Author Wann Talks about Fostering Acceptance of All Body Types

Author Marilynn Wann delivered an address in the Soda Center on Jan. 21 as part of the Jan Term Speaker Series.More than 50 Saint Mary's students and staff gathered in the Soda Center on Jan. 21 to talk about a difficult-to-discuss diversity topic that often remains unspoken.

The group attended a lecture by Marilyn Wann, a fat acceptance activist and author of FAT!SO?, who spoke about weight diversity and how each person should be confident with the body he or she has.

"The word 'fat' was so scary to me that I didn't even say it for the first quarter-century of my life," said Wann, who has helped others move beyond judgments placed by society on "overweight" people.

Wann's talk incorporated Saint Mary's Jan Term "Against the Grain" theme by challenging social norms around weight. She expressed the need for different word choices and attitudes around body size within both the medical community and broader society.

"I don't think that people should be included or excluded for what we weigh from anything in life," she said.

As part of a "speed exercise in anthropology," Wann had members of the audience shout out words they associate with "fat" and "thin." The results revealed stereotypes, insecurities and negativity attached to weight. Wann said she believes individuals should exercise to be healthy and not to fit society's "right" weight and size.

Citing poet Audre Lorde's quote of "Your silence does not protect you," Wann said she is motivated to speak publicly about body image issues and help people find acceptance.

"Coming out as a fat person is actually quite a relief, or I would suggest, coming out as your own embodiment is a relief," Wann said.

Audience member Victoria Ortiz '12 heard about Wann's lecture in her "Changing Female Identities" Jan Term course taught by Professor Penny Washbourn.

"I really enjoyed the lecture and was inspired by loving your body the way it is," Ortiz said. "It made me want to stand up to people who put you down because in the end, all that matters is how you feel about yourself."

--Waioli Shannon ‘09

Office of College Communications

Photo by Gorbachev Lingad ‘10