I confess, Shallow Shermie's letter hit a nerve.
I'm a graduate student, and a TA, and have every intention of chasing after that elusive TT job. Despite the odds, I have every reason to think I have a great shot at it -- I'm in a highly regarded program, have gained the respect of prominent faculty members, hold a big multi-year scholarship, and, hopefully, will have soon have at least a couple of publications under my belt.
The problem? Mine is a big belt. 300-plus pounds, just like much of the rest of my family, from whom I've inherited this gene-set, in spite of a reasonably active lifestyle and years of near-ascetic eating habits. Yet how many fat profs have you met? Especially female ones?
Yes, indeed, students often disrespect 'overweight' profs and TAs, as they disrespect instructors of colour, female professors, openly gay teachers, and so on. But we'd be aghast -- I hope -- were anyone to suggest that the solution for members of the latter groups to be (or appear) 'less' of any of those things. It is imperative that we fight against fat prejudice, as we do racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like, by openly discussing it with our students, and by critically examining the ways in which fat-hate suffuse the culture, the curriculum, and the institution.
I still hope to be a TT prof someday. But it's unlikely to happen without a united effort by educators of all sizes to call out and end body-based discrimination in the academy. Help us out here, Shermie.
I can see it now: Shallow Shermie will be taken to task by dozens of RYSers just for saying what we’re all thinking.
I mean, let’s be honest here. Getting fat IS more dreaded than not making tenure, not getting a job to begin with, being wrongfully accused of misconduct by crazy students, having one’s address on file with the fraternity brats, being shot at school, or any other professional risk. If we don’t dread it for our own sakes, we should dread it for our students’; I mean, how do you think our wonderful scholars feel when they drag themselves up to the university one day out of every five, and then see a “slob” standing there waiting to lecture? It’s not fair to them. It’s also not fair to the university, which spends millions on ornamental shrubs and floor wax, all because the university knows what really counts in any college experience: the aesthetic quality of one’s education.
I know I’ve been inspired by Shermie’s honesty. Bu t in the proud tradition of pissing-contests everywhere, I’d like to say I’m taking it farther. Since we all know that students respond best to the white, male, tall, fit authority figure with a Midwestern accent, I have decided not only to lose weight, but also to have a sex change, get one of those operations where they break your bones and use rods to force you to grow taller, and hire a dialogue coach.
Anything, ANYTHING is worth it, just to fit in with the cool ki…erm, I mean, to make sure I give my students the optimum opportunity for growth. Why, maybe if we all learn to blend in, like Shermie suggests, we can make sure that all of our students turn out to be just like him! I know that’s my goal for when I grow up. You know, maybe if I’d done this before, I’d be employed as we speak! The only thing I regret is that no one told my colleague in the wheelchair that he’s right out of the running for professorship; he’ll never fit in--I mean, gain respect—if he isn’t exactly what our wonderful Mensa-minds think he should be.
Thanks, Shermie! Because of you, I’m going to go from being a hu-manatee (get it?) to being the hegemonicallyapproved vision of professorial leadership. Now, with all that surgery, it’ll only take roughly $1,273,583 (counting recovery time-off). I have…$2.50. Ok then; I’m on my way.