This post began as an essay about “white privilege,” but before I wrote a single word, I realized that my reasoning had changed. Not because the idea of “white privilege” has jumped the shark and is no longer the sole province of diversity shills, being taken up as it has by the obnoxious Bill O’Reilly, but because I changed my mind. Simply put, I now do believe in “white privilege,” a concept I had heretofore scorned as among the basest of wrong-headed academic whimsey.
My conversion came when I read about a new Tumblr site that encourages faculty everywhere to list what they eat for breakfast. As faithful readers are aware, the self-absorption of the professoriate knows no bounds; however, the depths of their fatuous narcissism has reached new heights at “Academic breakfast, studying scholarly foodways one plate at a time.” Nevermind that the site’s format is a homage (or rip-off, depending how you look at it) to Bon Appetit‘s back page, it’s groundbreaking research by Lucas Crawford, Ruth Wynn Woodward lecturer in the department of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at Simon Fraser University.
Professor Crawford’s PhD is in English and Film Studies, and his special areas of academic study include:
-transgender studies of architecture and space
-diller scofidio + renfro (especially the High Line Park)
-Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett
-theories and literatures [sic] of fatness (especially those of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick)
-perfumery and the sense of smell
-food studies, food writing, and gluttony
Amazing, isn’t it, what expertise one acquires whilst studying English and film?
Professor Crawford’s powerful scholarship in the burgeoning field of “fat studies” is what occasioned the change in my opinion of “white privilege.” For those of you unaware of this important new cornerstone of liberal arts education, fat studies is defined by the Popular Culture and American Culture Associations as
an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary field of study that confronts and critiques cultural constraints against notions of “fatness” and “the fat body”; explores fat bodies as they live in, are shaped by, and remake the world; and creates paradigms for the development of fat acceptance or celebration within mass culture. Fat Studies uses body size as the starting part for a wide-ranging theorization and explication of how societies and cultures, past and present, have conceptualized all bodies and the political/cultural meanings ascribed to every body. Fat Studies reminds us that all bodies are inscribed with the fears and hopes of the particular culture they reside in, and these emotions often are mislabeled as objective “facts” of health and biology. More importantly, perhaps, Fat Studies insists on the recognition that fat identity can be as fundamental and world-shaping as other identity constructs analyzed within the academy and represented in media.
Quite a mouthful, eh? Let Professor Crawford put it in more explicable terms:
Just walking down the street as a fat person in most places in Canada—and I think Vancouver is a bit extra intense in this way—you just get tons, tons of public attention. From stares and comments and leers and exclusions of various kinds—just real public disrespect.
Let’s get real. White privilege must exist, for who else but the super-entitled believe that 1) what they ate for breakfast is of interest to anyone other than their mothers; and 2) everybody else can’t keep their eyes off them?