College study: Desks make fat students feel unwanted

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Overweight college students face a “hostile physical environment,” according to a study by the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC).

Heather Brown, the executive director of the Women and Girls Research Alliance at UNCC, recently published an article in the new issue of the Fat Studies journal, titled: “There’s always stomach on the table and I gotta write! Physical space and learning in fat college women.”

According to Campus Reform, Brown interviewed 13 overweight college attendees and determined that the way a classroom is designed, and the furniture in it–especially “too-small desks”–made the women feel “unwanted” and perpetuated “thin privilege and fat hatred.”

From the site:

Kari, one student that Brown interviewed, lamented that she felt “self-conscious” in classes because of the size of the desks, saying, “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…’”

Later, Kari told Brown that she was too distracted in her classes 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 told Brown.

The fact that many fat students feel “fat stigma” on their campus may explain why they tend to get worse grades, Brown suggests, arguing that it “is not body weight but rather weight stigma that is a key barrier in learning.”

According to the report, Brown suggests that colleges begin renovating classrooms with “differently sized chairs and tables” in order to “alleviate the damage a hostile physical environment causes to fat women learners.” She warns against making special sections for fat people, such as implementing a “fat chair” or fat seating options, as that could “further damage” existing sensitivities.

Brown asks Universities and colleges to “have the courage to listen” to her suggestion.

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