(FTS3) Fat Futures and Worldmakings

Tuesday Jun 04 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Online via the CSA

Session Code: FTS3
Session Format: Paper Presentations
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Not Applicable
Session Categories: Virtual Session

In the critical dialogues of fat studies, fat futurity has always been explored to distinguish ‘a life’ worth living for outside the confines of sizeism and its interlocking systems of oppression. In the current worldmaking processes, Dorinne Kando (2018) argues, there is a production of structures of inequality rooted in the personal registry, thus enacting a multidimensional understanding of aesthetics of genre, affect and subjectivities limited to these very structures. The capacity of worldmakings in the realm of the personal registry prioritizes and privileges the “colonial matrix of power and its multiple industrial complex”, so it is pertinent to think outside these systems of domination across time and space (Mignolo, 2021) Critical fat praxis fulfills a version of ‘love ethics’ (bell hooks, 1999) by pushing forth a narrative on the intersectional interplay between bodies and worlds. As a theoretical framework rooted in fat liberation and projects of abolition, the practice of fat-worldmakings centers on fat-being, intersectionality, care and wholeness as a mode of reimagining, resistance and resurgence (Kafai, 2021). In line with multiple fields that study marginalized bodies and experiences, such as feminist studies, disability studies, critical race studies, and/or Indigenous studies, there is a thorough examination of how bodies intermingle with social discourses, structures, and members to understand fat experiences. In re-imagining a worldmaking that considers the interconnectivity and community, scholarship uses a critique of social, political, cultural, medical and other notions of fatness that have ascribed fat bodies and people as ‘non-normative’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘unproductive’ and lacking any futurity whatsoever. Through such critiques of the fear, grief, and violence of the hegemonic power relations that frame fat people with the negative connotations of sizeism; visions of fat futures and life are thought through with a sense of love and care. In doing this, critical fat praxis becomes practice as it cultivates an intersectional and interdependent fat epistemology and methodologies that bring upon a process of unlearning and nurturing of communities and stories. Tags: Equality and Inequality, Fat Studies, Race and Ethnicity

Organizers: Kelsey Ioannoni, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ramanpreet A. Bahra, York University


Kendall Dinniene, Southern Methodist University

Speculative Fiction and Fat Futures

In September of 2023, a fat liberationist on Twitter called upon leftists to examine their own antifat bias, writing, “You can’t and won’t meaningfully be a good leftist/communist/anarchist if you are fatphobic and refuse to seriously analyze fatphobia as a systemic axis of oppression.” Replies to the tweet varied, with a number of respondents claiming that fatness is incompatible with producing and inhabiting the future the left imagines. One such user tweeted, “You can’t and won’t meaningfully be a good communist if you are ‘fitphobic’ and refuse to seriously analyze why the ruling class would seek to keep proletarians in a state of physical incompetency.” Another wrote, “I have to be real with you, you can not [sic] fight a revolution when overweight, peak fitness is required and should be worked towards by all comrades.” Responses to the original tweet demonstrate the ways that the left perpetuates and proliferates antifat, ableist, and eugenic discourses, even—and perhaps especially—when envisioning what would make possible an otherwise liberated future. This paper suggests that those of us invested in a future free from antifatness as well as anti-Blackness, capitalism, transmisogyny, imperialism, ableism, anti-Indigeneity, and indeed every oppressive force that currently shapes and prematurely ends our lives look to the pages of twenty-first century North American speculative fiction for instruction. I contend that these fictions can help us to create more capacious imaginaries and demands, and to build coalitions unfettered by antifatness. In the final chapter of his Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies, and Fat, Hillel Schwartz imagines a utopia, a “fat society…that admired and rewarded fatness.” Contemporary speculative fiction imagines how this society might one day come to be. In speculative fiction by Nalo Hopkinson, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Carmen Maria Machado, and others, fat liberation arises from dystopic conditions and in collaboration with robust, intersectional movements for resistance and liberation. For example, in Hopkinson’s short story “A Habit of Waste,” a Canadian woman swaps her fat Black body for a thin, white one in a dystopic future in which bodies can be purchased, discarded, and donated. The story reveals how antifatness, anti-Blackness, and misogyny work in tandem and are in fact co-constituted. Through cultivating a relationship with an impoverished Black elder, Hopkinson’s protagonist begins to work through her antifat and classist biases as well as her internalized misogynoir. In Felker-Martin’s novel Manhunt, the world has been devastated by a virus that turns anyone with a high testosterone level into raging, raping, cannibalistic monster. Felker-Martin juxtaposes the faux-leftism of thin, wealthy whites who care about themselves only with the radical, intersectional resistance of trans people, fat people, and people of color who band together not only to protect themselves and each other but to battle in pursuit of a safer and more livable world. In this novel, fat people are not harmful or even merely peripheral to liberation, but crucial to it. The novel shows us how we might respond to the dystopic, overlapping crises of our world—genocide, climate catastrophe, an ongoing pandemic, and more—through radical collaboration that centers fat rather than excludes it.  

