Trigger Warning for this blog post: fatphobia, eating disorder mentions.
Our most recent meeting was in partnership with the MU Counseling Center and the new Columbia McCallum Place and was held in conjunction with Eating Disorders Awareness Week. We were able to watch a clip of the unreleased movie Fattitude, a social documentary about fatphobia, body positivity, and living life as a fat person in our society. We were able to speak with the creators of the documentary, Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman, via Skype and discuss the clip we watched as well as the greater cultural problem of fatphobia.
If you missed the meeting, I’d like to explore one of the topics we discussed during the meeting: health.
Fatphobia is real. Fatphobia is a social attitude toward fat bodies that invokes fear, dislike, or hatred for fat people and affects all of us either through social policing or internalization. Fatphobia is often veiled in “concern” for a fat person’s health – although in the film clip we watched, doctors and other health professionals said over and over that you cannot know someone’s health status simply by looking at them – fat or not.
The Fattitude film clip discussed how health is a social construct. Health has not been a stagnant concept over time. Throughout history, what is considered “healthy” often is constructed through what body is the most difficult to attain and therefore is the upper-class body. In times when food was scarce, fat bodies were considered healthier and more desirable. Now, when having a small, thin body is difficult to attain, it is associated with upper classes and also health.
So the Fattitude creators suggested a new version of what health looks like: Health is being able to do the things that you want to do, that your organs are functioning. Maybe you don’t want to run a marathon – you want to go for a walk. Maybe you want to chill at home with your friends and pets. Also, health is often conflated with fitness. There is a difference between health and fitness – and fat people can be both healthy and fit. Your body does not determine these things.
Also, with regards to health, other people’s health is not your business unless they specifically want it to be. Fat people do not need others’ input and you should keep it to yourself unless they ask for an opinion.
Be sure to check out http://fattitudethemovie.squarespace.com/home/ for more info on Fattitude as well as other resources on fat positivity and fat communities online.