College warns students against ‘fatphobic’ phrases like ‘you have such a pretty face’

Campus Reform:

  • Mount Holyoke College’s diversity office posted a guide with “fatphobic” phrases.
  • Phrases included “you’re so brave,” and “that’s so flattering on you.

The Mount Holyoke College Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion shared a guide on social media called “Phrases You Didn’t Know Were Fatphobic.” 

Phrases included “you’re so brave,” “that’s so flattering on you,” “you have such a pretty face,” “you carry yourself well,” and “I’m so bad for eating this.” “Not only is this phrase incredibly triggering, but it also feeds into a harmful narrative created by diet culture that teaches ‘good’ foods versus ‘bad’ foods.”  

The college informed students  on August 10 that calling someone “brave” can imply that “there’s a reason” overweight people “shouldn’t show off [their] bodies or be proud of them,” and that “no one should be considered ‘brave’  for simply existing in their fat body.”

“That’s so flattering on you,” the college said, implies that dressing oneself is about appearing “smaller” and fitting into “society’s outdated thin ideal.”

“Not only is this phrase incredibly triggering, but it also feeds into a harmful narrative created by diet culture that teaches ‘good’ foods versus ‘bad’ foods.”

Calling someone’s face “pretty” is also off-limits, because it suggests that someone’s face “is their only redeeming or acceptable” feature and “that fat is not beautiful.” 

Saying someone carries himself or herself well “reinforces the negative stereotype” that plus-sized people are “lazy, sloppy, and not well-kept.”

Certain comments about one’s own eating habits were also called into question, specifically the phrase “I’m so bad for eating this.”

The Mount Holyoke College Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office stated in its Instagram caption that it is “taking time to reflect on these everyday comments/phrases that are microaggressions.”

“I think that there are lots of things that people are not aware of that, in general, are actually hurtful,” Mount Holyoke College freshman Evelyn Bushway told Campus Reform

She spoke about her own personal experience with losing weight and people complimenting her. 

According to liberal free-speech advocate Jonathan Turley, an important issue arises when someone tries to use this publication in a legal action: “The free speech concern is how such microaggressive terms can be used to curtail or punish speech, including supporting complaints for formal investigations. Many people likely disagree with the position of the office on these terms. How does the listing then play out when a complaint is filed? Disciplinary actions often seem based on how language is received rather than intended. Schools need to be clear as to whether microaggressive language can be the basis for bias complaints and actions.”

Read more at Campus Reform

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