14 February 2013

Fat-Acceptance: From The 1960s And On

Courtesy of Debra McClinton, Getty Images

I read a Time article recently called, "A Brief History of the Fat Acceptance Movement."  I was surprised to see that a publication as prestigious as Time magazine covered a story on fat acceptance back in 2009 and made an effort to detail the past and present of the movement.  It seems to me that no publication has really done so before or since -- and those that have have put a negative spin onto the whole idea.  The Time story was wonderfully un-bias; it was a simple news story.  It told us the facts and left opinion out of it -- yes, it mentioned the counter-arguments to weight acceptance; no it did not support them.

As I was reading, I became increasingly agitated, however.  Not at the writer -- Dan Fletcher did his journalistic duty of filling readers in on the subject.  I was agitated at the knowledge that fat acceptance has been a movement since the 1960s -- and in comparison to the causes and revolutions surrounding that decade (from sex to war to race to feminism) it seems weight acceptance got shoved aside and buried.

It was a smaller movement -- one that climaxed when fat activists staged an event at Central Park, "Fat-In", and ate ice cream while burning posters of Twiggy, but which otherwise didn't see much of a rise at all.  Organizations like "Fat Underground" came about supporting the cause, and dozens of others which were just as short-lived.  Ultimately the only one that has survived is NAAFA: the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.  I can't help but feel a little sad -- a little sad that the movement has been around for over 50 years and not only is there only one primary organization fighting for it, but in those 50 years it's barely received any acceptance or acknowledgment.  The recognition it does receive is usually in the form of chuckles and snorts at the thought that anyone would be proud of being fat -- or would even perhaps enjoy being fat.

I think we're at a point where it is safe to say that the other causes surrounding the 60s have seen radical changes and advancement.  Whether in race or gender, equality has been on the rise and diversity much more accepted, even sought out.  But what about fat acceptance?  What about "pro-plus-size?"

The fact that in the past few years there have been a record number of eating disorders leads me to believe fat acceptance is nowhere near the level of acceptance it should be after a 50 year battle.  Then again, as I've said before, we are seeing a rise in plus-size celebrities, bloggers, activists and models in the past three years or so.  But I can't help but feel it's still not "ok."  People still find it odd to hear a man or woman admit to liking being big -- or to hear someone say they like those who are big.  People find it odd to hear of BBW models who are proud enough of the fat on their bodies to pose nude or even want to gain more weight.  It's simply not at the level the other revolutions of the 60s are at today.  And I wonder...how long until it is?  And what will it take for it to reach that level?  I really don't know what it would take.  I find myself thinking about the large role that music played in the 60s, however, and my silly, overly optimistic, side is telling me what we need is a theme song to fat acceptance -- some incredibly talented folk musician strumming the acoustic guitar and singing for the cause.   Well, one can only hope.


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDSK91mUNLU

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMnjF1O4eH0

  3. Hi,
    Just a couple of my thoughts on this, firstly gotta go with Queen over the Mika song. The queen song to me seems like a real celebration of a fatter body shape, whereas the Mika song strikes me as well intentioned but kinda patronising - like 'hey I know your fat but it's ok I like you' which falls flat for me.
    Secondly, I think the notion of fat acceptance is hampered by a few conflicting notions that get touted around, which may be part of the reason why it has been sidelined as you say. You mentioned the 'fat-in' and the burning of the posters of Twiggy. I understand the symbolic nature of burning the societal ideal female figure, but I think this just fuels another form of predjudice against a particular body shape. As though the argument is OK, so society has dictated that skinny is beautiful, therefore skinny is bad. This just fuels the fires of body image problems that gets foisted on young women. For example, alongside the nasty heat magazine - check out who got fat, there are articles like oh check out who overdone the diet, give that girl a sandwich... Cleary the current trends in society are more directed at scorn for bigger women I don't dispute that, but fueling more body predjudice isn't the answer. Furthermore, I think the answer lies less in 'fat acceptance' which seems like a fairly modest goal and more in fat celebration! Something positive, more along the line of fashion magazine, blogging etc that shows what we know and see to be attractive in the fatter form. This would just stick to the notion that look, this is attractive and sexy because it is rebelling against mainstream fashion. All the best movements in art, music and fashion have been about rebellion and being fat and beautiful should be no exception.
    You wonder what it will take to get the level of understanding other movements have acheived but I think you are already doing that through this blog and hopefully others that take a similar positive approach. As to music who needs a specific song about fatness, all it takes is for people to concintrate enough on the positive attributes of people who happen to be fat before it ceases to be an issue at all and we can all enjoy a good dance together, fat and thin on the dancefloor.

  4. Is this sort of reform going to happen in the diet industry? Not likely. But there is something you can do to stop the cycle (you are doing it right now): LEARN!

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