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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Day of Dialogue session discusses fatphobia

Fatphobia and anti-fatness was the focus of a session titled, “From the Past to the Present: Fatphobia, Anti-fatness and Marginalized Bodies” at the fourth annual Day of Dialogue Feb. 15. 

The session was hosted by Priya Nolan ’24 and Bernie Bergman ’24, co-presidents and founders of new student organization Project HEAL, an acronym for Happy Eating And Living. Nolan and Bergman said they proposed the session because of fatphobia’s connection to eating disorders and disordered eating. 

“We realized that you can’t have a conversation about diet culture, about food, about body image without talking about fatphobia and anti-fatness,” Nolan said. “We found that it intersected a lot with racism, and as we talked about in the presentation, a lot of intersectionalities with religion, with gender, with all of these things, so we felt it would fit really well into Day of Dialogue.”

Nolan and Bergman said they wanted to create a Day of Dialogue session after they began creating Project HEAL, and that being in recovery for eating disorders made them want to initiate these conversations on campus. Fatphobia and anti-fatness was at the start of that conversation, but became the beginning of a larger reflection on the topic according to Bergman. 

“We realized very quickly you can’t talk about this unless you talk about ableism,” Bergman said. “You can’t talk about this unless you talk about sexism. You can’t talk about this unless we talk about capitalism and transphobia.”

Nolan said the process of putting the presentation together included conversations about privilege, and fatphobia’s roots in anti-Black racism and pseudo-science. 

“We looked up books that specifically talked about fat phobia, that specifically talked about that intersection,” Nolan said. “‘Fearing The Black Body [The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia’ by Sabrina Springs], which we talked about in the presentation, really goes into the roots of [the intersection of fat phobia and racism].”

 Sabrina Strings, Ph.D. associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, traces the origins of fatphobia, which is systemic discrimination against fat people, to the European Renaissance and how fatphobia was used as a new way to differentiate between white and Black. 

“We never ever want to speak over anybody’s voices,” Nolan said. “We’ve had so many conversations like, ‘We have to uplift the voices of marginalized identities.’ Constantly having other people look over our presentation, constantly checking ourselves and being like, ‘Is this okay that we say this? How do we want to go about this?’”

Ava Devlin ’25 said she signed up to attend this session to gain tools to have conversations around fatphobia and anti-fatness. 

“I have really looked into getting involved in more active ways to talk about these things because I noticed that this is one of the things in our society that we easily brush off,” Devlin said. “I wanted to take a more active stance on being able to correct people and being able to help people unlearn those ideas.”

With this session, Bergman and Nolan said they hoped to make their audience aware of the reality of fatphobia and anti-fatness and its impacts on people. 

“This is a real thing,” Bergman said. “I don’t think a lot of people think it is and a lot of people don’t think about it and just understanding that this is a form of hate
and discrimination.”

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