You Have the Right to Remain Fat

Virgie TovarThere are just short of 128 pages of text that I’d like to quote in this post, but I’ll have to make do with a select few tidbits from the entire selection. It’s worth noting though, that in just over 100 small pages with You Have the Right to Remain Fat, Tovar has made what I felt to be quite a compelling argument against diet culture & fatphobia, arguing that its continued existence in the form of popular health guides (e.g. healthy is the new thin) seeps through every pore of our existence and submits every woman it touches to its unhealthy system of size discrimination, regardless of where along the spectrum you fit in (in fact every person, as it’s not just women participating in the propagation of and living with fatphobia). I would recommend You Have the Right to Remain Fat to any and everyone. Go read it. Now. We have two physical copies and one electronic book (available via hoopla), so there’s no excuse not to either borrow it or put yourself on  hold immediately. So let’s get into some of what makes this slim volume such a pithy and convincing text on why we as a collective should stop judging people by the size of their bodies, including ourselves.

If I were to ask you whether you’ve been affected in any way throughout your life by fatphobia, what would your answer be? If you identify as, or have been categorized in some point in your life by other people as, belonging to the side of the spectrum that fatphobia puts down and shames – i.e. if you’re fat – you might have precious little difficulty coming up with instances when being anything more than what is deemed thin enough (is it ever enough?) has played a part in influencing your life in ways both obvious and more insidious. For those on the other side of the spectrum – thin or even just not-fat – would you say you’ve been touched by fatphobia? At first glance, it might not be immediately obvious, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that body size monitoring, whether it’s becoming thin or staying thin, affects everyone, not just those on the fat side side. Unless you’ve gotten to this point completely unaware of body size discrimination and the values we as a society ascribe to different body sizes (in which case… I don’t know whether to be happy for you because you’ve been so fortunate/live somewhere where body size discrimination doesn’t exist (also where you at?) or to ask if you’ve buried your head in the sand), and even if you’re unaware of how body discrimination has affected you throughout your life thus far (and will probably continue to do so in the future), this is a bias that is as pervasive in popular media and in lived realities as it is damaging for everyone involved.

Timely in the wake of diet culture, You Have the Right to Remain Fat will incense you and give you some hefty chunks of food for thought that will make you re-evaluate your existing biases and our societal norms.

Sonya Renee TaylorA little while after I read You Have the Right to Remain Fat, I saw The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor in my hoopla recommendations (or perhaps it was the popular titles list) and I quite enjoyed reading it after having read You Have the Right! (Wherever I quote below from this book, I will only be providing the chapter whence it came. This is because I am reading it as an e-book on hoopla, which gives me different page numbers depending on how I format the screen, and which will as a result also differ from the print book.)

Taylor argues for a re-envisioning of what self-love and self-acceptance looks like: radical self-love. Why is it radical, and what’s the difference between radical self-love and regular (or popular) self-love? In the words of Taylor, “Using the term radical elevates the reality that our society requires a drastic political, economic, and social reformation in the ways in which we deal with bodies and body difference” (chapter 1: Making Self-Love Radical). And I also believe this quote by Audre Lorde sums it up as well: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.

And to finish this recommendation off, here are a couple of quotes I thought were particularly powerful for me that I’d like to share:

Yes, we believed that our bodies were too big, too dark, too pale, too scarred, too ugly, so we tucked, folded, hid ourselves away and wondered why our lives looked infinitesimally smaller than what we knew we were capable of (chapter 4: A New Way Ordered By Love)

We should, with compassion, remind [people] that oppression oppresses us all, even those who are default (chapter 4: A New Way Ordered By Love)

Harry G. FrankfurtAs a bit of a fun aside – kind of not really an aside because it is related in the vein of radical self-love – Taylor argues that we must learn to love and accept ourselves before we are able to spread the movement of radical self-love by extending that acceptance and love to others, which reminded me of Frankfurt’s The Reasons of Love, in which Frankfurt argues that you must first love yourself before you are able to truly love other people. And if you have yet to stumble upon this gem, Frankfurt is also the author of On Bullshit & the follow-up, On Truth, both of which are worth reading.

About Karen

Karen (she/hers) is a Culinary Literacies Specialist at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre library. When not in the kitchen, she can be found knitting, reading, and repeating.  |  Meet the team