Intersectionality: fatness and the bodies of women of color
As I am sure many of my readers are aware by now, there has been some intense fat-related discussion going on over at Feministe. Toward the bottom of the comments of the most recent post, a beautiful reflection from Spilt Milk, there has been some discussion of intersectionality of race and fatness and how well (or not so well) the FA movement addresses this.
As a white person, I cannot adequately address this issue on my own. But I’m putting this out there because I believe that we need to start talking about these issues more.
One of the possible issues that has been posited by myself and others is that there may be different attitudes toward fat people based on their race. At least in the US, the only region I can currently speak to, it is more expected that people of color, especially those who are poor, would be fat or at least not thin (Coincidentally, Sociological images has a post up today about beauty magazines conflating “curvy” with “ethnic” in describing women’s bodies). Does this expectation lead to less pressure on poc to be thin? Does it mean that there is less likelihood that a black woman and a white woman who have the same body shape and size will experience differences in their likelihood of getting hired as a result of their fatness?
I want to make clear that I do not think that this discussion is important theoretically; it is only important in practice. I have no interest in—and I believe we would be ill advised to try—talking about who “has it worse,” in other words, playing the oppression olympics. But perhaps this does have some bearing on just how white the FA movement is. Whether or not POC are choosing to participate in the FA movement may be related both to white privilege and the fact that many POC simply don’t feel this issue has enough salience for their life to put forth that much energy. They may, like Renee at Womanist Musings, create blogs that are fat-positive but which don’t overtly align with the FA movement.
Either way, the FA movement as a whole would be well-advised to pay better attention to intersectionality. The white bloggers, especially, would be well-advised to look for ways that problems like food deserts and lack of green space have a much greater impact on persons of color and poor persons. But perhaps we need to also accept—and respect—that for many POC, FA may just not be where it’s at.
I think I’ll leave it there today. I have some other thoughts but I don’t want to write some long-ass entry about something that I’m really not qualified to discuss in great detail.
What are your thoughts?