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Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia

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In her first book, sociologist Strings (sociology, Univ. of California, Irvine) explores the historical development of prothin, antifat ideologies deployed in support of Western, patriarchal white supremacy. Beginning in the aesthetic ideals circulated by Renaissance thinkers and artists and bringing her narrative up into the 1990s, Strings charts how white Europeans and Anglo-Americans developed ideals of race and beauty that both explicitly and figuratively juxtaposed slim, desirable white women against corpulent, seemingly monstrous black women.

The work is divided into three sections. The two chapters in the first part consider how Renaissance white women and women of color were depicted as plump and feminine, separated by class, yet belonging to the same gender. The second part of the work charts the rise of modern racial ideologies that yoked feminine beauty to Protestant, Anglo-Saxon whiteness. Later chapters and the epilogue consider how Americans normalized the "scientific management" of white women's bodies for the purpose of racial uplift, a project that continued to situate black women as the embodied Other.

The author does not address fat from the angle of health or previous attitudes white Europeans held towards corpulence.

283 pages, Paperback

First published May 7, 2019

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About the author

Sabrina Strings

4 books106 followers
Sabrina Strings is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and a recipient of the Berkeley Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship, where she held appointments in the Department of Sociology and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 636 reviews
Profile Image for Alok Vaid-Menon.
Author 10 books19.8k followers
December 31, 2019
Strings’s book is an urgent and compelling work not just for conversations around fatphobia, but for the idea of race more generally. Many are taught that racial difference is a matter of “biological truth,” but actually what scholars like Strings show is that race is a social construction. Different attributes are exaggerated + diminished in order to create the mirage that racial difference is a fact, not actually a series of political decisions.

Most often we think of race as skin color, but European theorists initially began to define race by facial attractiveness + body size. In order to perpetuate the racist myth that white people were superior to Black people, these thinkers asserted that Black people were inherently fatter than white people (erasing the variation of sizes among white people and Black people). Women’s bodies were (+continue to be) the battleground for proving racial difference. Despite Black women having long been idolized across Europe, they were soon shifted from aesthetic counterparts to counterpoints for white women. White women had to define their beauty against Black women. Mandating thinness was about the pursuit of western rationalism, as experts maintained that fatness stifled one’s ability to think clearly. Fatness – a state of being which at various times had been seen as a mark of beauty -- became associated with racial failure. White women, in particular, were tasked with managing their size as a way to preserve the integrity of the race.

Strings concludes that the slender beauty aesthetic was a racial project – one that always was informed by a fear of fatness which was already a fear of Blackness. In other words, fatphobia is an extension of anti-Black racism.

This book shows how ideas of beauty have always been used to justify systems of oppression. Racism + transphobia perpetuate the false idea that there is only one way to be beautiful, and anyone who is unable to fit this is made to feel as if it’s their individual fault, not actually because they are denied power. To redefine beauty we have to learn about how ideas of what is “normal” + “beautiful” are rooted in discrimination – and, in particular, anti-Black racism.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,519 reviews8,983 followers
December 24, 2020
A thorough and accessible book about how fatphobia originated from anti-Black racism. I feel like a lot of body positivity and anti-fatphobia movements in the United States focus on the experiences of white women, so I appreciate Sabrina Strings for providing such a robust analysis of fatphobia’s anti-Black underpinnings that integrates historical, textual, and scientific investigation. Strings highlights how even though people at one point in history perceived fat women as attractive, later on people in power started to associate beauty with slim white femininity. This uplift of white women’s appeal and parallel disparaging of Black women’s bodies continued into the scientific and medicinal realms, such that scientists perpetuated racist ideologies surrounding weight that further stigmatized both fatness and Blackness.

