Fat acceptance as social justice
The fat body has long been a site of medical surveillance, and this has not changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early research focused on linking fatness with more severe disease outcomes, 1 yet many have questioned the strength of this association, including within the pages of this journal. 2 , 3
Fat communities, such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), have contested society’s stubborn generalizations that associate fatness with disease and poor health outcomes, and push back against the assumption that fat people have little regard for themselves or their own well-being. They argue that thinking about obesity as a disease or medical risk (such as for severe COVID-19) contributes to stigma because it positions larger bodies as drains on an already-taxed health care system.
The NAAFA mobilizes the term “fat” in its fight against weight discrimination and fatphobia in all aspects of life, including in employment, health care and education. Similarly, as social scientists, we use the term “fat” rather than the deeply problematic medical term, “obesity,” which causes harm to people under the guise of benign objectivity. Categories can shape how individuals view themselves, as philosopher Ian Hacking has argued; they reinforce judgments about people […]