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Welcome to Spring 2022!

I hope that your holidays were restful. While we are beginning the semester remotely, there are still plenty of opportunities to connect with WLRC. Perhaps your unit or group has partnered with us recently. Or, you are looking for opportunities to collaborate on programming that will help to make your unit a more inclusive one. You might have an idea that you want to share with us to get more people onboard. Or, you want to be in community. Whatever brings you to our Open House on Thursday, January 20, noon – 1pm, we look forward to having you become involved with the center!

There are so many issues to talk about which bear on our lives in higher education. For example, at the beginning of each calendar year, we can set our clocks to the onslaught of miracle diet plans and weight loss gimmicks that will flood our email inboxes and social media accounts. Reading Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Thick over the holiday break and now this essay on some of the ways that bodies are represented in the discipline of Philosophy reminds me that fatphobia takes a lot of forms and is expressed inside academia just as much as outside. Its most insidious form involves provoking us to scrutinize our bodies just a little more, to find all the faults, and to commit to repairing or removing the flaws with pills, exercise, surgery, and various anti-food practices. Scrutiny and punishment for being fat (or ‘thick’) is structural, and is expressed in classed and racialized ways, such that fat women and nonbinary folks of color can expect to be treated poorly by physicians, potential romantic partners, salespersons, coworkers, etc.

Pandemic life has certainly changed all of us in both body and mind, some in more perceptible ways than others. What would it mean to place conversations about the impact of the pandemic on physical bodies right alongside the ones that we [try to] have about mental health? Grappling to take back control over our bodies and how they look and function, involves addressing negative self-talk and harmful ways of approaching food that are steeped in white supremacy, patriarchal and elitist notions of how our bodies should look and be treated. It means questioning normative assumptions of what a healthy body looks like, and checking ourselves when we stand in judgment of other people’s bodies, even in academic contexts. Undoing fatphobia requires us to examine the ways that fatness is used to excuse violence and exclusion as well. The astute folks at Teen Vogue offer Ask A Fat Girl as an opportunity to learn, think and act against fatphobia in all its forms. As we work to find new ways to empower ourselves, to push back against fatphobia and to expand more spaces of inclusion on campus, I encourage all of us to read Sonya Renee Taylor’s Your Body is Not An Apology. We look forward to continuing this conversation in the near future. If this issue resonates with you, let us know!

Quad petition

Students affiliated with the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change have organized themselves to respond to the university’s plans to renovate the Quad on East Campus. The Quad (short for quadrangle) is as much a thoroughfare as a critical space for UIC communities to gather, speak out, and build community. Many WLRC events have taken place on the quad, including Take Back the Night. Critical issues about accessibility have been raised by this group of concerned students, as well as questions about how the proposed renovations will change the nature of public gatherings. We are asking you to sign and support the petition, and to talk up the issues with your colleagues. It’s important that the students’ voices and concerns be heard.

Save the Date

In the coming weeks, we will unveil programs and events for this semester. For now, please note the dates for upcoming Feminisms Lunch Lectures:

  • Blood Buds initiative on menstruation, on Wednesday, February 8, 11am – noon
  • Heather Weinreich talking about research on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women faculty on Wednesday, March 2, noon – 1pm.

We look forward to seeing you at our events and being in community with you—whether virtually or in-person—in the weeks ahead.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

Natalie Bennett