I liked that String made such rigorous academic work accessible to a broader audience through the quality of her writing. While reading Fearing the Black Body, I thought a lot about how wild it feels that people with power – those who choose actresses/actors, those who create science, those who even choose which books they want to publicize on their Goodreads profiles – really have so much influence in maintaining or disrupting anti-Blackness and anti-fatness. I am reflecting on how I want to continue approaching my reading, research, and clinical work from a critical perspective that takes into account a lot of the forces String exposes in this book. While I feel like incorporating her research and commentary with more contemporary issues related to fatphobia and anti-Blackness would have been even more compelling, I recognize that she may not have done so because of disciplinary boundaries or wanting readers to draw those connections ourselves. Recommended for folx who are interested in race as well as body image!
Profile Image for Mara.
1,635 reviews3,883 followers
August 28, 2022
4.5 stars -- Wow. This has given me so much to mull over. I would describe this as an academic history of ideas, with the ideas in question being the aesthetic ideals around fatness in European & American culture and how those ideas came to be rooted in racism towards non-white people. While the writing itself is going to be a little dry for some people's taste (like, I wouldn't describe this as narrative nonfiction or as nonfiction that is attempting to have an elevated prose style), I think this is a superb example of a well argued piece of historiography. Learned so much and highly recommend
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,201 reviews3,672 followers
March 1, 2021
Fearing the Black Body traces the origins of fat phobia and unpacks how it is grounded in racist and eugenicist ideas. It's very well researched and offers a great deal of interesting, thought-provoking information that really should inform how we think about race, health, and fatness.

For instance, we get a history of the BMI tables which originated in a study by a eugenicist that looked only at white bodies, and primarily those of white men, and were then adapted into actuarial tables by life insurance companies. Which the medical community decided to adopt with very little if any research into how this actually functioned with real people, especially non-white people. Also, "normal weight" for women was arbitrarily dropped by 10+ pounds at one point, apparently because weight loss industry lobbyists wanted a higher percentage of Americans to become potential customers. Yikes. That's one small element, but this book is a trove of information and I highly recommend giving it a read.

It also traces how Black female bodies in particular came to be described as "barbarous" in contrast to the supposed idea of white, thin female bodies. There is so much misogyny wrapped up in the entire narrative as well, it's just wild.

The only drawback is that the style of writing is rather academic and therefore can feel a bit dry in presentation. However, I found the actual information to be so interesting I wasn't particularly bothered by it. Just don't expect a narrative nonfiction style, or a book that offers a great deal of interpretation. For most of the book the author simply lays out the information and leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. Do be aware that there are quotes of extremely racist and fatphobic language throughout.
Profile Image for Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore.
Author 1 book50 followers
December 22, 2020
3.5 stars

Sabrina String's, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia looks at the historical evolution of body and beauty standards and how they coincide with the degradation of Blackness. String unpacks the inherent racism behind notions such as the aesthetic hierarchy and challenges standards such as the idea of a "normal weight" which did not originate as a medical phenomena.

I pre-ordered this book and was eagerly awaiting its arrival. The topic and description lured me in and I was excited to better understand how fatfobia was bred out of racism. Unfortunately, when the book did arrive, I struggled to read it. The text is incredibly dry and I kept having to force myself to come back to it. Another comment mentioned that the beginning and conclusion were the most engaging parts of the book and I wholeheartedly agree. I enjoyed and gained a lot from the beginning and concluding chapters which were framed more succinctly. Perhaps this text is better suited as an assigned reading for a Women's Studies class than casual leisurely reading.
Profile Image for Melissa Kapadia.
37 reviews4 followers
April 23, 2021
This book sets out to explain the racial origins of fatphobia, but does not exactly do this. It's challenging at times to tell if the book is actually well-researched because the research and evidence are not always well-handled. In fact, the book is primarily structured as a series of biographies, mostly of White men (with occasional White and Black women thrown in). In addition, and as other reviewers have noted, there is a general lack of analysis, so evidence is provided but connections are not always made.

