Exploring Fat Liberation and Weight-Based Oppression

Welcome! In this blog post, we will delve into the framework of fat acceptance, celebrate key players in this movement, and shed light on the insidious nature of weight-based oppression that affects individuals during pregnancy. While one goal of fat liberation is to recognize the value and beauty of all body types, not only breaking free from society’s unrealistic beauty standards, it is also about uncovering, challenging, and advocating for changes to the systems that deeply impact the lives of fat folks daily.

Fat liberation is a transformative movement that challenges the traditional notions of beauty, health, and worthiness tied to body size. It strives to empower individuals of all body shapes and sizes to be free from societal constraints, reclaiming their autonomy and self-love. Fat acceptance seeks to dismantle harmful stereotypes and discriminatory practices that marginalize those with larger bodies.

This movement is rooted in empathy and compassion, seeking to understand the unique experiences of individuals who live in larger bodies. By dismantling societal biases and stigmatization, fat acceptance fosters an environment where every individual can feel worthy, loved, and respected, regardless of their size.

Influential Communities & Advocates in the Fat Acceptance Movement

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a baby being cradled with a parent's hand on their head with a very light pink background with peach water color circles and gold glitter accents

1. The Body Positivity Community:

At the forefront of the fat acceptance movement, the body positivity community has been instrumental in reshaping societal perspectives on body image. Encouraging self-acceptance and self-love, they celebrate bodies of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Through social media platforms and grassroots initiatives, they are creating a space where everyone can feel seen and heard.

2. Health at Every Size (HAES®) Advocates:

The Health at Every Size movement challenges the notion that weight and health are inherently correlated. HAES advocates focus on holistic health, emphasizing intuitive eating, joyful movement, and mental well-being, rather than on weight loss.

By rejecting diet culture, they promote overall well-being for individuals of all body sizes while recognizing that health is subjective and that our worth and respect should not be tied to our level of “health” or ability. You can read more about the principles of HAES® on their website.

3. Intersectional Voices:

It is essential to recognize that the fat acceptance movement is deeply interconnected with other social justice movements. Intersectional voices bring attention to the unique experiences of individuals who face multiple layers of oppression based on their race, gender, sexuality, disability, and size. Understanding and addressing these intersections is vital for creating an inclusive and empathetic movement. When we examine the roots of fat oppression, we find anti-blackness and racism at the core.

Sabrina Strings writes in her book Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, “…the current anti-fat bias in the United States and in much of the West was not born in the medical field. Racial scientific literature since at least the eighteenth century has claimed that fatness was ‘savage’ and ‘black.” Her book explores this connection through the representation of both Blackness and fatness in the evolution of art. This is a must read! 

Weight-Based Oppression During Pregnancy

Pregnancy should be a time of joy and anticipation, but for many people living in larger bodies, it can be fraught with weight-based oppression and discrimination.

Society’s unrealistic expectations of pregnant bodies, coupled with medical biases, can lead to a series of distressing experiences for expectant parents. Let’s explore a few examples of how body oppression manifests during pregnancy:

1. Prenatal Care Disparities:

Studies have shown that individuals with larger bodies often receive inadequate prenatal care due to stereotypes and prejudices (Elran-Barak, R., & Bar-Anan, Y, 2018,  Incollingo Rodriguez et. al, 2019, Nagpal, 2022, Nagpal, 2021) Healthcare providers may make assumptions about lifestyle choices or assume that weight is the primary factor affecting their health. This can lead to delayed or inadequate medical attention, putting both the parent and the baby at risk.

2. Body-Shaming Comments:

Pregnant individuals in larger bodies frequently face hurtful and body-shaming comments from peers, family members, and even strangers. Such comments can be deeply damaging, eroding self-confidence and affecting mental health during an already vulnerable time.

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a mother and father cradling each other and a newborn on the father's shoulder with a beige background with green water color circle and gold glitter accents

3. Limited Maternity Fashion Choices:

The fashion industry has long perpetuated a narrow definition of beauty and access to fashion, leaving individuals with larger bodies with limited clothing options, not to mention maternity clothes. This lack of inclusivity can make it challenging for pregnant individuals to find comfortable and stylish clothing that accommodates their changing bodies including pumping bras, delivery robes, compression socks, and more. Having clothing that fits a variety of bodies and fulfills this basic need is important for all sized folks.  Check out our blog on plus friendly pregnancy and postpartum essentials list here.

4. Discrimination in the Workplace:

Expectant parents who live in larger bodies may also face workplace discrimination during pregnancy. This could manifest in not being granted appropriate accommodations or facing biased attitudes from colleagues or supervisors.

Embracing fat acceptance means embracing the diversity of bodies, recognizing that every individual deserves respect, love, and care, regardless of their size.

By amplifying the voices of those advocating for body positivity and challenging weight-based discrimination, we can create a world that is kinder, more empathetic, and free from oppressive beauty and health standards.

Let us validate the experiences of all individuals during pregnancy and beyond, supporting them on their journey to fat acceptance, self love and car, and personal empowerment.

Sources:

Elran-Barak, R., & Bar-Anan, Y. (2018). Implicit and explicit anti-fat bias: The role of weight-related attitudes and beliefs. Social Science & Medicine, 204, 117–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.03.018

Incollingo Rodriguez, A. C., Tomiyama, A. J., Guardino, C. M., & Dunkel Schetter, C. (2019). Association of weight discrimination during pregnancy and postpartum with maternal postpartum health. Health Psychology, 38(3), 226–237. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000711

Nagpal, T. S., Salas, X. R., Vallis, M., Piccinini-Vallis, H., Alberga, A. S., Bell, R. C., da Silva, D. F., Davenport, M. H., Gaudet, L., Rodriguez, A. C., Liu, R. H., Myre, M., Nerenberg, K., Nutter, S., Russell-Mayhew, S., Souza, S. C., Vilhan, C., & Adamo, K. B. (2022). Exploring weight bias internalization in pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-022-04940-4

Nagpal, T. S., Tomiyama, A. J., & Incollingo Rodriguez, A. C. (2021). Beyond BMI: Pregnancy-related weight stigma increases risk of gestational diabetes. Primary Care Diabetes, 15(6), 1107–1109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcd.2021.07.002

Nippert, K. E., Tomiyama, A. J., Smieszek, S. M., & Incollingo Rodriguez, A. C. (2020). The media as a source of weight stigma for pregnant and postpartum women. Obesity, 29(1), 226–232. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.23032

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