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Framing Fat

Competing Constructions in Contemporary Culture

Samantha Kwan

Publication Year: 2013

According to public health officials, obesity poses significant health risks and has become a modern-day epidemic. A closer look at this so-called epidemic, however, suggests that there are multiple perspectives on the fat body, not all of which view obesity as a health hazard.

Alongside public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are advertisers of the fashion-beauty complex, food industry advocates at the Center for Consumer Freedom, and activists at the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

Framing Fat
takes a bird’s-eye view of how these multiple actors construct the fat body by identifying the messages these groups put forth, particularly where issues of beauty, health, choice and responsibility, and social justice are concerned. Samantha Kwan and Jennifer Graves examine how laypersons respond to these conflicting messages and illustrate the gendered, raced, and classed implications within them. In doing so, they shed light on how dominant ideas about body fat have led to the moral indictment of body nonconformists, essentially “framing” them for their fat bodies.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-3


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pp. v-4

Figures and Tables

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pp. vii-5

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pp. ix-7

Framing Fat would not have been possible without the support of many wonderful individuals. We are indebted to Peter Mickulas for his thoughtful editorship, Jennifer Dropkin for her careful copyediting, and to several anonymous reviewers for their astute comments. As well, we thank Camille Nelson for her...

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Chapter 1. A Contested Field

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pp. 1-21

June 22, 2011: ABC News (Carollo and Salahi 2011) reports on research findings out of the Harvard School of Public Health. To understand the relationship between lifestyle and weight, investigators examined three separate studies spanning a twenty-year period that included over 120,000 subjects...

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Chapter 2. Fat as Frightful

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pp. 22-41

In November 2008 Susan D’Arcy made a heartfelt plea to the public: “Young girls should not be subjected to images of celebrity women who are so thin. It’s unrealistic for girls to have these women as role models” (Stokes 2008). Her request was motivated by tragedy. At the age of thirteen, Ms. D’Arcy’s...

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Chapter 3. Fat as Fatal

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pp. 42-69

By most accounts, June 17, 1998, was an unremarkable day. Venus Williams celebrated a birthday. Chile tied Austria in a World Cup soccer game. Tori Amos performed in Nürnberg, Germany. And 25 million Americans became overweight without gaining a single pound (Cohen and McDermott...

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Chapter 4. Fat and Food Politics

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pp. 70-93

In December 2010, Monet Parham, a mother of two from Sacramento, California, filed a class- action lawsuit against McDonald’s. Unlike previous suits that accused the restaurant chain of making coffee that was too hot (Liebeck v. McDonald’s) or serving food that caused two teenage girls to become...

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Chapter 5. Fat and Fair Treatment

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pp. 94-115

In 2001, Jennifer Portnick, a 240- pound aerobics instructor who reportedly worked out six times a week and taught back- to- back exercise classes, was denied a franchise by the exercise chain Jazzercise. A company representative maintained, “Jazzercise sells fitness. . . . Consequently, a Jazzercise applicant...

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Chapter 6. Framing Fat Bodies

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pp. 116-143

Since the second-wave feminist movement, gender scholars have written about the deleterious effects of cultural beauty ideals (Bartky 1990; Bordo 2003; Hesse- Biber 1996; Wolf 1991). They have documented the harmful effects of these ideals on both the psyche and the material body and shown...


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pp. 145-149


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pp. 151-176


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pp. 177-183

About the Authors

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pp. 184-189

E-ISBN-13: 9780813560939
E-ISBN-10: 0813560934
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813560922

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 6 figures, 1 table
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Obesity -- Social aspects -- United States -- History.
  • Food habits -- United States -- History.
  • Body image -- United States.
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