Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia
Author: Sabrina Strings
Publisher: New York University Press
Release Date: May 07, 2019
n her first book, sociologist Strings (sociology, Univ. of California, Irvine) explores the historical development of prothin, antifat ideologies deployed in support of Western, patriarchal white supremacy. Beginning in the aesthetic ideals circulated by Renaissance thinkers and artists and bringing her narrative up into the 1990s, Strings charts how white Europeans and Anglo-Americans developed ideals of race and beauty that both explicitly and figuratively juxtaposed slim, desirable white women against corpulent, seemingly monstrous black women.
The work is divided into three sections. The two chapters in the first part consider how Renaissance white women and women of color were depicted as plump and feminine, separated by class, yet belonging to the same gender. The second part of the work charts the rise of modern racial ideologies that yoked feminine beauty to Protestant, Anglo-Saxon whiteness. Later chapters and the epilogue consider how Americans normalized the "scientific management" of white women's bodies for the purpose of racial uplift, a project that continued to situate black women as the embodied Other.
The author does not address fat from the angle of health or previous attitudes white Europeans held towards corpulence.