Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Gender Studies
For a Special Issue on
Fatphobia: construction, representations and discourses
10 January 2024
09 September 2024
Fatphobia: construction, representations and discourses
The concept of "fatphobia" initially described the fear of being overweight (Carof, 2021). However, it now encompasses a broader understanding of the systems of oppression (Stoll, 2019) prevalent in predominantly Western and patriarchal societies, which devalue and stigmatize fat individuals, particularly those from marginalized groups (Gailey, 2012; McPhail et al., 2016; Burford and Orchard, 2014). These oppressive forces operate through various devices and channels, such as media and medical institutions, contributing to the dominance of certain body ideals, such as thin or excessively muscular bodies (Robinson et al., 1993).
As a result of social and cultural constructs (Butler, 1993), certain body types are systematically privileged (e.g., heterosexual, white, thin), while others are marginalized (e.g., homosexual, black, fat…), especially in postcolonial Western hegemonic societies. The ideal of a thin body has its roots in a specific socio-historical period, particularly between 1880 and 1920, when associations between women’s body size, wealth, and fertility underwent significant transformation (Rothblum and Solovay, 2009). During this era, obesity began to be perceived as a health risk (ibid.), a shift attributed to economic and industrial changes in Western societies. As agriculture declined as the primary economic activity, the rise of less physically demanding professions and the availability of food in urban areas shifted the perception of fatness from a sign of wealth to one of lower socio-economic status (ibid.).
The emergence of industrial capitalism and the ascendancy of Protestantism, which emphasized capital accumulation over hedonistic pleasure (Oliver, 2006), contributed to the legitimization of representations that castigated fat bodies. In the 19th century, eating was portrayed as a carnal indulgence, and both overeating and gluttony were viewed as deviant behaviors to be controlled (Jutel, 2003). In this context, the principles of capitalism overshadowed any positive connotations associated with fat bodies. The belief that fatness signified weakness, sloppiness, or unproductivity contributed to the devaluation of fat individuals (Stoll and Egner, 2021).
The phenomenon of fatphobia is intricately intertwined with unequal power dynamics (Carof, 2021; Strings, 2019). These dynamics encompass gender-based inequalities (Gailey, 2016; McPhail et al., 2016; Burford and Orchard, 2014), as women historically endured societal pressures to conform to body ideals such as slim waists and corsets during the 16th to 19th centuries, reinforcing their perceived physical inferiority and the expectation to occupy minimal space (Vigarello, 2010, p. 70). Class-based disparities also contribute, with fatness often stigmatized as a manifestation of "classism," associating it with lower social status (Bourdieu, 1979). Moreover, the perception of the body is significantly influenced by class membership and the associated social ranking systems (Bourdieu, 1977).
Furthermore, fatphobia is inextricably linked with racial issues, rooted in colonial and racial histories (Strings, 2019; Gershon, 2019). It closely aligns with the historical association of fatness with black femininity, which has long been unjustly deemed "inferior" within Western societies (Strings, 2019). Additionally, fatphobia can be connected to ableism, as individuals with larger bodies often encounter differential treatment compared to those conforming to the ideal weight norm (Wann, 2009).
Despite evidence demonstrating that fatness does not necessarily indicate poor health (Gaesser, 1999), medical arguments persist in perpetuating negative stereotypes about fat individuals, portraying them as lazy, unintelligent, weak, passive, unhygienic, or unattractive (Gailey, 2016). These stigmatizing representations negatively impact the quality of life and mental health of fat individuals, who often face discrimination in the workplace (Wann, 2009), healthcare settings or in schools (Nerom & Miranda, 2023). For example, they may encounter discriminatory medical practices (Wann, 2009), such as being asked to lose weight to qualify for organ transplants (ibid.). Such stereotypes are reinforced by medical professionals, who frequently hold negative opinions of obese patients (Brown, 2006), sometimes jeopardizing their well-being (Chrisler and Barney, 2017).
