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The Fat Pedagogy Reader

Challenging Weight-Based Oppression Through Critical Education

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Edited By Erin Cameron and Constance Russell

Over the past decade, concerns about a global «obesity epidemic» have flourished. Public health messages around physical activity, fitness, and nutrition permeate society despite significant evidence disputing the «facts» we have come to believe about «obesity». We live in a culture that privileges thinness and enables weight-based oppression, often expressed as fat phobia and fat bullying. New interdisciplinary fields that problematize «obesity» have emerged, including critical obesity studies, critical weight studies, and fat studies. There also is a small but growing literature examining weight-based oppression in educational settings in what has come to be called «fat pedagogy». The very first book of its kind, The Fat Pedagogy Reader brings together an international, interdisciplinary roster of respected authors who share heartfelt stories of oppression, privilege, resistance, and action; fascinating descriptions of empirical research; confessional tales of pedagogical (mis)adventures; and diverse accounts of educational interventions that show promise. Taken together, the authors illuminate both possibilities and pitfalls for fat pedagogy that will be of interest to scholars, educators, and social justice activists. Concluding with a fat pedagogy manifesto, the book lays a solid foundation for this important and exciting new field. This book could be adopted in courses in fat studies, critical weight studies, bodies and embodiment, fat pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, gender and education, critical pedagogy, social justice education, and diversity in education.
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Preface

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How did I know, from my first days in kindergarten, that I was fat and didn’t count the way other children did?

I was round-faced, slightly larger than my peers. I recall no overt statements, but by age 4, not quite 4, I knew that I was, indelibly, an outsider.

Was it the hint of disapproval in their voices when family members picked me up and pronounced the usual line, “My, you’re getting big”? Was it the other children who knew each other from preschool and showed me I had no place in their pecking order? Was it my teachers whose attention fell on me differently, especially as they oversaw snack time and exercise routines? Did my beautiful, brilliant, fat mother convey this knowledge to me via her unspoken concern that I might face precisely these attitudes and this treatment? However, I found out—I learned she was right. Nothing about me could mitigate my bottom-rung position on the weight hierarchy. It never occurred to me to try to lose weight because I couldn’t imagine anything I could do that would be enough to offset an exclusion that felt so thorough. (A feeling of futility for which I’m now deeply grateful. I’ve lived mostly free from the weight-loss industry’s self-hate rituals.) In grammar school, my teachers reprimanded the students who teased or bullied me if they found out about it, saying my tormentors were wrong to torment me. But they never said that the...

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