Fat Activism and Body Positivity: Zines for Transforming the Status Quo

By Kate Angell and Charlotte Price

This is the final zine reviews column LJ will be publishing for the known future. While I’m disappointed that zines will no longer benefit from the boost in visibility LJ‘s reviews provide, I’m also okay with zines disappearing from the library mainstream. I want zines to be taken seriously and to be collected, preserved, and shared by librarians and archivists, but zines are the expression of various subcultures and are thus always vulnerable to cooptation. I am happy that this column and its predecessors will continue to be available on the internet, and that the zines and distros reviewed will benefit from library workers and their friends having written about them authoritatively, and with love.‚ Jenna Freedman, Editor

Zines are an especially important medium for marginalized groups, providing a safe space to have an open discussion. With the so-called war on obesity in full swing, it’s no wonder that an increasing number of fat-activist and body-positive zines are appearing. Fat acceptance often intersects with subjects and interests like feminism, queer studies, social and political activism, history, health, fashion, and even pop culture. The zines reviewed here cover several areas, such as radical queer and transgender fat activism, fat activism history, DIY fat activism, body-positive art and poetry, and clothing design.

Cooper, Charlotte. AQueerandTransFatActivistTimeline. April 2011. 34p. ¬Ω size. Distro: Free pdf and audio file. Paper copy sold out.
Queer fat researcher Charlotte Cooper (Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size) made this collaborative zine after facilitating a 2010 NOLOSE workshop. At the workshop, she and other participants constructed a queer and transgender fat-activist community timeline by adding their histories and memories to it, and then Cooper turned the timeline into this zine. The physical timeline resides in Hamburg, Germany; copies are housed in several libraries and archives, with a pdf available online. Beginning with the 1967 Central Park Fat-In and ending with NOLOSE 2010, the timeline does a great job not only of presenting an overarching view of the history of the intersection of queer, trans, and fat activism, but also of delineating the issues that historically have been important to members of these groups.

Durden, Krissy. Figure 8. 2007. No. 4. 35p. ¬Ω size. $2‚ 3. Distros: Etsy | ThingsYouSay
The subtitle of this fourth issue, Refuse to feel shame about your body! succinctly yet powerfully conveys the raison d’√™tre of body/fat-positive movements. The focus of this particular issue is profiling past and present fat activists, which Durden accomplishes through interviews, personal reflections, and guest contributions. A highlight is Everyday Acts of Fat Activism, which lists actions people can take to support themselves and others (e.g., Write emails to fat bashing companies). Another essay details the discriminatory treatment of fat people who wish to adopt children, in the United States and abroad. Durden includes innovative artwork by several interview subjects, including fat-girl anime by Sarah Perry and fat maps by Stina of the zine Chubbluv.

Hartman, Crystal. Fat Is Beautiful. March 2006. 43 p. ¬Ω size. $3. Distro: The Mimi Zine Distro
This meticulously researched zine on fat acceptance and sizeism provides a plethora of scholarly and commonsense information disputing the popular claim that thinness=healthy and fatness=unhealthy. Hartman utilizes scientific literature to debunk prevailing health myths, e.g., You can lose weight if you try hard enough and Being fat causes heart disease. The zine includes a number of powerful pieces on combating fat oppression written by other authors. Among these are an excerpt from Nomy Lamm’s brilliant essay It’s a Big Fat Revolution and a 1975 article by Laurie Ann Lepoff describing the lack of support and solidarity for fat people in the lesbian community. Hartman makes librarians proud by including an extensive bibliography of recommended reading organized by subject.

Nicci. Fat Girl. 2010. No.15. 22 p. ¼ size. $2.20. Distros: Etsy
This zine addresses what it’s like to be a fat girl, including the struggle with body image and other issues common among fat women in a sizeist society. Topics covered range from problems shopping for fashionable yet comfortable clothes, to being given a Diet Coke every time one asks for a regular Coke, to the tiring effort to deal with thin privilege. The result is a powerful zine that speaks to a range of experiences. In this issue, Nicci talks about the power the scale wields over many and reflects on her life until she started writing her zine. An artist as well as a writer, she includes body-positive illustrations along with letters and essays. She sums up her work: FG is a validation, and a decree. FG is an attitude, and a reassurance‚ it is a battle cry.

Adderley, Sage. FAT-TASTIC. Winter 2010. 14p. ¬Ω size. $1. Distros: Etsy | SweetCandy
This compilation is a recent project by the zinester behind Sweet Candy Distro. Created as a textual safe space to share fat- and body-positive stories, reflections, and information, Adderley’s zine features artwork, poetry, and experiential pieces by seven contributors. One work that stands out is a poignant letter from Adderley to her body, in which she apologizes for hating it for so long and vows to treat it with love and respect going forward. The zine ends with a useful DIY tutorial for making positive affirmation cards, which are intended to foster traits such as strength and happiness in individuals and among friends. As of January 2012, Adderley is accepting submissions for the follow-up issue.

Katelyn (Kate) Angell is a reference librarian at Sarah Lawrence College. She is co-organizer of the first annual NYC Feminist Zinefest and is just beginning a zine collection at Sarah Lawrence’s library.

Charlotte E. Price is the Music & Performing Arts Librarian at Sarah Lawrence College. She has an article coming out this year with Kate Angell in the newly minted Fat Studies Journal.

SELF-eLearn More
SELF-e is an innovative collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard® that enables authors and libraries to work together and expose notable self-published ebooks to voracious readers looking to discover something new. Finally, a simple and effective way to catalog and provide access to ebooks by local authors and build a community around indie writing!
Heather McCormack About Heather McCormack

Heather McCormack (hmccormack@mediasourceinc.com, HuisceBeatha on Twitter) is Editor, Book Review for Library Journal.