University of North Alabama Professor Says Fat Professors Experience Microaggressions

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Andrea Hunt, a sociology professor at the University of North Alabama, says fat professors are too frequently on the receiving end of “weight-based microaggressions.”

In a 13-page article published in the academic journal Fat Studies, Hunt argues that overweight professors are subjected to “weight-based microaggressions” in the workplace.” The article, titled “Fat pedagogy and microaggressions: Experiences of professionals working in higher education settings,” is the result of 13 interviews that Hunt conducted with overweight professors.

“Research has also documented the negative effects that body weight has on employment outcomes,” she wrote. “In particular, this research demonstrates that larger workers are at an increased risk of microaggressions and for weight as a barrier to employment.”

“Within higher education, weight-based microaggressions are used as a way to undermine someone’s credibility, result in verbal shaming by colleagues, and affect employment outcomes,” Hunt argues.

One professor told Hunt that she is often on the receiving end of “microaggressions” aimed at her weight. “Because I am a chubby black woman who happens to be very curvy, folks think that it is acceptable to sing songs about big butts or make comments about having some ‘junk in the trunk,’” she said.

Citing a policy designed by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, Hunt argues for an affirmative-action policy of sorts for overweight faculty members and students. She wants administrations to ensure that overweight faculty members and students are included in decision-making processes.

“The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance developed a size diversity toolkit to help integrate body size into staff development,” she wrote. “The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (2008) suggested that inclusive practices stem from inclusive policies and that higher education professionals and students of all sizes must be involved in the decision making.”

Hunt suggests that fat people are oppressed as a result of the “microaggressions” and discrimination they experience in the workplace. “Acceptance and inclusion cannot happen without some level of resistance and strategic organizing to change the institutional culture and structure that perpetuates weight-based oppression,” she finishes.



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