Fat bullying of girls in school : implications for pre-service teacher education
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Bullying of girls based on their body size remains a problem in schools that often appears to be tolerated and neglected by adult staff. Thus far, there has been a limited amount of research on this topic, including a lack of investigation of students’ perspectives of being bullied for their heavier weight. In my thesis, I interviewed six female pre-service teachers who had experienced fat bullying in elementary and secondary school. They were asked about these experiences, how their peers, teachers, and administrative staff responded at the time, and what impact their experiences might have for future teachers. Through critical discourse analysis, my analysis of the data revealed systemic oppression of fat youth through bullying and exclusion that was often tolerated, and occasionally even encouraged, by staff in Health and Physical Education settings such as gymnasiums, outdoor fields, and the girls’ change room, as well as other environments including the academic classroom, recess, and cafeteria. Further, these participants, although once victims of fat bullying, reproduced fatphobic discourse when discussing their experiences and future plans, thereby creating the possibility that they themselves might unwittingly reinforce fatphobia when they become teachers. Given these findings, three recommendations are offered for pre-service teacher education: 1) Offer a specific course, or part of a course, that tackles oppression and bullying from a systemic perspective; 2) Ensure that fat pedagogy is infused throughout Health and Physical Education courses; and 3) Offer workshops on fat bullying.