New semester, new beginnings, new frustrations
It’s a new school year, and I’m facing down what might be my last year of coursework before I become a doctoral candidate. It’s exciting, but this year I’m facing one of my biggest scholarly challenges yet: teaching my own class.
For someone who has always been nervous talking in front of groups, this was a big hurdle I knew I needed to attempt to overcome if I want to try to get a job as a professor (which is a whole different can of worms). Truth be told, after a lifetime of bullying about my size (both height and weight), my clothes (my family started off poor, although became solidly middle class in late high school), my disabilities, and anything else people wanted to metaphorically grab at, I just barely circumvented a series of panic attacks.
I’m teaching what is essentially a first year seminar for traditionally-aged college freshmen to more easily transition from high school to college. It’s a neat experience (and one that I’m thankful for as I’m slowly getting over my fear of public speaking and imposter syndrome), but I’m finding myself stuck worrying about what a lot of people may consider incredibly superficial.
For folks who have been in the Fat Acceptance movement for a while, you probably already know that fat people clothes are an issue. Fat professional clothes are even worse. Fat professional clothes that a graduate student can afford while swimming in medical bills and fundraising for a much-needed scooter … I think we have the Holy Grail, or a unicorn, maybe Bigfoot … or maybe a Bigfoot-unicorn hybrid holding the Holy Grail aloft.
The dress I’m wearing in the photo above (taken by Kolaya Photography for a photo shoot) is one that I wore on the first day of class because I scraped together the money for Gwynnie Bee. That particular wrap dress from Kiyonna runs about $100. While I really love Kiyonna‘s clothes (as everything I’ve borrowed from Gwynnie Bee from that company have fit me amazingly well), there’s no way that I could afford to build a work wardrobe with each dress costing $100.
This is the frustrating reality of almost all plus-sized fashion. Lane Bryant’s $60+ trousers and $50+ plain oxford shirts are another example. Name a company that actually sells plus-sized clothes that are appropriate for a workplace with standards above “business casual” (and even then, you’ll still find really expensive stuff), and it’s likely that you will pay at least $50USD. At least.
It becomes even more of a problem when the statistics are factored in: fat women earn less than either their thinner or male counterparts (even worse for fat women of color). Somehow we’re supposed to both make less money at a job and pay more money to stay looking work appropriate. While I get some leeway as to what I wear in the classroom, my choice of attire as a fat, disabled, young-looking female professor is going to land on my student evaluations, which will impact my future teaching prospects. It will also impact whether I will get offered a tenure track job, especially in a world where people literally think that fat people cannot get doctoral degrees.
While there isn’t an immediate solution, I’m just going to keep rocking my rockstar thrifting and sale/coupon skills to keep me clothed in the classroom. If I’m lucky, maybe I can get them to kvetch about the tattooed prof with weird hair and a scooter…