Higher Ed Plus-Fat and Job Searching

A few months ago on the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook page, there was a post from a woman who stated that she had been advised by a family friend who had worked in higher ed for years to talk about her energy levels during an interview. The reason why? Because she was plus-sized, and she should let her potential employers know that, in case they didn’t want to hire her based on her body type.

Woaaah, slow down. You mean that employers in Higher Ed discriminate against larger bodies?

Sad to say, it’s apparent that they do. This post only highlighted that.

Most people were outraged. “They can’t do that!” They exclaimed. “If they do, they’re not worth your time.”

Obviously the friend of the woman knew more than these comments.

The thing is, being plus-sized in higher ed, when you go into a job interview and are rejected, you rarely if ever know the reason. So, it’s really not apparent whether or not we weren’t hired based on something we said or did, or if the employers felt we wouldn’t have enough “energy.” How could we possibly know that? This friend of this woman apparently knows something we don’t: that comments about people’s weight take place behind closed doors and are important in hiring meetings.

While reading the comments, it became apparent to me just how little people know or understand about the plus-sized community. For all of Higher Ed’s talk, there is little to show for it when it comes to this area. People were saying things like “THIS IS ILLEGAL!” And in fact, in many states, it’s not. Body size is only a protected class in a few cities and states throughout the U.S. Therefore, someone can be discriminated against because of their body size in their place of work, and it is perfectly okay. Other people shared stories of being called “frumpy” or even being told “get off your fat a$$ and do it yourself.” In front of students. So not okay.

There were also a lot of comments about showing your energy through your interview…but that’s problematic. Interviews are long and draining experiences. What if you happen to be plus-sized and introverted? You’re in a no-win situation there, because you may not be able to show “energy”, and therefore potential employers may assume it’s because of your weight and decide not to hire you. The REAL problem here is that fat or plus-sized people are assumed to have low energy, because that’s what society tells us. Fat people are lazy. Fat people don’t want to do anything to help themselves. Fat people are disgusting. Fat people could change their ways if they wanted to. Fat people lack “energy.”

And then there’s this thing within higher ed called #saFit. While there could be many benefits to this movement, I think that it can also be extremely harmful. A couple of the plus-sized people in the thread mentioned this movement and said they had received unsolicited advice from those who participated in order to “help” them. I also know of many offices that compete in weight loss competitions or go to Weight Watchers together. My question is, what does that do to the person who is plus-sized in these offices and doesn’t participate in these functions? And what does that say about what higher ed folks believe about weight in general?

Some offices take it too far. I know of a department where they were forced to take a “health assessment” and participate in a mandatory water drinking competition. MANDATORY.

Health is a singular experience. By that I mean that it is only the person who knows how healthy they are. Someone’s weight may not necessarily relate to their health. But we all assume it does. We want people to be healthy, sure. But only that person can tell you whether or not they are. And really it’s NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS.

Even if someone is “unhealthy”, does that mean that they are worth less? Does that mean they are treated like a second-class citizen? We place so much importance on this as a field, but I think that it is very misguided. We have a lot of work to do as far as this goes.

So, if you have an opportunity to hire individuals in your department, ask yourselves what you are presenting and promoting during your interviewing process. What questions do you ask? What factors do you consider during decision making? Because there are a lot of biases when it comes to weight within higher ed, as seen on that post.

NEW SERIES: Higher Ed Plus-Back to School Supplies and Essentials!

Hello friends!

I’m excited to introduce a new series to this blog-Higher Ed Plus. Being plus-sized or fat within student affairs and higher education comes with its own unique set of challenges. Even though I’ve wrote about it a little on this blog, I realized I have a lot more to say on this topic. However, I realize I come with my own set of privileges being a white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class woman. I can only speak to my experience with all of that in mind. However, I think it would be great if I someday have contributors to this blog that come from different backgrounds to speak to their experience being plus-sized in the field. I think this is something that is not spoken about often enough, and we do a disservice to ourselves and to our students by being quiet about this issue.

But for now, I’m going to start this series with a Back to School haul of sorts, if you will.  Our Resident Assistants moved back in for training this week…the summer flew by! Therefore, this past Saturday was the last day I would be able to go clothes shopping before the semester started. I believe it’s time to amp up my wardrobe, and so I wanted to  get some things and be a little more prepared for my semester. However, as I will describe later, it proved to be VERY difficult, as per the usual, to find some things that I wanted.

