Education

The Fatuity of Fat Studies

It’s purportedly an academic discipline but amounts to group therapy, except worse.

Earlier this month, several websites covered news of an upcoming “fat studies” course that will be taught at Oregon State by Associate Professor Patti Lou Watkins. From the way some reporters wrote about it, you might have concluded that fat studies was some brand-new bit of nonsense. In fact, I wrote about fat studies in my 2011 book The Victims’ Revolution, a critical survey of several academic “disciplines” that fall under the general category of identity studies. Even then, fat studies was a pretty established field.

To be sure, it’s nowhere near as widespread as, say, women’s studies or black studies or queer studies. But it already has its own key founding text, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight (2008), by Linda Bacon, and its own classroom anthology, The Fat Studies Reader (2009), edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay. Courses in fat studies have been offered at several colleges, and it’s been accepted with surprising rapidity as a legitimate area of study.

Now, the basic premise of all of these identity-based “studies” is that the members of the groups in question are all oppressed victims. Fat studies is no exception. Fat people are victims of “sizeism,” a.k.a. “fat oppression.” If you’re fat, part of the oppression you experience is constantly being told that you should lose weight for the sake of your health. According to fat studies, when you suggest that a portly pal skip that second slice of cake, you’re not showing concern for his or her well-being; you’re committing a microaggression, expressing bigotry, causing emotional pain. Because — and this, believe it or not, is a central article of faith in fat studies — it’s possible to be healthy at any weight. Of course, as anyone who has ever watched My 600-Pound Life knows, this last claim is not only without medical basis; it’s a breathtakingly irresponsible thing to say to a corpulent person.

But then, fat studies isn’t about facts. To a large extent — and it has this in common with other identity studies, although in this regard fat studies may well outdo them all — it’s about group therapy. When I attended a fat-studies panel at the 2010 National Women’s Studies Association convention in Denver (overwhelmingly, fat studies is a female-dominated discipline), I heard professors and graduate students moan and groan about insensitive doctors who had told them that their BMI was too high; about TV ads that push sugary foods on them; about ads for diet products that make them feel bad about themselves; about the slim models in women’s magazines, who also make them feel bad about themselves; and so on.

Everything, in short, was someone else’s fault. Or capitalism’s. What it all came down to — and I’m not making this up — was a horrific phenomenon called healthism. You see, encouraging people to watch their health is (as I put it in The Victims’ Revolution) “a coercive and potentially fascist act linked to capitalism, racism, and Nazi-style eugenics.” That’s healthism.

Yes, they’re serious. If you don’t buy it, dig this, first reported at Campus Reform. In a talk given on August 3 at this year’s convention of the American Psychological Association, Joan Chrisler, who teaches psychology at Connecticut College, accused doctors of “fat shaming” when they propose that their plump patients drop a few. Such conduct by physicians, charged Chrisler, is “mentally and physically harmful.”

One scholar accused doctors of ‘fat shaming’ when they propose that their plump patients drop a few. Such conduct by physicians is ‘mentally and physically harmful.’

Chrisler’s talk was entitled “Weapons of Mass Distraction — Confronting Sizeism.” Echoing Bacon’s dangerous “health at every size” fiction, Chrisler said: “It is not possible to determine a person’s health status on the basis of their weight.” Instead of admitting that morbidly obese people risk a wide range of physical disorders and an early death, Chrisler savaged health-care providers whose “fat-shaming” has supposedly led plump girls to commit suicide. This is what fat-studies professors like to do — lecture doctors about medicine.

As noted, fat studies is, in large part, group therapy disguised as education. And it’s not even good therapy: instead of providing students with hard knowledge and real-life skills that can help them build self-confidence and rise above their circumstances, it indoctrinates them with an ideology that inculcates and reinforces feelings of bitter victimhood and individual helplessness. But in a very special sense, fat studies is even worse than the other identity studies. It takes XXXL-size college kids — who are at an age when it’s important to establish healthful lifelong habits and when it’s easier to get in shape than it will be later in life — and brainwashes them into thinking of their bulk as a fact of their immutable identity. Offhand, it’s hard to come up with a curriculum that could be more catastrophic for such a person, not only physically but psychologically. Alas, given the prevalence among young Americans today of both excess weight and a disinclination to take personal responsibility, this field may have a big, big future.

READ MORE:

Colleges Now Have ‘Fat Studies’ Courses and Groups Fighting ‘Weightism’ and ‘Fatphobia’

Telling a Fat Person She Has a ‘Pretty Face’ Is a ‘Microaggression’

Colorado College Accused of ‘Body Shaming’ for Being Committed to Healthy Living

Most Popular

U.S.

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More
U.S.

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More
Law & the Courts

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More
Law & the Courts

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More
Elections

Joe Biden’s Authoritarian VP Finalist

Last year, Senator Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do. When former Vice President Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she ... Read More
Elections

Joe Biden’s Authoritarian VP Finalist

Last year, Senator Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do. When former Vice President Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she ... Read More
World

The ‘Rough Sex’ Problem

John Broadhurst, a 41-year-old multi-millionaire from the United Kingdom — convicted of “manslaughter by gross negligence” after he killed his 26-year-old girlfriend Natalie Connolly during so-called “rough sex” — will walk free after serving only half of his 44-month sentence. Like many countries, ... Read More
World

The ‘Rough Sex’ Problem

John Broadhurst, a 41-year-old multi-millionaire from the United Kingdom — convicted of “manslaughter by gross negligence” after he killed his 26-year-old girlfriend Natalie Connolly during so-called “rough sex” — will walk free after serving only half of his 44-month sentence. Like many countries, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Government Misconduct Frees Cliven Bundy

Politically charged prosecutions — even ones that are thoroughly justified — often end badly for the justice system. So it appears with the federal prosecutions of Cliven Bundy and his sons. The government blew its case against Bundy's sons by overcharging them, resulting in a jury acquittal in 2016. Today, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Government Misconduct Frees Cliven Bundy

Politically charged prosecutions — even ones that are thoroughly justified — often end badly for the justice system. So it appears with the federal prosecutions of Cliven Bundy and his sons. The government blew its case against Bundy's sons by overcharging them, resulting in a jury acquittal in 2016. Today, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Misguided Attempt to Dissolve the NRA

Closing out the week with some variety: The evidence of mismanagement and wasteful spending at the NRA is real, but New York State attorney general Letitia James is on a vendetta against the organization in just about the worst possible way; an eye-opening question about Susan Rice perhaps having undisclosed ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Misguided Attempt to Dissolve the NRA

Closing out the week with some variety: The evidence of mismanagement and wasteful spending at the NRA is real, but New York State attorney general Letitia James is on a vendetta against the organization in just about the worst possible way; an eye-opening question about Susan Rice perhaps having undisclosed ... Read More