Challenging Weight-Based Oppression Through Critical Education
Erin Cameron and Constance Russell
Why The Fat Pedagogy Reader?
Over the past decade, concerns about a global “obesity epidemic” have flourished (World Health Organization, 1998), appearing in media (Saguy & Almeling, 2008), popular culture (Kwan & Graves, 2013), and in speeches by health leaders who have made claims such as “obesity” being “more threatening than weapons of mass destruction” (Carmona, 2003, para. 66). Public health messages around physical activity, fitness, and nutrition permeate society and validate fat-phobic behaviors and practices. This “obesity” discourse dominates and serves to reproduce a framework of thinking, talking, and action in which thinness is privileged and in which a “size matters” message fuels narratives about fat people’s irresponsibility and lack of willpower (see Gard & Wright, 2005; Lupton, 2013; Wann, 2009). Consider as well the photos of “headless fatties” that typically accompany news articles. In her analysis of this phenomenon, Charlotte Cooper (2007) notes how “the body becomes symbolic: we are there but we have no voice, not even a mouth in a head, no brain, no thoughts or opinions. Instead we are reduced and dehumanized as symbols of cultural fear” (para. 3). Such depictions, alongside images of people Photoshopped to unrealistic proportions, serve to inform society about whose bodies count as “normal.” As Susan Bordo (1993) states, “This is perpetual pedagogy, how to interpret your body 101. These images are teaching us how to see … [and] training our perceptions in what’s a defect and what is normal...
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