Monday, February 14, 2011

Fat Studies and "Useless College Degrees"

 I just read a post entitled, "Academic Absurdity: Embracing Obesity With 'Fat Studies'" about useless college majors and how obese people need to get off their asses or some crap. I was going to write a well thought out response about fat acceptance and our preoccupation with manufacturing dull worker bees, but then I noticed the author, Cassy Fiano, has also written other beauties such as "8 Ways Fascist Feminists Are Ruining America’s Women" and "6 Brazen Advocates of Slut Culture on the Pseudo-Feminist Left" so I don't really see the point.

From the post (so hopefully you won't give her any page hits):
Useless college degrees are nothing new. From degrees in art history and philosophy to women’s studies and queer musicology, academia loves to come up with majors that will be absolutely zero help to graduates in the real world. Given this, it makes sense that colleges across America would get the brilliant idea to glom onto the growing fat acceptance movement. After all, taking Fat Studies might not help you get a single job, ever, but you’ll feel better about yourself, so who cares?

Schools across America are now offering Fat Studies classes. What, exactly, is the point of these classes?

"Fat Studies scholars say their mission is to promote weight awareness and acceptance among populations of all types. The sociological study of obesity has been creeping into academia for over a decade, often as a subtopic of Women’s Studies or Health Sciences. But only recently has weight become a subject of study in its own right. “There would be no Fat Studies if there were no obesity epidemic,” says Esther Rothblum, a lesbian studies professor at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the earliest to research the psychology of weight bias.

The Fat Studies Reader, a compendium edited by Rothblum and her colleague, Sondra Solovay, and published to much fanfare in late 2009, is fast becoming a cornerstone of Fat Studies curricula. Its 53 contributors ask the same questions that professors now pose to their students: How is weight perceived in different countries? What do media depictions of larger sizes say about our social priorities? What if there were a “fat gene,” and what if we could test for it prenatally?

Spurred by growing national concerns about obesity, many schools now offer undergraduates a place to discuss these questions. Courses that deal with Fat Studies and body image have been taught at schools, including Oregon State University and Rutgers University. Newer still, however, is the growing interest among students and scholars who aren’t fat themselves."

The fact that the fat acceptance movement has come this far is a sad commentary in and of itself. It’s true that Hollywood promotes an unhealthy body image; it’s true that women are pressured to conform to an unrealistic, unhealthy ideal. The somewhat surprising reaction to this by some has been to promote fat pride, instead of focusing on promoting healthy, normal bodies. Femisogynists in particular have been vocal about this — that obesity can be beautiful and that fat people shouldn’t need to change to fit the narrow ideas of a patriarchal society. The health benefits to losing weight and not remaining obese, of course, is never mentioned. Is it any surprise that Fat Studies sprung out of the women’s studies movement? The most ridiculous aspect of this is that obesity is something that people can control. It isn’t like gender or race. Obesity is a lifestyle choice, for the 99% of overweight Americans who don’t have an endocrine or thyroid disorder and just choose to stuff their faces with junk food without ever being physically active.

Should someone who is obese hate his body? No, of course not. But he also doesn’t need classes telling him that he is perfect just the way he is, he doesn’t need a fat acceptance culture telling him that it’s OK to be obese. If someone wants to eat all day long without ever exercising, then that’s his prerogative. It doesn’t mean that we have to spoon-feed him propaganda about how obesity is acceptable.
 Fiano goes on to say "we’re being told that obesity is an acceptable lifestyle choice,"quote some scary obesity rates, and claim "the ever-present need for out-of-touch college professors to constantly find new victim groups." She also uses the term " femisogynists" quite often which is very amusing to me. All in all the post is what you'd expect and not too in depth. 

Since I'm feeling lazy I will only point out four glaring issues with this post:

1. This whole post is based on the idea that the purpose of school is simply to get a job. This really bothers me for a number of reasons. The assumption that college's purpose is simply to provide you with the skills for a certain job is silly for one. If that really were the case, then TONS of classes wouldn't exist. Plus, people who already have those skills should be exempt. But school about more than creating a work force. It's about learning critical thinking skills and creating a society of individuals with diverse interests and backgrounds. Innovation can't be taught. Drive can't either. These are things people have in all majors and to assume one major means a person is going to work at McDonalds is ridiculous.

And what about the sake of learning for the sheer enjoyment of it? I chose my major based on the joy and excitement it ignited in me. To consider that worthless says more about you than it does me.

2. Monetary earning does not equal valuable. I know this is a hard concept for some people to accept, but I refuse to believe that money is a measure of the worth of something. Just ask the backbones of our society: nurses, teachers, fire fighters, ambulance drivers, trash collectors, etc. I would trade ten CEO's  for one mailman.

3. Fat studies and the fat acceptance movement does not promote obesity. How many times does it need to be said? I know I shouldn't be surprised that someone complaining about the uselessness of philosophy doesn't understand the finer points of a complex and multifaceted concept, but this argument (if you can call it that) is as boring as it is played out. Saying a person should be treated with dignity, no matter their weight or the status of their health, does not promote obesity. To think that a person can hear about fat acceptance and actually want to become obese as a result is fucking mental. Seriously, read a book. Enroll in some of those useless majors. Pull your head out of your ass. Do whatever needs to be done to make yourself not such an idiot.

4. As usual this post ignores all the socio-economical issues surrounding health, obesity, and food. 

More can be said, but it seems pointless.


  1. Someone on tumblr wrote, "If by “The Real World” they may perpetuating the patriarchal capitalistic hate-mongering consumeristic racist oppressive dominating monstrosity that is society then sure, I can see how those degrees don’t help. THANK GOD* FOR THOSE DEGREES." LOL

  2. It just goes to the backwards logic than any and all things different are to be tolerated, rather than respected. Way too many people think that way.

    Great thoughts & good post. Of course I'm referring to yours, and not the hate-monger.

  3. Everybody knows that fat people don't hate themselves enough. Otherwise they wouldn't be fat. Fat people don't need soft places to fall because they have enough cushioning already.

    I hate people sometimes.

    To counter her 'argument': Michele Obama herself has launched a program to try to improve access to healthier foods and encourage exercise. I'd say that someone with a degree in fat studies would be very well equipped to work on a team of people who were trying to figure out how to make a program like this work.

  4. WhatinHell is a femisogynist ?

    I read the quote and all I could think was, "Shut the Fuck up already". Sorry, it just seems ridiculous

  5. haha that was my response too mac. From what I've gleamed the idea is that feminists today aren't fighting for equality, since they already have it duh, but out of a hatred for men. Or something. Of course why they don't just say "misandry" I'm not sure. Maybe "femisogynist" is supposed to also highlight feminists hatred of other women. It was kind of confusing so I'm not entirely sure and it seems only a few people use it (probably because it has no obvious definition). I'm sure she thinks it makes her seem clever.

  6. "Is it any surprise that Fat Studies
    sprung out of the women’s studies movement?"

    Karen Carpenter--

    Weight Watchers (Lynn Redgrave)--,

    "Does this make me look fat?"--

    I discovered the following site & book
    while looking for someone--anyone--else
    who detected a connection between
    the "obesity epidemic" hype & misandry
    (hatred of men/condemnation of masculinity)--

    This had never occurred before to the author, Mike Schatzki,
    but he he responded to the e-mail I sent, stating that it made sense.

  7. >> Saying a person should be treated with dignity, no matter their weight or the status of their health, does not promote obesity.

    No, but it doesn't necessarily need its own syllabus either.

    >> To think that a person can hear about fat acceptance and actually want to become obese as a result is fucking mental.

    The discussion is, generally, about people who already are obese.


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