Abstract: Stigma against fat people permeates every level of healthcare, yet most attempts to reduce weight stigma among healthcare providers have shown only marginal results. Fat studies, a field that rigorously interrogates negative assumptions about fatness, can help social psychologists understand weight stigma by centering the pathologization of fatness as a major contributor to weight stigma at the structural and interpersonal level. A fat studies approach also reorients the normative goal of weight stigma interventions from reducing stigma to eradicating stigma and calls for methods that reject weight stigma’s roots in medicine and medical discourse. Even nuanced and sympathetic models of “obesity” cannot combat stigma that is structurally based in medical authority. We applied these principles to develop a new method of weight stigma intervention: direct contact structured through narrative medicine. In a qualitative pilot study, four medical students and two fat activist community members met for five 2-hours narrative medicine workshops over 5 weeks. All participants completed focus group interviews about the experience. Interview transcript analysis revealed that these workshops provided a space for depathologizing, humanizing, empathy-inducing, and power-leveling interactions between medical students and fat people, where members of both groups reported benefiting from the experience. We conclude that non-pathologizing approaches to eradicating weight stigma are not only feasible, but both ethically and methodologically necessary.
Abstract: In September 2016, BBC Three released Obesity: The Post Mortem, an alleged “health and well-being documentary” chronicling the dramatized dissection of a fat, white, American woman. In this article, the author uses a feminist science studies analytic to argue that this film serves a cultural, rather than medical, educational purpose, functioning as a fatphobic biopedagogy to teach its viewers how to be good bio-citizens by staying or becoming thin. Part I traces the historical, material, and discursive forces that allowed for this film’s emergence to show how it perpetuates anthropometric legacies of displaying and dissecting “abnormal” bodies for symbolic and economic profit. Part II takes up the consequences of these legacies, using narrative and visual analysis to outline the ways this film dehumanizes both its subject and fat people in general, reviving histories of dissection for spectacle, perpetuating the myth that “obesity” is bringing about the downfall of humanity, and manipulating viewers into trusting knowledge from a television program designed to be sensational. The dehumanizing final message of Obesity: The Post Mortem is that the value of fat corpses lies in how they can be used to control the population, rather than any medical knowledge that results from their examination.
Abstract: Narratives of personal transformation through weight loss, often presented in the form of before-and-after photos, have the power to bend time into a nonlinear structure that glorifies the future at the expense of the past and present. In this article, the author proposes that the temporality created by presenting weight loss as a way to perfect one’s life is actually a manifestation of a larger, progress-driven temporality embedded in Western history and culture. An analysis of this larger temporality through its appearance in the colonial paradigm of progress and the queer studies concept of reproductive futurism provides a critical lens through which to examine its materialization in dieting discourse and internalization by fat dieters. This lens reveals that disillusioned dieters may have trouble giving up on their weight loss attempts because doing so involves rejecting a much larger temporal pattern. People who have given up on dieting may develop an ambivalent relationship to the present as they resist the temporality of transformational weight loss while continuing to live in a society built on a larger version of it.
“Fat by Hanne Blank.” Emotion, Space and Society, 38:C, DOI: 10.1016/j.emospa.2020.100761