"Happy" Fat Acceptance Anniversary? 40 Years, Not Much Progress

Illustration for article titled Happy Fat Acceptance Anniversary? 40 Years, Not Much Progress

Today, July 31, is the 40th anniversary of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). In the tumultuous '60s, the organization staged a "Fat-In" which involved eating ice cream "while burning posters of uber-thin model Twiggy."


Naturally, NAAFA has its critics. Time magazine pulls a quote from Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard's School of Public Health. Recently he told the New York Times: "There's been this misconception, fostered by the weight-is-beautiful groups, that weight doesn't matter. But the data are clear." The thing is, that's not even what NAAFA is about. The group is more into defending overweight Americans on issues like Simon Cowell's fat jokes on American Idol or obese airline passengers who have to pay for a second seat. Willett seems to think NAAFA is promoting fat. But as we've said before: There's a difference between promotion and acceptance. It's ridiculous to think that overweight people are out there pressuring people to gain weight.


NAAFA's public relations director, Peggy Howell, says her group doesn't endorse leading an unhealthy lifestyle: "We don't encourage people to get fat." She's more concerned with weight discrimination, which studies show is now as prevalent as race or gender discrimination. "As a citizen of the U.S., just because I carry more weight on my back doesn't mean I should have any fewer rights than anyone else."

What's interesting is that the fat acceptance movement started in the late '60s, when issues of race, sex, war and feminism were also in flux. Since then, the draft became a contingency plan; the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate; we went from getting past segregated lunch counters to a black President. But despite the rash of plus-size TV shows on the air right now, the NAAFA convention today in Washington, D.C. will surely meet with opposition, like the commenters on Marianne Kirby's piece about More To Love, one of whom wrote:

It is time to stop giving people a pass by using politically correct terms such as "plus-size or full-figured."
Enough already.
You are obese. You are fat.
There is NOTHING healthy about " your lifestyle. "
Overeating is NOT a " lifestyle. "
Nobody forces you to enter that fast food restaurant.

That comment was met with a barrage of responses from enraged overweight people swearing that they are vegetarians with low cholesterol who do not overeat, but the attitude of the original poster persists. This is a battle not easily won.

A Brief History Of The Fat Acceptance Movement [Time]
Earlier: On Beth Ditto, "Promoting" Obesity & Fat Shame
More To Love Premieres Tonight; Two "Fat" Writers Weigh In
Really Big Love [The Daily Beast]

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When will people learn to just worry about themselves? Isn't that like a universal truth? Work on yourself, don't work on others.