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People Who Inspire Us: Oriel Klatt and fat*ness as political positioning

"It's not about individual feelings, but about a structural power dynamic. I don't care how you feel - if you're normatively slim, that's a privilege that I want to name. It's not about people starting to look for their little fat pads and quoting what their aunt said three years ago. Anyone affected by fat*phobia notices it every day."

Oriel Klatt is committed to a form of discrimination that is very rarely talked about: Discrimination against fat* people. For all those who are new to the topic and are wondering about the asterisk: The word “fat” is often used as an insult, although it’s actually just a description of a person's physical condition. Fat is the opposite of thin and merely describes a shape - without judgment. Oriel uses the spelling with an asterisk to make this argument visible and to show that it is a political self-positioning. 

In our conversation, Oriel explains why dealing with this topic is important. And: why people who are normatively slim need to start dealing with this privilege.

Hey Oriel. Who are you and what are you all about?

Hey! I feel like there are so many things, I find it hard to pick one. I'll start with activism.


So... I'm Oriel. I was politically socialized in an anti-fascist group in a small Bavarian town. And then I quickly started to get involved with feminism, but realized that it was really difficult in that context because sexism wasn't questioned in my group. I moved to Berlin in 2010 and it was only here that I found other structures where more was done.

The left-wing scene has a problem with misogyny in many places. Toxically masculine behaviour is sometimes so normalized that it is even difficult to address. What structures did you find in Berlin?

I was taken by the hand by autonomous FLINTAs in Berlin. This is where I began to engage with the binary gender system and the question of what it means for me. And I came across the term femme and it moved me. I immediately felt at home with it and it answered the question of how I combine my queerness, my femininity and my political aspirations.

Cool, the term also has an important meaning for me personally. For those who don't know what it means: femme is a (self-)descriptor used by people who express their queer gender identity in a more feminine way. 

It is very important to me to reclaim feminine-associated clothing, behavior, beauty practices, etc. from the swamp of sexism and give them a positive connotation. What is unfortunately still often the case in left-wing groups, for example, is that things that have more masculine connotations are seen as the norm and femininity as a deviation. For me, it's absurd that social misogyny is reflected in this way in left-wing spaces, sometimes even in queerfeminist spaces. 

I feel the same way. I am often frustrated that this aspect of sexism - the contempt for everything and everyone that is feminine - is not questioned. In many places, it is considered a contradiction to have characteristics that are marked as feminine and to be queer-feminist at the same time. That annoys the hell out of me.

Yes, I keep feeling that I also have to deal with microaggressions in the queer community and that there are simply so many narratives that are hostile to femininity. It particularly annoys me that feminine performances are still not very visible, are considered less political and heteronormative and are rarely addressed as cool and desirable. The queer community definitely has some catching up to do when it comes to dealing with (internalized) hostility towards femininity. 

But I actually wanted to tell you about the birth of my fat* activism. I started working on body norms and offering workshops around 2010. The topic was lookism - which is a term for discrimination based on appearance. But I quickly realized that there were too many perspectives in the room and that my approach was too broad. Then I thought about what I was really about and that was Fat Liberation.


Because it's just so bad how society treats fat* people. It's a discrimination that very few people talk about and at the same time there is so much suffering. I know it myself as I am also fat* and have experienced weight discrimination my whole life. I would definitely say that it is the power dynamic that has affected my life the most and made me the person I am today. 

It is the form of discrimination in which there is hardly any anti-discrimination knowledge, quite the opposite. The absolutely common opinion is that being fat is a bad thing because it is unhealthy and unattractive and must be fought against. This means that fat* people are told their whole lives that they have to fight against their own bodies, are not desirable and are generally wrong. And what's more, it's their own fault, because the assumption is that everyone is actually slim until they do something wrong, i.e. eat too much and don't exercise. This guilt narrative then serves to legitimize discrimination. 

I think everyone is familiar with this social narrative, it's totally normalized. Do you have an example of how this works? 

Fat* people have to pay a lot of money for clothes in the right sizes, often have no access to cultural events such as cinema, theater, etc. because of the seat sizes, are affected by barriers when traveling and often have to pay twice as much as normatively slim people, statistically get worse jobs and often have very poor health care. In addition, there is all the interpersonal devaluation and psychological violence that usually starts in the family, then continues in the circle of friends and dating and then manifests itself in public spaces through insults and sometimes physical violence. 

Its real bad!

Yes, that sounds bad! And what does your fat* activism look like?

I think I would describe it as community building. I think that's essential for us as fat* people to politicize, empower and start making political demands. I've given fat* empowerment workshops, I do political performances and networking. I was also once part of the fat_positive_riot_collective FAT UP! which was founded out of one of my workshops and with which we gave lectures and workshops on fat*phobia. 

At the moment I'm doing networking work through a fat and queer telegram group I founded, organizing a monthly fat* round table, writing an essay for an anthology I'm publishing and also trying to work with schools on the intersection of weight discrimination in my paid work at ABqueer e.V..

That's quite a lot of projects and activities at the same time. And that makes sense, because the topic is omnipresent, but it's often not talked about that much, is it?

Everywhere I go, I try to bring the topic into the discussion. As I work in anti-discrimination education, I see it as my duty to at least make weight visible as a power dynamic. Weight is not an official category of discrimination and does not appear in anti-discrimination law. That's why there are no funds from the Berlin Senate to finance education and advice on the subject. That's a huge problem! If there is no funding, then it will take a very long time for discrimination-sensitive knowledge to spread and the work will continue to be done by those affected. 