This book focuses primarily on Europe and the US. A major takeaway in this book is that throughout the ages (in Europe and the US), assessments of body size, shape, and proportion have almost always been men's assessments of women's bodies (and sometimes of other men's bodies). In this sense and based on the evidence provided, the book actually traces the patriarchal origins of fatphobia in various White communities. This is a major finding! With added analysis, the book could demonstrate how different White men at different points in time were given social recognition as experts on what counted as "good" feminine bodies (e.g. at one point, these were artists; then socialites; then social scientists; then doctors and medical scientists... that is a significant finding). Given that, and based on the current evidence provided in this book, it's not that fatphobia has racial origins; it's actually that men have used preference about feminine presentation and "good bodies" as a driver in pushing forward racist agendas (like white supremacy), as well as capitalist, ableist, patriarchal, and other agendas.

A few things that surprised me about this book: (a) the author distinguishes between different groups of White people and shows how they used agendas around body size to demonstrate superiority among each other--in fact, the author describes relationships between these White groups as "interracial," and that becomes one of the primary demonstrations of racialized fatphobia; (b) because of the biographical structure of evidence, people of color are often left out of certain chapters completely; (c) it seems like there are lots of missed opportunities to examine evidence of fatphobia in non-White cultures (e.g. the connections between starvation and spirituality show up in other religions and regions); (d) there is a lot of fatphobic language in the book without much qualification or clarity on why it is chosen (and at times, fat people are not given the same dignity in the retelling as thin people), and in that way, it's challenging to know whether the book problematizes fatphobia or weaponizes it.
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
431 reviews1,388 followers
July 4, 2021
Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia contains many interesting stories about historic, artistic, aesthetic, religious and medical views of the "ideal" human [usually female] body, but I'm not sure the examples presented actually add up to the book's stated conclusion. It can be dry reading - large swaths read more like a term paper than a book for popular audiences. From the introduction: "I used two comparative historical methods: process tracing and historical narrative. In process tracing, I used multiple sources of data to shed light on key individuals and events contributing to the growing anti-fat, pro-thin biases in the West. I used historical narrative to weave a tapestry illustrating the impact and interrelationship of these events." I'd have a hard time recommending this to someone unless I knew they were particularly interested in body image conversations, though there were plenty of stories that intersected with my interests.

The timespan covered is ambitious, ranging from the 1400s to present. Author Sabrina Strings begins with a long look at art history, visiting artists known for their depictions of and musings about ideal female proportions. I wasn't aware that this was a particular obsession of Albrecht Dürer, and it was interesting to see him play so prominent a role, along with artists we might expect (Raphael, Titian, Botticelli and - of course - Peter Paul Rubens, famous for his "Rubenesque" women). Everyone wanted to wax poetic about what he saw as the ideal figure, elevating personal preference to universal dictum. Strings draws a connection between the adoption of slavery and depictions of Black people. European countries that hadn't participated in slavery drew Black people seldom, poorly (for a lack of models), or never. When slavery was new, Black women were sometimes considered exotic and beautiful, and depicted carefully. Their well-proportioned bodies might be compared favorably to the ideal "Venus" of the time. Dürer is quoted as saying about African women in 1528, "I have seen some amongst them whose whole bodies have been so well-built and handsome that I never beheld finer figures, nor can I conceive how they might be bettered, so excellent were their arms, and all their limbs." Strings posits that as slavery became a fixture in a culture, Black bodies increasingly were seen as lowly, corpulent, libidinous and atavistic. She believes that beauty ideals were driven towards thinness in an effort to preserve and define white beauty so that Black women were excluded. While this sounds plausible, I don't think it is demonstrated to the extent that one could rule out a host of other factors.

Strings covers various ideas and thinkers in the intervening years. Some speculated that Black people branched from a pre-Adamic race of human beings. Once Darwinism was introduced, they found ways to wield the new science in support of their racism. No less than Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, coined the term eugenics. There's a lot of information about the term "Hottentot" - a derogatory term for the Khoikhoi of the southern tip of the African continent that was eventually applied to anyone with sufficiently dark skin. European thinkers would alternately imagine Black people as small and scrawny or large, indolent and corpulent. Saartjee "Sara" Baartman was an African woman who, judging by illustrations, possessed an ample posterior and was first used to delight horny soldiers and then paraded around England as something of a sideshow freak.

