Feminism and the invisible fat man

Kirsten Bell, Darlene McNaughton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we argue that the complex connections between gender and fatness have not been fully examined, particularly in so far as they relate to men. We consider the role of early feminist literature in establishing the idea that the fear of fatness is fundamentally tied up with patriarchy and the ways this also underwrites more recent examinations of fatness and gender. Moreover, we assert that popular feminist scholarship has actively produced the assumption that weight is not only a women's issue, but that it is tied up with the very construction of femininity. Through an examination of the cultural history of fatness we show that men have also been caught up in the drive to reshape the body over the last century. However, their concerns have remained largely hidden, framed as they often are in the lexicon of ‘fitness’ and ‘muscularity’. An examination of the limited published material on male concerns with fat reveals that for many men fatness is feminizing – and undermines normative forms of masculinity in threatening ways. We call for further research that considers both female and male experiences of fatness, given the limitations of approaches that focus merely on one or the other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-131
Number of pages25
JournalBody and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • feminismgenderanthropologyhealth
  • fat
  • feminism
  • masculinity
  • men
  • obesity
  • weight


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