Sociology professor publishes book about painful experiences of overweight women


    “The Hyper(in)visible Fat Woman,” written by Dr. Jeannine A. Gailey, is a collection of in-depth interviews with 74 different women confronting anti-fat bias and finding their way to size-acceptance.

    Gailey, an associate professor of sociology and gender studies, has dedicated a good portion of her career to studying bodies. She teaches a sociology of the body class at TCU.

    Gailey’s efforts are focused within a relatively new field called “fat studies.”

    “Some bodies are privileged more than other bodies, particularly thin bodies,” Gailey said.

    Gailey said there’s been an ongoing movement to “take back the word.” The movement focuses on removing the negative connotation of the word “fat” and giving it new meaning.

    Gailey developed the idea for her new book after reading an article about men who intentionally go out to pick up women they would consider to be large or unattractive. This activity, called “hogging,” was a sort of male-boding activity at women’s expense.

    “The way they talked about these women was incredible heart-wrenching. I was just so angry actually, to be honest,” Gailey said.

    She and a colleague began researching these behaviors.

    Her research began with interviewing women about their sex and dating lives. Gailey found that she couldn’t interview women about their dating lives without first addressing their familial relationships, friendships and own body images.

    “The thing that was really surprising for me was just the amount of hate that exists, particularly for women who are large,” Gailey said.

    One woman recalled working out at the local gym when a college-age woman who was on the elliptical next to looked over at her and said, “It’s people like you who make the rest of us look bad.”

    “It’s not just from strangers, but from family members, friends and colleagues,” Gailey said.

    Gailey included positive anecdotes at the end of each chapter of the book to show how these women achieve size acceptance.

    “Despite the tremendous amount of abuse that many women have endured, they are relatively well adjusted and have found ways to fight back and to not hate themselves,” Gailey said.

    Many of the women get to the point of self acceptance through the size acceptance movement through social media, blogs and articles.

    #LoveYourBody is one of many hashtags women use on Twitter to help each other find size acceptance.

    Gailey said having a partner who is loving and accepting is another way women may cope. Others find acceptance through age.

    Gailey’s students are excited to read her book and learn about her research.

    “I took her sociology of the body class and from there, it spurred this avalanche of interest,” Mariah Beltran, a senior psychology major, said.

    Gailey is being honored with the Women and Gender Studies Faculty Research and Creative Activity Award on Feb. 26, where she will give a lecture on the concept of hyper-invisibility and weave in examples of women to show how it plays out.

    Gailey hopes to help people confront their own prejudices.

    “She’s trying to help us love our bodies and just ourselves on the whole and to understand that the pressures society puts on us are not a reflection of us as people,” Beltran said.

    Gailey’s lecture will be at 6 p.m. in Moudy North 141 on Feb. 26.

    The Hyper(in)visible Fat Woman can be purchased on Gailey’s publisher’s website.