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Fat Is a Feminist Issue

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,949 ratings  ·  123 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, 269 pages
Published January 5th 2006 by Arrow (first published 1978)
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bronberry Hi! Can't believe your question has been sitting here for seven months without an answer! I think the answer, unfortunately, is "it depends on who you…moreHi! Can't believe your question has been sitting here for seven months without an answer! I think the answer, unfortunately, is "it depends on who you are and your personal journey and unique perspective".

I read this book while I was trying to recover from my eating disorder and I found some parts really enjoyable, but other parts made me angry. I remember thinking, "you don't get ED's at all!". I also really didn't like the premise in the book that women start out slender and then put on weight to cope with various issues (I can't remember if Orbach explicitly says "because of the patriarchy" but it was something along those lines). That made me angry because I was trying to reject the idea of thinness as a goal.

I think: give it a go, but consider reading other feminist books on the subject of bodies/dieting/weight to round out your views. I'd also strongly recommend having a trusted person to talk to about the content in the book if the content is at all triggering for you. Ultimately, Orbach's views are her personal views informed by clinical practice and embedded within a feminist and psychoanalytic perspective. Her views may resonate with you or they may not.

I hope this helps and all the best with your eating disorder recovery journey.(less)

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Jan 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Do not read this book. It is outdated and will probably just make you feel worse about yourself and your body.

I borrowed this book without noticing the undertitle until I added it on GR. The books premise is trying to be helpful and get to the bottom of overeating and overweight, as if they are alway intrinsically linked.

Ironically, the only feminism in this book is from the strangely present chapter on Anorexia Nervosa(!). Only then does the author even acknowledge that fat is stigmatised and n
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I picked this up thinking that this would look at the relationships between food and dieting and the use of these to control women's bodies and lives, a concept that has been touched upon in some of the other literature I've read. But it wasn't really that. This does start out looking at this but then it shifts focus to the reasons behind compulsive eating and how to break these habits. The advice and exercises are interesting but I did feel that there was a lot of focus on being slim and some q ...more
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Some things in this book went over my head (even if I tried to catch them :D) What I mean is that some things in FIFI were really out of date (probably because this was written in 70s...) and also I think some philosophies were flawed. That is why I'm only giving this book two stars.

However! this book makes A LOT of good points & I think this is good read for overweight or self-starving women and I think this book also has a sense of history to it. Also, it shows how scary the dieting industry w
Sep 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
feminism has come a long way since 1978 but this book apparently missed the bus. instead of finding a way to nudge you in the right direction of body acceptance, Orbach comes dangerously close to giving you the same “self improvment” tools she criticizes in a toxic diet culture. it’s really confusing. I finished this book so you don’t have to
Charley Cook
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a hard book to rate because it's so specific to opening a support group and i have no interest in that. I did enjoy the analytical aspect of the first half of the book but yeah..i was definitely the wrong audience for a lot of it
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: issues-self-help
This book will piss you off, and then it will set you free.
May 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I picked this up blindly as part of an online order. As someone who has only recently become acquainted with the notion of body positivity, I had heard Susie Orbach's name mentioned and wanted to read something by her.

This is a combination of two books, first published in 1978 and 1982 respectively. It promises "an updated" version, complete with "new introduction".

I very much enjoyed the new introduction - Susie speaks about the diet industry and its success depending on the failure of its cu
Jun 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
eeeeh this is a really difficult book to rate so I'm going to improvise:

Enjoyment - 3/5
Important message - 4/5
Writing - 3/5
Editing - 2.5/5

I found the messages extremely inspirational and thought provoking however (like most self-help books) it was extremely repetitive from beginning to end regarding 2 or 3 of the same points, hence my low rating for editing.

However, this is a very important read for any woman - particularly those who consider themself to be a compulsive eater.

I loved the author
Rachel Kidd
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really struggled with this book. I've read a few other really good books that refer to it in 'glowing terms' so I really wanted to read it and expected it to totally change how I think! Needless to say this wasn't the case.

