Reader Christine tipped me off to this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, with a special request that I get in there and debunk the fat prejudice going on in comments, or at least invite my readers to do so. Frankly, I waste enough energy dealing with my own ignorant trolls; I don’t need to fight someone else’s. But you are all cordially invited to go tell “Bill” to stick it where the sun don’t shine.
I’m more interested in considering what this article might mean.
According to a study published in the July issue of the journal Sociology of Education, obese adolescent girls are half as likely to go to college as are non-obese girls, and those who attended a high school where obesity was uncommon were even less likely to enroll.
My first thought was that obesity is correlated with poverty — but the article says obese boys are no less likely to go to college than non-obese ones. So this could, in fact, be more of a feminist issue, with poorer families scraping to send boys to college but not girls — but I doubt that explains all of it. Or very much of it.
I think this is more telling:
The study, which tracked 11,000 teenagers, also found that obese teen girls were more likely to consider suicide, have negative self-images, and use alcohol and marijuana than their non-obese peers.
I’m sure that shocks exactly no one who’s ever been a fat adolescent girl. But sadly, it’s yet another parallel between being gay and being fat: being ostracized and ridiculed as an adolescent leads to higher instances of self-destructive behavior, depression, and even suicide. That’s pretty much a no-brainer, but of course there are plenty of people like Bill to argue that being fat intrinsically equals being self-destructive, so these girls were lost causes to begin with, and fat prejudice has nothing to do with it. Yeah, that makes way more sense than the wacky notion that being treated like shit every day makes you hate yourself.
Note that girls who went to high schools where obesity was uncommon were even less likely to go to college. Statistically, it’s likely that obesity being uncommon = wealthier district. Wealthier district, in my experience = more emphasis on college prep and more pressure to go to college. Yet fat girls in these districts bow out of college even more often than girls in presumably less wealthy districts. You suppose that could have anything to do with them getting the message even more strongly that they’re unwanted outsiders who don’t belong in an educational environment?
I haven’t read the study yet, just this squib about it, but I have no reason to think the findings aren’t true — which kinda makes me want to barf. It takes a certain amount of self-confidence to leave home and go to college, and after surviving the snakepit of high school, not many adolescent fat girls are bursting with faith in their abilities and worth as human beings. And that’s without getting into the practical reasons not to go: that those who don’t commute will be forced to live closely — possibly in the same room — with fat-hating strangers instead of their families; that dining halls involve the opportunity for all sorts of strangers to observe your eating habits; that too many colleges have molded chair/desk combos that fat people can’t fit into comfortably or at all; that too many professors, being part of this culture, will assume that fat students are stupid and lazy.
And until this culture figures out that low self-esteem is not the result of being fat, but of being fucking tortured for being fat, I can’t say I have a lot of hope that this will change.