This is the first time that GWU has offered a class devoted specifically to Fat Studies, and its diverse enrollment is an important victory for the subject. Fat Studies scholars say their mission is to promote weight awareness and acceptance among populations of all types. The sociological study of obesity has been creeping into academia for over a decade, often as a subtopic of Women’s Studies or Health Sciences. But only recently has weight become a subject of study in its own right. “There would be no Fat Studies if there were no obesity epidemic,” says Esther Rothblum, a lesbian studies professor at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the earliest to research the psychology of weight bias…

Spurred by growing national concerns about obesity, many schools now offer undergraduates a place to discuss these questions. Courses that deal with Fat Studies and body image have been taught at schools, including Oregon State University and Rutgers University. Newer still, however, is the growing interest among students and scholars who aren’t fat themselves.

“The Fat Studies movement is really important and valuable for smaller people to participate in,” says Linda Bacon, a professor at City College of San Francisco and the author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. “The imperative of thinness in our culture is not based on science, and it causes a lot of pain.” From the activist’s perspective, thinner students might be the ideal targets of a Fat Studies course, because they’re both the victims and the perpetrators of weight stigma.