Tricks, Treats, and Shattering Stereotypes

By Lara Frater

Every October, I take an informal survey of plus size costumes. Not that I necessarily want to pay $65 for some polyester thing, but I like to compare years. Last Halloween Ricky’s had nothing plus-sized in their stores and a whole three costumes available online. This year’s selection was improved, with 40 outfits online and some in the stores, which puts us at about the same selection as dogs. I guess that’s better. If I were a size medium, I would have had about a thousand costumes to choose from.

Which brings me to The Fat Studies Reader, a scholarly work edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay just published by NYU Press that addresses various topics such as the so-called obesity epidemic, size discrimination, fat history, media images, social issues and much more. It’s a big deal because of the relative lack of scholarly credence these issues receive in the media.

The lack of costumes is merely the lighter side of the scary discrimination that fat people face every day. We are considered lesser human beings not worthy of even a silly costume, or perhaps society has decided to put us in their own stereotypical ones. We are all Headless Fatties. Look at any news articles about obesity and you see only an anonymous belly, devoid of any identity. Or perhaps we’ve become the big fat boogeyman. We are bombarded with the message that obesity kills, especially children (although a recent article indicates that this generation’s children might live to be 100). I’ve seen fat blamed for everything: cancer, plane crashes, global warming, skyrocketing health cost (despite a 2007 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation that showed people over 64 had the highest health care costs). However most of us have been viewed as Homer Simpson, the stereotypical American: a fat, drunk, lazy, stupid buffoon who swills down everything, sits on the couch all day, and refuses to exercise.

The truth is we aren’t these costumes. We aren’t stereotypes or anonymous bellies. The Fat Studies Reader, this big fat book is meant to help shatter stereotypes about health, diets, and media portrayals of fat people. Fat people are not limited to the costumes society gives them. This anthology of talented writers includes such costumes as university professors, librarians, lawyers, burlesque dancers, fat rebels, and sociologists, all of whom come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Indeed not only are stereotypes shattered in these essays but the diversity of authors shows that fat goes way beyond being the killer, the bureaucrat, the headless fattie, and Homer Simpson.

You can get The Fat Studies Reader, online and in bookstores. If your bookstore doesn’t have it, ask them to order it.

For those in the New York metro area you can celebrate this excellent work along with some of the authors on Friday, December 4 (around 8pm) at the excellent vintage clothing store Re/Dress ( in Brooklyn, NY.

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