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BC Library Conference 2020

T19 - Beyond body positivity: How to break down information barriers for fat people and create real fat positive spaces.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 3:15 PM–4:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada)
Meeting Room #4
Session Description

Fat people face open discrimination in many areas of life, including health, employment, education, media and fashion. Fat bodies are treated differently in everyday spaces – medical offices, movie and TV characters, clothing brands and availability, dating apps, airplanes, restaurants, and the list goes on. This can have severe consequences for fat people, including a variety of mental and physical health issues. In particular, fat patients report that doctors are often misinformed, uninformed or downright bullying to larger patients and actively deny them access to treatment, tests or medications until they lose weight. Weight stigma has also been found to actually discourage people from exercise, disproving the commonly held theory that shaming people for their size will lead to a change in their behaviour.
This discrimination creates barriers for fat people both in accessing information, and in seeing themselves represented in available information. Although the information profession has been committed to open information exchange and diversity for some time, fat people have largely been left out of this conversation.
This presentation will help us to look beyond the trend of body positivity and present some of the basics of the fat liberation movement and emerging fat academic theories, including terminology and some useful resources. It will also discuss some of the systemic barriers to information experienced by fat people in our society and how the information profession has contributed to these information barriers by replicating societal fat phobia in our systems (e.g. subject headings and physical spaces). Most importantly, we will also discuss how we can start to recognize fat bias and become an ally to the fat community by creating real change in how our society views and talks about fat people, and using our voices to fight back against those who are causing harm to others.


Alix Gullen, University of Victoria Libraries

Alix Gullen is currently a Metadata Assistant at the University of Victoria. She has been a library technician in academic libraries for 5 years and recently graduated from the MLIS program at the University of Alberta School of Library and Information Science.