Next, we finally look at men's bodies and the rising perception that heaviness in men was a sign of stupidity and laziness. Religious movements similarly began to encourage parishioners to eschew gluttony and strive for purer, holier thinness. This led to various figures who devised weight loss techniques, such as George Cheyne, who lost roughly 230 pounds and began preaching his modified diet (mostly cow's milk). His ideas spread around the world, including to America, where they influenced such figures as John Harvey Kellogg, who (when he wasn't busy with his prominent role in the very new Seventh Day Adventist Church or giving women enemas) experimented with ways to process and toast wheat, rice and corn to create the cereals (originally intended to suppress sexual desire) that we all know and love today. Kellogg was a eugenicist, but believed the darker folks would naturally die off and solve the "problem" themselves.

It is in our modern world that the standard-bearing for thinness shifts to the medical world and the actuarial tables of insurance salesmen. Strings points out some of the problems with BMI as a measure of weight, and how the numbered ranges were created for white bodies and have been only tightened to fit preconceived notions of health and enforce thinness. She contests various studies that link obesity and mortality, engaging in a couple rounds of "I see your expert and research paper and raise you mine".

There are plenty of interesting stories and figures related to the history of body perception, but the preponderance of information is about white culture and white bodies, and often times the role or influence of Black people and their bodies feels like an afterthought. Strings could do more to prove the connections she's hinting at and drive home the promise of the book's title. There's no neat bow to tie everything together. However, if you enjoy this as a collection of historical facts, you can craft your own theories and take away some fascinating (and often horrifying) insights.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,431 reviews52 followers
July 2, 2020
This was informative, but it was quite dry. If history is your jam, you'll be more likely to appreciate and enjoy this, and I'm grateful for the things that I learned (even if I only manage to retain a small fraction of the information), but I'm not sure I would widely recommend it. I also realized while I was nearing the end of the book that I had trouble picking the book back up because it felt like I was being slapped in the face while reading the quotes from letters, magazines, newspapers, artists, and physicians that were so incredibly fatphobic and racist.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,858 reviews1,356 followers
June 28, 2020
A fascinating book, Fearing the Black Body explores how fatness became linked to Blackness in Western popular discourse from the sixteenth century onwards, and how intersecting racial, gender, and religious (primarily Protestant) structures shaped discourses about fat phobia and thin fetishism in nineteenth and twentieth century America. Sabrina Strings does an excellent job of deconstructing medical discourses about weight which are often understood as neutral and evidence-based but often are anything but. Strings' central argument is well made, but I do have some questions about the theoretical framework she uses (primarily why she relies so much on Bourdieu and Foucault), and as a medieval historian I don't think of the Italian Renaissance as quite the social watershed moment that she does. Still, a thought-provoking study of interest to anyone interested in the history of the body.
Profile Image for Cassie.
21 reviews
August 2, 2020
I really wanted more from this book. It was a great series of historical events laid out, but less commentary and analysis than I wanted. From what I understand it was written for academic purposes, so the lack of commentary may be intentional, but I thought it was a missed opportunity for a book that she acknowledges is the first to address this exact subject.
Profile Image for IquoImoh Terry.
23 reviews
April 14, 2019
A must read especially in our present time. When will we stop seeing the black body as something to be feared but one to be uplifted. This book is one that I will recommend for my book club.
Profile Image for Dawn.
360 reviews63 followers
January 10, 2022
If you’ve ever wondered where America’s past and current beauty standards originated from, you really need to read this book.

It’s very clinical in nature, definitely not a light and breezy read. But it’s so important. The lengths artists, insurers and the medical community have gone through to ensure that whiteness is upheld as the standard for beauty, intelligence and overall worthiness is society is sickening. The book also explains how patriarchy has kept women in a perpetual state of chasing ever-changing ideals for the approval of our male counterparts. I found the book very insightful.