In some ways I think it is just out of date (it was written in the 70s) so a lot of it I just couldn't relate to at all.

Also it firmly states that people are fat because it benefits them in some way and the 'fat' person is scared of being thin. Well I have been both overwe
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
The title and even the blurb suggested this was an anti-fat-shaming book. I expected it to about how the dominant culture tells women and girls that they're supposed to look a certain way, and if they don't, then they're unacceptable.
Instead, it's a fat-shaming book. Real feminists don't make you feel like you're back on the elementary school playground.
Allison Boyer
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Very interesting. I felt like 2/3 of it didnt apply to me and you could tell it was written in the 70s. But every once and a while a passage would really resonate with me and make a lot of sense and be enlightening and I think the techniques can be helpful. I wish I could meet with Susie and talk to her about this, or I wish that she would make another updated version for the modern era.
Faith Neece
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was definitely a pioneer for its time and helped spark other books on compulsive and intuitive eating. But it’s kind of out dated and focused on what fat represents rather than food. It’s not body positive and still had weight loss as the ultimate goal (even though it’s secondary.) you’re probably better off reading a modern book on the subject.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
it's amazing to think this book was originally published 40 years ago, when the conversation on body variance and body positivity was so, so far from non-existent. considering this, FIFI is a remarkable piece for its time. I read the updated version which delved more into practical aspects that Orbach lays out related to eating and hunger, but I was upset that this reissue did not consider more cultural perspectives on eating and the body, instead of still only focusing on gender. in addition, g ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, women
While I understand that this was revolutionary when first published, I don't think it has quite held onto that. The ideas are key and clearly laid out - I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in/struggling with body image and food. But Orbach's main message is slightly over-simplified - I think sometimes she overvalues the role of 'fat' rather than the role of food itself, and as she herself admits, all the women she worked with were white.
Fat as an issue is a very dear to my heart. I am a fat woman and I struggled, and sadly still struggle because of this. It is really hard to be a fat woman in a world that is praising thinness as the ideal of health and beauty. It's hard because people closest to you are often the ones that project their fears of fat onto you and constantly hurt emotionally because of this. We are surrounded by people that 'care' about our health, and don't hesitate to tell us about it. I believe that a successf ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a right ripper of a book. I felt sure before I read it that it would be amusingly twee and dated, particularly as regards the ‘feminism’ of ‘weight-loss’. Oh boy, was I proved wrong.

Granted, you do have to start from a point that being fat is a ‘problem’, but if you are willing to accept that standpoint for even a minute, Orbach approaches it with great sensitivity and concern. Her point is not that fat is ‘bad’, and indeed one of the big tenets of the book is to remove moral values fr
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: misc
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
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
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
Georgina Bell
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Confession: I didn't finish this book.
I had heard bits about it, and the title plus reviews on the back made me think "Here's a classic! A pioneer on the road to the incredible anti-diet and body positivity feminism today that helped me enormously with my disordered eating, and my view of my body."
But NO. This book is fat-shaming wrapped up in psychology about the reasons women over-eat. Sure some of those reasons may be true, and unpacking internalised body shame and other issues that affect w
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think most people would benefit from the ideas in this book. I can't think of many girls/women I know who haven't felt 'fat' at some point in their lives and most people seem to have a strange love/hate relationship with food. This was written in the 70s, updated in the 80s and is still so relevant today. I don't necessarily believe her idea that women want to be fat, to escape the sexualised demands put on them by the world. It's a strange idea. But I do think her instructions for going from ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t know which issue of this book I just finished but I know it’s not the first. Maybe the 90’s. Either way I think some people have not understand the insight this book holds. It’s not a “love your fat and you will get thin” message, it’s a “stop treating food like the enemy” message. Once you figure out what food means to you, or does for you, and what makes you eat too much for the wrong reasons, then your body will find its natural weight.

I actually just re-read this after reading it in
Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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 Sulek
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
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The F-word: February NON-FICTION Group Read FAT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE 8 50 Mar 10, 2014 03:59PM  

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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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