An Arizona State University professor has expressed disappointment at the results of a study she conducted with around 20 women, all of whom consider gaining 100 pounds to be a negative thing. She expected them to embrace her views of fatness as a “liberatory” experience.
Breanne Fahs, a self-described “fat woman” who teaches Women and Gender Studies at ASU, was dismayed by the study in which “no participants described gaining 100 pounds as a positive thing to imagine.”
Campus Reform reported Thursday that the professor — who describes fatness as “liberatory” from the shackles of patriarchal society — claims that obesity is only considered unattractive because of “patriarchy, sexism, and oppression of women.”
She claims that women were more afraid of becoming obese than actually living with obesity.
Fahs published her findings in an article for the Women’s Studies International Forum, where she wrote that “the fear of fatness is far more extreme, exaggerated, and terrible than the lived realities of living in a fat body.”
She notes that in her survey, four women “shrieked in disgust” or “started laughing uncontrollably” when she asked them what they thought of gaining 100 pounds instantly. Unsurprisingly, the participants believed she was joking when she asked the question.
Fahs was also upset by the fact that none of the women she surveyed considered obesity to be positive in any way whatsoever, and that “no women identified fatness as physically or personally important (even hypothetically).” In other words, the women did not like the idea of becoming obese.
The professor says that fatness shouldn’t be seen as a negative quality because “feminist theory” suggests that the stigmatization of obesity is “connected to patriarchy, sexism, and the oppression of women.”
“That women did not identify the liberatory, political, or social implications of fatness seemed to reveal much about the contemporary framing of fatness as purely negative and solely based in stigma,” she claims.
She concludes that women shouldn’t be afraid of weight gain, and that “interventions that seek to lessen or buffer the intensity of women’s fear of weight gain could impact not only fat women’s lives, but all women’s lives.”
Fahs views are in line with that of professor Jennifer B. Webb of University of North Carolina-Charlotte, who promotes fat acceptance by encouraging obese young women to post revealing pictures of themselves on Instagram.
While it’s true that the fear of gaining weight affects women disproportionately compared to men, the concept of “fat positivity” is highly suspect due to the health risks posed by obesity.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of health illnesses in the United States. The American Heart Association reports that obese people suffer an elevated risk of health problems including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes—all of which shorten lifespans and affect quality of life.