Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Ann Miles, PhD.

Second Advisor

Angela Moe, PhD.

Third Advisor

Cathryn Bailey, PhD.


Fat stigma, fat studies, health care, medical sociology, stigma

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Despite making up a large portion of the United States population, fat people are stigmatized, discriminated against, and treated as deviant. Though there is a large body of interdisciplinary literature on obesity and health, and a large body of sociological literature on stigma, there is little literature on fat stigma. Thus, using a Goffman’s stigma theory with the added contribution of Foucault’s concept the medical gaze and medical anthropological concept delegitimization, this qualitative thesis explores the health care experiences of 13 White and 2 Black fat women in the U.S. First, context for fatness and health is explored within chapter four. Here, language, meaning, and social understanding of fatness is explored. Next, the health care process is explored. This begins with a description of the preparation involved in “gearing up” for appointments. Then, there is an exploration of both the negative and positive of these visits. Finally, the analysis concludes with what comes after an appointment ends for these fat women. Particular attention is paid to both how stigmatization is enacted against fat women via the hands of health care authorities, and the ways in which fat women respond to and cope with this stigmatization.