Blog, Educate and Activate, Social Justice

Educate & Activate Series: Fat Liberation

Feminist Book Club blog contributors are working together to create posts as an “Educate & Activate” series. We will define a term or movement, provide historical context, and give you additional resources to learn more. We believe that an educated populace can be better activists, accomplices and co-conspirators. It is important to note that these are meant to be brief descriptions and not inclusive or exhaustive of all resources. We urge you to continue being curious, and continue learning more.

*Disclaimer: I am at the beginning of learning about the fat liberation movement and fat activism. As a result, my knowledge will be ever evolving and this post should be a launching point in your search for learning about the fat liberation movement and fat activists who have been doing this difficult work for a long time.


Fat liberation is a separate movement from the “body positivity” trend. Body positivity is rooted in fat activism but is a separate movement because it centers privileged body types. Likewise, body positivity puts the emphasis on accepting yourself, rather than focussing the need for a change in society. As a result, fat liberation is a movement to end discrimination against people in society and to dismantle the sizeism that is rampant around us.


The beginning of the fat liberation movement began with a fat acceptance sit in in Central Park in 1967. 500 people gathered to protest the need for the improved treatment and access for people who are fat. Like the majority of the movements from the 1960’s, the fat liberation movement has evolved and changed with the majority of the work being done by BIPOC activists with little to no recognition.

Fat activism has risen out of the need for protections for people who are fat because it is legal in 49 states to discriminate on the basis of their weight. Fat discrimination is unacceptable and as a result, fat activism has grown to bring attention to the need for inclusive policies for people who are fat.

Fat Activism Today

In addition to seeking to change policy that discriminates against people who are fat, fat activism seeks to reframe the mentality that having a fat body is bad and not worthy of respect. Specifically, the fat activism movement looks to call out the medical practices where people who are fat are not taken seriously for their symptoms and concerns because “the root cause is their weight.” In many instances, people who are fat are discriminated against in the medical field primarily due to their weight which cause a misdiagnosis that can lead to worsening conditions.  The fat activism movement seeks to normalize fat bodies so that people realize that people who are fat are worthy of taking up space and having their bodies respected.

For a thorough discussion of how fat activism and liberation has changed over time, please read Evette Dionne’s article, “Here’s What Fat Acceptance Is- and Isn’t

Resources to Further Educate

  1. Your Fat Friend by Aubrey Gordon
  2. Here’s What Fat Acceptance Is- and Isn’t
  3. It’s Time #BodyPositivity Got an Intervention
  4. Autostraddle- Fat Liberation Is the Future 

Books to Further Educate:

  1. Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement by Charlotte Cooper
  2. Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cotton 
  3. The Body is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
  4. The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce edited by Angie Manfredi
  5. For kids- Celebrate Your Body by Sonya Renee Taylor
Claudia Neu has a passion for language immersion and intersectional children's literature. When she is not working with children or reading, you can find Claudia cuddling with her cat or trying to keep her houseplants alive. Check out her instagram @claudianeureads for more book recommendations and reviews. Favorite genres: queer literature, contemporary fiction, and young adult.

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