Fat Rant. Directed by Joy Nash. Los Angeles: Joy Nash, 2008.

Reviewed by Jessica Nathanson

Joy Nash’s DVD Fat Rant contains four refreshing, honest, and empowering “rants” against fat phobia. A Fat Rant 2: Confessions of the Compulsive, Fat Rant 3: Staircase Wit and Totally Awesome. These short (one-to- eight-minute) pieces show Nash, an actor and fat activist, taking on everything from clothing stores to diets to bullies. All these films, through Nash’s characterization and narration, give us beautiful fat women who are confident, smart, and happy, and who are sexual (and sexy) beings.

The films that I find most useful in the classroom are Nash’s original A Fat Rant and Fat Rant 3: Staircase Wit. A Fat Rant explores the ways in which fat phobia infiltrates our own thinking about our bodies and lays to rest stubborn myths about fat and health. The strongest message of the film is simply this: “I’m fat. And it’s okay.” In Staircase Wit, Nash responds to rude comments about weight, whether they come from strangers on the street or from family members. Staircase Wit is really a primer for dealing with bullies, who, she tells us, “get bigger and meaner when we stay silent.” Her emphasis is on standing up, talking back, and demanding “respect and dignity.”

In my classroom, I match Nash’s films with three readings: “5 Health Care Myths” and “Healthy Living at Any Size” by Francie M. Berg, and Kate Harding’s post, “Don’t You Realize Fat is Unhealthy?” on her fat acceptance blog, Shapely Prose.1 Together, these works refute the oft-heard notion that being healthy means being thin. They challenge students to think critically about the messages they are hearing from the medical establishment as well as from the fashion industry, and they offer students new ways to think about making healthy choices in their lives. They also provide a way out of the conundrum students face as they are barraged by competing messages that simultaneously exhort them to embrace a range of body types, avoid eating disorders, and lose weight in order to be healthier.

1 Francie M. Berg, “5 Health Care Myths,” Healthy Weight Network; Francie M. Berg, “Healthy Living at Any Size,” Healthy Weight Network; and Kate Harding, “Don’t You Realize Fat is Unhealthy?” Shapely Prose.

Jessica Nathanson (nathanso@augsburg.edu) is the Director of Women’s Studies and of the Anne Pederson Women’s Resource Center, and Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, at Augsburg College. She is the co-editor of Mother Knows Best! Talking Back to the “Experts” (Toronto: Demeter Press, 2009), and of “Bisexual Pedagogy: Bringing Bisexuality into the Classroom,” Journal of Bisexuality 9, no. 1 (2009): 71-86.