You Have the Right to Remain Fat

You Have the Right to Remain Fat

by Virgie Tovar

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936932320
Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 142,958
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight, and edited the groundbreaking anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press 2012). Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, and BUST.

Read an Excerpt

My body used to belong to me.
When I was a little girl my favorite part of the day was when we got home from errands or preschool. I would push the front door open with both small hands and run – through the living room filled with plastic-wrapped furniture, past the washer-dryer that made funny sounds that I liked, past my bedroom filled with a growing collection of Winnie the Pooh toys - into the bathroom. I would take all my clothes off as quickly as possible, shimmying out of my underwear and pants, breaking out of my shirt like it was an inconvenient membrane. I would leave the pile on the floor and then I would run back out, giggling with uncontained delight, to the kitchen where my grandmother was always cooking.
I would stop at the end of the little hall, where the calico cat colored rug met the linoleum of the dining room. I would spread out my arms and legs as far as I could. And I would jiggle. My thighs and belly, my cheeks and my whole body would wobble. I would turn my head in circles. I liked that everything moved and undulated. My body was like the water in the bathtub or the water at the community pool, which I loved so much in the summer. My body was like that water, a source of relief and fun, a place I could jump into and be held. It felt good. Oh it felt so good. I remember how curious I was, and how much I loved that my body could do these incredible things. I had no sense of self-awareness, only the immediacy of pleasure.
I think back on that time in my life as if it was someone else’s story. It feels so far away. I feel protective of that little girl who couldn’t imagine the horrible education awaiting her.
Less than a year later, those jiggle-filled afternoons would disappear. I would find myself being taught by boys at school that I was unlovable and disgusting because of my fat body. I would lose sight of how magical my body was, how magical I was. I would lose the sense that my body was mine at all.
All the freedom and wonder I felt became subsumed by a sharp sense that I had failed at something big. And that it was my job to fix it – to fix me. Rather than learning to trust my instincts and value myself, I learned that the size of my body was the only thing that mattered about me.
Through a series of violent, culturally sanctioned events – so commonplace that women simply call them “life” – my native relationship to my body was taken from me and replaced with something foreign and alien and harmful. The relationship with my body was replaced with one toxic idea – your body is wrong. That idea would threaten my happiness and my health for nearly two decades.
As much as I wish it weren’t so, my story is not unique. It is, in many ways, the story of American life for women.
As I was writing the introduction to this book, I got an email from a woman who told me that she was getting treated for bulimia, a disorder that disproportionately affects women and that really only exists when people live in a culture that glorifies thinness. Even though she was seeking treatment for an eating disorder that threatened her very life, she was still being cautioned against gaining “too much” weight while in recovery. Her email reminded me of the first time a woman told me she had cancer that went untreated because her doctor told her that the problem was her weight. She went in for an appointment because she was experiencing excruciating menstrual cramps and very heavy periods. She was afraid. Rather than examining her, her doctor told her that if she lost weight that everything would be fine. Had the doctor been willing to take her seriously, she could have found the lump in her uterus, but instead the it grew unchecked for another three years. And I was reminded of my own childhood and my education in body shame that sought to steal from me the most precious thing I would ever have— the inherent magic of being alive and the vehicle through which that magic is experienced, my body.
The perpetrators of these stories are body shame, fatphobia, and dieting, which hide behind the seemingly innocuous language of “self-improvement,” “inspiration,” and “health.” In many ways, however, they are merely the secondary characteristics of a larger cultural problem, not least our country’s history of unresolved racism, white supremacy, classism, and misogyny.
While we have spent the last 25 years cleaning up the sexist residue in our vocabulary, we have been living out woman-hating methods of control via our dinner plates and our bathroom scales. Often not even knowing that this is what we are doing. We are giving away our lives, our time, our energy, our claim to pleasure, our desire and our power one bite a time. Submission has taken on a new face – where once there was barred access to meaningful employment and birth control, today sexism has morphed into skipped meals and too many hours spent at the gym. As Naomi Wolf wrote, dieting is “the most potent political sedative in women’s history.”
I want to promise you that everything I tell you here is the truth, as well as I can tell it, that I have uncovered in my seven years of researching diet culture and fatphobia. I want to promise you that I don’t have an agenda besides my deepest desire that reading this book will make you leave with some tools to combat this horrible assisted femicide called diet culture. I will admit I want you to get super pissed off that you have been lied to and that there are cultural forces that are actively attempting to dismantle the most precious parts of your selfhood right now, and then getting you to pay for that violent process. It is only when we stop lying to ourselves that we can stop being lied to by others. It is only when we trust our experience of the truth that we can be free.
Diet culture seeks to undermine that very thing: self-trust. The compass, that reptilian and prehistoric guide that lives inside us, our greatest inheritance accumulated over generations of living on this planet.
And that’s why I wrote this book. I write from a place of professional and personal investment. Professionally, I am a body image expert, lecturer and author as well as a scholar in an emerging discipline called Fat Studies. Personally, I am a fatshionista, a vociferous activist, a lover of creamy pastries, a world traveler, a potty mouth, a San Francisco bohemian who loves pedicures, cheetah print, and chihuahuas who couldn’t live without mimosas, huge sunglasses, tiny bathing suits, and my Hitachi Magic Wand. I am also a 250-pound woman who chose to stop dieting because I wanted to start living my life rather than continue dreaming about it.
I used to believe that I was afraid of food and of being fat, but now I know that the fear was of a deeply troubled culture that would not allow me to thrive. A culture that was, in fact, invested in my degradation.
It is with great urgency that I write to women directly. Whatever I tell you in the following pages is told without any agenda beside the greatest desire to see women live the life we deserve to live - the life that the culture will never grant you, the one you must take. The key to that life is the unbridling of our desire. I believe that in this culture we are taught to extinguish that desire the moment we are taught that women shouldn’t be fat. I say: you have the right to be fat.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What Are Fatphobia and Diet Culture?
  3. Restriction Doesn’t Work—It’s Not You
  4. Dieting: Family, Assimilation, and Bootstrapping
  5. Dieting is a Survival Technique
  6. Internalized Inferiority and Sexism
  7. Bros <3 Thinness: Heteromasculinity and Whiteness
  8. Fatphobia is the New Language of Classism and Racism
  9. What Early Fat Activism Taught Me
  10. In the Future, I’m Fat
  11. I Want Freedom
  12. You Have the Right to Remain Fat
  13. Acknowledgements

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