“Our Bodies Are More Than Our Bodies”: Expanding Social Work Understandings of Race and Fat


  • May Friedman Toronto Metropolitan University
  • Sonia Meerai Wilfrid Laurier University




fat and fat hatred, race and racism, intersectionality, arts-based methods, weight stigma


In this article, we want to explore the ways that racism and fat hatred are intrinsically connected. These connections occur in both individual experiences of body shame and empowerment, but also within bigger systemic inequalities that have historically connected hatred of size and colour, and in contemporary realities in which rhetoric of “obesity” is used to justify surveillance and policing of bigger, darker bodies. In other words, there is no justice with regard to race without a close examination of fat hatred.

     This article takes up nine such experiences that were gathered as part of a digital-storytelling project. The project allowed nine makers to create micro-documentaries: multimedia stories that range from 1 to 5 minutes in length. These stories complicate ideas around race and size, consider the ways in which we are given contradictory messages around pride and shame, family and community, health and belonging. The stories resist easy categorization, allowing for a supple, shape-shifting dialogue around race and fat to emerge, yielding more questions than answers.

     While the nine filmmakers span a range of diversities, all have a relationship to social work as students, educators, and practitioners. Their experiences suggest that a more robust engagement with the politics of fat studies and, specifically, the complications of Black, Indigenous and people of colour’s experiences of fat hatred must critically inform social work knowledge. These stories thus provoke the need for a heightened understanding of fat and race while simultaneously providing content that allows for difficult and important conversations to emerge.

Author Biographies

May Friedman, Toronto Metropolitan University

May Friedman works as a faculty member at Toronto Metropolitan University. May’s research looks at unstable identities, including bodies that do not conform to normative tropes of race, ethnicity, ability, size, beauty, and health. Most recently much of May’s research has focused on intersectional approaches to fat studies, considering the multiple and fluid experiences of both fat oppression and fat activism. Drawing on a range of arts-based methods including digital storytelling as well as analyses of treasured garments, May has explored meaning making and representation in relation to embodiment and experience.

Sonia Meerai, Wilfrid Laurier University

Sonia Meerai is a lecturer at Wilfrid Laurier University and is completing her Ph.D. in Gender, Feminist and Women Studies at York University. Her main research areas include critical feminist approaches to understanding health technology, tracking applications, and at-home health management technologies at the intersections of gender, fatphobia/weight stigma, race/racism, surveillance, and bio-capitalism.