Dr. Jeannine Gailey, a professor in TCU’s sociology department, has spent her last several years studying the injustices women of size experience.
She has created the term “hyperinvisibility” to describe the phenomenon of women of size being publicly scrutinized while ignored in society.
“If you’re hypervisible that means that you’re often the focus of a tremendous amount of attention, and oftentimes unwelcomed attention [such as] people staring at you, people making faces or talking behind your back and kind of pointing,” Gailey said.
Gailey said at the other extreme, those same people are often completely erased or dismissed.
“Many of the women I’ve interviewed talked about saying things like ‘I’m the biggest person in the room but no one sees me,’ meaning that people don’t have conversations with them or they never look them in the eye or treat them as if they are a person that matters,” Gailey said.
“They’ve been seriously objectified but they’re there. So that’s why I argue that they’re hyperinvisible. Their presence is known but they’re being intentionally dismissed.”
Dr. Gailey said she realized she was passionate about this field of study while doing research on men participating in “hogging” about a decade ago.
“I had done previous research about young men, college aged men typically, who are soldiers and things like that, who intentionally try to pick up women who they thought were large or unattractive for sport or pleasure,” Gailey said.
“Sport meaning they would bet on who could take her home, make bets about who could have sex with her or all of those sorts of things. And on the other end, pleasure, meaning they would make the argument that they were just hard up or they thought she was desperate because she was big.”
Gailey said she was infuriated and curious to know how the women involved in these activities felt and began to interview them about sex and dating as a woman of size.
These interviews led to conversations about their family, their body image and their views on their health.
“It kind of grew into this much larger project that ended up with 74 women,” Gailey said.
Gailey will accept the Women and Gender Studies Faculty Research and Creativity Activity Award Thursday at her lecture on Women of Size and the “Obesity Epidemic”: Weight and Gender Discourse in Contemporary Society.
The lecture will take place in Moudy North 141 at 7 p.m.
After she is presented with the award, she will give a brief lecture based on her research which was published in November in her book “The Hyper(In)visible Fat Woman,” which includes the stories of those 74 women.
Gailey said she is going to talk about the hyperinvisibility phenomenon and weave in some of the narratives from the women she interviewed. She said she is also going to discuss how it impacts women of size and any person whose body may be marginalized in society.
Gailey said she isn’t promoting fitness or non-fitness.
“If I was promoting anything it would be that we as a society need to recognize the diversity of bodies. You can’t necessarily look at someone and determine if they’re healthy or not,” Gailey said.
“Look around anywhere. You see men and women of various shapes and sizes and heights and colors but as a culture we tend to focus on this one very narrow form of beauty and then we tend to associate beauty with things like health.”
Gailey said she remembers telling a class about hogging when she first started teaching in 2005.
“They laughed,” she said. “But since then, and perhaps it’s the way that I present it now and because I’m older and don’t have as much tolerance for students laughing at somebody being harmed, nobody laughs.”
Almost all of Gailey’s research is about someone who’s been mistreated in society.
“I feel like if we can focus on the people who are being mistreated and give them a voice then perhaps we as a society can move toward decreasing that mistreatment or discrimination,” Gailey said.