Wann, Marilyn. Fat! So? Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 1998.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
I am very stingy with my use of 5-star ratings. Books that receive a 5-star rating typically need to have a "life changing" quality. In the experience of reading them, I feel different afterwards, changed, more connected to life and myself. Marilyn Wann's book Fat! So? is one of those books I gladly give a 5-star rating.
Wann is one of the founders of the Body Positive Movement, a movement that seeks to embrace bodies of all types and put an end to fat discrimination, hatred, and prejudice. The book starts with an introduction in which Wann describes discrimination she faced due to her size. From there, the book is broken up into sections similar to a zine. This is fitting as Fat! So? is based on a zine written by Wann years before the book came into existence.
Wann emphasizes the importance of re-claiming the word “fat” and returning it back to its neutral state of simply being a descriptor rather than a word loaded with other implications. She writes that fat should hold no more weight than the words “tall,” or “blonde.” While I like this idea on the surface, when it comes down to it, almost all words describing a person’s appearance are loaded with some connection to that person’s worth. It would then be more effective to cut the connection between a person’s worth and their appearance as a whole which I think is the underlying point Wann is trying to make. We are not defined by our eye color, the shape of our thighs or the length of our fingers. Therefore, none of the descriptions “fat,” “thin,” “tall,” “short,” should ever be offensive.
What really hit me at my core with this book is what is indicated in the subtitle “Because you don’t have to apologize for your size.” Fat! So? emphasizes the importance of letting go of shame and embracing who you are no matter what your dress size is. We all need to stop apologizing for our size. There is nothing to apologize for. Society tells us differently, though and nowhere is this more transparent than in the field of medicine. We are told if our BMI is too high, we are fat and need to change our bodies (even though BMI is one of the worst indicators of health, like, ever). We are made to feel guilty, ashamed, and worthless by the medical field. The thing is, Wann points out study after study after study that shows that people can be healthy no matter their BMI.
Fat discrimination is rampant in the medical field stretching into our insurance plans and the commercial diet field where people spend thousands of dollars on diet plans and pills that the diet industry knows won’t work. We are being conned, people! This isn’t new news really, but Wann makes it perfectly clear just how far and wide fat discrimination reaches. It is horrifying, but the knowledge is also empowering. When we know what we are up against, it is easier to stand up for ourselves and Wann offers many, many ways that people can stand up for themselves and stop feeling ashamed.
I really feel this book should be required reading in schools. For what class, I’m not totally sure, but it is a message that needs to be heard. I know this book changed my life and the way I carry myself in doctor’s offices or during conversations about body size. I know it will change the lives of many others if they can have access to it.
5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: KEEP