Neoliberal Narratives and Internalized Weight Stigma: Obstacles to Fat Equality


  • Madeleine Harvey Arts & Science



In recent years, public health discourse has been dominated by anti-fat biases and attitudes. Fat bodies face oppression through the medical industry and broader diet culture which characterize larger bodies as immoral and requiring individual efforts to discipline. In attempts to reduce fat stigma, this article outlines one key barrier to fat liberation: internalized weight stigma. Internalized weight stigma occurs when negative attitudes towards fatness are turned inwards, and people begin to believe the negative stereotypes and beliefs imposed by health systems and broader culture. To address internalized weight stigma and its impacts, this paper examines how internalized weight stigma provides one barrier to dismantling anti-fat beliefs and societal structures. First, this paper outline the current state of legislation regarding discrimination based on weight. Next, it explores the neoliberal sources of internalized weight stigma, specifically through the diet industry and medicine. Third, it considers how narratives of weight stigma may be adopted internally by a fat person. Fourth, it addresses how internalized weight stigma may provide a barrier to recognizing weight as grounds for discrimination. The conclusion of this essay turns to the work of fat activists, and suggests how the current body positive movement may be altered and supplemented to reduce the structural and internal barriers that prevent fat liberation. 


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