Oh, derp, which is the thin one again?

I think all fat people have dealt with the stigma that their outward corpulence signifies an inner laziness. Who would willingly be fat and unhealthy when they could be thin and beautiful? Many people believe, even subconsciously, that the obese must be lacking in some other important quality. Thin people think fat people lack a true work ethic, or self-restraint, or willpower, or something. And like all “quitters,” fat people who become thin people are kind of the worst examples of this prejudice, buoyed by their myopic belief that with a little determination, nobody need be a disgusting fattie.

Fat people themselves sometimes buy into this logic. They sign up with psychotic personal trainers who seem to exist only to bully people on hilarious reality shows. Or they go with the science angle: “I’m fat because I’ve got [diseases, genetics, big bones], not like that ho over there who just likes bacon.”

Now, as a fat person, I’d like to think that the stigma is just that, a stigma, and that people with a modicum of intelligence don’t really believe that a person’s weight is an indication of anything more than their weight, but I know way too many thin people who are dumber than me. Turns out, a professor at NYU thinks that your weight is an indication of how successful you’ll be in your education…

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychology professor from the University of New Mexico visiting at NYU, tweeted this the other day:

I love the hashtag “truth.” Something as demonstrably untrue as “fat people don’t have the willpower to write dissertations” is backed up with #truth. Twitter and George R.R. Martin novels are where social contracts go to die.

In any event, FUROR! As reported by Inside Higher Education:

New York University journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen tweeted, “Astonishing fatshaming tweet, since deleted, from an academic, @matingmind. The mind boggles,” to his 117,200-plus followers.

A new blog was launched Monday in response to the furor. The blog is called Fuck Yeah! Fat Ph.D.s and features those proud of being “fatlicious in academia.”

Chris Chambers, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology in Wales, wants to know whether Miller’s tweet reflects the policy of University of New Mexico regarding admissions criteria for Ph.D. students. On his Twitter account, Chambers posted Miller’s tweet along with an e-mail message he wrote to the University of New Mexico psychology chair, Jane Ellen Smith.

“I would also like to know what assurances you can provide that his previous student appointments were not based upon the body mass index of applicants,” Chambers said in his e-mail.

Regardless of whether Miller’s views actually affected the polices of the psychology department at New Mexico (Professor Smith says they did not), certainly Miller isn’t the only person to think like this, in academia or in the legal profession. I think in law, the prejudice has less to do with “willpower” and more to do with “discretion” or “hard work.” You know, if Miller had been visiting at NYU Law School, that tweet would have been something like, “If clients can’t trust you to keep your mouth shut at the dinner table, who will trust you with their most sensitive matters?” Or maybe: “J.D. Candidates, nobody thinks you’ll go the extra mile for them when you can’t even run one mile for yourself.”

Yesterday, we talked a bit about the rampant substance abuse in the legal profession, but people don’t impugn laziness, or worse, bumblingness, to a lawyer who is drinking himself to death, one scotch at a time. You’ll get more respect in the legal profession if you abuse bourbon instead of bearclaws. And certainly for trial lawyers who need to go in front of juries, you are much better off looking like John Edwards than looking like Chris Christie.

The one exception to this general weight constraint is, of course, judges. Judges are allowed to be pretty much as fat as they want to be — yet are still respected as hardworking intellectuals. Their formless robes are just society’s way of pretending that judges are disembodied brains anyway.

I don’t know, personally, I like bacon. And tacos. And I count rum as a food group. And I really don’t like vegetables unless they are smothered in cream and/or cheeses, and perhaps fried. And I hate exercising, ye gods do I hate exercising. Every bit of my “psychological evolution” tells me that running when nobody is chasing me IS DUMB. Every fat-larded sinew of my being tells me that repetitively lifting heavy objects just ’cause is an insane waste of my time.

That I can’t regularly overcome these mental signals for the delayed gratification of pulling a Buffalo Bill in the mirror makes me lazy? Okay, if you say so. But if you really think that the fat people you meet are mentally defective in some way and the thin people you meet are more likely to be awesome on the inside, good luck with that. Seems like a shallow and ultimately futile way to roll because, you know, gravity always wins.

But y’all sure are fun to look at when the weather turns nice.

Fat-Shaming in Academe [Inside Higher Ed]


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