“The message of this book is basically that dieting is a really bad idea.”
It’s amazing what passes for scholarship these days.
The Cornell Chronicle reports:
‘Fatphobia’ a form of oppression, says philosopher Kate Manne
Fatphobia, says philosopher Kate Manne, has become a vital social justice issue. In her new book, “Unshrinking: How to Face Fatphobia,” Manne draws on personal experience as well as scientific research. Fatphobia is a social system that unfairly ranks bodies according to thinness, “in terms of not only our health but also our moral, sexual and intellectual status,” writes Manne, associate professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences.
After her widely cited first book was published – “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” – Manne was often asked to explain her interest in misogyny. That answer led to “Unshrinking,” which includes descriptions of her childhood experience at a boys’ school, where misogyny took the form of fatphobic attacks on her body.
Manne spoke with the Chronicle about the book.
Question: In addition to describing the intersection of fatphobia with misogyny, you also connect it with anti-Black racism. Can you explain?
Answer: Fatphobia is a historically recent systemic form of prejudice. In the past, fatness was often celebrated and seen as a sign of wealth and luxury and prosperity. As the sociologist Sabrina Strings has shown, it was in the mid-18th century that anti-fatness was born out of a need to differentiate white bodies in France and Britain from the Black bodies who were being so brutally enslaved. It’s not that fatness was first derogated, and then Black bodies were associated with fatness. It went the other way. Fat bodies and Black bodies were associated, and that was used to impugn fat bodies and fat Black bodies specifically shortly thereafter. That history is important to grapple with, both to see how contingent and historically recent fatphobia in its systemic form is, and also to see that it is really a powerful tool of anti-Black racism even today.
Q: Fatphobia is often justified by health concerns; why do you contend instead that “it is fitness, not fatness, that matters most”?
A: The message of this book is basically that dieting is a really bad idea. And unfortunately for me, because I happen to hate exercise, exercise is a really good idea. We see many promising longitudinal studies of people who were really fit even if they were also fat, and who have excellent health outcomes on average.
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