In my book, Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement, I plot the beginnings of fat feminism in an event produced by the WBAI radio host Steve Post on 4 June 1967 (some sources say it was on 3 June) at Sheep Meadow, Central Park, New York City. Around 500 people turned up for the spectacle, which I describe in depth in my book.
One of the sources I used for this section was Steve Post's own autobiography, published in 1974 and long out of print. I found a digitised copy floating around online at AmericanRadioHistory.com around the time that Post died in 2014. I can't tell you how excited I was to find this document. Although there were newspaper reports about the Fat-In, up until reading Post's own account I had never seen pictures of it. But here not only was there an explanation and description of the Fat-In by its creator, but a few pictures. I'd often wondered if I'd imagined this event because it's such an oddball moment in time, and weirdly influential, but here was proof that it really happened. Maybe there are other photographs out there too.
|A photo spread from Steve Post's autobiography|
depicting his Fat Power placard, a protester
and a defaced poster of Twiggy
On 20 March 2015, a memorial service was held for Post at Symphony Space in New York. On the stage was his Fat-In placard. He hadn't continued to have a public life as a fat activist, but I guess he kept a placard from the day, it must have been important to him but I wonder if he ever knew just what it had helped spark.
By the way, I can easily draw a line from The Fat-In through the beginnings of NAAFA, The Fat Underground and beyond to things happening today. But thinking of the Fat-In as the beginning also obscures fat feminist roots in the civil rights movement. This may be one of the ways in which people of colour could have been hidden in fat activist histories. There doesn't have to be one starting point, there can be many concurrent roots. Perhaps there was an equally important event, or series of moments, that inspired fat feminists who came out of civil rights. If you know about this, if there is any evidence, please share what you have.
Levy-Navarro, E. (2010) Historicizing Fat in Anglo-American Culture, Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press.
Post, S. (1974) Playing in the FM Band: A Personal Account of Free Radio, New York: The Viking Press.
Schwartz, H. (1986) Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat, New York: The Free Press.