But first, let’s start with the “wellness” items I bought.

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This year I know that I need to be more focused on my overall well-being. My work/life balance was a little out of place last year. I’ll talk more about this later but I’ve been slowly taking steps to ensure that I am in a good place to focus on that. So I stopped by Bath and Body Works, and they were having a sale on candles-$10 off! I smelled the Autumn Day one and I couldn’t resist, and candles actually help me relax. Next, I was running low on my body scrub and couldn’t find the one I love which is upsetting (it’s a summer scent though so I guess not surprising).  A Thousand Wishes is a really nice smelling scent and it can be used in all seasons. Next, I was also running low on the Stress Relief shower gel that I am in love with. They recently came out with new scents for Stress Relief, and I got the cedarwood and sage scent. I also bought two car air fresheners-one fall scented (Leaves) and the Stress Relief one (because hi, it’s August in Higher Ed). The Stress Relief one I put right in my car and it’s SO good.

Next I went to Lush. I have been wanting to try a bath bomb for a while, especially since I’ve taken to watching bath bomb demos on YouTube…don’t ask. I bought one that would be really relaxing and luxurious, so I bought one with cocoa butter in it. I’ll probably use it either right before or after opening.

Finally, not pictured here, I went to Sephora and got the sample pack of the Glam Glow Supermud mask. If you haven’t heard of Glam Glow before, you should really look it up. It’s a mask that pulls all of the dirt, oil, and impurities in your skin…and you can see it on your face as it dries. Some people may find that gross, but I find it fascinating. It also works extremely well. After I use it, my pores are smaller and extremely clean, and my face feels so good. It’s not pictured because I put it on my face as soon as I got home, as I’d been sweating a lot lately and wanted to clean up my face.

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Next, I bought a whiteboard, some markers, and magnets. I wanted to create a vision board out of these items. I’ve created vision boards before, but nothing has seemed to stick. I wanted something that I’d be able to update and change easily if my vision changes. I believe this will help me be more focused on balance and wellness, and remind me of the things I want to accomplish this year.

 

 

 

 

But now, let’s get into the clothes.

torrid

Don’t mind my foot…

I picked a few things up from Torrid. They were having a really good sale, buy one get two free on Clearance items, but honestly I didn’t find anything. It was really disappointing, but I did find a couple of staple items that my wardrobe needs!

First of all, I bought a really colorful peach blazer. It’s so pretty and goes well with my skin tone. I bought the flowered tank top to match with it. I figure once I get some other jewelry I can also wear some solids with it, but for now the flowered top will do. I also got a jean jacket because I love the look of a maxi dress with jean jackets in the fall. Then I bought this really gorgeous purple chiffon top. It looks great under sweaters or just by itself. I was disappointed I couldn’t find anything in clearance and hated that I was about to pay full price, but the cashier took pity on me and used a code so that I got $50 off! BLESS YOU, AMAZING CASHIER.

I tried on a few pairs of pants, and I also wanted to find a skirt, but I wasn’t able to find anything. It was a little disappointing, but for some reason the styles that I tried did not fit me. However, this trend unfortunately continued.

lane bryant.jpgAt Lane Bryant, I found some items that I have been looking for since last year! I got a sports bra because I have recently joined the local YMCA. I also got a chambray shirt, and another gray blouse that could go with the peach blazer I bought. Again, I struck out with pants or skirts. I don’t know what’s going on! It could be the styles that I am trying in the stores but I know my size hasn’t changed because I have other pants the same size that still fit me. This is the struggle, not just with plus-size brands but with all brands. Sizes mean different things at different stores, or even within the same stores. It makes shopping that much more frustrating…especially for plus-size people. To make matters worse, everything is so expensive, especially for plus-size people looking to buy work-appropriate attire. There are not many plus-size brands that have business casual clothes either. I struggle a lot to find things, and I know I’m not the only one.

But, I know that I found a lot of great items and I’m excited to use and wear them all. I am still on the hunt for more pants/skirts, but will have to look online for them apparently…and I need to wait until I get paid again to shop some more.

If anyone wants the prices of anything I bought feel free to reach out! I kept all of the receipts.

If anyone would like to contribute to the Higher Ed Plus series, you can contact me on Twitter at @dani_a_johnson.