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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Consider the photograph here of the half-length statue of Shakespeare on his funerary memorial in Trinity Church, Stratford, with the image of Shakespeare in popular culture, and especially Shakespeare as a young artist and lover in the 1998 blockbuster Shakespeare in Love.  Consider how unrecognizable the Shakespeare in the monument is, as Shakespeare, because Shakespeare is assumed to be youthful and thin. Nineteenth-century responses to the monument help us trace the development of a particularly toxic modern understanding of the fat and thin body, in which the fat body is seen as slow, slow-witted, and eventually prematurely aged, and the thin body is seen as vibrant, quick-witted, and young. As Shakespeare cannot be imagined as “fat,”, so too a fat…

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After 55 years as Weight Watchers, in April of 2018 the company unveiled a new name—“WW”—and new approach to commercialized dieting. CEO Mindy Grossman proclaimed that “healthy is the new skinny, and that’s very empowering for people.” Shifting from a focus on losing weight, she told Forbes Magazine that the company’s goal was “to help people be the healthiest version of themselves” and to “inspire health habits for […] communities.” WW’s swerve to “wellness” was critiqued by members of the Health At Every Size movement, including nutritionists who worry that this new veneer of wellness hides the same damaging attitudes about food and body size. Vincci Tsui, a HAES-focused registered dietician tweeted that “the diet industry is listening, but instead…

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“Why do they always look at me like that?” That’s what I think when I consistently see the same white men and women on the running trail in my neighborhood. My boyfriend and I recently moved to this neighborhood, motivated in part by the vast amount of running trails in the area. Granted, I see more people using the trails to walk their dogs in the morning, but I don’t mind the dogs. What I do mind are the constantly surveilling eyes that watch me as I jog over the bridge.  I cannot help but think that their gaze is a response to both my being black and running on the trail. My blackness may be disrupting their racially homogenous…

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Prevailing voices in the public and health sciences state that lower class people are much more likely to become “overweight” compared to their “middle” and “high class” counterparts. In this sense, the so-called “obesity epidemic” becomes inseparable from the discussion of class, and the equation remains clear: “the poor are fat and the fat are poor.” In order to explain the link between class and body weight, people generally refer to two assumptions about poor people: they have less access to healthy food and they don’t know which food is healthy. Over the last decades, studies that explore the social determinants of health and illness in populations (“social-epidemiology”) have particularly discussed this relation between food and fatness as a class…

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