Fat Is a Feminist Issue
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Fat Is a Feminist Issue

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  831 ratings  ·  50 reviews
When it was first published, Fat Is A Feminist Issue became an instant classic and it is as relevant today as it was then. Reflecting on our increasingly diet and body-obsessed society, Susie Orbach's new introduction explains how generations of women and girls are growing up absorbing the eating anxieties around them. In an age where women want to be sexy, nurturing, dome...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 7th 1998 by Arrow (first published 1978)
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Grumpylibrarian
While I gave this book four stars I say that with rather significant hesitation: This book (in the original 1979 publication format) struck me as largely irrelevant to women of my generation (Y).

The central thesis of this book is that women are fat as a result of institutionalized patriarchy. Women unconsciously make themselves fat for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, to protect themselves from sexuality, to provide a buffer between their bodies and society, to feel they can...more
Alexandra
Occasionally you pick up and book and it turns out not to be what you expected. The edition of FIFI that I read actually included a second volume and introductions from 2005 and back, so I assume it's one of the most recent editions. I expected FIFI to be largely academic discourse on fat and feminism, and was surprised by how much it was an overeating self-help book. I wasn't sure I fully appreciated that.

Don't get me wrong, as an overeater I think much of the analysis of overeating rings utter...more
Leah
As a practical manual, Orbach's text is dated (it's subtitle in many editions was -- 'a self-help guide for compulsive eaters). But nonetheless, "Fat is a Feminist Issue" remains a keystone in the history of the way bodies have been constructed in American culture. It is surprising, but Orbach was the first to bring a psychoanalytic view of the body to mainstream American culture through this book.

In psychoanalytic terms, Orbach's central claim in this book is that obesity and dieting (and comp...more
Laura
This book will piss you off, and then it will set you free.
Malcolm
I have really mixed feelings about this book, mainly becasue it reads so much like a self-help title in too many places. I first read it years ago and now work in a higher education context where a large part of our programme deals with physical activity, exercise and health. Although I do some teaching in the area, it is not my research area at all: what astounds me about so much of what I read from those research programmes is their absolute failure to grapple with politics - I don't mean poli...more
Jodi
This is a book I have heard mentioned every now and then for many years and I have always wanted to know what the book was about. So when I saw a cheap used copy I couldn't resist buying it to find out.

I'm somewhat overweight and have many serious health problems, which contribute to my weight issues in a number of ways. I didn't expect to relate so much to the different reasons that I could be choosing to stay overweight, but after reading this book I now have no doubt that at least part of my...more
Bronny
This book was one of the first to talk about women's relationship with fat. There are some parts that are absolutely spot-on with regards to women's relationship with food, dieting, their own bodies and the bodies of other people. I found myself nodding energetically in agreement with these parts of the book. ... then there's the other part of the book; the psychoanalytic part. The psychoanalytic interpretation of fat is appealing because it is intuitive but I believe that this interpretation la...more
Diana
I have tried reading this several times. I get that it was "groundbreaking", but when I read it all I hear is the same old fat-hatred/fat-blaming. "But if you REALLY just love your self and let go of your NEED to be fat, then you will magically become thin! Because obviously everyone who is fat really just WANTS to be fat! It's not a diet book--it's an ANTI-diet book! Because it doesn't tell you to diet, see! It just tells you that everyone needs to WANT to be thin--to REALLY REALLY want it, and...more
Pink
This was okay, but it wasn't quite what I thought it might be. There were some considerations on how fat is viewed in society and how we should see this as a feminist issue, but mostly I found this to be a self help diet book to cure binge eating. Plus I thought it was quite sexist, which I was not prepared for, though I guess things have moved on somewhat since the 1970s.
Sophia
This book still held some revelations despite the fact that it was written before I was born. It goes well with the book "The Beauty Myth" which is more of a cultural expose while this book is more of a self help guide. However there is precious little discussion of how women today are held captive by the societal concepts of beauty so it's nice to have multiple books available on the subject. I suggest this book to any person who has ever had an issue with food and control, basically everybody.
Spook Harrison
Oct 08, 2011 Spook Harrison rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women & Men
While some situations regarding how women are treated have indeed changed between the original publication date of the book, FIFI II and the various editions, this book still had some amazing insights for me. I've always considered myself a feminist, and I've read quite a lot about how we relate to food as human beings and women, and still this book had a number of intriguing new ideas for me to mull over, and a few new ways to look at things. I really enjoyed the book.
Dee
Aug 10, 2008 Dee rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with "weight issues"
Shelves: most-favored
This book contributed to me learning to care about myself despite a lifelong struggle to weigh less. It particularly examines the symbolic nature of fat, eating, size, and society's norms for women and men. Several of us formed a group to study this book, and it was one of the most supportive and educational endeavors I have ever experienced.
Tortla
Sep 21, 2008 Tortla marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feministy, wishlist
Good ol' feminism.
Rachael Quinn
This is one of those books that pops up a lot when you look into feminist literature. I have seen it on store shelves and in articles, on lists and cited in other works. What made me decide to pick up this book was simply that I decided to stop dieting and I wanted some form of support. When I told people that I wasn't going to diet anymore, it was implied by many people that I had just "given up." On the other hand, a lot of girls my own age were impressed by the very idea and acknowledged that...more
Misty


Really good. This gave a different perspective on compulsive eating and obesity as a women's issue. I appreciated that, because I think that women experience these issues differently from men, at least in western culture.

I have some reservations. First, the book was written in 1978 and is from a "first wave" feminism perspective. In this way it's a bit dated. That's not necessarily a fault, because I think in some ways feminism hasn't come as far as we think.

