Preface by Paul Willis
This reader begins a conversation about the many aspects of critical youth studies. Chapters in this volume consider essential issues such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural capital, and schooling in creating a dialogue about and a conversation with youth. In a society that continues to devalue, demonize, and pathologize young women and men, leading names in the academy and youth communities argue that traditional studies of youth do not consider young people themselves. Engaging with today’s young adults in formal and informal pedagogical settings as an act of respect, social justice, and transgression creates a critical pedagogical path in which to establish a meaningful twenty-first century critical youth studies.
21 A Fat Woman’s Story of Body-Image Politics and the Weighty Discourses of Magnification and Minimization
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I have always been female. I have always been Caucasian. I have NOT always been “fat.” In fact, I was a “healthy and normal” (by that I mean average-sized—or an appropriate size for my age) girl for the first ten years of my life. Then, in grade five, I hit puberty, or, perhaps, puberty hit me. As if instantaneously responsive, my body began to re-shape itself in ways I was, at the time and for many years afterward, not able to understand. For example, I began, at ten years old, to develop breasts; or rather, one breast. Unlike most girls during this becoming-a-woman developmental stage who develop both breasts more or less simultaneously, mine seemed to be developing one at a time. I can still remember a close family member commenting about me that, “it looks like she has been hit in the chest with a soccer ball.” This was my first—well … first time consciously remembered, but unfortunately never really questioned or understood—glimpse of myself as an alien “other.” I learned from, in fact was taught by this experience, at that vulnerable age of ten—and a learning and/or teaching that I wrestle with to this day—that I was not “normal.” I was and continue to be actually a “freak,” and I needed then and now to hide my hideous, corrupt, betrayer of a body so that no one would notice how “abnormal” I was.
Between ten and thirteen years old, I discovered that...
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