We've been hearing for years that the "average American woman is five-feet-four-inches tall, weighs 144 pounds, and wears a size 12 or 14." For 1998 Fat!So? may have been revolutionary but a lot of the subject matter has been discussed ad nauseam in some form or other. Which confirms two things: it's important to women and there are still too many people not listening.
What started off as a zine, Fat!So? has been one of the bibles for fat acceptance for a number of years. It shows no sign of waning. Marilyn Wann started the zine after her boyfriend said he was embarrassed by her weight and the insurance company said she was a liability. Anyone over 160 pounds can probably relate. From there, Fat!So? grew into a popular website community and equally popular book.
The majority of Fat!So? is divided into four anatomy lessons: The Butt, The Belly, The Chin and The Upper Arm. Within these lessons everything about women and the plus size body is discussed via the ABCs. We even get to see pictures of naked bellies, chins and bums. Wann addresses popular health myths like being fat causes heart disease and the causes of diabetes while urging "people of all sizes to eat right and exercise, and to stop worrying about weight."
Like most advocates of fat acceptance she wants people to "embrace the F-word." The 3 letter word not the 4 letter one so "no one can use it against you ever again." Previous surgeon general C. Everett Koop, his close relationship to the diet companies and a brief timeline of Prescription diet drugs for the last hundred years are discussed. She doesn't like him. She also addresses childhood obesity, how to educate teachers about fat prejudice and making exercise fun, not a punishment.
There's an awesome essay titled Fat Kills by Betty Rose Dudley. In it she discusses her experience of visiting a doctor for a cough only to have the doctor deter to the topic of weight loss. Every time. You can read the essay at the Fat! So? website. There are many other essays by women of volume. Without the contributors Marilyn Wann wouldn't have had a book. The insights and experiences of others is what makes Fat! So? so good. Readers are able to see bits of themselves in others as well as learn what other fat people have dealt with.
Another favourite section of mine is the "Yeah, Right!" area. If you ever wished you had a comeback for a snide comment directed toward you this area will give you lots of ideas. Skip to this section for an instant boost.
As for the negatives there weren't many. Since its printing in 1998, some of the links are now expired but that's to be expected. At times Wann came across as promoting weight gain which I don't think is any better than promoting weight loss. Also the similarities of phrenology (using callipers to measure bumps on the skull) and bariatric medicine (the study of obesity) was a bit tedious and hard to follow. Lastly she encourages fat sex but there is no mention of safe sex. Fat people need to be aware of safe sex too. Especially since the book isn't directed toward adults only. Direction to more information would have been a nice addition to this area.
Fat!So? isn't all about the seriousness of being fat, fat acceptance and standing up for ourselves. Wann likes to have a little fun and it shows in a few of her mock essays, bountiful women cartoons from various artists and other extra goodies that take you from reading to interactive play. There are two cut'n paste projects; 17 fun things to do with your bathroom scale and, my favorite, the Venus of Willendorf Paper Doll. Remember those little flip books you had as a kid? You would flip through the pages and the image would appear to be running or jumping. Well in the top right hand corner is the cover diva shaking her groove thing. It's adorable. I like surprises. It took me until page 49 before I even realized it.
Another gem, almost unnoticed at the bottom of every page in very small print is "154 Ways to be a fatso"; like "fill your home with fat positive art" or "refuse to apologize for your size". It's like an added bonus mini book.
Although Fat!So? is not the exclusive bible for fat acceptance that it used to be, it's a good read and shows what women have been trying to say for years: Accept me as I am.
Ten Speed Press, 1998
Purchase Fat!So? from Amazon.com.
Purchase Fat!So? from Amazon.ca.