Last week, Long Island’s Centereach High School came under fire after a teacher passed out body-shaming reference materials in a fashion design class. Titled “How Not to Look Fat,” the materials covered everything from hiding cellulite, back fat, and “unattractive bulges” to advising girls not to wear shorts if their thighs touched. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“Rule to live by: The softer the flesh, the chunkier the fabric should be,” one page reads. “Ever see a really chubby person in some super-thin t-shirt fabric? Yeah, it’s not pretty. Don’t be that person.”
“Busty? Good. Booty? Good. Back fat? Eh, not so good,” reads another.
The “advice” is absolutely appalling — and based on student accounts, had nothing to do with learning fashion design or sewing, either. One student in the class told News 12 that the teacher said the materials were meant to be a lesson on “how she and her classmates should be dressing.”
“Me and my friends were offended by it,” Katelynn Passarella told News 12. “There are a couple girls in my class that are overweight, and they were like, ‘My feelings are hurt. My self-esteem dropped.'”
But when Passarella confronted her teacher about the offensive nature of the materials, she shrugged it off and said they were simply a part of the curriculum. The Middle Country School District is currently investigating further, but superintendent Roberta Gerold has already called the guide “inappropriate” and said that it would not be permitted in the classroom moving forward.
“It shouldn’t be taught in school,” Passarella said. “It shouldn’t be taught anywhere.”
According to the Mentor Research Center, 44% of high school girls are actively trying to lose weight. The NYC Girls Project reports that more than 80% of 10-year-old girls worry about being fat, and that by middle school, that 40-70% of girls are “dissatisfied with two or more parts of their body.” Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty found that over 70% of teenage girls will avoid day-to-day activities if they feel bad about how they look, and that about 70% worry they don’t “measure up” in some way, including physically.
Being a teenager is hard enough to begin with, especially when it comes to maintaining some semblance of self-esteem. The “How Not to Look Fat” reference materials suggest that anyone who isn’t a size zero should be ashamed of their bodies — but this is absolutely not the case. There is no one “right” body type, and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. A fashion design class, in particular, should encourage the creation of clothes that make us feel amazing and confident, not ashamed and insecure.
By encouraging body-shaming in the classroom, the school is inadvertently encouraging a culture that shames and values women based on their bodies alone. (Many have pointed out that the guide was only targeted at women — and there was no male equivalent to be found.) Rather than shaming girls for their weight, Centereach High School should be fostering an environment that embraces and celebrates all bodies — because our bodies are amazing for everything they can do, not just how they look.