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Touro Law Review

Abstract

The pervasiveness, frequency, and intensity of fat shaming, bullying, and harassment experienced by fat people is well-documented, and three quarters of the American public support antidiscrimination protections for fat people. Yet fat people generally remain unprotected from discrimination under federal and state law in all but two jurisdictions. This Article traces these problems to the agendas of public health leaders, organizations (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization), and associated industries, which are fighting an “obesity epidemic.” It describes some of their fat-shaming strategies and persistent public-health-crisis framings, as well as sensationalized presentations of research to attract news attention, boost visibility, and attract more funding for research and/or support for anti-obesity interventions. These behaviors ensure profits for a $50 billion diet industry and a market for prescription weight loss drugs. Yet almost all medical and environmental interventions for weight loss have little to no evidence of effectiveness. Environmental interventions are also opposed by the public, fat people, and especially fat rights advocates, who describe these interventions and the rhetoric used to generate support for them as stigmatizing. In addition, they ignore discrimination against fat people and facilitate inaction on solutions to extend fat people antidiscrimination protections. This inaction in turn facilitates discrimination against individuals who are disproportionately Black, Latinx, poor, women, and persons with disabilities. This Article argues that politicians and advocacy leaders from marginalized populations will serve their constituents best by extending fat people antidiscrimination protections and placing fat rights advocates and fat people in charge of the policies purported to benefit them.

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