Diet Culture and Anti-Blackness

Do you ever stop to consider where our externalised and internalised fatphobia originates?

Why are we as a society so obsessed with thinness and why is the weight loss industry worth $72.7 billion annually in the U.S alone?

We are not born to fear fatness, our western society and culture teaches us to fear fatness. 

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In her book, “Fearing the Black Body”, Sabrina Strings argues that two critical historical developments contributed to our obsession with thinness, and our phobia about fatness:

  1. The rise of the trans-atlantic slave trade: Racial scientific rhetoric about slavery linked fatness to slothful, gluttonous, greedy, unambitious Africans who lacked self-control.
  2. The spread of Protestantism: Religious discourse suggested that overeating was ungodly, whilst thinness was positioned as the correct embodiment for white women, and used to claim moral superiority.

These developments led to the stigmatisation of fatness as both black and sinful, whilst thinness was associated with whiteness and morality. In this way, the pursuit of thinness has been used as a way to achieve whiteness/goodness, and as a way for white people to socially distinguish themselves from the subordinated “Other”. 

Let’s not pretend that these stereotypes and associations have disappeared. They are deeply ingrained in current diet culture.

Diet culture does not explicitly name the fear of the Black body (because diet culture is insidious) - but think about your understanding of what diet culture is:

  1. Is diet culture a society that places value on being a certain body size, weight, and shape?
  2. Does diet culture, in a myriad of ways, make it clear to you that it is only thin (or “fit”) women that have value, that have worth?
  3. Does diet culture equate fatness with unhealthiness, with laziness, with a lack of discipline or self-control?
  4. Does diet culture oppress those who don't fit within its “ideal” - whether that’s in relation to body size, weight, health, exercise or eating habits (e.g. weight stigma)?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, go back and look over the two historical developments named by Sabrina Strings. The parallels should be evident. 

Diet culture is firmly rooted in anti-blackness and white supremacy. 

Love, Maddy xx