November 26, 2006
Big People on Campus
By ABBY ELLIN
ASK Sheana Director for a detailed description of herself, and chances are the word fat will come up. It is not uttered with shame or ire or any sense of embarrassment; it’s simply one of the things she is, fat.
“Why should I be ashamed?” said Ms. Director, 22, a graduate student in women’s studies at San Diego State University, who wields the word with both defiance and pride, the way the gay community uses queer. “I’m fat. So what?”
During her sophomore year at Smith College, Ms. Director attended a discussion on fat discrimination: the way the super-sized are marginalized, the way excessive girth is seen as a moral failing rather than the result of complicated factors. But the academic community, she felt, didn’t really give the topic proper consideration. She decided to do something about it.
In December 2004, she helped found the organization Size Matters, whose goal was to promote size acceptance and positive body image. In April, the group sponsored a conference called Fat and the Academy, a three-day event at Smith of panel discussions and performances by academics, researchers, activists and artists. Nearly 150 people attended.
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