Professor: Fat Women Can’t Learn Because Classroom Furniture Is Too Small

A patient is classified as being "severe obese" if they have a body-mass index (BMI) of 40+

Heather Brown, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, argues in a recently published journal article that small classroom furniture poses an obstacle to the academic achievement of overweight female students.

Writing for the academic journal, Fat Studies, Heather A. Brown of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, argues that “interviews with 13 undergraduate women suggest that fat college women students experience the interactions of their fat bodies with the physical learning environment negatively.” In other words, the size of classroom furniture impacts academic achievement of overweight female students.

The article, titled “‘There’s always stomach on the table and then I gotta write!’: Physical space and learning in fat college women,” explores the intersection of obesity and academic achievement. The article makes no reference to the possibility of weight loss or the scientific studies that suggest that obesity has a direct impact on mental function. Instead, it focuses almost exclusively on the barriers posed to overweight female students by classroom furniture size.

“Desks and seating problems caused these learners to experience a great deal of physical discomfort that interfered with their ability to concentrate,” Brown writes. “For example, Stacy identified desks as the major problem for her: ‘The desks … are a pain in the ass! They’re right next to each other and I’m just like, awwww, I’m tall! I’m big! I need a little more space.'”

Students interviewed for Brown’s research argued that small classroom furniture made them feel as if they weren’t welcome in the classroom. “I probably would’ve just felt a little more uncomfortable or probably would have become a little more introverted if I would have realized that no space particularly fit me or was welcoming to me. There was definitely a standard you were supposed to fit into,” one student explained.

“I can sit in them but it’s not exactly comfortable. There’s always stomach on the table and then I gotta write!” another student remarked.

Brown didn’t stop there. In her conclusion, she argues that classrooms are a “hostile physical environment” for “fat women learners” because of the presence of “fixed-top desks.”



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