Robert L. Crosnoe, You Appear to Be a Dink UPDATED

Dear Professor Crosnoe,

Congratulation on getting your article written up over at The Chronicle of Higher Education.   Too bad you appear to be a dink.  I have only four words of advice for you–find you a feminist.

Here’s the problem (and I’m sorry I have to quote so much from The Chronicle but most of my readers can’t actually read them online and I don’t want them to miss out): your article finds, and I quote,

Many obese girls skip college because of mental and behavioral problems associated with their weight, according to a new study by Robert L. Crosnoe, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Obese adolescent girls, the study found, are half as likely to go to college as are non-obese girls, and those who attended a high school where obesity was uncommon were even less likely to enroll.

The study, which tracked 11,000 teenagers, also found that obese teen girls were more likely to consider suicide, have negative self-images, and use alcohol and marijuana than their non-obese peers.

By contrast, the study found little difference between the college-enrollment rates for obese and non-obese boys, leading to the conclusion that body image plays a greater role in girls’ self-concept and education choices.

“Obesity has been identified as a serious public-health issue, but these results indicate the harmful effects extend far beyond physical health,” says Mr. Crosnoe.

Let’s take a look again at what you say.  You say, “Obesity has been identified as a serious public-health issue, but these results indicate the harmful effects extend far beyond physical health.”

Bless your heart!  No they don’t.

What your results indicate is that it sucks to be a fat teenage girl in today’s society.  And, guess what?  It does suck.  In general, it kind of sucks to be a teenage girl in today’s society and, if you have something noticeably different about you?  Whoa, doggie.

But see, here’s the problem, you’re conflating a harmful effect of being a teenage girl–that your body is up for public scrutiny; that because it’s up for public scrutiny, people are free to (and often feel obliged to) let you know what they think of your appearance; that you must find some way of navigating the conflicting demands of appearing to be sexually available to everyone who wants you without appearing to be a slut; AND that, if you fail to meet people’s expectations, they will make your life hell–with a harmful effect of being obese.

You’ve proved that it’s not actually a harmful effect of being obese, because boys don’t suffer from it.

How can you not see that?

My second huge problem with your conclusions, based on how they’re typified here, is that, even if a lack of going to college is linked directly to obesity, it’s not the fat chicks’ faults.  There are things that are often a direct result of being obese.  You are obese; you can’t get the seat belt on an airplane to buckle around you.  Cause and effect.

But–you are obese; you don’t go to college?  No.

That’s other people making you feel bad about yourself because you don’t meet some arbitrary beauty standard and making you feel like you aren’t worthy of attending college.  That’s not actually a problem with the fat chick; that’s a problem for the fat chick.

Why would you reward anti-fat bigotry by suggesting that it’s the fat chick who should change?

Would you, if you did a study on college attendance and race and found that fewer black kids go to college than white kids because black kids face racism and bigotry that leads them to think they can’t succeed in college, ever write a sentence like “Race-related conditions have been identified as a serious public-health issue, but these results indicate the harmful effects extend far beyond physical health”?

I doubt it.  I think you’d see that it’s not the race of the person that is the problem, but society’s attitude towards people of that race which is the problem.  Why is that type of body hatred apparent and not this type?

Just wondering,

Aunt B.

P.S.  Argh!  Professor Crosnoe, NM has convinced me that you, yourself, are clearly not a dink, but have been misrepresented by the Chronicle in such a way as to make you appear like a dink.

I still stand by my original assertion that there’s something deeply dink-like and troubling about the Chronicle piece, but I apologize for not looking into you further to discover that you were not the source of the dinkiness.

My sincerest apologies to you.

15 thoughts on “Robert L. Crosnoe, You Appear to Be a Dink UPDATED

  1. B, darling B, you know I hate to disagree with you, but this time I think you missed something. Crosnoe would appear to agree with you. There’s an article with quotes at the <a href=”http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/07/24/0724obesity.html”Austin American Statesman in which he talks about helping girls to cope with social stigmas.

