I was very excited to read Virgie Tovar’s You Have the Right to Remain Fat, so when it came up on Edelweiss, I was all over it.
Virgie Tovar is one of the leading authors, lecturers, and activists on fat discrimination and body image in the United States. In addition to founding BabeCamp, a month-long online camp for women “ready to break up with diet culture,” Tovar also contributes to serials such as Ravishly, BuzzFeed, and more. Her latest book, You Have the Right to Remain Fat, is the first of hers I have read.
Overall, I really enjoyed this slim volume and read it in one afternoon. One of the strengths of this book is its accessibility. Tovar is very good at explaining some basic concepts for those who may be new to them, such as bootstrapping and gaslighting, and then builds information on these concepts as the book goes on.
And indeed, the book gets stronger and more impassioned as it goes on. Tovar intersperses information about fat discrimination and body image with her own personal experiences which really helps to illustrate the concepts.
Throughout the book, Tovar discusses topics such as body shame, fatphobia, and diet culture, which are the main culprits behind the lies we tell ourselves that as women, and especially as fat women, our bodies are somehow wrong.
But Tovar goes a step further and explains how these issues are actually,
merely symptoms of a larger cultural problem, not least our country’s history of unresolved racism, white supremacy, classism, and misogyny.
In no uncertain terms, Tovar argues that unrealistic existing beauty standards are built on this foundation and have been undermining women’s self-trust and control over their own lives.
Well, Tovar isn’t gonna take it anymore and neither should you. What really resonated with me was Tovar’s frustration with putting her life on hold because of her fatness, always feeling like she will really live only once she loses weight. She will wear a bikini when she loses weight or she will travel when she loses weight or will have more sex when she loses weight. This internalized inferiority is something most women experience so much, we don’t even realize it.
Rather than recognizing the multiplicity of feminine expression and feminine power (regardless of sex assignment at birth, ability, size, the presence or absence of modesty or money), women in pursuit of thinness become complicit in their own dehumanization and therefore become agents of misogyny.
At a certain point, Virgie Tovar decided to stop dieting and abiding by society’s arbitrarily constructed standards and just start living. Not later. NOW.
Something else I appreciated about this book was Tovar’s attention to the difference between the fat activist and body positivity movements. For instance, Tovar argues that fat activism has proud queer and political roots and is fighting to tear down the oppressive system of dangerous body ideals, while body positivity adherents wish to assimilate into this system, despite its racist, patriarchal, fatphobic undertones. While only an introduction, this section is just enough to inspire readers to examine these movements further.
Fatphobia affects us all and Virgie Tovar’s You Have the Right to Remain Fat is an accessible place for anyone to start learning how to fight against it. A determined call to action, this is a quick read that packs a punch. Pick it up if you are a womxn or love a womxn. Full stop.
Title: You Have the Right to Remain Fat
Author: Virgie Tovar
Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY
Pages: 128 pages
Publication Date: August 14, 2018
Tags: Fat activism, feminism, Latinx, women writers
My Rating: Recommended
For further information:
Body Love: Fat Activist Virgie Tovar on How to Feel Better About Your Body TODAY by Katie Morell for Rebellious
Overcoming Bikini Trauma: How one fat girl fell in love with the feeling of freedom on her skin (2018) by Virgie Tovar for Shondaland
These Instagrams by fat activists are changing how we think about dieting (2016) by Leanna Garfield for Business Insider
This Woman Wrote a Short but Sweet Love Note to Her Stomach (2017) by Jami Ganz
Why this Instagram influencer calls fat a feminist issue (2018) by Beth Greenfield for Yahoo!
Watch Virgie Tovar’s TEDx talk:
This post contains affiliate links. All reviews are honest and my own. Thanks to Virgie Tovar, Delphinium, and Edelweiss for a complimentary ARC! The quotes in this post refer to the uncorrected proof and may or may not reflect the final version of the book.