A course entitled “Fat Studies” at Oregon State University argues that “weightism” is a civil rights issue, making it harder for overweight Americans to get ahead.
The course, which will be offered in the spring, will examine “body weight, shape, and size as an area of human difference subject to privilege and discrimination that intersects with other systems of oppression based on gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, and ability.”
The course will be taught by instructor Patti Lou Watkins, who penned an article in European Health Psychologist, which argued that humans can be healthy at any body weight, an endorsement of the widely-panned “Health At Any Size” movement. Body size isn’t a good indicator of health, she argues. To Watkins, even individuals who can be classified as morbidly obese could be healthy.
Watkins also dismissed the effectiveness in dieting. “The validity of HAES is supported by research over the past decade that reveals the continued ineffectiveness of dieting interventions targeting weight loss along with the potential for harm associated with these strategies,” she writes. Surely, thousands of Americans who have lost weight and lowered their risk for certain medical conditions beg to differ with Watkin’s argument.
“I grew to embrace feminist pedagogy in terms of course content as well as classroom practices,” Watkins explains. “My course now frames body image disturbances more as a function of oppressive societal structures than of individual pathology.”
Oddly enough, Watkin’s is not the only class at Oregon State University on “fatphobia.” Another course, entitled “Women, Weight, and Body Image,” exams “weightism” through the intersectionality lens. This means that individuals who are both overweight and a member of another minority group (female, Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ, etc.) are subjected to a system of oppression directed both at their body size and their minority status.
Activists have been arguing for several years that Western culture is “fatphobic” for the ways in which overweight people are treated. Advocates for this line of thinking about weight often argue that airplanes seats are not built for overweight individuals. They use this and other examples such as the social stigma around being overweight as evidence of the “fatphobia” that they believe permeates throughout Western society.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org