  2. Would you, if you did a study on college attendance and race and found that fewer black kids go to college than white kids because black kids face racism and bigotry that leads them to think they can’t succeed in college

    I’d like to see if they’d suggest the black kids turn white – which is the same thing in my mind as suggesting the fat chicks lose weight.

  3. It’s not what he’s suggesting, you know. If you Google him without the L you find a number of interviews from Texas papers about this.

  4. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been fuming over that article all day long and haven’t been able to put my frustration into effective words. You said beautifully just what I was wanting to say.

  5. Goodness, B, how on earth was the CHE article framed? I don’t have a subscription, so I couldn’t read it. But the selection you quoted seemed kinda vague to have set you off. I mean, you could read that selection and imagine it would end up in a ringing call for girls to lose weight, but it also could end up in other places, too. Which is the only reason I googled the guy, who I’ve never heard of before — to see where he was coming from on this. And he does a lot of studies on how to keep teenagers in school, and then there were a lot of newspaper articles about this study, and they’re so full of quotes about how girls have all these body expectations put on them that boys don’t and what that does to girls’ ideas of their own worthiness, that I simply can’t figure out how the Chronicle could have gotten that wrong.

  6. After reading your comments, I did what they suggested and googled Crosnoe. My anger at him dissipated, but my anger at the media grew. Is it just impossible for a newspaper or magazine to not see the bias with which they’re writing?

  7. NM, what you see here is almost the whole article, leaving out the part that tells where to find his research. That’s why I thought he came across as a dink, because it ends right there with the dramatic quote about not going to college being another harmful effect of being obese.

  8. Ha! I’m laughing because I didn’t read this last night, and only came here after what I wrote this morning. We appear to have a synchronous mind on this one, because I just told the tale of female fat-prejudice at college from the other side–the perspective a non-fat girl headed to I.U.

    I mean, honestly. What the fuck, people? (And I’ve read Crosnoe before, so I’m blaming the journal which appears to have misconstrued his writing.) Yes it sucks to be a fat girl.

    But how about how some higher education communities enact institutional prejudice against the overweight?
    –colleges which require photographs of the applicant sumbitted along with transcripts and essays
    colleges which allow fat-prejudiced Sororities and campus groups to function, and even fund those groups with Student Activity monies
    –colleges which charge higher health-services fees to the overweight students in anticipation of higher health care costs.

    I just love how society condemns the overweight and then says “see, you get condemned for being overweight. That’s another reason it’s bad to be fat.”

  9. Well, I blame the Chronicle for this big time. Sloppy, sloppy.

    But Kat, sororities getting $ from student activity fees? They’re by definition closed to most students. They exist to promote the narrowest kind of exclusivity and keeping others out. If folks want to join, let them pay for the ‘privilege’. Giving them other students’ activity money? That’s just wrong.

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  12. I’m curious about two things: the raw data that was collected and who funded the study (as in, what were the ulterior motives behind the study). Because there has long been a correlation between obesity and education (though cause-and-effect conclusions are often dubious) but if the goal was to say conclude that obese teenaged girls are in danger of not going to college because they’re obese, then I’d have to wonder what Big Pharma company commissioned this.

    Frankly, if there is a cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and going to college that
    isn’t directly related to the girls’ access to educational resources (and it is because they
    hate their bodies or whatever), then it’s not obesity that’s the problem, it’s what parents/society are apparently teaching obese girls about what’s expected of them in the world. Which is, apparently not a whole lot in some cases. And that’s a shame.

  13. This subject is quite a sensitive one for me, seeing how I was 235 lbs when I moved to Nashville to go to college and then lost 100 lbs after doing so. My weight never made me question whether or not I wanted to go to college. However, I was affected so that I wanted to change when I got here.

    To the commenter who said “I’d like to see if they’d suggest the black kids turn white – which is the same thing in my mind as suggesting the fat chicks lose weight”, I’d say that’s faulty logic at best. While it is impossible for someone to change races (except Michael Jackson, of course), losing weight is often a personal choice that can be attained when approached the correct way.

    Thanks Aunt B for challenging this man’s findings. I’m sure he understands all there is to know about why fat girls do the things they do.

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