Acceptable Prejudice? Fat, Rhetoric and Social Justice

Lonie McMichael. Pearlsong Press (www.pearlsongpress.com), $18.95 trade paper (230p) ISBN 978-1-5971-9065-7
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Between celebrities showcasing their weight loss and headlines about the obesity epidemic, America is always thinking about weight. However, there remain questions about the actual health risks of obesity and whether or not a thinner lifestyle is a lasting possibility for everyone. In McMichael’s (Talking Fat: Health vs. Persuasion in the War on Our Bodies) latest book, claims of “healthism” are questioned, and she suggests that the ideology is a way to perpetuate prejudices against the overweight. The book is most successful when it analyzes the way weight issues are presented in public. From the dehumanizing, headless images of the obese on the evening news to diet programs’ acquisition of fat-acceptance vocabulary, contemporary culture reproduces the same stereotypes of overweight people that have been in circulation since the Victorian era. In presenting solutions, McMichael relies too much on bell hooks’s ideology of domination, rehashing arguments that feel dated, such as trying to “take back” a negative term from the oppressor. The book drags as it struggles to pave a path toward cultural reform, despite this being a worthwhile endeavor. However, it is a useful introduction to a burgeoning movement and will make readers question their attitudes about overweight people. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/06/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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