Sandwiched between layers of fiction, I love reading books that challenge my thinking about the world. I learn so much from the experiences of others and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. I love being able to gain empathy and insight into worlds that are quite different than my own. However, I also love finding nuggets of myself in other’s stories… it helps me realize that I am not so alone. The latest book I read about social justice did just that!
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is a book that takes an in-depth look at our cultural attitudes toward fat bodies and advocates for fat justice. Written by Aubrey Gordon, a fat positive content creator, this book takes a harsh dive into the anti-fat bias in our world. This is NOT a self help book, but rather a book that encourages people to stand up for the basic human needs of, and social justice for, fat bodies.
The book begins discussing the roots of the Body Positivity Movement and defining the vocabulary of Fat Justice. Gordon then goes on to share the sad realities of the fat experience in America… a world where people are routinely dismissed simply because of their size. The research and statistics shared within the book are both humbling and heartbreaking. If people only knew the hostility and shame that fat people are subject to, simply because they exist and take up space!
Many of the personal stories Gordon shares in the book are ones to which I completely and uncomfortably relate. From the fear of personal space while flying, to the fear of going to the doctor knowing you will not be heard beyond your fat body, to the fear of being misunderstood or pushed aside by straight sized friends and family members. I felt in my bones the frustration of seeing bodies like mine as headless images talking about the “obesity epidemic.” I heard voices in my own past telling me… “but at least you have a pretty face,” or “wouldn’t you just be happy if you lost a little weight?” I felt the anger of always being seen in pop culture as slovenly, pathetic, or the comic relief.
The part that I felt most challenged by was taking a look at my perceptions of the Body Positive Movement. This movement, that honestly reshaped my self-image and rescued me in the beginning, has been taken over by the wellness industry as a way to shame fat bodies yet again! I hadn’t really thought about that until Gordon pointed out all of the ways the media spreads “body positivity” now. I rarely find safe spaces for even “Mid-fat” people like myself in that space anymore.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat has emboldened me to speak up, both for myself and for others like me. Gordon provides a call to action, with steps that need to be taken immediately in order to ensure that ALL bodies are treated with dignity. This book will help you feel seen, heard, and passionate as a person of size.
However, this book is one that should really be shared with your friends and family who are NOT fat. The only way to make meaningful change is to build a network of allies that will speak up too. Read this book, then get ready to do some work and make some noise.