You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar

I was a little strategic (and/or sneaky) in choosing the first entry in my HAES/prediabetes/whatever-the-fuck-I-have reading list. I chose something short, something I could read quickly. Something in the memoir/manifesto vein that wouldn’t demand much of me. Either in the sense of nutritional guidance I expect from future books, or in the sense of digesting lots of footnotes—which I also expect from future books.

And this slim volume fit the bill.

Tovar’s book isn’t much more than a hundred pages, but the content packs a real punch. Tovar is concise and charismatic in how she breaks down the mechanisms of fatphobia and the different societal forces—sexism, racism, classicism, etc.—that contribute to fat hatred in U.S. society.

I’m very impressed by the mixture of confessional and cultural analysis Tovar combines here. The autobiographical sections help create relatability, putting a human face on the many costs us fatties pay for living and swimming in these misogynist waters. Meanwhile, the cultural analysis in on point, revealing the subtle (often internalized) mechanisms of pathology and control that are interwoven throughout the fabric of fatphobia and diet culture.

Perhaps the two most impressive analyses (in a slim book that is chock full of impressive analyses) are Torvar’s unpacking of the cultural fiction of “bootstrapping” our way to thinness and her examination of the assimilationist limitations in much of the “body positivity” rhetoric that has begun to eclipse the liberationist focus of old-style fat activism.(1)

And, on a shallower note, Tovar’s cover photo makes me just a tiny little bit proud that I decided to make 2018 my own personal “fatkini summer”:


Now, because Tovar’s authorial voice is so authentically hers, there’s a moment here or there I found less enjoyable—no, that’s overstating the case. Let me own it as a moment or two I found personally challenging.

Still, I’m keeping this book in mind as my new go-to source for “fat activism 101.” I wonder if its very conciseness and conversational tone would keep the book from being able to persuade the more closed-minded advocates of diet culture.(2) But for someone wanting to learn these new concepts and willing to take on a different perspective, this would be a terrific resource.


(1) How can something I was only introduced to 10 or 11 years ago now be considered “old-style”?!? Hmmm, now that I put it like that……  #DamnImOld #GetOffMyLawn

(2) Though, considering human nature, even a mountain of evidence would be unlikely to convert the really dedicated advocates for diet culture. (See: Dan Ariely.)


Image credit: Photo taken by the author, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.


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