels published in installments, and short stories in fashionable literary magazines were as popular and religiously followed as Netflix original series today. As romance was one of the most important genres, what made women attractive was defined in these stories and nationally distributed as normative beauty and gender ideals. The fascination with female body weight at the end of the 19th century is a case in point: it reflected a broader shift in what constituted ideal femininity and how it was to be embodied.  In 1863 a small pamphlet, A Letter on Corpulence, triggered the first dieting craze in the United…

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