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Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture Paperback – May 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"In this groundbreaking and fascinating text, Farrell repositions the fat body within a political framework...a must-read for feminists, body theorists, and anyone interested in understanding our cultural obsession with fat"-Amanda Cosco,Women's Post

“In this bold and powerful book, Amy Farrell uncovers the history, meanings, and consequences of fat stigma. With passion, insight, and eloquence, she condemns the many institutions that denigrate fat people, from the medical establishment and diet industry to the popular culture. Fat Shame challenges Americans of all sizes to accept each other without judgment.”-Elaine Tyler May,author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril and Liberation

"[Farrell's] historical account of shifting social response to overweight people is interesting...[her] observation about stigma related to overweight people is correct."
-S.K. Hall,Choice

"Overall, this is a very interesting book that is easy to read and engage with. Farrell's use of visual information (showing some of the cartoons, post cards, and posters that she discusses in text) is compelling and adds to her arguments." -Metapsychology Online Reviews

"As part of an actual campaign against weightism, as opposed to Colbert's satirical one, Fat Shame allows us to see how discrimination against fat people became a central feature of American life.  Armed with this history, we can better imagine a day when the declaration Farrell made on The Colbert Report—"I like the word 'fat'"—won't be greeted with laughter." -Bitch Magazine

"Farrell's explorations of fat primitivism in mainstream and feminist cultures are invaluable to understanding the contemporary stigmatization of fat that has become nearly ubiquitous in America today...a soon-to-be classic text in the field of Fat Studies." -Deborah McPhail,Teachers College Record

“The strength of this text is the fascinating range of intersectional perspectives it provides concerning the historical linkages between hierarchies of citizenship and fat stigma…Farrell’s important work to expose the 'cultural baggage that has fueled a fat-hating perspective' generates an intriguing historical intersectional framework… [Fat Shame] illuminates a troubling, discriminatory social landscape framing American body politics and industry with far reaching influences, including present day food movements.”
-, American Studies

"Amy Erdman Farrell offers a wide-ranging and significant contribution to the relatively new but now substantial contribution on the history of the body."-American Historical Review

"Fat Shame can serve as a "go to" resource for historical examples of discrimination against fatness. The book appears especially relevant for the fields of sociology, women's studies, or history and could readily serve as an additional resource for course work focused on multiculturalism, obesity, weight management, or body image."-Jill Salsman,PsycCRITIQUES

"Farrell's Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture [is] an exciting and much-needed addition to fat studies. Carefully researched and well written, Farrell's book investigates the history of fat stigma in the United States, arguing that negative associations with fat existed long before weight became inextricably tied to notions of health."-Anna E. Ward,American Quarterly

“An eye-opening history about how fatness obtained its stigma in the US. Provocative and illuminating, Farrell unearths fat’s associations with whiteness, citizenship, feminism, and civilization. Fat Shame will interest scholars of the history and sociology of body politics and those involved in projects of the self, as well as readers who can't help but wonder, ‘When did we start hating fatness? And why?’ Farrell has penned a new classic.”-Kathleen LeBesco,author of Revolting Bodies? The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity

About the Author

Amy Farrell is Professor of American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. She is also the author of Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism. She lives in Carlisle with her husband and two children.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; Second Printing edition (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814727697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814727690
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amy Farrell was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and majored in English at Ohio University. She earned her MA and PhD from the University of Minnesota in American Studies and Feminist Studies. She is currently the John and Ann Curley Chair in Liberal Arts and Professor of American Studies and Women's and Gender Studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Miz Lyn on May 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
The other reviews of this book make it abundantly clear why Amy Farrell's work is so important. The notion that fat "should" be stigmatized is so deeply rooted in our culture that the possibility that this stigma has a history, and serves certain political and economic interests is unthinkable to many. Fat shame seems like gravity: an ever-present, immutable rule of nature.

