In recent years, books and articles exploring the structural problems in our society around things like racism or misogyny have become prolific. This book feels like an addition to that canon, because it approaches the concept of "fatness" in a way that feels both philosophical and critical. The author lays out comprehensive observations, and gives a full history. The book only falls flat for me when it's trying to give advice or advocate. The point of view of the writer becomes too obvious, and doesn't allow the reader the space to consider. I will definitely purchase this title for my high school students, as I do believe it will enhance the library collection.
I really enjoyed this book and walked away with revelations about the fatphobic experience that I've never seen or considered before. I made it fairly far through this book, but it took me a while because I stopped and thought about the stories the author conveyed about her own life, and others, after presenting good research. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to actively work on re-wiring their mind from the fatphobia social cues we all grew up with and internalized.
Unshrinking is an eye-opening study into the science, culture, and stigma around systemic fatphobia. The book dives into why fatness isn’t as big of a deal as it’s societally presented as, and also how fatphobia measures to curb obesity are actually extremely dangerous both physically and emotionally. A few points that stuck with me:
- Obesity may have a higher correlation to certain health issues, but so does extreme sports with higher chances of injury and death, and we don’t stigmatize those people.
- Most fat people who lose weight rapidly will regain it. This is not a matter of willpower, but rather a matter of body science. And attempts at constant weight loss often lead to extreme fluctuations in weight that are more detrimental to one’s health than maintaining a higher weight.
- The effects of being a victim of fatphobia stigma are often times more detrimental to a fat person’s health - mental, which often leads to physical - than being fat itself
- Fat people are oftentimes prescribed extremely invasive measures of encouraging weight loss (including bariatic surgery, which involves removing parts of the stomach). These diets and procedures often have extremely negative side effects/consequences and aren’t even that effective. The fact that medical professionals would subject people to these highly invasive, dangerous, and ineffective methods of weight loss, with side effects that are often much worse than the effects of being obese, reveal a deep seated medical system of fatphobia.
- A higher proportion of Americans is obese than ever before. Yet fatphobia is also on the rise. Showing that stigma doesn’t have the effect of actually eradicating being fat.
- There were a lot of stats around the discrimination against fat people, especially women. This is often related to insinuations about intelligence too.
Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC! I also included this book in my recent booktok video on nonfiction books I recommend @overbookedreads.
Thank you to #NetGalley and Crown for providing an ARC of Kate Manne’s new book, #Unshrinking.
There are many books, websites, and social media accounts where you can learn about the research on weight gain and loss, dieting, and weight stigma. What Kate Manne brings to this material is the lens of a philosopher; she organizes this information into a philosophical, moral argument with carefully cited evidence to persuade readers that it is WRONG to discriminate against fat people. She also argues against body positivity and even body neutrality, promoting body reflexivity instead. In other words, we need not love our bodies, nor will our happiness and authenticity be found in simply accepting our bodies. We must internalize our bodies as our own, for ourselves, not for the admiration or satisfaction or use of others.
Manne integrates memoir of her own embodied experience throughout the argument, which probably makes the book more accessible for many readers. I personally did not think it works and would prefer fewer personal stories of hemming and hawing over her ‘small fat’ status. It arguably undermines her conclusion: if our bodies are for ourselves, writers do not need put their own embodiment and humanity under the microscope to prove a point. But how do we get closer to fat liberation?
These shortcomings won’t prevent me from recommending the book. I’m sure it will benefit many readers.
In Unshrinking: How to Face Fatphobia (pub. January 9, 2024), Kate Manne has gathered current research and writing about fatness, anti-fat bias (fatphobia), and diet culture, and added her own philosophical analysis (she is a philosophy professor at Cornell), creating something completely original.
I’ve been aware of the possibility of being a fat person who doesn’t diet since the late 1980s, thanks to the beloved BBW magazine. I’ve been trying to follow a weight-neutral, nondieting, fat positive approach to my own life for nearly as long. I have collected and read most of the “body positive”, anti diet-culture, fat liberation writing that has been published, and a lot of what exists online, in the last thirty-plus years, But I’ve never read an analysis of anti-fatness and diet culture from a philosophical point of view. I am so glad that Manne has done this work!
With the first several chapters collecting research about fatness and dieting, quoting many other fat activist authors, such as Aubrey Gordon, Ragen Chastain, Hanne Blank, Roxane Gay, and many others, Manne also weaves in her own story of her body, how it has changed and what she has done about it through her life. It is exhaustively researched and the Notes are an essential part of the book.
After all of the background, Manne shows that dieting with the intent to change one’s body size is not just an unpleasant, ineffective activity, but it is also an immoral one because it requires that we learn to ignore bodily imperatives. She further argues that we are all being gaslit by diet culture, and that by refusing to participate, we can become “unshrinking: reclaiming space in a way that is unapologetic, fearless, graceful.”
Those of us who resist diet culture are:
putting your body on the line for the sake, in part, of fat representation in particular and body diversity more broadly. You’d be showing up in the world in a way that resists narrow and, frankly, fascist body norms and ideals and values. You’d be standing in solidarity with people othered and marginalized on account of their fatness . . . You would stand, moreover, with countless silent others who are yet to tell their stories, or whose stories are yet to unfold, within a fatphobic social world that we have the collective power to make so much better.