The discrimination faced by fat individuals, legitimized by medical arguments, is also perpetuated by the media and amplified through social media platforms (Monaghan et al., 2018). Digital technology, a double-edged sword (Bourdeloie, 2021), both amplifies and counters fatphobic discourses through its technical capabilities.
These fatphobic discourses, which uphold hegemonic beauty standards, have profound consequences for individuals exposed to them (Tiggemann and Zaccardo, 2015), affecting both women and men (Aziz, 2017). Social media platforms contribute to the propagation of negative stereotypes, leading to body dissatisfaction (Albermann, 2022), eating disorders (Frederick et al., 2017), and potential physical and mental health risks.
Nevertheless, feminist movements (Pilote and Hübner, 2019) and alternative media outlets, such as podcasts, have arisen to challenge the beauty standards imposed by patriarchal capitalism. Movements promoting acceptance of non-standard bodies and emphasizing their functionality and physiological well-being over appearance; (Sastre, 2014)), such as "body positivity," (Afful and Ricciardelli, 2015) have gained momentum online. This movement draws on historical feminist movements (e.g., Victorian dress reform (a movement that developed in the Victorian era, around 185-1890, with the aim of emancipating oneself from certain body diktats (e.g. stopping the wearing of corsets and questioning the injunction of a slim waistline for women), Lew Louderback’s struggle (in 1967, Lew Louderback published an article entitled "More People Should Be Fat!" in The Saturday Evening Post magazine, which had a major impact and led to the creation of the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA)) in the 1960s) and seeks to celebrate all bodies.
Furthermore, while cultural and creative industries often perpetuate social relations based on gender, race, or class (Lawrence, 2023), they can also serve as platforms for showcasing body diversity.
This call for proposals seeks contributions that may include but are not limited to:
- Historical trends in representations of fat bodies and/or fatphobic discourse
- The kinds of discrimination against fat people.
- The role of existing power relations (gender, class, race, age, ability, etc.) in various forms of discrimination that result in differences.
- Representations of fat people on social media platforms and/or in cultural and creative industries.
- Practices and attitudes of medical professionals towards fat people.
- The influence of social representations on the relationship between individuals and their bodies and others.
- The role of emotions in the experience of fatphobia or anti-fatphobic individuals.
- The consequences of exposure to fatphobic discourse in terms of effects.
- The role of fatphobic perceptions in the sexual experiences of individuals.
- Reasons, motivations, and origins of fatphobic perceptions.
- Resistance tactics used to address the discrimination experienced by fat people.The role of communities (both traditional and online) as spaces of support
Contributions from diverse sectors of the social sciences (sociology, information and communication sciences, anthropology, history, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, etc.) are welcome. Articles may address multiple aspects simultaneously, offering intersectional perspectives on the subject.
Journal of Gender Studies is an international, peer-reviewed journal publishing high-quality, original research. Please see the journal's Aims & Scope for information about its focus and peer-review policy.
Please note that this journal only publishes manuscripts in English.
Journal of Gender Studies accepts the following types of article:
- Original Article
- Book Review
The Journal of Gender Studies welcomes articles, short pieces, letters and news items. Contributors are asked to write in a clear, jargon-free style. Full-length articles should make explicit the concept of gender or theoretical perspective being used as well as the contribution of the paper to existing research and theoretical debates on gender. Papers with a specific disciplinary perspective should make the content and argument accessible to those outside the discipline and recognise the cross-disciplinary nature of gender studies.
- Should be written with the following elements in the following order: title page; abstract; keywords; main text introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion; acknowledgments; declaration of interest statement; references; appendices (as appropriate); table(s) with caption(s) (on individual pages); figures; figure captions (as a list)
- Should be no more than 7000 words, inclusive of:
- Figure or table captions
- Should contain an unstructured abstract of 200 words.
- Should contain between 3 and 5 keywords.
- January 10, 2024: submission of the proposal in the form of an abstract of maximum 2 pages. The proposal must include a list of recent references and 5 keywords;
- February 9, 2024: acceptance of the proposal;
- September 9, 2024: full paper submission;
- December 12, 2024: acceptance of the submission;
- The expect date of publication is 2025.