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Oregon University offers another ‘fat studies’ course

Campus Reform reported that Oregon State University will offer a spring course on “fat studies” because it is a “social justice issue”.

Published: August 11, 2017, 10:01 am

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    According to a syllabus for the course obtained by Campus Reform, students should be taught about how “weight-based oppression” leads to discrimination.

    The course, taught by Professor Patti Lou-Watkins, will focus on “body image disorders, particularly as they relate to weight bias and physical activity”. Lou- Watkins has written extensively on being fat in academic journals and books.

    “I grew to embrace feminist pedagogy in terms of course content as well as classroom practices,” she said.

    Students will examine “body weight, shape, and size as an area of human difference subject to privilege and discrimination that intersects with other systems of oppression based on gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, and ability”.

    The three-credit course is also not the only one focusing on fat at OSU. The institution offers another class about “Women, Weight, and Body Image” similarly examining “weightism as a system of oppression that interacts with other systems of oppression” such as “sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, and ageism”.

    The intersectionality focus of the course implies that female, Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ individuals are subjected to a “system of oppression” because of their body size as well as their skin colour.

    Adherents of such ideas have argued that white Western male culture is “fatphobic”.

    Additionally, Fat Studies “employs a multi-disciplinary approach spanning the behavioral sciences and humanities.”

    In a 2013 article in European Health Psychologist, for instance, Lou-Watkins argues against the “war on obesity” because those who attempt to lose weight suffer alleged psychological consequences.

    Watkins maintains that dieting does not work. “The validity of HAES is supported by research over the past decade that reveals the continued ineffectiveness of dieting interventions targeting weight loss along with the potential for harm associated with these strategies,” she writes.

    “Indeed, as the ‘War on Obesity’ has escalated, so has weight-based bias and discrimination,” Lou-Watkins adds, noting that “weight bias is particularly evident among healthcare professionals, compromising the well-being of their patients.”

    Lou-Watkins did not elaborate on the risks of being overweight however. Body size isn’t a good indicator of health, she argues, because morbidly obese individuals may be healthy.

    “My course now frames body image disturbances more as a function of oppressive societal structures than of individual pathology.”

    In yet another article, Lou-Watkins expresses satisfaction that “the field of fat studies has undergone tremendous growth in recent years, with colleges now offering courses in this area”.

    Students enrolling in her Fat Studies course will be presented with opportunities to explore “forms of activism used to counter weightism perpetuated throughout various societal institutions”.

    Lou-Watkins has offered the Fat Studies course in previous semesters at Oregon State University in Corvallis, as well, according to The Daily Caller.

    Research showed that a very large percentage of discussions about obesity on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, are of a fat shaming nature. A high-profile example is Reddit’s fatpeoplehate forum, which was recently closed down because their members joked about overweight people.

    The escalating obesity rate in the USA has made obesity prevention a top public health priority. Data collected, yielding 2.2 million posts were coded through Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques, yielding popular themes and the most retweeted content.

    “Qualitative analyses of selected posts add insight into the nature of the public dialogue and motivations for participation. Twitter represented the most common channel. Twitter and Facebook were dominated by derogatory and misogynist sentiment, pointing to weight stigmatization,” the research revealed.

    In a study of 2 436 people, extreme obesity was associated with 21 times greater risk of suicidal behavior and 12 times greater risk of suicide attempts.

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