About this Fat Liberation Archive
June 1, 2022
For years I housed boxes of decaying copies of FaT GiRL, a zine I’d been part of publishing in the 1990s. I sold a few online, every now and then. When I was getting ready to move to a place with no storage, I was ready to recycle them, but folks in my local fat, queer community intervened, and took on the role of housing them. Sure, I felt like FaT GiRL was unique and amazing, but I felt some shame imagining myself spending the rest of my years promoting that one cool thing I did in my 20’s. I mostly stopped talking about FaT GiRL.
Ten years after I let those boxes go, as I began doing more fat-liberation related organizing, I met Rose Gelfand, a fat, queer college student who was really fired up about FaT GiRL. Rose was hungry to see their fat queer life reflected, and was finding it for the first time in the pages of the one copy she’d been able to find. I couldn’t quite let myself empathize – surely, I thought, the next generation was more supported than mine had been. FaT GiRL was old news. Then, in the process of being a resource for them to write their thesis paper about FaT GiRL, I started seeing through Rose’s eyes that my comrades and I held important history – history that would support her in doing today’s fat liberation work.
As I began the process of digitizing FaT GiRL, I dug through my filing cabinet and found a few things I miraculously hadn’t thrown away. One was a pamphlet created by Karen Stimson, called “Fat Feminist Herstory.” I opened it up to read it, maybe for the first time. It’s a year-by-year timeline of events. Under the heading for the year 1977, I saw that a group calling itself the Fat Liberation Front (FLF) confronted a Yale psychologist about her anti-fat remarks made to the American Psychiatric Association. The FLF organized psychologists in support. Reading on to 1980, I found:
“Three years after the FLF’s confrontation with Judith Rodin over her remarks to the American Psychiatric Association, the APA rescinds its classification of obesity [sic] as a mental disorder. This year’s edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders declares that “Simple obesity [sic] is … not generally associated with any distinct psychological or behavioral syndrome.”Fat Feminist History, by Karen W. Stimson, 1993
My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. For the entirety of that year I was under 24/7 psychiatric “care” while being starved on 500 calories a day. Whatever my current ideas about political strategy, it was undeniably powerful, even 42 years later, to realize that organized fat people had literally at that moment been fighting for me and others who’d been locked away for fatness. Oh, to have understood sooner that I hadn’t truly been so alone during that time. It’s enraging that the only place this information exists is in a pamphlet from 1993. That pamphlet was the first item to be added to this archive.
My brilliant friend Hana Malia said it best:
“We know that when people are deprived of their own history, it is never incidental. It is the strategic work of pacifying communities and their wisdom. In this world and time where that deprivation is unrelenting, any undertaking that arms people with access to their own history is good work—work in the right, imperfect, shape-shifting direction.”Hana Malia
This archive does not claim to, nor could it, represent the entirety of fat activist or fat liberation movement history. It starts with what I had in my filing cabinet – evidence of some self-identified fat-liberation-oriented lives, thoughts, conversations, creativity, activism, community – mostly from radicals, queers and feminists. The rest of what is here so far has come from people in my network. I recognize this as both an asset (I have connections to folks of multiple generations doing fat liberation work) and a limitation (my network is, by definition, limited. It skews white and US-based).
Some of the material archived here is difficult to contend with. My comrades remind me that this is an archive, not a show. It’s a tool, and as a tool, an archive has more integrity when it’s not pushing things under the rug.
My imagination runs wild with how this tool might be wielded for movement building, creativity, pleasure, and getting ever-freer. I hope it will support fat liberation work that centers fat Black folks, fat indigenous folks, fat folks of color, fat folks from the global south and other places outside the US, fat disabled folks, fat elders, and the fattest among us – variously self-named superfat / deathfat / infinifat folks. I know that the vision and imaginings of myself and the amazing collaborators who have helped build this archive so far, are barely scratching the surface of possibility. We feel vulnerable and proud, protective and humble, and ultimately deeply hopeful about the work and play this tool will support in the future.
We hope seeing some of our history fills fat people with pride.
In her powerful, recent essay on dismantling medical fatphobia, “No Health, No Care,” Marquisele Mercedes turns to love as the necessary engine for fat liberation:
“…fat liberation cannot be powered by anything but love for fat people. Even when there is rage on our behalf, there must be love for us too. No matter how much we despise the systems that kill us, we must love fat people more.”Marquisele Mercedes, “No Health, No Care: The Big Fat Loophole in the Hippocratic Oath”
For me, the process of starting this archive has been a sacred process of honoring and fanning the flames of love and care for fat people. I hope you can sense it coming through as you take in what’s here, and that it feeds you and your love for fat people. We need each other.
Scanning and offering a PDF would have been a simple and straightforward way to put this online. But putting it online makes other kinds of access possible. And so we are working to make everything available with full text transcripts and image descriptions. If you want to help, or if you have feedback about access on this site, please get in touch: fatlibarchive AT gmail DOT com
We hope this archive inspires you to document and preserve your work, either here or in other archives. If you have something you’d like included here, please get in touch: fatlibarchive AT gmail DOT com
We currently have a stack of stuff that still needs to be scanned, and more that needs transcribing and image descriptions. We’d love your help! Drop us a line: fatlibarchive AT gmail DOT com
Humble gratitude to the fat liberationists and fat ancestors whose lives have made ours possible. We dedicate this work to you.
Many fat and fat-supportive comrades of multiple generations have been part of getting this archive started, in several important ways: providing archival materials, transcribing materials, writing image descriptions, thought partnership, encouragement, art making, hand-holding, listening and feedback, sharing resources, and more. Special thanks to the following folks for jumping in with me in all the beautiful ways you have:
Alison Little, Amanda V. Skiscim, Austin J. Austin, Barbarism, Blakeley H. Payne, Candida Albicans Royale, Charlotte Cooper, Camila Morales, Cookie Woolner, Dawn Haney, Ebony Oldham, Elaine Lee, Elana Dykewomon, Erin Glasco, FaT GiRL contributors, Fat Rose, Gabrielle Garcia, Ginnie Redmond, Hana Malia, Hanne Williams-Baron, Isy Abrahamson, Jackie Maris, Jess Schilling, Judith Stein, Julianne Wotasik, Karen Stimson, Katie Tastrom, Liz Gewirtz, Mary Anderson, Mycroft Masada, Nicola Haggett, Nina Herzog, Rose Gelfand, Sofia Webster, Sondra, Susan Stinson, Sylas Hebert, Tara Shuai, Téa Sherman, Tracy Tidgwell, & Timnah Steinman
May this work contribute to the liberation of all beings.