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The fat acceptance movement also known as fat pride , fat empowerment , and fat activism organiser [ citation needed ] is a social movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attitudes by raising awareness about obstacles faced by fat persons for the general public. The modern fat acceptance movement began in the late s. Besides its political role, the fat acceptance movement also constitutes a subculture which acts as a social group for its members.
The movement has been criticized, with Cathy Young , writing for The Boston Globe , claiming that "the fat acceptance movement is hazardous to our health",  and Barbara Kay , writing for the National Post , stating that "fat-acceptance is not the answer to obesity.
The history of the fat acceptance movement can be dated back to when people met in New York's Central Park to protest against anti-fat bias.
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Sociologist Charlotte Cooper has argued that the history of the fat activist movement is best understood in waves, similar to the feminist movement , with which she believes it is closely tied. Cooper believes that fat activists have suffered similar waves of activism followed by burnout, with activists in a following wave often unaware of the history of the movement, resulting in a lack of continuity.
First wave activities consisted of isolated activists drawing attention to the dominant model of obesity and challenging it as only one of a number of possible models. During the early part of the 20th century, obesity was seen as detrimental to the community, by means of decreasing human efficiency, and that obese people interfere with labor productivity in the coastal areas of the United States.
Like other social movements from this time period, the fat acceptance movement, initially known as "Fat Pride", "Fat Power", or "Fat Liberation", often consisted of people acting in an impromptu fashion. A "fat-in" was staged in New York's Central Park in He primarily intended it to campaign for fat rights, however a reporter attending the NAAFA conference notes that few attendees were active in fat rights politics and that most women came to shop for fashion, wear it on the conference catwalk or to meet a potential partner.
In the feminist group The Fat Underground was formed. Founded by Sara Fishman then Sara Aldebaran and Judy Freespirit, the Fat Underground took issue with what they saw as a growing bias against obesity in the scientific community. They coined the saying, "a diet is a cure that doesn't work, for a disease that doesn't exist". In , the two groups collaborated to publish a seminal book in the field of fat activism, Shadow on a Tightrope , which collected several fat activist position papers initially distributed by the Fat Underground, as well as poems and essays from other writers.
Other first wave activities included the productions of zines such as Figure 8 and Fat! In the second wave, the fat acceptance movement became more widespread in the USA and started to spread to other countries.
Ideas from the movement began to appear in the mainstream. Publishers became more willing to publish fat acceptance themed literature.
By the s, input from the fat acceptance movement began to be incorporated into research papers by some members of the medical professions such as new anti-dieting programs and models of obesity management.
The s witnessed an increase in activist organizations, publications, and conferences. The fat acceptance movement has seen a diversification of projects during the third wave. Size discrimination has been increasingly addressed in the arts, as well. The fat acceptance movement increased in the s, with the creation of the "fatosphere"  and the "Fat Liberation Feed",  providing online communities of blogs and social media dedicated to the fat acceptance movement.
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The individual blogs of the second wave have mainly been overtaken by larger scale social networking sites such as PeopleOfSize. The fat acceptance movement argues that fat people are targets of hatred and discrimination. Fat acceptance organisations engage in public education about what they describe as myths concerning fat people. Fat individuals claim to experience weight-based discrimination in a number of avenues within their lives. Fat activists argue that anti-fat stigma and aggressive diet promotion have led to an increase in psychological and physiological problems among fat people.
Proponents of fat acceptance maintain that people of all shapes and sizes can strive for fitness and physical health. Informed by this approach, psychologists who were unhappy with the treatment of fat people in the medical world initiated the Health at Every Size movement. It has five basic tenets: 1.
Enhancing health, 2. Size and self-acceptance, 3. The pleasure of eating well, 4. The joy of movement, and 5. An end to weight bias. However, the consensus within the scientific community is that obesity has a negative impact on the health of an individual.
Numerous medical studies have challenged the 'healthy obesity' concept.
The issues faced by fat women in society have been a central theme of the fat acceptance movement since its inception. Although the first organisation, NAAFA, and the first book, Fat Power , were both created by men, in each case they were responses to weight discrimination experienced by their wives.
Women soon started campaigning on their own behalf with the first feminist group, 'The Fat Underground', being formed in Issues addressed regarding women have included body image , and in particular The Thin Ideal and its effect on women. The fat acceptance movement has primarily focused on a feminist model of patriarchal oppression of fat women, most clearly represented by the encouragement of women to diet.
However, Sander L. Gilman argues that, until the 20th century, dieting has historically been a man's activity. He continues, " Obesity eats away at the idealised image of the masculine just as surely as it does the idealised image of the feminine.
Men respond to being overweight differently, i. Ganapati Durgadas argues that fat bisexual and gay men "are reminders of the feminine stigma with which heterosexism still tars queer men".
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In a comparison of queer fat positive zines , the lesbian-produced Fat Girl was found to have political debate content absent from gay male orientated zines such as Bulk Male and Big Ad.
