Dear Culture

Belly Of The Beast: Da’Shaun L. Harrison

Episode 97

Belly Of The Beast: Da’Shaun L. Harrison 

Read the full transcript here

This week on the Dear Culture podcast our hosts, theGrio‘s Social Media Director Shana Pinnock and theGrio Managing Editor of Politics Gerren Keith Gaynor, go into the “Belly of the Beast” with abolitionist, community organizer and writer Da’Shaun L. Harrison to unpack anti-fatness as anti-Blackness. 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a cultural shift in the way we think and talk about weight and our bodies. Even though the “body positivity” movement has taken off, especially on social media, but it is currently still legal to fire someone because of their weight in 49 states.

Gaynor says he vividly remembers the harmful lessons media taught him about fat people and the ways in which it was acceptable to ridicule and discriminate against larger body types.

Da’Shaun L. Harrison (Credit: Instagram/@dashaunlh)

It was seen as this othering of people in a way that shames them for simply existing. Obviously, you know, as an adult, I’m able to look back and recognize how harmful those messages were,” Gaynor says. “I’m glad we’re kind of reassessing what’s the appropriate way to investigate the ways in which we belittle people and dehumanize people for how they look for their sexuality or their gender, their socioeconomic backgrounds.” 

Pinnock, who has spoken candidly in previous episodes about her journey to self-acceptance, said she’s grateful for the conversation around fatness and the scholarship by folks like Harrison, who are working to dismantle the systems that harm fat, Black bodies. 

“It’s been an unlearning of that [what I’ve been taught about fatness] for me, of being willing to accept my body in all of its forms because I’m also just kind of like—what I don’t need to happen is I get pregnant and here I am with an eating disorder because I’m terrified of fat or staying fat because of a baby,” Pinnock says. “I’m so glad to see the conversation around fatness that is changing and I think it’s absolutely necessary and I think it’s powerful.” 

Size Weight
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Harrison, who is the author of the new book Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness, says that it’s important to note that while “fat” is being reclaimed as an identifier when discussing a particular population, there is more nuance required when discussing or addressing a specific individual. Harrison also says the issue society at large has with fatness is the same issue that is has with Blackness. 

“Our society is predicated on, it’s been built around making sure that that Black folks are continually subjugated through the ways that our bodies are read,” Harrison says. “There’s no way to divorce our spaces from anti-Blackness because anti-Blackness is a global structure and so, yeah, I think that our issue with fatness is Blackness, and until we reckon with that, there is no way of destroying that concept.” 

Tune into the Dear Culture podcast to hear the entire incredible conversation, including why Harrison says we should reexamine how we use “thick” as a compliment.

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