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Fatphobia: violence against bodies



According to Psicología y Mente, fatphobia can be defined as "an automatic and generally unconscious bias that leads to discrimination, objectification and undervaluing of overweight people, especially if they are women."


In 2017, 116 reports were filed before the Argentine National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism in relation with physical appearance. This number grew to 184 in 2018. This type of violence occurs predominantly in the field of education, although there have been reports for exclusion and derisive situations in workspaces, businesses and entertainment venues such as bars and nightclubs. Additionally, when it comes to discrimination against overweight people, healthcare facilities are the top location identified in complaints.


How did activism for body positivity start?


According to anthropologist and psychiatrist Anne Becker, this movement began as a consequence of years and years living under societal pressures related to the limited options of what an "ideal body" looks like. Beauty parameters tend to be defined around current fashion models and artists, who lead the general public to develop an insatiable need to reach certain body standards.


By 1890, many first wave feminists from European society pushed for modifications to Victorian-style clothes. Corsets, which re-shaped their bodies, were uncomfortable to wear daily. In a context marked by achievements such as women's suffrage and their access to education, they expressed their refusal to keep wearing those and several fashion designers began to create clothing for different occasions: new styles of underwear, more comfortable sportswear, among other innovations.


In this line, body positivity is not just for fat bodies but also for POC, queer, disabled and physically scarred bodies. Its goals are to celebrate self-acceptance and normalize body diversity.


Demands for bodies without patterns


Laura Contrera is a Philosophy professor, a lawyer graduated from the University of La Matanza and a PhD student in Gender Studies at the University of Buenos Aires. She describes herself as a fat feminist and an activist for bodily, sexual and gender diversity.


Her research focuses on the stigmatization and discrimination endured by fat people from a human rights approach and it analyses the fight for depathologization of bodily diversity developed in the latest decade in Argentina.


A few years ago, Contrera and her colleague Nicolás Cuello started to talk and discuss fat bodies from their own personal experiences. Due to the differences between the American diet—rife with fast food—and the Latin American one, they decided to work on a type of activism that did not start from scratch: they used concepts from feminism and anti-capitalism and became leaders of fat activism in Argentina.


In this line, Contrera and Cuello co-wrote “Bodies without patterns: Resistances from the disproportionate geographies of the flesh” (2016), published in Spanish by Madreselva. She has also participated in compilations in Spanish such as "Whoever reads this is fat. Necessary readings on bodily and sexual diversity" (2018), "Bisexual feminists. Counterstories from a strongly positioned diversity" (2019) and "Feminist healthcare. Sovereignty over our own bodies, power and grassroots movements" (2019).


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