(Un/Be)coming out? Rethinking fat Politics

Samantha Murray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

101 Citations (Scopus)


Eve Sedgwick suggests that it is possible to "speak" your fatness, to "come out" as fat and renegotiate the "representational contract between one's body and one's world."(1994: 230). Sedgwick's words have resonated particularly loudly with the Fat Acceptance movement, which has been embraced with feverish glee by fat women in the United States and the United Kingdom. I was immediately attracted to the politics of this new fat pride movement, who seemed to take up this idea of intervening in the 'contract' one's fatness had with the world, insisting on being seen in new ways. So, I go out into the world armed with the Fat Manifesto (Waun: 1998), wearing a sleeveless top, my dimpled arms on display. I feel strong, powerful, swollen with my fat identity, snarling at others who cast withering glances at my bulky frame. And then, I pass a shop window. I shudder as I catch a reflection of myself, my body appearing to me as grotesque and foreign, a bulging, jiggling vehicle of disgust and shame I want nothing to do with. I experience myself/my body in ways that shift and vary and contradict each other. Nikki Sullivan points out the problems with the act of 'coming out' as part of a project to overturn public 'knowingness' about homosexuality. "The call to come out presupposes that such an action is in itself transformative and that the identity that one publicly declares is unambig uous." (Sulilvan: 31) In this paper, I take up Sullivan's point about the problematic act of 'coming out' as a fat woman. I critique the problematic model of subjectivity the Fat Acceptance Movement is founded on, given the ways in which I live my fat body are always multiple, contradictory and eminently ambiguous. This paper looks at the rise of the Fat Pride movement in the United States, and the model of subjectivity it proposes as a means of overcoming oppression of the fat woman. I critique the humanist principles on which this model of subjectivity is founded, and, moreover, the difficulties with liberationist politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-163
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • Embodiment
  • Fatness
  • Identity
  • Pride politics

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