June 29, 2006

Not a Parody

An actual excerpt from an article at the Chronicle on "fat studies:"

By the time she earned her Ph.D. in 1998, the 100 pounds she'd lost had begun creeping back on. Ms LeBesco, who earned tenure at Marymount Manhattan two years ago, began writing more about her identity as a fat person. At the National Communication Association's 2004 meeting, she delivered a talk called "I'm Here, I'm a Sphere, Get Used to It: Being ‘Out' as a Fat Professor." Her 2004 book, Revolting Bodies? The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity (University of Massachusetts Press), is a seminal work in fat studies. "Katie is trying to erase the line between fat and thin," says Marilyn Wann, an activist who started a fat-studies e-mail list last year that has 120 subscribers. "Her work is foundational."

The field takes its cues from queer studies and disability studies — subjects pursued primarily by activists who feel they have been discriminated against because of their identity. Scholars held the first academic meeting on fat studies two years ago, and the first fat-studies reader is in the works.

At a joint meeting of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association in April, Ms. LeBesco picked up a fuchsia-colored notice that she now keeps tacked to the bulletin board in her college office: "Weight diversity is welcome here. Kindly refrain from diet talk, body disparagement, and other unpleasantries."

You know, I don't care if people are fat or thin. I do, however, care that universities are spending money on scholarship about the "politics of fatness" when half of the freshman class can't read or write at the college level.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at June 29, 2006 01:44 PM

Sheesh, how 'bout A**hole Studies or Idiot Studies while they're at it.

Posted by: Calvinista at June 29, 2006 04:46 PM

"Kindly refrain from diet talk...."

More censorship from the halls of academic freedom.

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at June 29, 2006 08:22 PM

Oh, stop. I have a dear friend whom I would cheerfully strangle when she talks, as she is wont to do, about how fat she is and how she can't get into any of her clothes. She's a size 2. I like the "refrain from diet talk" sign.

Posted by: Michael at June 29, 2006 08:36 PM

There's nothing quite like the shifty-eyed insanity of identity politics in the Academy.

It's interesting how *threatened* academics are when someone crosses the invisible and unspoken boundaries of identity politics. A friend of mine, who happens to be an African-American woman, studies Islamic philosophy and mysticism. She told me that in the vast majority of job interviews she had, everyone in the room assumed that she was also interested in, and competent to teach, classes in African-American gender studies (something she hasn't taken a class in since her undergraduate days).

My friend also said that some of these people would simply not believe her when she said that African-American gender studies was *not* her field and that she *wasn't* interested in teaching it.

She got increasingly frustrated at the way almost all academics took one look at her and assumed they could discern her research interests based on her gender & skin color. For that reason (among others) she's now in the private sector, which is apparently an improvement (but for how long?).

Posted by: stina at June 29, 2006 10:24 PM

"I'm Here, I'm a Sphere, Get Used to It"

I must admit I like that.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 30, 2006 07:15 AM

Okay, so the consensus seems to be:

Fat Studies - good for a couple of t-shirt slogans, but that's about it.

The thing that bothers me the most about identity studies is that it seems to exist primarily to make a group of people feel good about themselves.

Folks, that's yo' mama's job, not the university's.

Posted by: BAW at June 30, 2006 09:05 AM

In the way of literary excerpts, I'm trying to figure out who/what might show up in that first fat-studies reader. Falstaff comes to mind immediately, and I suppose the gluttons in "The Inferno" would qualify. I'm sure I'm forgetting about a host of others.

The best story about fat people (and about anything else, for that matter) that I know is Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation" with the very round Mrs. Turpin and very round Mary Grace, and all the wart-hog references:

"Mrs. Turpin eased into the vacant chair, which held her tight as a corset. 'I wish I could reduce,' she said, and rolled her eyes and gave a comic sigh.

'Oh, YOU aren't fat,' the stylish lady said.

'Ooooo I am too,' Mrs. Turpin said. 'Claud eats all he wants to and never weighs over one hundred seventy-five pounds, but me I just look at something good to eat and I gain some weight,'...

'Well, as long as you have such a good disposition,' the stylish lady said, 'I don't think it makes a bit of difference what size you are. You just can't beat a good disposition.'"

And boy does she have some disposition, as I'm sure Prof. LeBesco does.

Posted by: Husband of BAW at June 30, 2006 10:06 AM

Michael - can't you speak to your dear friend? I'll bet you are not the only person who finds her pose irritating. You'd be doing her a favor.

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at July 1, 2006 01:33 PM

Oh, Laura, we have. She refuses to believe it's unattractive. I've also told her that men (she wants a husband) like women who are comfortable with their bodies, and tend also to like women who like to eat. She doesn't believe that either.

Posted by: Michael at July 1, 2006 04:13 PM

Some of the saddest people I know are people who will not accept peer correction.

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at July 1, 2006 09:27 PM