Kate Manne, Unshrinking: How to Face Fatphobia
It’s out today, so don’t wait. Please get this book, which is an essential addition to all fat positive, anti-diet culture libraries.
Thanks to NetGalley for the e-Galley in exchange for an honest review. I had only one week to get it read and reviewed before publication day, but I did it!
I'm not exactly sure who the intended audience is - fairly certain few thin people will read it, and not clear on what fat people will learn, as we already have our lived experience. I did learn a few more shocking things, like that some med schools will not accept heavier bodies for cadaver donation. I already sort of knew this from reading about donating bone marrow. it's still in 2024 extremely unclear why a certain BMI (which is garbage) should prevent someone from being able to donate. anyway, there were some good points, but it just seemed to me a bit repetitive and not that illuminating to someone who already deals with weight stigma in the world.
This book was a very well-crafted examination of the problems with society's idea of health, weight and size. We all can easily see the fatphobia in every aspect of daily life, regardless of one's shape and this book points out how we fall incredibly short of health being the goal. From the doctors who write off serious symptoms to the anonymous online troll and the even the structure of seating at events, planes and theaters, the book points out the hypocrisy of wanting to "help" people to be healthier while ignoring actual health and wellness. This book also shows not only how damaging this is to the overweight person but society at large. The author shares personal anecdotes as well as well researched fact to back her premise. It is a deep, insightful read that it well worth your time. Thank you to Netgalley and Crown for an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
An absolutely fantastic addition to the growing body of works on fatphobia and the lived experiences of fat people. Read this book, then go read all the authors she recommends throughout the book and in the bibliography. You will not regret it.
Kate Manne’s third book is a lot more personal than her first two, detailing vividly this rockstar philosopher’s lifelong experience of inhabiting a body her culture deems “overweight” or “obese.” Weaving together personal experience and well-researched anti-fatphobia analysis, bolstered throughout by moral philosophical reflections, Manne concludes that no one is obligated to lose weight, and that one’s body is one’s own. Period. These insights—seemingly simple, even banal—are, in my view, pretty pathbreaking since they go against everything that our fatphobic media sphere preaches. Overall, I found this book engaging, well-written, and thought-provoking. I’d knock off one star, though, since, despite its sharp critique, Manne’s book doesn’t boast much that is new. Roxane Gay, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Hanne Blank, Lindy West, and Aubrey Gordon, to name just a few authors, have all recently published well-received works on fatphobia and fat activism (Manne acknowledges and cites them, I should add), and this space is becoming quite crowded. If you are familiar with fat activist discourse, Manne’s book will confirm what you already believe.
Thanks to NetGalley and Crown for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my review.
Synopsis (from Netgalley, the provider of the book for me to review.)
The definitive takedown of fatphobia, drawing on personal experience as well as rigorous research to expose how size discrimination harms everyone, and how to combat it—from the acclaimed author of Down Girl and Entitled
For as long as she can remember, Kate Manne has wanted to be smaller. She can tell you what she weighed on any significant her wedding day, the day she became a professor, the day her daughter was born. She's been bullied and belittled for her size, leading to extreme dieting. As a feminist philosopher, she wanted to believe that she was exempt from the cultural gaslighting that compels so many of us to ignore our hunger. But she was not.
Blending intimate stories with the trenchant analysis that has become her signature, Manne shows why fatphobia has become a vital social justice issue. Over the last several decades, implicit bias has waned in every category, from race to sexual orientation, except body size. Manne examines how anti-fatness operates—how it leads us to make devastating assumptions about a person’s attractiveness, fortitude, and intellect, and how it intersects with other systems of oppression. Fatphobia is responsible for wage gaps, medical neglect, and poor educational outcomes; it is a straitjacket, restricting our freedom, our movement, our potential.
In this urgent call to action, Manne proposes a new politics of “body reflexivity”—a radical re-evaluation of who our bodies exist in the world ourselves and no one else. When it comes to fatphobia, the solution is not to love our bodies more. Instead, we must dismantle the forces that control and constrain us and remake the world to accommodate people of every size.
You gotta love rednecks and their bumper stickers of NO FAT CHICKS (I want to reply with NO SMALL DIX”). It never ceases to amaze me how many people on social media, Reddit, in person hate… and I mean HATE FAT PEOPLE. They are lazy, smelly, gross, have no willpower, low class, useless, etc. etc. etc. We are not. (Usually).
Not a casual read as it is very philosophical but it is a good one that I would love to shove in the faces of those higher-than-thou types who make assumptions – fat women are hated by their doctors. They get ignored by their doctors, some as seeking pain medication And are told to go and lose some weight as it will solve all their problems. Could they have cancer?. Easily. And this book shows that some women died of cancer because their doctors ignored them because of their fatness. In general, doctors love to ignore people: they ignore me, and they ignore everyone who took advantage of their precious time. Why? Because we're fat and people hate fat people. Just eat less and move more ... yeah, like millions of us have not tried that over and over and failed nonetheless??? OK, try and stop ranting...I think I want a cookie.
This book is highly recommended. Read it it may make you weep but read it.