Researcher ORCID Identifier
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
© 2021 Rose D Gelfand
When we recount the histories of social movements, there is a tendency to imagine either a steady, linear march towards progress or a slow descent from radical ideas into complacency. The feminist movement gets painted in waves, progressing from white to intersectional, while in the LGBTQ+ rights movement the contrast of the Stonewall Riots & ACT UP with late 2010s focus on gay marriage and the corporatization of Pride is understood as a watering down and betrayal of the movement’s origins. Cultural memory is a constant process of construction and revision, and of course the truth of movements’ trajectories are far more complicated and three-dimensional. Thus, it is vital for activists and academics to constantly excavate our political histories, documenting the more nuanced and messy reality. There are very few academic works studying the history of the fat liberation movement. In the only existing book on fat activist history, Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement, Charlotte Cooper stresses that there is evidence of many feminist fat liberation organizations across the world throughout the late 20th century that have gone completely undocumented. She explains that “no one knows how many fat liberation struggles took place in the last decade. We have lacked a way to communicate with each other. Under the triple stresses of fat oppression, isolation, and the disinterest or even hostility with which our pleas for support were often met, fat activists have all too often taken the frustrations out on each other and destroyed our own organizations before they could take root” (Cooper 23). Therefore, retroactive documentation of fat activist history is a vital intervention. This work seeks to document queer fat activism in the 1990s, specifically the workings of the FaT GiRL Collective. In 1994, a collective of queer fat activists in the Bay Area started publishing a zine called FaT GiRL. FaT GiRL was an explicitly queer, anti-racist, class conscious, and sexually explicit publication which proudly proclaimed itself as a political act. FaT GiRL was “for fat dykes and the women who want them,” and explored a wide variety of experiences of fatness and queerness. While FaT Girl has been severely underdocumented and often excluded from the historical narratives of queer and fat activism, it greatly impacted the trajectory of the fat liberation movement, and thus American body discourse at large. Thus, through interviews with six members of the FaT GiRL Collective this thesis will ask: What did queer fat activist spaces, especially the FaT GiRL collective, look like in the mid 1990s? What wider cultural phenomena did FaT GiRL reflect and what culture did it create? How did the FaT GiRL collective witness the impact of their work at the time, and how do they perceive their legacy given the current state of size politics? Through a research justice framework, this thesis 1.) co-constructs a queer oral history of the FaT GiRL project 2.) synthesizes how FaT GiRL was a product of its geopolitical context while creating new possibility models for queer fat existence 3.) analyzes how the zine transformed the body politic of its readership and rippled outward, impacting size discourse at large.
Gelfand, Rose, "Building the FaT GiRL Table: Excavating Cultural Memory of Queer Fat Activism in the ‘90s" (2021). Scripps Senior Theses. 1614.
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