'Fat' is the new ‘f-word’ at this Ivy League University

Course texts include literature asserting that it is not actually unhealthy to be overweight, and that medical professionals “mislabel” people as overweight.

For the first time this fall, Princeton University will offer a course examining “the fat body” and how it is viewed by society.

A brand new course at Princeton University invites students to learn about society's stigmatization of the “fat body” and to consider political and industry-related reasons over medical reasons for being concerned about the “alleged” obesity epidemic. 

Titled FAT: The F-Word and the Public Body, the course will be taught by dance professor Judith Hamera, who will lead students in examining how “the fat body operates at the conjuncture of political economy, beauty standards, and health.”

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Students will address questions such as "How does this 'f-word’ discipline and regulate bodies in/as public?” and “What is the ‘ideal’ American public body and who gets to occupy that position?” They will also consider the “changing history, aesthetics, politics, and meanings of fatness" and although they will do so by use of both dance and performance, the course description assures students that “no previous performance experience” is necessary. 

Queering Fat Embodiment, one of the texts in the course's sample reading list, addresses how “cultural anxieties” and “stigmatization of fat bodies”  have legitimized “fat-phobia” and asserts that fatness, subject to “medicalization, pathologization, and commodification,” has been paired with a “moral panic” surrounding an obesity epidemic that it claims is only “alleged," according to the Amazon description.

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Other texts for the course include Gerardo Otero’s The Neoliberal Diet: Healthy Profits, Unhealthy People, a book that rejects “mainstream explanations” about the American obesity epidemic such as little exercise and poor food choices, instead asserting that “increased obesity does not result merely from individual food and lifestyle choices,” but rather from neoliberal policy that has “promoted trade liberalization and retrenchment of the welfare regime, along with continued agricultural subsidies in rich countries.” 

Students will also read Eric Oliver’s Fat Politics, a book that argues that more than 60 million Americans are “mislabeled” as being overweight and that the government and health professionals “inflate the health risks of being fat.” Oliver rejects the premise that losing weight makes people healthier, and claims that concern about obesity comes from politics, prejudice, and industry profit.

Campus Reform reached out to professor and Princeton for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.  

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