The Fat Studies Reader

396 pages

21 illustrations

November, 2009

ISBN: 9780814776315



Also available in


Esther D. Rothblum is Professor of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University. She is the editor or co-editor of over twenty books, including Overcoming Fear of Fat.

All books by Esther Rothblum

Sondra Solovay is an attorney, adjunct professor of law, content developer, and activist focusing on weight-related issues, diversity, and the law. She runs the Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights, and Education Project and is the author of Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination. She lives in Berkeley, California.

All books by Sondra Solovay

Marilyn Wann is Founder of the FAT! SO? 'zine and author of FAT! SO?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size!

All books by Marilyn Wann

Winner of the 2010 Distinguished Publication Award from the Association for Women in Psychology

Winner of the 2010 Susan Koppelman Award for the Best Edited Volume in Women’s Studies from the Popular Culture Association

We have all seen the segments on television news shows: A fat person walking on the sidewalk, her face out of frame so she can't be identified, as some disconcerting findings about the "obesity epidemic" stalking the nation are read by a disembodied voice. And we have seen the movies—their obvious lack of large leading actors silently speaking volumes. From the government, health industry, diet industry, news media, and popular culture we hear that we should all be focused on our weight. But is this national obsession with weight and thinness good for us? Or is it just another form of prejudice—one with especially dire consequences for many already disenfranchised groups?

For decades a growing cadre of scholars has been examining the role of body weight in society, critiquing the underlying assumptions, prejudices, and effects of how people perceive and relate to fatness. This burgeoning movement, known as fat studies, includes scholars from every field, as well as activists, artists, and intellectuals. The Fat Studies Reader is a milestone achievement, bringing together fifty-three diverse voices to explore a wide range of topics related to body weight. From the historical construction of fatness to public health policy, from job discrimination to social class disparities, from chick-lit to airline seats, this collection covers it all.

Edited by two leaders in the field, The Fat Studies Reader is an invaluable resource that provides a historical overview of fat studies, an in-depth examination of the movement’s fundamental concerns, and an up-to-date look at its innovative research.


  • “The essays rarely come across as didactic, and the milestone achievement of this collection is the way it combines public policy and chick-lit, eroto-politics and gay chubb-chasers, job discrimination and lesbian size queens.”

    Curve Magazine

  • “It is, so far as I know, the first book of its kind on fat studies and hence represents essential reading for those who want to know what fat studies is all about as well as for those who have working in some component of the field but want a collection that deals with a vast variety of issues and places the movement in a wider context.”

    Metapsychology Online Reviews

  • “These hard-hitting, provocative essays set the stage for a new paradigm honoring weight diversity and mark an important moment in the history of social justice.”

    —Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size

  • “Rothblum . . . wonders if part of the appeal of plus-sized shows stems from the overweight being held up for public ridicule.”


  • “With forty essays that span an impressive array of academic and popular approaches, this book is the first to collect the essential texts of the blossoming discipline known as fat studies, which explores why the oppression of fat people remains acceptable in American culture. . . . Fat studies is an arena where the personal, political and scientific converge, and with this book, readers can mount an informed challenge to the medical construction of obesity and size, the diet industry, insurance companies, public policy and popular culture. . . . It may be too soon for the movement to offer utopian alternatives, but these essays offer a rich supply of tools for the activist and scholar willing to start the revolution.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • "An eye-opening, thought-provoking volume that challenges our basic assumptions as well as the 'truths' by which we have lived our lives, and eclares war on the 'War on Obesity'."

    Feminism & Psychology

  • "The value of this anthology lies not just in the scholarly analyses, and the critical lens applied to traditional assumptions and social practices, but its development of a call to action."

    Sex Roles

  • "The book...mark[s] a watershed moment in fat studies."

    —Michael Brown,

  • "The publication of The Fat Studies Reader marks an important moment in the evolution of fat studies as a field. Edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay, both preeminent scholars in their field, the anthology brings together a diverse array of perspectives from scholars and activists, some already notable figures in the field and other up and coming. Several pieces, including the editors' introduction, provide useful overviews of the history of fat activism and the emergent field of fat studies."

    —Anna E. Ward, American Quarterly

  • “With a winning audacity, The Fat Studies Reader announces its intention to serve as the foundation of a new academic field. Its editors present convincing voices from law, medicine, social sciences and the humanities, making it difficult to dismiss their case that the time has come for fat studies.”

    Ms. Magazine

  • “In The Fat Studies Reader, Rothblum and co-editor Sondra Solovay have compiled the work of 53 authors whose multi-disciplinary research on fat studies examines and critiques prevailing assumptions around being fat in a country obsessed with the ‘obesity epidemic.’”


  • “A path-breaking anthology, and the first to map this emerging field. Leading scholars and activists from diverse disciplinary backgrounds explore the pervasiveness of prejudice based on body size, and challenge conventional policy responses. By focusing on goals of health, fitness, and social tolerance, The Fat Studies Reader redefines the ‘problem’ of weight and invites more promising solutions.”

    —Deborah Rhode, Stanford Law School

  • “So what’s wrong with putting on an extra pound, or ten pounds, or, for that matter, a hundred and ten? According to the contributors to The Fat Studies Reader, nothing.”

    The New Yorker

  • “In the US, where two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese, the forthcoming book The Fat Studies Reader argues the problem is not obesity per se but the way it is presented in culture. Sociologists point to a ‘societal fat phobia’ which engenders prejudice against the obese—and argue that this prejudice is tolerated by those who would never dream of making racist or sexist remarks.”

    The Independent (UK)

  • “This book wastes no time getting in the reader’s face about its intentions to break critical ground on the emerging field of fat studies and the need to combat inequities limiting the lives of fat people. The tone is strident; the essays will provoke reactions, especially from scholars studying obesity and other weight-related issues within a public health framework... This unapologetic reader, laced throughout with theory, analysis, and research findings, is written in a consistently direct and impassioned style. It is an invaluable map of fat studies, giving voice to its proponents and outlining an agenda for future work. Summing Up: Essential.”


  • “The publication of Fat Studies Reader  is a watershed in the institutionalization of this new field. The thick volume comprises forty succinct pieces authored by a mix of established researchers and budding new scholars, overwhelmingly women, working in diverse academic fields from within the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences... Readers will find plenty to chew on in this big, fat, juicy volume.”

    Women’s Review of Books

  • The Fat Studies Reader does the important work of exploding assumed connections between weight and health. . .Feminists of all sizes who care about the answers should jump in to continue the discussion.”

    Bitch Magazine