A professor at a research institute for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte claims she has has found a form of invidious discrimination against fat students in college.
Heather Brown, head of the Women and Girls Research Alliance at UNCC, says that after speaking with 13 overweight students, she found that the size of desks is the newest form of discrimination against overweight students. She published the article in the “Fat Studies” journal, under the title “There’s always stomach on the table and I gotta write! Physical space and learning in fat college women.”
Accordion to Campus Reform, the classrooms’ design, including the size of desks, discriminates against fat students by making them feel “unwanted” and by perpetuating “thin privilege and fat hatred.”
Kari, one student that Brown interviewed, lamented that she felt “self-conscious” in classes because of the size of the desks, saying, “I can’t help thinking about it, and then it would turn into, like, ‘Maybe if I lose ten pounds then I wouldn’t look so fat in this desk…’”
Later, Kari told Brown that she was too distracted in her classes to focus.
“Sometimes, it’s just, like, ‘Do I look okay in this shirt? What if someone’s looking at me weird? What if I don’t look good in this shirt? What if this shirt makes my arms look fat?’” Kari told Brown.
The fact that many fat students feel “fat stigma” on their campus may explain why they tend to get worse grades, Brown suggests, arguing that it “is not body weight but rather weight stigma that is a key barrier in learning.”
And how does this need to be fought? By encouraging healthier lifestyles? Providing higher quality food at college cafeterias? Offering gym membership discounts?
Nope. Rather, colleges “must make attempts to alleviate the damage a hostile physical environment causes to fat women learners,” and they must do so by offering “differently sized chairs and tables.”
But! There can’t be a fat chair for fear of further stigmatizing those who are overweight!
Wait… Which is it? Do we make bigger chairs for people who are overweight, or don’t we? I’m so confused…
She concludes her paper by saying, “Universities and colleges can mitigate the negative effects of the physical learning environment. Do they have the courage to listen?”
But what exactly they need to do, without further “stigmatizing” fat students, remains unclear. If colleges make bigger desks, would that not possibly single out fat students, saying that “this is where you must sit”?
How about we make all desks really big, able to accommodate anyone of any size? You know, equality mandates that everyone be treated the same no matter what, just to make sure that no one is singled out and suffers.
Except then the really small students cannot sit properly in their desks and cannot do their work. Will it then be “tall privilege?”
Then we would have to make all desks small, so that shorter students are not singled out… Need I go further?
Rather than providing constructive contributions to the issue of obesity in America, this professor appears to advocate accommodating overweight students rather than addressing the real problem: the great health risks that come with obesity.
Maybe she could even take a hint from Michelle Obama, who tried to get healthier lunches in schools. Obviously, we know that the initiative was an epic failure, but the idea of getting people healthier is nothing to discount; the point is that individuals acting freely is a better solution than government programs that only serve the interests of the political class.
If we really want to care for overweight students, obviously we will accept them for who they are, but we will also encourage lifestyles that will help keep them healthy so that they can live with us for many years to come. That’s a better idea than just working around it, as if obesity is some sort of immutable characteristic.
But such is the 21st century. Welcome to the Brave New World.