As long as this is the case, we fat* activists have no choice but to pass on our knowledge and create awareness. Our message is simple and radical at the same time: it's okay to be fat*. You don't owe it to individuals or society to change, fight yourself or explain yourself.

Sounds logical. What knowledge is being negotiated in our society that such a statement is considered radical?

Phew... you can go way back in history and look at how body and health discourses have developed. To name just a few highlights: "physical education" in Nazi Germany, body measurements as a form of colonial violence, and self-optimization discourse in neoliberalism. In Germany, too, being slim and the health associated with it are important collective values. Historically, fat*phobia is inextricably linked to the development and defence of a white, slim, able-bodied, male norm. 

But to break it down: The result is that it's completely normalized that fat* bodies are wrong and the cause lies in one's own misbehavior. That's why the statement that fat* people are just okay the way they are is a radical statement.

Ultimately, it's about a 180-degree turn on the topic. At the moment, the focus is on fat* bodies, how unhealthy and unattractive they are and what we as a society can do to not be like that. Diet tips and slimming cures on every magazine cover, jokes, dehumanization and humiliation of fat* people in films and series or even insults, advice and reprimands from family and friends. All discrimination that happens unquestioned every day. I want to change the perspective and look at what this everyday discrimination does to people both mentally and physically. Discrimination is stress, constant stress, which has an impact on the body and psyche. 

At this point, I would also like to distance myself from body positivity movements. These are usually highly commercialized and depoliticized. The claim that "all bodies should be considered beautiful" does not reflect reality, as many bodies have been constructed as beautiful for a very long time, which is part of the problem. What is needed first is anti-discrimination work for marginalized bodies, and this includes BIPoC, fat* and disabled bodies. 

The criticism of the body positivity mindset really appeals to me, and I was able to deal with it as part of my master's thesis. For those who are not familiar with the concept: Body positivity refers to a positive attitude towards one's own body. However, a body positivity approach not only implies that you should find your own body beautiful, but also always suggests that all those who don't find their own body beautiful are simply not working hard enough on their "mindset". I find that extremely problematic. How do you deal with it?

Right, it shifts the problem back into the private sphere. The individual must overcome what society has fucked up. Another requirement for marginalized bodies. Not only are we affected by discrimination every day, but now we are also expected to market ourselves confidently and preferably for companies with diversity claims. No! 

It's okay individually if it takes time, but at some point we have to go out as fat* people and act as political subjects. We have to speak up. And more and more people are finding words for the injustice being done to them. And we can't do it alone, we need allies who want to show solidarity and let go of privileges. 

Many of the potential allies, i.e. accomplices who have more privileges and could stand up for the interests of marginalized groups, have insecurities about their bodies. I think normatively slim people, especially female socialized people, often don't see themselves as slim - or conforming to the norm. They have internalized a diet culture and are ashamed of their body or reject it.

We all live in a diet culture. All people are affected by it. Even people with normatively slim privileges are afraid of no longer conforming to the ideal of a normatively slim body. And some people do a lot to ensure that they "don't slip" - especially people who are considered feminine. Some people have also experienced fat*phobia in their past and now enjoy normatively slim privilege.

But this is important - one part of the group doesn't want it or isn't it anymore and the other part of the group is exactly that: they are the fat* people who experience discrimination on a daily basis. This is not about individual feelings, but about a structural power dynamic. I don't care how you feel - if you're normatively slim, that's a privilege that I want to name. It's not about people starting to look for their little fat pads and quoting what their aunt said three years ago. Anyone affected by fat*phobia notices it every day

And sure, I don't like to look at my privileges either. But we have to find a way to talk about it. It's extremely rare for people to say that I have normatively slim privileges.

Yes, that's right. I imagine your work is super stressful. Just like my work, these are emotionally charged topics that everyone somehow has an opinion on. What do you do to deal with that?

That's a good question! In my paid work, I build bridges as an educator and tirelessly play the role of explainer. I do the work that other people can't or don't want to do in their everyday lives. That's my job and that's what I get paid for. That's okay. 

But as a private person, I can't guarantee that I won't get tired or angry. I do demand that those around me actively address the issue. I don't think I'm so much in a supplicant position anymore, but feel strong enough to speak up for myself and draw boundaries. Nevertheless, I generally feel that the topic is at a standstill; not enough is happening on the part of people with a slim body. And at the same time, it gives me hope that the people who have been working towards fat* perspectives for years are becoming more visible.

Thank you so much, Oriel. Thank you for the interview and thank you for your great work.



(1) The acronym FLINTA* stands for female, lesbian, intersex, non-binary, trans and agender people - in other words, all those who are patriarchally discriminated against because of their gender identity

In the interview, Oriel refers to ableism. The term ableism is derived from the US disability movement and disability studies. The main aim here is to highlight the normative idea of what people must be able to do or achieve, because anyone who deviates from this norm is labeled as disabled and perceived as inferior.


The interview was conducted by Rea. Oriel is not on social media, but you can take a look at the ABqueer page. If you want to find out more about the topic, Oriel recommends the following people:

Lahya Aukongo:


Mäks Roßmüller:

Luise Demirden: luise_boom bei Instagramm

Gesellschaft gegen Gewichtsdiskriminierung:

Abqueer e.V.:


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