The second reservation is that thi...more
Heather
Jul 27, 2009 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, men, eaters
This book was completely different than what I was expecting.

I had heard about the book a long, long time ago. The title intrigued me, and it went on my mental "to read" list, where it resurfaced when I was looking for writings about body image issues. With the word "feminist" in the title, I expected it to be mostly about body acceptance in a society that says no woman is acceptable. Boy, was I wrong!

What was inside was a self-help book about compulsive eating, which can basically be defined as...more
marie monroe
This was so long ago that my dear friend i just recommended it to was maybe not even here yet?! It's been in print ever since it's debut and apparently still going strong.

Anyway, here's my deal with it: i don't really remember what's in here. What i remember is that I was 5'10", 135 lbs, excelling in 21 college hours, running 4-6 miles per day, living on protein powder and orange juice. I had 2 marriage proposals, several other men hidden away and I felt fat. Not fat as in too large, i finally r...more
Katya
Okay, so, body image.

Whoo boy, where do I start.

I'll go upfront with this, I'm not very sure about where I stand on this. There are feminists who completely disregard make-up and other tools of conventional beauty. From what I gather, every woman is beautiful exactly as she is and any attempt at change will only lead to frustration and anger and lowering of self esteem.

And then there is FIFI.

The theory at the heart of "Fat Is a Feminist Issue" is not that all women are perfect, but that they...more
Kristin
I expected the book to be a feminist discussion of the beauty culture, but instead it was an overzealous self-help book for compulsive overeaters who hate their mothers... or maybe someone else, but probably still their mothers. It's always the mothers.

So, if you are a compulsive overeater who blames your mother for your problems, this is probably right up your alley. I found it unreadable and had no interest in finishing it.
Liz
Some thirty years old but still relevent today. I felt the cover was somewhat misleading because it's not really a weight loss book but a book about the relationship of women and food, the expectations of society, and a woman's role as mother. Says something about how little society has changed in certain areas as I related to it even though we have supposedly come a long way since the seventies. Some things she addresses have changed a bit, but the contradictary pressures on women to be nurturi...more
AJ
Fat is a Feminist Issue is sort of like the ancestor of books like FAT!SO? and Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere, but rather than preaching body acceptance this book is more like a self-help manual for compulsive over-eaters. You can definitely get a whiff of the advice that is given out in the more modern books.
Emily
Sep 14, 2011 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any woman who has ever had the impulse to diet
While most of what Orbach argues is in line with what I believe, she takes it a little too far at times. Orbach tries to connect psychoanalysis and feminism to explain the impulses of compulsive eating, but there were more instances where it felt like she was stretching than there were moments of enlightenment. Not to mention the writing was robotic and far too formal. It felt like I was reading a tenth grader's paper, topic sentences and all. Considering her own experience with compulsive eatin...more
Zoli
Always wanted to read this book but not what I expected it to be. Will think through it more
Jude Arnold
I read Susie Orbach's 1978 version of this wonderful book and look forward to reading the new 2006 version along with the group The F-word in February.
Kathryn
I loved this book! It was great! I thought it would be just another fat positive book...I WAS WRONG! It not only told about how we as women are inindated with these ideas of what a women should look like and should act like. They say fat-ness is a big F YOU to society. They also go into the signs of unhealthy compulsive eating. I liked it a lot!
Ellie
This book has been a great help to me over the years when fight my weight-both when it's been "too high" and, though never in my own self-image, dangerously low. More than any other book I can think of, it has helped put my weight into a different and far more helpful context.

Recommend: for all women with body-image problems.
Hattie
I guess I didn't disagree with 100% of this book. Maybe it's just that the mindset it examines has very little in common with the way I see food, and my thin privilege gets in the way a bit, but I just didn't buy it. Also the writing style was unengaging and I glossed over the last two chapters in an effort to just get it read.
Chrissie
I absolutely loved the first part of this book where Susie discussed implications of the political and societal expectations for women's bodies. Once I got further into the book I became disappointed however, because it was very much a (somewhat) out of date self-help guide for compulsive eaters.
Leajk
Jan 23, 2013 Leajk marked it as might-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: probably-not
I don't know if I think stress-eating disorders is a feminist issue. Yes, women suffer more from eating disorders and have a larger pressure to be thin, but really so much of our body/food issues seems universal. So, I'd probably rather read a general analysis than a feminist one in this case.
Susannah
Interesting, if retro, analysis and self-help text approaching body issues from a feminist perspective. Reads like an 80s precursor to fat studies stuff. Helpful if you struggle with fat/internalized stuff and interesting feminist document even if you don't!
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The F-word: February NON-FICTION Group Read FAT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE 8 41 Mar 10, 2014 03:59PM  
  • Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body
  • The Fat Studies Reader
  • Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body
  • Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls' Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes
  • Feminism and Pop Culture
  • Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism
  • The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health
  • Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men
  • Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
  • Whores and Other Feminists
  • How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America
  • The Equality Illusion: The Truth About Women And Men Today
  • Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution
  • The Essential Feminist Reader
  • Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture
  • We Don't Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists
  • Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild
  • Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement
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Dr. Susie Orbach - the therapist who treated Diana, Princess of Wales, for her eating disorders; the founder of the Women's Therapy Center of London; a former columnist for The Guardian; a visiting professor at the London School of Economics; and the author of 1978 best-seller Fat is a Feminist Issue - is, aside from Sigmund Freud, probably the most famous psychotherapist to have ever set up couch...more
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