“Our bodies are more than our bodies”: Expanding social work understandings of race and fat

May Friedman


In this paper we want to explore the ways that racism and fat hatred are intrinsically connected.  These connections occur in both individual experiences of body shame and empowerment, but also within bigger systemic inequalities that have historically connected hatred of size and colour, and in contemporary realities in which rhetoric of “obesity” is used to justify surveillance and policing of bigger darker bodies.  In other words: there is no justice with regard to race without a close examination of fat hatred.


This article takes up nine such experiences that were gathered as part of a digital storytelling project.  The project allowed nine makers to create micro-documentaries: multimedia stories that range from 1-5 minutes in length.  These stories complicate ideas around race and size, consider the ways that we are given contradictory messages around pride and shame; family and community; health and belonging.  The stories resist easy categorization, allowing for a supple shapeshifting dialogue around race and fat to emerge, yielding more questions than answers.


While the nine filmmakers span a range of diversities, all have a relationship to social work, as students, educators and practitioners.  Their experiences suggest that a more robust engagement with the politics of fat studies and specifically, the complications of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour experiences of fat hatred, must critically inform social work knowledge.  These stories thus provoke the need for a heightened understanding of fat and race while simultaneously providing content that allows for difficult and important conversations to emerge.


fat and fat hatred, race and racism, intersectionality, arts-based methods, weight stigma

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