Through my research on black women’s exercise and fitness culture from 1900 to the 1930s, I discovered a little-known history of black fat shaming. While I expected to find that black women engaged in exercise for general health, I never imagined that some black women would craft their exercise programs for weight loss and at the same time participate in fat stigmatization. My surprise stemmed from common-sense assumptions about black people’s fat acceptance and flexible standards of beauty. Popular culture, academic studies on body image, and news outlets help to perpetuate these assumptions. R&B and Hip Hop is known for celebrating black women’s voluptuous bodies, including Drake who rapped famously he likes women “so thick that everybody else in the…

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The American president-elect’s contempt for women he finds unappealing is by now pretty well known. “Fat. Pig. Dog. Slob. Disgusting animal. These are just some of the names that Donald Trump has called women over the years.” But Trump’s fat shaming is not completely gender biased. As the typical image of the computer geek is male, many assumed that the anonymous hypothetical “400-pound hacker,” who Trump said might have released emails from the Democratic National Committee, was also male. Observations that Trump himself is fat – perhaps “too fat to be president” – as well as seemingly ignorant, merely generated predictable charges of hypocrisy and exercises in reverse fat-shaming. The cable television channel Comedy Central even offered an election day…

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In the ever so popular sideshows of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Fat Lady was a fascinating spectacle staged for the amusement, horror and repulsion of the visitors. She was one of the freaks who was feared, yet also marveled at for her assets, her fat body. Today, there are only few sideshows left (in Coney Island for instance), but the tradition of displaying so called freaks for amusement has not vanished, it has merely switched its medium to television, or more precisely to Reality TV, a genre that is overtly popular and profitable for broadcasting stations. The fascination with “real” people and their lives does not seem to cease as more and more programs that negotiate and…

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