Friday, July 6, 2007

Marilyn Wann

Marilyn Wann is more than a feminism activist. Her “work builds upon the legacy of civil rights movements challenging racism, sexism and homophobia (Living).” Her main objective is to abolish the discrimination against fat people. She wishes to teach the world that being fat is not a bad thing; it is something to be embraced and most certainly not discriminated against. Some people think the word “fat” is rude and inappropriate, but Marilyn Wann does not see it this way. She refers to herself as fat and well as anyone else that society sees as “obese” or “overweight”. She wishes that fat people would reclaim the word “fat” like homosexuals have reclaimed the word “queer”. She wishes that fat people would not be embarrassed to call themselves fat because in her opinion there is nothing to be ashamed of. No matter what a person’s size, he or she is still a human being and should be treated as such.

Marilyn Wann’s fat activism stems from her upbringing. Marilyn grew up in the seventies and her mother, who was also fat, dressed her in outfits made from colorful sheets. (There is no particular date of birth mentioned, just that she grew up in the 1970s and she is still living today.) Marilyn was made fun of in school and was one of the only fat people in the class. She was constantly teased and called names like “Fatso”. Although she was teased all through school, she continued on to college at Stanford University, where she was once again one of the only fat people, but it was being the sole fat person that affected Marilyn. Wann’s activism began five years after her college graduation of 1989. Her boyfriend told her he was too embarrassed to introduce her to his friends because she was fat and the Blue Cross of California refused to give her health insurance due to her “obesity”. After these incidents Marilyn Wann decided it was time to do something about discrimination against fat people.

Marilyn’s activism has opened a lot of doors and changed a lot of people’s lives. She is 5’4” and 270 pounds proudly. She frequently wears midriff-bearing tops in order to prove that weight should not determine what someone can wear. Marilyn is the leader of the Bod Squad, which is a group of fat people dressed as cheerleaders that go to events to promote the idea of fat beauty. She has appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno as a member of the Paddles Lillies, a group of fat female synchronized swimmers (she is no longer a member of this group). She has also helped to pass an “antidiscrimination ordinance regarding height and weight in San Francisco (Living).” Wann has created a web site, magazine, and book which are all titled “Fat!So?” which plays off of the tormenting word of her childhood “fatso.” Her book, magazine, website, and public speaking all encourage people of all ages to stand up and be proud of their fat-ness. Marilyn works out and eats healthy which proves that not all fat people are fat by choice, heredity also plays a role, but either way Marilyn believes that fat should not be associated with laziness or any other negative label. She is opening the door for all fat people to embrace who they are, shoot for the stars, and achieve their dreams regardless of their size. She encourages fat people to fight the discrimination that these face in all aspects of life, including in the workforce, fashion industry, etc. Marilyn’s list of accomplishments and activism is still continuing today.

Before doing this min-research on Marilyn Wann I had never even heard her name before. I had never heard of her points of view on being fat and I had never heard of her book. I’ve never seen an appearance of her on television or read an interview with her in a magazine. Before today I was totally in the dark about Marilyn Wann, but not anymore. I am glad I now know about the life and accomplishments of Marilyn Wann because she has a lot of important things to say. She has taught me that it doesn’t matter if someone is fat; he or she is still a human and deserves to be treated as one. Of course I always knew this, but Marilyn helped me to understand just exactly why it is important. Being fat is not always a choice as so many people think it is. Sometimes a person’s genetic make-up will determine whether or not he or she will be bigger than a size 2. Some people are taking medications or have disorders that result in weight gain. She has taught me that being fat does not equal being unhealthy. Marilyn is fat, but she works out five times a week and eats healthy vegetarian meals everyday. This fact right there just proves to me that sometimes being fat is just genetic and should not be blamed on the individual. Even if being fat is a person’s choice that doesn’t mean he or she should be treated differently. It’s just fat, extra meat on a person’s bones, how does that determine a person’s worth? Thanks to Marilyn Wann I better understand the discrimination that fat people have to deal with daily and I will remember to always keep an open mind and heart to these people because on the inside they are no different than anyone else.

To learn more about Marilyn Wann check out these resources:
1. "Absolutely Fabulous. Marilyn Wann's Fight for Fat Pride." MetroActive. (
2. Fat?SO! (
3. "Living Large. Marilyn Wann is Fat. Got a Problem with That?" Stanford Magazine. Stanford University. (
4. "Marilyn Wann." Wikipedia. (
5. National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. (
6. Wann, Marilyn. FAT!SO? : Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size. Ten Speed Press, 1999. 1-196.

By: Katie Hartigan

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