Humans 101

What You Call Internalized Fatphobia Might Be Internalized Dominance

What many thin people refer to as ‘internalized fatphobia’ is a different side of the same coin

Your Fat Friend
Human Parts
Published in
10 min readSep 17, 2020

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A marble statue of a thin woman looking off to the side, angrily and mistrustfully. The statue stands in front of lush ferns.
Photo: Adam Wilson/Unsplash

I know that you have learned to hate your body.

I know the messages, the images, the comments, both cruel and well-intended. I know the sinking feeling of seeing your changing body in the mirror, the sharp pain as your clothes dig into newly soft flesh.

I know it hurts, and the pain can sometimes feel immeasurable. I know it is tempting to validate that pain by asserting that you are the intended target of an oppressive system. I also know that, if you have never been a fat person, the name for that pain is not “internalized fatphobia.”

Internalized oppression is a longstanding concept in social sciences and social justice work: one that has been discussed for decades and one that transcends movements. Internalized oppression and its twin concept, internalized subordination, refer to the ways in which a group targeted by oppression begins to internalize the messages of their oppressors and begins to do the work of oppression for them.

Internalized oppression isn’t a simple matter of low self-esteem or lacking confidence. It’s a product of systemic oppression. In the Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy, Laura Padilla maps out how internalized oppression takes root:

Dominant players start the chain of oppression through racist and discriminatory behavior. … Those at the receiving end of prejudice can experience physical and psychological harm, and over time, they internalize and act on negative perceptions about themselves and other members of their own group.

That is, internalized oppression isn’t just oppressive concepts that anyone can come to believe; it is a direct result of being the sustained target of discrimination and prejudice. Author and organizer Suzanne Pharr expanded on the complexities of internalized oppression in In the Time of the Right:

Internalized oppression is more than low self-esteem, which implies an individualized mental health issue calling for an individualized therapeutic solution. … The damaging effect…

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Your Fat Friend
Human Parts

Your Fat Friend writes about the social realities of living as a very fat person. www.yourfatfriend.com