Aswathy A., Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore

Narratives of 'obesity' and body Transformation: fat Phobia and the anxieties of weight gain in Vazandar (2019)

In the narratives of pathologization, fatness constitutes double deviance, from normative body standards as well as normative gender configurations. However, compared to its male counterpart, it is female fatness that is treated as the more unpardonable since the fat female body also challenges the patriarchal constitution of the ‘desirable’ female body, i.e., one meant to satiate the male gaze. This deeply rooted fat phobia in our society is reinforced through the flawed depictions of fat bodies on screen with the narratives created through these movies deciding for the viewers what the ideal body measurements should be. In this discourse, the fat female body is not just judged on account of its violation of normative aesthetic standards, but also normative moral standards. The trend of the fat body as an abject, predominantly seen in Bollywood cinema, has slowly crept into the Indian regional cinematic culture producing a unified body standard for actors to fit in. The popularity and approval given to the stories of body transformation of actresses in India further narrow down fatness into an alterable, liminal state of being. This paper tries to analyze the construction of fatness as a liminal state of being in Indian movies through the study of the Marathi movie Vazandar (2019), directed by Sachi Kundalkar. The film showcases the ever-increasing anxieties over weight gain Indian women experience in a fat-phobic world ruled by diet culture and fitspiration. In this world, a woman’s corpulence is a moral failing, traced to her ‘wrong’ individual preferences regarding consumption and related lifestyle choices. Through the analysis of the narratives centered on obesity and the body transformation of two fat women, I intend to unravel the construction of the liminality of fat female bodies and explore how it leads to the hyper-visibility and hyper-feminization of fat women.

Jennifer Jolie, University of Guelph

Critiquing the body poslitivity machine and imagining fat futures

Conducting a qualitative single-case study of the #effyourbeautystandards Instagram account as a site of public pedagogy and using feminist critical discourse analysis as part of my M.Ed. thesis, I sought to understand the ways the body positivity movement did and did not challenge hegemonic beauty standards for fat women. The study was guided by two questions: 1) How does the #effyourbeautystandards Instagram account challenge and/or reproduce hegemonic beauty norms? 2) In what ways does the body positivity promoted by #effyourbeautystandards serve (or not serve) fat women? Analysis of visual and textual data contained in selected Instagram posts that were collected in December 2019 revealed that much can be learned from fat women’s engagement with the community as well as those where were not represented. Illuminating the fact that only certain bodies matter in the body positivity movement, the #effyourbeautystandards community on Instagram is one of many salient examples of the ways in which the movement is a predatory place for fat women, motivated by the neoliberal and post capitalist world in which we are all entrenched. The body positivity movement as a system of power is intentionally devoid of the nuanced understandings of the ways in which it fails to address the stigma and hatred of the fat women’s bodies it proposes to empower and is purposefully built to reproduce them. However, I feel it is important to consider the ways in which fat women’s engagement with body positivity indicates a deeper need for connection to and within fat communities. In this paper, I argue that a care-full critique of the body positivity machine illuminates possibility for fat community building, love and care in the imagining of kinder fat futurities for truly diverse fat women.

Ramanpreet A. Bahra, York University

Resisting Sizeism/Shapeism as Body-without-Organs: An Intersectional Praxis of Fat-Becomings

Within the interdisciplinary field of fat studies intersectionality theory as praxis has been taken up to critique the regulatory functions of ant-fat narratives that come to be practiced, lived and felt within society. Alongside such discussions arise an interest in the nexus of affect, fatness and racialization to speak of the biopolitical practices which thrive through both the medical, wellness, and diet industrial complex and the larger cultural forums within society, perpetuating the image of the thin or adequately curvy, white, nondisabled, elite cisgender person as an artifact of complete personhood. Fatness subsequently is seen as not a mere public health issue, but a socially, historically, politically, medically constructed category tied up with cultural understandings of gender, sex, and fatness. This paper deploys an intersectional praxis to explore how fat racialized people are framed as failed em(body)ments under the oppressive cycles of sizeism and shapeism. It concludes fat racialized bodies tend to face the authoritative medical and cultural gaze that conflates ‘health,’ notions of gender and desirability with thinness. Anti-fat, ableist and racist narratives push for fat flesh and bodies across the intersections to become smaller and smaller, aligning with the thin, ‘healthy’ progressive body ready to enter the lifeworlds. To examine the liminal space of lifeworlds and deathworlds, the paper lastly approaches the impersonal registry’s Body-without-Organs (BwO) following an intersectional praxis to reconceptualizes the materiality of fatness as expressions of life that are generative and interrelated with others, spaces, and world-making structures. In this refiguring of fatness as BwO, fat life is indeterminate, non-reactive and non-prescriptive; no longer succumbing to the cycle of performing the undertones of sizeism, shapeism and whiteness. Overall, the BwO enables the fat-becomings to unfold without referring to compulsory thinness, heterosexuality, and whiteness, and instead flourishing through its relational affective capacity.