Luckily, Farrell's excellent book makes it abundantly clear that fat stigma developed at a certain time for particular cultural purposes. She does an excellent job at taking apart how fat became a symbol and a stake in American contests around racial identity, gender, consumption and citizenship. And, what was most interesting to me, was her finding that anti-fat images and ideas developed long before "health concerns" were called upon to justify what is, at its root, an ugly form of social hatred. Her work also documents efforts to get out from under fat shame, efforts that are at long last treated with the respect they deserve.

If the shame, scorn and disgust that surrounds fat, fat bodies and fat people seems as inevitable, natural and self-evident as the sun rising and setting every day, read this book and think again!
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Roger A. on May 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
As a fat person in a fat-hating society, I have lived with prejudice all my life. From being denied an interview after being told on the phone that the job was available, being bullied in childhood and called a fat pig or whale as I walk down the street as an to having every doctor I see now asking me if I had considered weight loss surgery, it's a fact. Let's face it, our society as a whole fears and dislikes fat people. Some blame us for our size, as evidenced by two of the reviewers here. All I want is to have the same opportunities as average sized people - doctors, chairs that support me, movement opportunities (I work out in a pool three times a week) and the right to walk down the street without having people glare at me. Books like Fat Shame educate the public about the context and history of fat hatred and, if the reader is open-minded at all, should make a difference in how fat people are viewed and treated.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Bliss on May 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fat Shame is an important read for anyone who feels shame about their body AND ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO FEEL NEGATIVELY TOWARD FAT BODIES (like some of the reviewers who attack the author personally and make crude remarks about fat people, thus demonstrating size-prejudice right here in the reviews).

By understanding social views in context, we can make more informed decisions as to whether we want to continue those views or not. It is indeed very important to understand the history of public opinion. It is also important to understand that the current frenzied fat hating views we see so often in the media are part of public opinion, not medical fact. To look at fatness throughout history and to examine our current attitudes toward fat in context is a valuable way to help sort fact from fiction.

Regarding the health ramifications of fatness, this is a topic of much debate. A growing body of research has proven that most of the health issues that are attributed to large body size are actually the result of lifestyle choices. Small, medium, and large people who have poor dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle are at increased risk for health problems. All people need to focus on Health At Every Size to improve wellness, not just fat people. Heaping shame on fat people is a distraction from actual health goals. Feeling shame for your own fat body will get in the way of your own improved lifestyle and health.

Farrell's book can help individuals and our culture understand fat shame and release it so we can all move forward toward health. I highly recommend this book as part of the individual recovery process for body image issues and for improving your relationships with anyone you love who happens to be fat.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bill Fabrey on May 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
Fat Shame is remarkably on target in its analysis of our fatphobic culture and its obsession with body size. Few subjects are more controversial than body fat, and you can find very little published on the subject that is objective and thoughtful. Indeed, the field is dominated by diet books (including a few that claim to not be diet books, but are).

This book is a breath of fresh air for me. I must admit to being less than objective myself, however, having seen first-hand for many years the daily discrimination faced by larger friends and family members based solely on the size and shape of their bodies. I know how hard they have all worked to lose weight and stay thin, to no avail. Will power? Most of them have more than I do. I don't know how I would have been able to go through the diet rigors most of them have suffered.

Apparently, there is far more to the biology of being fat than meets the eye. We should just stop judging people based on what they look like!

I loved the book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Allimay on June 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Being a scientist, this book did not fall into my "usual" reading repetoire, however I thought it was a fantastic read. The book is extremely well written and it is obvious that Farrell has done an extensive amount of research on the topic. Being a mother of three small children, two of which are girls, I have an interest in body images, and this book does a great job exploring the aspects of fatness, and opens us all up to the ideas of fat stigma in America. Having seen the author on the Colbert Report, I know that she, herself, is not obese or even slightly overweight, but the fact that she can so eloquently open our eyes to the denigration of fatness is wonderful.
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