Coming out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma

Coming out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma

18nov3:30 pm5:00 pmComing out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma

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Presented By:

Abigail Saguy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology



This paper examines the surprising case of women who “come out as fat” to test and refine theories about social change, social mobilization, stigma, and stigma resistance. First, supporting theories about “social movement spillover,” we find that overlapping memberships in queer and fat activist groups, as well as networks between these groups, has facilitated the migration of this cultural narrative. Second, we find that the different embodied context of body size, as compared to sexual orientation, leads to changes in meaning as this narrative travels. Specifically, the hyper-visibility of fat changes what it means to come out as a fat person, compared to what it means to come out as gay or lesbian. Third, this case leads us to question the importance of the distinction made in the literatures on stigma and on social movements between assimilationist strategies that stress sameness, on one hand, and radical political strategies that emphasize difference, on the other. Finally, this case suggests that the extent to which a stigmatized trait is associated with membership in a social group – with its own practices, values, and norms – shapes what it means to “come out” as possessing that trait.



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