White supremacy's impact on Black bodies is well-known. Starting with the enslavement of millions of Africans and their descendants, to Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, the race-based War on Drugs, mass incarceration, police murders--and now, through fat phobia. Fat phobia--the hatred of and discrimination against fatness--is problematic for all bodies because it limits basic opportunities and privileges. However, it becomes particularly dangerous at the intersection of structural racism and misogyny. Francis Beale argues that as both Black people and women+, Black women+ carry a "double strike" against them; consequently, they experience both racism and misogyny, termed "misogynoir" by Moya Bailey. Language in recent medical publications indicates the severity of fat phobia in America around the Black woman+'s body: fatness is something Black women+ have a "high recidivism rate" with after weight loss (Small). This rhetoric affirms the criminalization of the Black body; fatness is something a Black woman+ has "recidivism" with--a term used almost exclusively for incarcerated people. Thus, the medical community's discourse affirms the"legitimacy" of fat phobia and of fatness' adverse effects on health, inviting discrimination against Black fat bodies. Specifically, it suggests that Black women+ need supervision over their bodies--by white people. This thesis considers the work contemporary Black fat women+ (Sonya Renee Taylor, Sesali Bowen, and Tressie McMillan Cottom) are doing through essays and memoirs against fat phobia; that is, it seeks to amplify their voices as they name, critique, and suggest changes for the institutions that uniquely harm fat Black women+--namely medical racism, beauty, and capitalism. The naming, or making visible, of otherwise-invisible institutions affirms bell hooks' assertion that "groups of women who feel excluded from feminist discourse and praxis can make a place for themselves only if they first create, via critiques, an awareness of the factors that alienate them" (276). Fat phobia perpetuates the narrative that Black women+--especially in larger bodies--are undeserving of love. It posits that women+ are only as valuable as their bodies. But Taylor, Bowen, and Cottom literally rewrite that narrative; instead, these women+ write the fat Black body as inherently worthy and capable of bringing joy--deserving, as we all do, "radical self-love."



College and Department

Humanities; English



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fat, fat phobia, misogynoir, capitalism, black feminism, medical racism