My only issue with the book is that it failed to fully connect historical anecdotes with today’s representation of blackness. It was easy enough to draw conclusions, but I would’ve preferred more irrefutable links to fatness and society’s mistreatment of blackness. The final chapter helped, but I think the author could’ve gone much deeper into that particular subject.
Profile Image for Sunny.
698 reviews3,684 followers
July 26, 2020
Need to reread and annotate in the future when I'm not trying to cram in stuff for a readathon!

The first and last chapters of this book should be essential reading for everyone, and this whole book should be essential reading for all med students too. The correlation of thinness to health and beauty is derivative of white supremacy rather than science, and this book examines this fact from a truly historically and scientifically sound way. Manufactured consent has really left a deep impact on public perception and understanding of fatness; I could not help but apply a Marxist superstructure analysis to everything I was learning from this book, because it so clearly outlined the delineation of fatphobia from larger systems of oppression!
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,650 followers
April 12, 2021
This book is fascinating!!! I had been meaning to read it having heard it discussed in so many places. I hadn't resisted the idea at all, but just figured I had understood the thesis and arguments from all the podcasts and reviews out there. But it was so much richer and more interesting than I had anticipated. And it's like is there anything at all in our culture that doesn't go back to theories that justified enslavement and exploitation? Certainly not our obsession with thin. I highly recommend reading this and then re-reading again Tressie McMillan Cottom's THICK and Roxane Gay's Hunger.
Profile Image for Erin Crane.
642 reviews6 followers
January 16, 2022
This was a weird little book. I couldn’t confirm this with some minimal Google searching, but given that this is her first book, it’s probably her dissertation turned book. And it feels like it - kind of awkward and rough in places.

One of the oddest things about this book is the title vs the contents of the actual book. You think you’re going to read something that ties fat phobia to anti-Blackness, and that is in here but not nearly as much as you’d expect. After I finished the book I went back to the introduction to remind myself of what the author said she was going to do. There she says she will discuss both anti-Blackness *and* Protestantism as roots of fat phobia. That’s your first hint that the book is really going to cover more than the title indicates. But as you progress through the book you find that it’s more than anti-Blackness, it’s anti-Others of all sorts. I don’t know that the case for tying fat phobia specifically to anti-Blackness is strongly made here. You also find that the evidence of disgust with fatness is actually pretty mixed. Excessive thinness is also regularly criticized. So my expectations vs what I got were not well matched.

This book was also guilty of one of my pet peeves - filler details. Other readers enjoy that stuff, so that’s not something that will bother everyone. But I really dislike when I start getting the life events of people cited in the book if it’s not relevant. Thankfully she did NOT give me anecdotes about how she met this or that important person, which is the most egregious version of this pet peeve.

Having said that, I rated this 3 stars because I learned some things! I learned that there were multiple reasons why fatness came to be undesirable, which shouldn’t be a surprise really. The role of Protestantism and the Enlightenment were interesting. The transition to medicine/science to provide Truth as religion lost its influence was also an interesting point. And I appreciated the exploration of Black representation in Western art. It’s fascinating and depressing to read these White men make all these declarations about beauty as if there is absolute truth to be found and they are the ones who know it. The hubris!
Profile Image for Kelly.
207 reviews11 followers
March 11, 2020
A comprehensive historiography on the origins of fatphobia in racism, eugenics, and puritanical ideals. By no means a casual read; I would have been interested in hearing more about the implications for the modern world. My main takeaways: BMI is stupid. Dieting (and cornflakes) are anti-sex. White people are real keen on dehumanizing black and brown folks and we need to STOP. Seriously. Capitalism wants to manage, control, and medicalize our bodies (especially women's bodies) and this brand of thinking has its origins in eugenics and is evil.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,378 reviews1,651 followers
April 27, 2023
A compelling look at how racism, specifically against Black people and Black bodies, as well as some classism, and more than a little bad science and medicine (also rooted heavily in biased racist ideas), created fat phobia, and continue to propagate those stereotypes and ideas to this day.

