Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 9–10, pp 575–592 | Cite as

Is Fat a Feminist Issue? Exploring the Gendered Nature of Weight Bias

  • Janna L. FikkanEmail author
  • Esther D. Rothblum
Feminist Forum


Although research and scholarship on weight-based stigma have increased substantially in recent years, the disproportionate degree of bias experienced by fat women has received considerably less attention. This paper reviews the literature on the weight-based stigma experienced by women in North America in multiple domains, including employment, education settings, romantic relationships, health care and mental health treatment, and portrayals in the media. We also explore the research examining the intersection of gender and ethnicity related to weight stigma. Across numerous settings, fat women fare worse than thinner women and worse than men, whether the men are fat or thin. Women experience multiple deleterious outcomes as a result of weight bias that have a significant impact on health, quality of life, and socioeconomic outcomes. Because of this gender disparity, we argue that feminist scholars need to devote as much attention to the lived experiences of fat women as they have to the “fear of fat” experienced by thin women.


Fat women Feminism and weight Weight-based stigma Weight bias Women and weight 



The authors would like to thank Kris Willcox for her editorial assistance with an earlier draft of this manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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