Think of the Hippopotamus: Rights Consciousness in the Fat Acceptance Movement

Law & Society Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, 2008

36 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2006 Last revised: 3 Dec 2008

Anna R. Kirkland

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Women's Studies Program; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 4, 2007

Abstract

All the recent attention to the so-called obesity epidemic provides a fascinating context for understanding interactions between civil rights consciousness and the ordinary lives of fat people, who both deploy and resist the ideological formations that make up our most basic presumptions about who deserves rights protections. This study of fat acceptance advocates asks how stigmatized people who are excluded from legal protections muster descriptions of themselves as deserving inclusion in antidiscrimination laws. Analysis of in-depth interviews with fat acceptance advocates from around the United States reveals elaborate techniques for managing social life and enacting legality that co-exist with more narrowly framed and contradictory arguments for rights. Culturally dominant logics for reasoning about what persons deserve prefigure what is possible to say in defense of fat people, in many ways even for fat advocates themselves. And yet, in their struggles to overcome the limitations of the presumptions they are given, fat advocates reveal deep tensions in our antidiscrimination ethics and hint at a new way to think about difference.

Keywords: legal consciousness, rights, obesity, fat discrimination, health

Suggested Citation

Kirkland, Anna R., Think of the Hippopotamus: Rights Consciousness in the Fat Acceptance Movement (September 4, 2007). Law & Society Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=944527

Anna R. Kirkland (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Women's Studies Program ( email )

204 South State Street
Lane Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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