Really highly recommended for anyone looking to learn more about body image issues or race issues, or both.
Profile Image for Heidi.
38 reviews8 followers
September 2, 2020
In the first hour or two of listening to Fearing the Black Body, I was a little bored by what sounded more like an art history lesson than a deconstruction of race and fatphobia. But chapter by chapter, I discovered a thorough and often surprising history of White supremacy.

Many historical figures in art, religion, medicine, and science have sought ways to maintain White ethnostates. Fatphobia fits into this in ways many people—including myself—wouldn't expect.

During the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, European explorers and naturalists observed that, because of the African continent's hot climate and abundant food, all Africans must be well-fed, corpulent, lazy, and stupid. The "vigorous" and "well-built" bodies European women had been idealized for were no longer in vogue, and with reinforcement from religious figures and women's magazines, women were instructed to control their appetites and maintain slim figures. Thinness became the marker of refinement and advanced thinking in the New World. Fatness, in contrast, was a marker of Old World savagery.

In America, thinness had also become an example of American exceptionalism. The nation was upheld as a perfect melting pot of White, Nordic, and Aryan races, and apparently by a process of what they called "natural selection", this produced a thin population. Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, in an attempt to preserve the nation's Whiteness, laws and policies were enacted to prevent the burgeoning migration of poor Eastern and Southern Europeans. Unsurprisingly, these migrants were thought to be more Black than White, and only fit for reproduction among themselves.

In 1891, a shift occurred in the discussion of weight. With the introduction of the scale in American streets and homes, weight could be quantified, and the war on non-White races could be waged in terms not only of body shapes, facial features, and religious morality, but also of science and medicine. Eugenicists like John Kellogg were influential in the mainstream medical community; now identifying White women to be too thin to replenish America's stock of White bodies, Kellogg famously prescribed the nation's women a diet rich in starches and dairy.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a "normal" weight was identified using statistical data from America's first health insurance policy holders. The data, compiled exclusively of White, working-age men, could not provide practical insight on individual health outcomes. Still, physicians were employed by insurance companies to produce reports that endorsed these statistics, positioning obesity as a cause—rather than a correlate—of negative health outcomes. The Body Mass Index we use today was shaped not by the field of medicine, but in service of the health insurance industry.

What Fearing the Black Body exposes is that there's never been such as a thing as a healthy or "normal" weight. The factors shaping the concept of fatness have had far more to do with the maintenance of White supremacy than health, and there should be no doubt that this isn't still the case—many of the foods we now consider healthy are available much more readily to White people, and that availability is almost always at the expense of the non-White people living in the nations those foods originated in.

What's also clear is that there's a much greater historical precedent for today's far-right White nationalism than most people realize. It takes its more insidious forms in our relationships with food, health, medicine, and beauty. As long as we live with fatphobia, we are living with White supremacy.
Profile Image for Lucie Simone.
Author 7 books45 followers
October 1, 2019
I didn’t finish this book. I found it so dry despite the fact I think the subject matter is very important and worthwhile. This just felt like I was reading someone’s PhD dissertation. It was super academic and as a result put me to sleep. As an academic research report, I’m sure it’s top notch. But for the casual reader, I found it hard to get through.
4 reviews
October 5, 2020
Nothing against the work of this book historically but....
Fatness equals illness, inflammation, dysfunctional mitochondria, heart disease, impaired metabolism, pre-diabetes, diabetes, decreased cognitive abilities later in life and a risk of contracting all manner of diseases (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure) along with a shorter, poorer quality of life.

No one should be shamed for their size. Most overweight people have one or more of these: metabolic syndromes, hormone imbalances, damaged mitochondria that cannot deal with sugar and carbohydrates, leptin resistance, insulin resistance, thyroid problems, autoimmune diseases and neurotransmitter imbalances.

