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Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  25 reviews
How the female body has been racialized for over two hundred years

There is an obesity epidemic in this country and poor black women are particularly stigmatized as "diseased" and a burden on the public health care system. This is only the most recent incarnation of the fear of fat black women, which Sabrina Strings shows took root more than two hundred years ago.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by New York University Press
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 ·  107 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Alok Vaid-Menon
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do .

How the female body has been racialized for over two hundred years

There is an obesity epidemic in this country and poor black women are particularly stigmatized as “diseased” and a burden on the public health care system. This is only the most recent incarnation of
IquoImoh Terry
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings is an in-depth exploration of the female body and how it has been racialized + stigmatized for over 200 years. This book gives several accounts of how the body type and size of black women has been marveled at, studied, examined, and ultimately policed by others.

As of late, black women of a certain size have been demonized as a strain on our country's medical resources . Fearing the Black Body provides so much research
Kate Dansette
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.

This book was a thoroughly research account of how fatphobia (or fatmisia) arose from the othering of African bodies. It's so well written and as well as academics would be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about this fascinating subject. Many illustrations also back up Sabrina's thesis.
Krista Morris
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a well-researched, interesting book about a topic that many women think about - body shape and weight. It's definitely challenged my perspective on the cultural "norm" for female body standards, and it seems to prove its argument that standards have shifted as needed to differentiate races from each other (i.e. whatever shape/weight the darker race is perceived to be, the lighter race changes it's normal to the opposite). It also gave some interesting information about the origins of ...more
Dara (Dara Reads OK)
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent academic look at the ways that racist ideas of what constitutes a beautiful body have been ingrained in the fiber of the wellness industry. This is a much needed addition to the conversation on justice and racism in this country. Health and wellness providers should think long and hard about the ways that implicit bias may be impacting their treatment of bodies that don't align with a stereotyped ideal.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding examination about fatphobia body size, especially in regard to black women. The author uses primary sources from the history of the United States to draw attention to the ways in which fat women, and fat black women in particular, were and are thought of by white society. Engaging with class, the medical establishment, religion, and education, Strings deftly identifies patterns of thought in America that gave rise to anti-fat stigma and the fear of the fat black woman. I ...more
Lucie Simone
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.
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This nonfiction work has several goals at once. First, to outline the history of the ideal woman from somewhere in the European middle ages into the present. Second, to connect the introduction of slavery and black slaves to the turn toward idealization of the thin (and white) woman. Finally, it uses a few leading critical theories to postulate that the changing tides support the degradation of black women and a source of controlling white women. Strings also notes the complicity of the medical ...more
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early May.

Racial stereotypes held by white people and those with European ancestry toward the appearance o black men & women (i.e. Hottentot Venus, BBWs, savagery, hypersexualization) as well as the changes that take place globally over time in how we view being thin (being desirable and athletic or undesirable and starving) versus large (healthy, durable, and strong or gluttonous, greedy, and unattractive),
Katherine Shark
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal and eye-opening. Dr. Strings discusses how the thin ideal of Western, particularly American, culture is based in intense Protestant and Christian sense of ascetic morality, as well as founded in large part by prominent eugenics doctors in the 1800s. This book is a required reading for anyone interested in feminism.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was excellent, and very factual. It took me longer than I had estimated to finish it, because I have never encountered a non-fiction book that is so exactly correct in its historical context. Strings does an excellent job of assuring readers have all the facts, as well as providing contextual evidence that is harder to garnish from direct quotes.

I learned a lot!
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2019
This is incredibly interesting and highly necessary. I only wish it were longer—I'd happily read a sequel / follow-up that specifically focused more on the post-1960s media's role in simultaneously demonizing Black women and disciplining white women in its excoriation of fatness.
Cai Blue
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Necessary read for everyone.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crucial read for our fat phobic society so we can unpack and deprogram this racist lens.
Amy Elaine
I wanted to love this book but couldn’t. The academic style writing was dry and inaccessible to me.
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-books
I’ve been waiting for a book to more explicitly connect race and body size in support of seeking social justice on both fronts. I want more people to be exposed to this historical trajectory.
Lela Brown
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book documents the connection between fatphobia and white supremacy. Originally a means of controlling the bodies of white women as a part of eugenics, weight control went from medical concern over thinness to overt association between curvy bodies or bodies with more body fat and African people. Thinness went from a shameful sign that american upperclass white women were underfed and not robust enough to a new symbol of anglo racial superiority in just a few decades in the early 20th ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
She isn’t make a case yet.
Kimberly Dykes-James
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Amazing read. No matter what, people will form their opinion. But, a great read.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, arc
I received an ARC via NetGalley..

Fearing The Black Body is a really interesting historical overview of how fatness has been racialised over several hundred years all the way back to the dutch old masters and the birth of capitalism. It shows how ideas around black fatness in the American social imagination today has been shaped by the forces of slavery, the 'race science' of the European Enlightenment, protestant Christianity, and eugenics-influenced medicine. With insurance and diet companies
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
This is one of the best researched and most in-depth books I've ever written, about a subject I knew hardly anything about. The subject might seem small, the racial influences on the fear of obesity, but it goes in depth about the history of black people in Europe and the rise of the ascetic aesthetics.

A very interesting and highly recommended read.

I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.
Cristie Underwood
May 19, 2019 marked it as kindle
This was an interesting book that explained how being fat was first a phobia over 200 years ago. The author went into great detail as to how black women in particular have been looked down upon due to being overweight. This was a really interesting book.
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