Joel Barraquiel Tan comments: "If fat is a feminist issue, then fat or heft is a fetishised one for gay men. Gay men have a tendency to sexualise difference, where lesbians have historically politicised it. Like some fat and gay men, BHMs have sexualized their difference and receive validation of this identity from BBWs or from straight women known as "Female Fat Admirers". In the s fat people in the United States began seeking legal redress for discrimination on the basis of weight, primarily in the workplace but also for being denied access to, or treated differently in regards to, services or entertainment.
The results of these cases has varied considerably, although in some instances the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA has been successfully used to argue cases of discrimination against fat people.
What is the difference between a million-dollar weight case award and a losing case? Like the difference between many winning and losing transgender cases, it's all about the attitude.
Fat acceptance movement
Winning cases generally adopt a legal posture that reinforces social prejudices. Cases that challenge societal prejudices generally lose. The Americans with Disabilities Act continues to be used as there is no USA federal law against weight discrimination; however, the state of Michigan has passed a law against weight discrimination. The cities of Washington D.
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Opinions amongst city enforcement workers vary as to why the prosecution numbers are so low, although they all suggested that both overweight people and employers were unaware of the protective legislation and it was also noted that the cities with anti-weight discrimination laws tended to be liberal college towns.
However, not all legal changes have protected the rights of fat people. Despite recommendations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to the contrary, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has decided that fat people will only qualify as disabled if it can be proved that their weight is caused by an underlying condition, supporting the concept that being obese is not inherently a disability.
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Other countries besides the United States have considered legislation to protect the rights of fat people. In the UK an All Party Parliamentary Group published a report in called Reflections on Body Image that found that 1 in 5 British people had been victimised because of their weight.
The report recommended that Members of Parliament Investigated putting "appearance-based discrimination" under the same legal basis as sexual or racial discrimination via the Equality Act which makes it illegal to harass, victimise or discriminate against anyone on the basis of a number of named categories.
There has also been an emerging body of academic studies with a fat activist agenda. Marilyn Wann argues that fat studies moved beyond being an individual endeavour to being a field of study with the conference Fat Attitudes: An Examination of an American Subculture and the Representation of the Female Body  The American Popular Culture Association regularly includes panels on the subject.
In a number of colleges, student groups with a fat activist agenda have emerged, including Hampshire, Smith, and Antioch. Fat studies is now available as an interdisciplinary course of study at some colleges, taking a similar approach to other identity studies such as women's studies , queer studies and African American studies. The fat acceptance movement has been divided in its response to proposed legislation defining morbidly obese people as disabled. I don't consider myself disabled, and some people don't like 'fat' being considered a disability.
Another common division in the fat acceptance community is the differing attitudes towards general society, specifically thin people. The fat acceptance community generally divides into two categories. One is those who feel discrimination towards thin people hinders the fat acceptance cause.
The other side views thin people as at least a partial cause of their social stigma. The fat acceptance movement has been criticised from a number of perspectives.
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Primarily there has been a conflict over the medicalisation of fat and health professionals who have criticised proponents of fat acceptance for ignoring health issues that many studies have shown to be linked to obesity. Lionel Shriver , American journalist and author, wrote a column in Standpoint magazine strongly criticizing the fat acceptance movement. She condemned the movements' demand for respect for fatness in itself, which promotes the same unhealthy lifestyle that she believes killed her brother, who was morbidly obese and died at the age of She also criticized the movements' repeated comparison of sizeism with racism or homophobia, saying that this approach casts obesity in the light of being an unchangeable state.
Cathy Young , writing for The Boston Globe , claimed that the movement was responsible for normalizing and promoting the acceptance of a controllable disease with clear health complications.
While she recognizes the value in fighting against self-loathing, she draws the line at advocating for acceptance of an "unhealthy status quo. The movement has also been criticized for its treatment of women with eating disorders or who follow diets for health-related reasons, since they are seen as betraying the movement.
In Lily-Rygh Glen, a writer, musician, and former fat acceptance activist, interviewed multiple women who claimed to be rejected by their peers within the movement and labeled "traitors" when they changed their diets. One female activist admitted to living in fear that her binge eating disorder and consequent body image issues would be discovered. Glen states, "It is precisely because eating disorders are not openly discussed that many fat people who suffer from bulimia , binge-eating disorder , and pathorexia defined as disordered appetite, and used to refer to an entire spectrum of disordered eating feel they aren't welcome in the fat acceptance movement.
The fat acceptance movement has been criticized for not adding value to the debate over human health, with some critics accusing the movement of "promoting a lifestyle that can have dire health consequences".
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In response, proponents of fat acceptance claim that being fat in and of itself is not a health problem and that long-term weight-loss is unsuccessful in the majority of cases. A social movement that would suggest health at any size in many respects can be misleading". Resting metabolic rate varies little between people, therefore, weight gain and loss are directly attributable to diet and activity. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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Social movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attitudes. Main articles: Big Beautiful Woman and Fat feminism. Retrieved November 20, The Fat Studies Reader. NYU Press.