Intersecting Identities – Fat + ?
We all have bodies, and our bodies intersect in so many ways with our other identities. In every case, our bodies are impacted by our various identities and how they are either celebrated, welcomed, marginalized or oppressed by society. And, as with all identities, there are assumptions made about various intersections with the fat body.
Consider a variety of potential identities, which may be innate, circumstantial, socially constructed and/or individual choices:
- Body size
- Physical ability
- Neurocognitive functioning
- Formal education level
- Financial resource level
- Place of birth
- First language
- Skin color/tone
- Sexual orientation
- Health status
Before diving into the intersections, consider watching “The Danger of a Single Story,” a TEDTalk by novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009). It is a wonderful reminder that we are all complex and interesting beings, and that if we see someone as just one of their characteristics or identities, we miss so much and can cause harm.
In her 2016 TED Women Talk, Kimberlé Crenshaw explains that intersectionality is not just the sum of two or more identities, but that the intersection creates a unique identity which has the potential to impact a person in ways that may not be experienced by those holding just one of the identities.
As with other identities, there is the danger of creating a single story about a person in a larger body – only seeing their fatness – and missing out on how their body size intersects with their other identities to create their unique and complex being. This is a particular problem with public health’s focus on weight (and the singular “solution” of weight loss). It puts people into a single-story box that emphasizes one identity, erases others and ignores the possibility of unique intersecting experiences, as well as multiple paths to well-being.
Below are resources for exploring various intersections with being in a larger body from the perspective of those living them. They demonstrate the complexities, richness and challenges of being more than the sum of our identities.