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Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhoodby Anna Rutherford Kirkland
Synopses & Reviews
America is a weight-obsessed nation. Over the last decade, there's been an explosion of concern in the U.S. about people getting fatter. Plaintiffs are now filing lawsuits arguing that discrimination against fat people should be illegal. Fat Rights asks the first provocative questions that need to be raised about adding weight to lists of currently protected traits like race, gender, and disability. Is body fat an indicator of a character flaw or of incompetence on the job? Does it pose risks or costs to employers they should be allowed to evade? Or is it simply a stigmatized difference that does not bear on the ability to perform most jobs? Could we imagine fatness as part of workplace diversity? Considering fat discrimination prompts us to rethink these basic questions that lawyers, judges, and ordinary citizens ask before a new trait begins to look suitable for antidiscrimination coverage.
Fat Rights draws on little-known legal cases brought by fat citizens as well as significant lawsuits over other forms of bodily difference (such as transgenderism), asking why the boundaries of our antidiscrimination laws rest where they do. Fatness, argues Kirkland, is both similar to and provocatively different from other protected traits, raising long-standing dilemmas in antidiscrimination law into stark relief. Though options for defending difference may be scarce, Kirkland evaluates the available strategies and proposes new ways of navigating this new legal question.
Fat Rights enters the fray of the obesity debate from a new perspective: our inherited civil rights tradition. The scope is broad, covering much more than just weight discrimination and drawing the reader into the larger context of antidiscrimination protections and how they can be justified for a new group.
A caged animal in the heart of the city, thousands of miles from its natural habitat, neurotically pacing in its confinement . . .
Zoos offer a convenient way to indulge a cultural appetite for novelty and diversion, and to teach us, albeit superficially, about animals. Yet what, conversely, do they tell us about the people who create, maintain, and patronize them, and about animal captivity in general?
Rather than foster an appreciation for the lives and attributes of animals, zoos, in Randy Malamud's view, reinforce the idea that we are, by nature, an imperial species: that our power and ingenuity entitles us to violate the natural order by tearing animals from the fabric of their ecosystems and displaying them in an "order" of our own making. In so doing, he argues, zoos not only contribute to the rapid disintegration of our ecosystems, but also deaden our very sensibilities to constraint, spatial disruption, and physical pain.
Invoking an array of literary depictions of animals, from Albee's Zoo Story and Virginia Woolf's diaries to the films of Harold Pinter and the poetry of Marianne Moore, Reading Zoos links culture, literature, and nature in an engaging and accessible introduction to environmental ethics, animal rights, cultural critique, and literary representation.
About the Author
Anna Kirkland is Associate Professor of Womens Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood(NYU Press).
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