Fat Studies: A field that is gaining prominence

by Libby Zay

”She’s majoring in Fat Studies” might sound like a cruel frat boy heckle, but the field of study really does exist–and an increasing number of identity scholars are out to prove that size does matter. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder why Ursula, the evil sea-witch from the Little Mermaid, is characterized as larger-than-life?  Professor Julia McCrossin (pictured left) has.  She’s researching the impact of literary characters’ size in plotlines, claiming that ”when authors create fat characters, they don’t do so innocently or free from the cultural baggage fat people have traditionally had,” according to this GW Hatchet article.


Another leading Fat Studies figure is Esther Rothblum (pictured right), who is trained in psychology and currently squeezes sizeist issues into the women’s studies classes she teaches as SDSU.  Rothblum just finished co-editing the first fat studies anthology, The Fat Studies Reader, which covers subjects ranging form the historical construction of fatness to airline seat discrimination.

Speaking from my own experience as a women’s studies student, sizeism was frequently linked with other identity-related isms in class discussions.  Body image was always a hot topic for research papers, which ranged from media representation to ”fat acceptance.”  A dissertation or few on size stereotypes is definitely in order, but what do you think about an entire field of study?  They should at least come up with a different name. Any suggestions?

Images courtesy of Anne Wernikoff / GW Hatchett and John Gibbins / Union-Tribune.

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