Fat Studies' Go to College, by Eve Binder
What does Binder say about the purpose of Fat Studies:
Fat Studies scholars say their mission is to promote weight awareness and acceptance among populations of all types. The sociological study of obesity has been creeping into academia for over a decade, often as a subtopic of Women’s Studies or Health Sciences. But only recently has weight become a subject of study in its own right.
This sounds like a perfect opportunity to combat some of our culture’s problems with weight. It’s sick the way society has conditioned people to have certain perceptions about weight and its connection to the value of a human being. It’s unfortunate that people are bombarded with media images of unrealistically thin models and impossibly perfect celebrities, and that young girls strive to attain these false depictions of perfection (I say unrealistic and impossible because the retouched images that are published truly are falsified). It’s not right that people who don’t fit these molds are made to feel ashamed about themselves and even faced with questions about their worth as human beings.
Fat Studies sound like a great way to facilitate dialogue on these topics and talk about the struggles of actual people who have been stigmatized for their weight alone. It could lead to the disintegration of these stigmas and an acceptance of people for who they are. Maybe it could even lead to the removal of weight from the many lenses people use to measure the value of a person.
Not everyone agrees fat studies is so great, however. Binder explains, “Despite such courses’ popularity among students, critics worry that such classes emphasize bleeding-heart politics over intellectual rigor.” I have a problem with this critique of fat studies. For one, I agree wholeheartedly with North when she explains, “Whether something is intellectually rigorous has way more to do with the way it’s taught than with the subject matter at hand.” From what I’ve experienced in college, the academic challenge of a class relies most heavily on the professor and their teaching style.
My biggest problem, however, lies in the deeper meaning behind this critique. I completely disagree with critics who suggest that Fat Studies classes would be detrimental as a result of “promoting acceptance and tolerance at the expense of hard academics.” (Binder) In fact, I think the complete opposite is true. I believe that acceptance and tolerance are crucial aspects of a well-rounded education. Yes, developing academically for future success is the main reason most people go to college. But this academic development does not lead to success in the “real world” if tolerance and acceptance aren’t learned in conjunction with it. To suggest that emphasizing open-mindedness in a classroom leads to a departure from intellectually rigorous curriculum seems preposterous. Indeed, the presence of such a characteristic harbors better discussion, ultimately facilitating better learning.