Fat-Shaming 101: The Tiny Desk Dilemma

Courtesy of Mya S. Oliver

“I won’t fit in,” I thought to myself as I walked into the classroom. A nervous feeling washed over me as I stared at the numerous rows of tiny desks. I sized myself up to the desk and tried to fit all my voluptuous curves in the seat. I managed to squeeze into the desk but experienced a great deal of physical pain in my abdomen, back and legs for the remainder of the class. I tried to move around to see if I could get comfortable but only managed to hurt myself even more in the process. 

The desks not only hinders the mobility of students but also hinders the ability to concentrate and participate in class. It is hard to take notes because the tiny desk can barely hold a notebook and definitely cannot hold laptops. Some students are consumed by the negative, fat-shaming thoughts swirling through their heads. 

In order to combat the problem of fat-shaming in classroom furniture, there needs to be all-inclusive seating in every classroom on campus. We should concentrate on making the classroom space comfortable for students of all different body types and sizes.

Rebecca Alexander is the founder of a company called AllGo which started the CanWeAllGo campaign to expand the world’s knowledge and inspire inclusion and accommodation of plus-sized people. In one article on their website, writer Meaghan O’Riordan talks about colleges having desks and seats that standardize the size an “average” college student should be. O’Riordan asserts that these desks and chairs are fat-shaming by pulling from different researchers and experiences from students. She agreed with researcher Corey Stevens’ statement that the small desks in classrooms are a “hidden curriculum” in the higher education system. 

College students have enough to deal with when coming to college, but now students are dealing with being criticized for not fitting in what is seen as a standard size not only by peers but by their institution. It is understandable that institutions may use this “hidden curriculum” because they care for students’ health, but classroom spaces should be a comfortable learning environment for students of all shapes and sizes.

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