NAAFA was started in 1969 by a fat admirer, Bill Fabrey.
Before the internet age, NAAFA served as both a fat advocacy organization and an important way for fat people to socialize and date — often the only fat-safe space they had.
This desire is also where BBW bashes came from. Fat people, thin people AND people who fetishized fat people (fat admirers) attended both bashes and NAAFA events.
Long before “BBW” became a porn category, women identified as “big beautiful women” as a way to take pride in their bodies.
With the advent of internet dating, fat people both had more dating/social options and were less likely to put up with being objectified and harassed.
(Though of course mileage varies. There are fat folks who still identify with the term BBW, often in a sexual context, and enjoy the attention of fat admirers. Fat people are not a monolith.)
Now that NAAFA is needed less as a means of socializing and dating, the organization is grappling with both its history and its future.
The organization’s history as a haven for fat admirers and fat fetishists makes many younger activists wary (and has been the source of internal controversy and splits in decades past).
Can NAAFA adapt to a rapidly-changing activist landscape?
» The term “fat admirer” refers specifically to people — often, but not always, thin white cis men — who fetishize and objectify fat people. (It does not refer generally to anyone with a fat lover or partner.)
» I’ve gathered this history over a number of years, directly from people who were there. Fat elders are/were not a monolith and some people may remember things differently; I’m simply passing on fat activist history as it was passed to me.
» I’m a NAAFA member but I don’t speak for the organization and have no insight into board rationale or discussions related to the fat-admirers-as-allies webinar that was announced as part of Ally Week. (See the NAAFA account for more information.)
» If you want to read an actual fat person’s advice to fat admirers, head here.
Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources on body liberation, weight stigma, body image and more. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.