Fat Activism is a type of activism that centers around advocating for people whose body type falls out of the size of the societal norm. Fat Activism is also referred to as the Fat Liberation Movement, Fativism, and more recently the Body Positivity Movement.

  • Origins
  • Modern Day
  • Response/Critique

Like most social justice movements, fat activism was born in response to discrimination. The contemporary ideal body type is a smaller, skinner frame, and society has a way of framing men and women who don’t fit into those categories into prejudicial boxes. These boxes are full of negative attributes such as laziness, poor hygiene, and low self esteem. There also was a social stigma rising in the early 1960s regarding obesity, in which in response spawned the 1967 demonstontration called the “fat in.” The “Fat In” was a play on words for Sit In. Over 500 people gathered in New York’s Central Park for the demonstration, in which they burned diet books and held up signs that criticized models like Lesley Lawson, aka “Twiggy.” Not only did this demonstration bring awareness to the fact that fat people were unafraid to be comfortable in their own skin, it also spawned the NAAFA, or the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. “Founded in 1969, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is a non-profit, all volunteer, civil rights organization dedicated to protecting the rights and improving the quality of life for fat people. NAAFA works to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through advocacy, public education, and support”(NAAFA). Since its founding, the NAAFA keeps working to end discrimination based on body size.

Some faces of the modern Fat Activism include people like Tess Holiday and Ashley Graham, both models. Modern day fat activism finds people like Holiday and Graham advocating for body positivity and inclusion. While body positivity is not the same as addressing and changing attitudes regarding fat individuals, it is a type of fat activism we are seeing more frequently in modern day America. There has been a push to make more “plus size” women be featured in fashion ads and fashion shows. For example, in 2016, Ashley Graham became the first “plus size” model to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine’s swimsuit edition. But even before Graham became a household name we had Whitney Thompson, who in 2008 became the first plus size winner of the popular reality television show, America’s Next Top Model. The year prior to this win the shows host Tyra Banks faced scrutiny regarding her own weight gain when photographed on the beach in a bathing suit. Tyra addressed this on her show in a monumental speech which gained traction as she pushed back against body weight standards. “Wearing the same bathing suit, standing next to the photo in question, the model called out those who talk smack on women’s bodies: “If I had lower self esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now. But that’s exactly what is happening to other women all over this country.” To all those people who make women feel bad about the way they look and the bodies they have, Tyra said, “Kiss my fat ass!””

Response to the fact acceptance movement has been mixed in its reception. The biggest criticism of the fat acceptance movement seems to be for health reasons. Doctors have stated that people over a certain weight are more susceptible to health problems.

More Reading

NAAFA: the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance


Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America’s Obesity Epidemic By J.Eric Oliver

A Brief History of the Fat-Acceptance Movement


Brandon Antonio is a graduate student at Old Dominion University who loves naps and sex. In his free time you can catch him at your local mall spending money on things he cannot afford. You can also catch him in your local FaceBook comment section arguing that gender is INDEED a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. Brandon received his B.S. in Human Services and hopes to one day open a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for others.