The executive director of a research institute at the University of North Caroline-Charlotte (UNCC) is claiming that small desks create a “hostile physical environment” for fat students.
Heather Brown, the Executive Director the UNCC Women and Girls Research Alliance at the university, recently published an article in the Fat Studies journal, called “There’s always stomach on the table and I gotta write! Physical space and learning in fat college women.”
The director’s studies concentrates on “intersections between weight and learning in women as well as on the ethics and practice of research with stigmatized populations,” and her research has been published in The Politics of Size and the Fat Pedagogy Reader, according to her faculty biography.
Brown interviewed 13 fat college women for the study, and found that “classroom design and furniture,” specifically “too-small desks,” make fat women feel “unwanted,” in addition to causing “thin privilege and fat hatred.”
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One student interviewed, Kari, said she feels “self-conscious” in classrooms due to the desk sizes.
“I can’t help thinking about it, and then it would turn into, like, ‘Maybe if I lose ten pounds then I wouldn’t look so fat in this desk…'” she said, adding that she was too distracted to focus.
“Sometimes, it’s just, like, ‘Do I look okay in this shirt? What if someone’s looking at me weird? What if I don’t look good in this shirt? What if this shirt makes my arms look fat?'” Kari continued.
Brown then contends that because fat students feel “fat stigma,” this could account for lower grades. saying that it “is not body weight but rather weight stigma that is a key barrier in learning.”
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What is suggested as the solution?
To combat this stigma, she suggests that schools “must make attempts to alleviate the damage a hostile physical environment causes to fat women learners,” by creating “differently sized chairs and tables” in classrooms.
However, Brown claims that colleges could make the stigma worse if they only create a single “fat chair” or few seats for fat students, because this could “further damage” fat students’ confidence.
Additionally, she is asking colleges to “mitigate the negative effects of the physical learning environment,” asking if they “have the courage to listen.”
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(H/T: Campus Reform)