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I am a 1990 graduate of the University Honors Program with degrees in English and management. UB trained me to be a critical thinker, and I’m a proud alumna.
Imagine my dismay, then, when I saw the cover of your winter 2009 issue. I am an associate professor of English at Davidson College, where my work is based in gender studies and disability studies. While I am sure the work being done to uncover the causes of childhood obesity at UB is worthy, I found the art accompanying the story—particularly on the cover—extremely problematic, both “ableist” (perpetuating disability stereotype) and sexist.
In our society, in popular representation, the obese person is often stereotyped as clownish and clumsy. They are seen as out of control in their appetites and “piggish.”
Your cover art perpetuates these stereotypes, countering the good work of the scientists profiled. How can the public be expected not to vilify the obese person, and to see obesity as a more complex medical and social issue, when art such as this perpetuates a view of the obese as clownish and overstuffed? This caricature denies complexity to body identity.
BA ’90 & BS ’90
One of my clearest memories from childhood are those involving the schoolyard bullies as they taunted and harassed the other children—especially the “fat” kids. I remember the mean-spirited laughs, the ridiculous songs and chants, and the humiliating “fat” caricatures they drew and then posted for all to see.
All of these memories came flooding back to me when I received the winter 2009 issue of UB Today. On the cover I saw a “fat” caricature so offensive, I could hardly breathe—and this coming from an academic institution?
By the way, I do power yoga, cardio workout and dance lessons at least three times a week. I love hiking. I haven’t eaten fast food in years, and I don’t even own a TV. However, I am considered overweight. The picture on your latest cover tells me that my lifestyle choices make no difference at all because “fat” makes you not human at all—just a caricature of a person—sad, plopped in front of the television, and stuffed with pizza and donuts.
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