No Blue Eyeliner: An Exploratory Study on Experiences of Fat Women in Academia

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2020

Authors

Lavelle, Michaela

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Abstract

There is little research on anti-fat bias in academia specifically, but there is data about teaching evaluations in relation to beauty and gender. Hamermesh and Parker in 2005 found that beauty and teaching evaluations were positively correlated and found the greatest effect of this for men. Other research shows that women generally are rated lower than their male counterparts, and a recent study done by Mitchell and Martin in 2018 says this gendered difference persists even when men and women teach identical courses. Based on this research, fat professors face significant obstacles in securing their job as well as being at risk to face discrimination within their job. In addition to lack of research in academia specifically, there is a lack of qualitative research centering the voices of fat individuals regarding the discrimination they face. The few anecdotal reports about fat bias and experience in academia in the form of op-eds and journalistic articles on this subject point to a feeling of isolation stemming from the lack of conversation around this topic and the lack of people who would share a similar experience to theirs. My study centers the voices of fat female professors through a series of interviews aimed at understanding the embodied experience and feelings associated with working in academia as a fat person, focusing on the participant’s relationship with their body, how they feel about their body within the context of the classroom, with colleagues and superiors, and interviews or presentations/conferences and how they believe themselves to be perceived within those contexts.

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