You Have the Right to Remain Fat
Virgie Tovar’s manifesto, You Have the Right to Remain Fat, preaches that there’s nothing wrong with fat people. There is something wrong with the culture that enables the discrimination against, scapegoating of, and prejudice towards fat people. Her message that everyone no matter their size should be treated with dignity is empowering. I found her arguments about dieting as a method of control convincing and her stories about her personal history with body image moving.
I had been taught to believe that weight loss was the key to all my heart’s greatest desires, but the truth is that it wasn’t. Because you can’t find self-love by walking a path paved by self-hatred.
To me, this book was like an opening salvo or a flag to start a race. It is, I believe, designed to raise consciousness and get women fired up, showing them the fallacies in diet culture and the pervasiveness of fatphobia. In this purpose, the book is successful. I also was very interested in the chapter that compared fat activism and the body positivity movement; I didn’t know the roots were so different, and it made me conscious of the limits of body positivity.
You Have the Right to Remain Fat is not a deep dive into history of fatphobia and diet culture, and while it is a call to arms, it does not provide strategies for moving forward. For those topics, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker is a great resource.
Tovar is eloquent and convincing, but I would have liked to see more evidence or sources for some of her arguments or concepts she introduces. For example, she mentions “radical passivity” but doesn’t describe it, and I actually can’t find a good explanation on the interweb. She has a thoughtful analysis of ads from the Strong4Life anti-childhood obesity campaign run by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, but the advertisements aren’t reprinted.
If you are only going to read one book on the subject, I don’t think I’d pick You Have the Right to Remain Fat. But, if you want to see how diet culture affected one woman and turned her into an activist, and if you want to feel good and get fired up about the issue, this is a great book to choose.