Hello, second wave feminist separatist violent uprising!
Plum weights 300 pounds and keeps to herself, existing between her Brooklyn apartment and the cafe where she does her job--responding to letters-to-the-editor from a teen magazine. Plum is saving her money for gastric bypass surgery, so she can lead a mythically normal life. Then she discovers someone spying on her, who turns out to affiliated with someone who is loosely affiliated with a feminist collective.*
There's an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland theme throughout, with a Carroll epigraph and chapters called Rabbit Hole, Drink Me, Underground, and Eat Me, but I didn't consciously notice it until just now. I guess Plum follows a rabbit, has some adventures, and finds herself. I don't remember what happens at the end of Alice. Does she wake up with Dinah? Does she stay in Wonderland?
Anyway, back to the plot of Dietland, the rabbit leads Plum to a fellow employee of the magazine empire for which Plum ghost writes the editor's letters to teens. The employee has ghostwritten a letter, asking, "Who is more oppressed--a woman covered from head to toe in a burka or one of the bikini-clad models in your magazine?"
Yes, it's like that, positing that both are oppressed. Walker did her Ph.D. on second wave feminist history and fiction (among other things), and it shows in her work--for better and for worse. There is an anti-porn stance, even toward a willing and self-empowered porn star, and though there are some incidental characters of color, there isn't much thought given to the impacts of race and class on feminism and society.
Walker has a lot of fun, though, imagining female vengeance. Media powers are forced to swap images of breasts to images of penises, and female models with cut men, causing regular guys to feel uncomfortable in public spaces, where they get to experience comparing themselves to impossible ideals on a regular basis and living in a world where the default viewer "was no longer male." There's a kind of brilliant/disgusting quote from the head of Plum's media empire, when he is threatened, "I'm used to crazy, bitter women making threats. They complain incessantly that my fashion magazines exploit women, then on the other hand they complain that the alleged exploitation isn't spread equally among the fat ones and the ethnic ones." I hadn't thought about how asking fashion magazines to stop pretending dark skinned women don't exist might be akin to fighting for gays in the military.
When video game companies are forced to stop portraying and rewarding violence against women, one of Plum's new pals at the "collective" laments, "Aww, what are all the kiddies gonna play now? ... Half the fun of childhood is learning how to splatter a prostitute's brains with a baseball bat."
Despite my criticism, I found this to be an enjoyable read and look forward to hearing what others think about it.
*The book refers to it that way, but with the whole thing bankrolled by one person, I wouldn't call it a collective. The rich lady refers to herself as a collector of women, so maybe collective means something more like collection?