FAT!SO?

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By Laura J. Buchan

Subverting the establishment can and should be an adventure in fun. Marilyn Wann manages just that in her new book FAT!SO?. Wann is a fat pride activist who publishes her own 'zine and runs a web site by the same name (http://www.fatso.com). She's taken a multimedia approach to this book as well it's a visual feast.

Running along the bottom of each page are brief, positive-living messages ('Don't worry if you wiggle' and 'Buy a full-length mirror and use its power for good, not for evil'). Thought- provoking facts and cheeky images are scattered across the pages.

Another recurring theme is the Anatomy Lessons a picture gallery of body parts from a range of real people, not perfect TV bods. For the arts and crafts crowd, there's the Venus of Willendorf paper doll complete with nine outfits and accessories.

Wann uses all this and more to systematically analyze the misinformation about being fat and their resulting social, economic and health consequences. The health discussion was the most alarming. Not only does Wann challenge the fat=unhealthy myth, she also confronts the fact that many fat people receive poorer health care and even avoid going to the doctor because of experiences where their health care provider was more concerned with their weight than their health.

One of the most disturbing parts of the book was the rage that fat people feel rage turned outward (the man who's taken to beating people up when they hassle him about his weight) and rage turned inward (stomach stapling, eating disorders and suicide).

Despite the serious nature of this book, Wann doesn't despair, but maintains a positive, self- confident outlook and tells you how to do the same. Her narrative is peppered with a series of success stories from fat folk and fat-positive strategies like getting rid of your bathroom scale or reclaiming and using the word 'fat'. These may seem like small victories, but they can add up to real social change.

I want everyone to read this book fat or thin, male or female. But most people probably won't. It will appeal to a specific audience fat folk who are already confident enough to march this book up to the cashier. So for those who won't read FAT!SO?, I'll leave Wann the last word.

"The 'health' argument is a big old smokescreen for our old friend: fat hatred. When people realize they can't get away with expressing their prejudice against fat outright, they use the health argument instead, but the emotion behind their words is still hatred.

I realize that hatred is a strong word. Here's another way to think of it. Our culture currently believes that thin is good and fat is bad. This belief encourages the hatred of fat and the deification of thin. This belief is the basis for fat oppression and thin privilege. Now, no one person is responsible for this system of prejudice. But once you become aware of the system, it's your choice, your responsibility, to choose how you will relate to it I can't change your mind, but I can present a different angle on fat. From that angle, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the hatred that was hidden in the blind post. Each person who sees the fat-thin opposition for what it is makes it harder for the blind spot to stay hidden, for people not to know when they're being hateful, for us to confuse hatred and coercion for health and happiness and for fat oppression to flourish unquestioned."





















FAT!SO? is published by Ten Speed Press. Laura Buchan enjoys playing with her paper Venus of Willendorf doll.