The food industry and our corrupt government allow and push toxic phud that is literally killing people and it harms the poorest the most. High fructose corn syrup cannot be processed by anyone and creates sick, obese people.

Fat phobia is illness phobia. I think we all know a diseased body when we see one. Bodies were not designed to be fat. All indigenous tribal members are naturally thin when eating a diet appropriate to their genetics. I am friends with the former physician to the Maori tribe; they were obese when he came on board. He got the Maori to change their diets to fish, berries and greens and they miraculously became thin and fit!

Pacific Islanders were healthy and had no diabetes, arthritis, had perfect teeth, with no cavities. When the white missionaries feed them wheat and sugar they gained weight, got cavities and period cramps, these are things they never had before eating sugar and flour.

Perhaps black people need to stick to their ancestral diets?
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews179 followers
January 29, 2020
A pretty solid argument positing that the thin ideal developed as a result of racial theories denigrating the bodies of non-white folks. My only gripe is that I wish the author had spent less time on who developed various theories and ideas - I really don't care what college some random magazine founder in the 20th-century attended, nor what John Kellog's life was like. I get that sometimes these life histories provided context sometimes, but I think they could have been condensed.
1 review
January 10, 2022
Are you kidding me? the writing in such books is incredibly atrocious. The people that write things like this cannot think, and you can tell they cannot think because they cannot write.

This book is absolute woke nonsense. What is happening to our society to be publishing garbage like this? May god have mercy on the poor souls who read this and take it seriously. May god have mercy on you.........
Profile Image for caroline.
41 reviews
July 31, 2020
...I was today years old when I learned that BMI and “ideal weight” calculations were created by insurance companies and statisticians and NOT medical doctors??
Profile Image for Allie (alliewithbooks).
353 reviews611 followers
December 22, 2021
This should be required reading everywhere. Shows just how truly insidious fatphobia is and how it’s directly tied to anti-Blackness, racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. Dismantling fatphobia means dismantling all forms of bigotry as well.
July 3, 2020
This is an incredibly well-researched, thorough, and unflinching critique on the intersections of white supremacy, Christianity, and weight shame. Going all the way back to the Renaissance, Strings describes the emergence of white supremacy and the systematic othering of Black bodies through the growth of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the birth of the idea of Anglo-Saxon supremacy during the Protestant Reformation, and the evolution of Christian temperance to include weight shame (I’m never eating another cereal that bears the name of Kellogg, again!). She goes on to indict the fashion magazine industry (Godey’s Lady’s Book, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, etc.) and finally, the medical establishment (MetLife insurance tables, BMI) for further perpetuating American exceptionalism and body shame through its rejection of any body type outside of the “thin, white ideal.” Read it for yourself, but the underlying thesis statement is powerful:

“The image of fat black women as ‘savage’ and ‘barbarous’ in art, philosophy, and science, and as ‘diseased’ in medicine has been used to both degrade black women and discipline white women...In other words, the fear of the black body was integral to the creation of the slender aesthetic among fashionable white Americans.”
Profile Image for Reija.
372 reviews79 followers
August 31, 2021
I listened to this on audio and I really enjoyed the narrator. She enunciated clearly and was lively, yet matter of fact.
The contents of the actual book were really good as well. This made me incredibly uncomfortable, incredulous, appalled and all those things, which is what I expect when reading non-fiction accountings of history.
If you are interested in the history of the connection between race and fatness, as well as otherness and outward appearance and aesthetics, this is a really good introduction to that topic. I learned a great deal.
Profile Image for Bailey.
849 reviews57 followers
July 13, 2023
I feel I did myself a bit of a disservice by listening to this on audio because I know in paper form I would have been highlighting away. Nonetheless, this is a great book about the racist origins of fatphobia (and particularly the way racial capitalism is involved) that really scratched by GWSS brain. I highly recommend this to anyone. Another GWSS text I personally think should be required reading!
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