Wednesday, January 22, 2014


There's a game I play sometimes.

I try to identify who among my former professors and/or scholarly acquaintances would most approve of both FatLand and Fat Poets Speak. Then I figure out who among them would least approve.

One former professor and one scholarly friend, I think, would most approve of FatLand and Fat Poets Speak. The professor, Dr. Gordon Fellman, taught Sociology at Brandeis. He is the one who augmented my early belief in Fat Liberation with what I would call Liberation Sociology, the Sociology of the Oppressed. He is the one who supplied the scholarly underpinnings for my linking oppression Sociology with intersectionality, although I didn't realize that this was what he was doing or that it would provide and buttress my own writing with scholarship on theories of oppression and change. I sent him a copy of FatLand and a letter telling him how much I appreciated his teaching and that it had eventually inspired me to understand the pattern of oppression of fat people that I later accessed and elaborated in FatLand.

Another scholarly friend who would highly approve of FatLand is Dr. Shelby Shapiro, whose studies of journals and magazines published for Jewish women and earlier articles about anarchism broadened my knowledge of tacit narratives of oppression and liberation. His sensitivity to irony and hidden markers of oppression and liberation, as well as his tolerance of people of different sizes and shapes, and his determination to consider fat people as experiencing the kind of discrimination and harassment that render them an oppressed group, would definitely indicate his approval of FatLand and Fat Poets Speak.

The person who would least approve of FatLand and Fat Poets Speak is a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania who was so horrified by the possibility of my doing my class project on the oppression of fat people that she became almost hysterical when I mentioned it in class. I will not give her name. She mentioned in every class how she had or had not had time to visit the gym that day. She never did understand that being fat and going to a gym or exercising are not mutually exclusive. I feel sorry for any fat person who happens to take her class for credit (I quickly switched to auditing it when she made her anti-fat feelings known). It still disgusts me that there are professors at every level of higher education who feel this way and do not bother to understand or revise their beliefs.

And it thrills me that there are professors like my former sociology professor who inspire students to understand oppression and discrimination in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.

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