This is not about this one guy who tweeted this one hateful thing – it’s about our larger culture and how we are content to allow fat individuals to exist as second class citizens. Buy a second plane ticket, pay more for healthcare, only be represented in the media in a negative fashion – all of these are regular parts of life for fat people and very few seem to care.
I’m not interested in responding to Dr. Miller. While I appreciate those who want to call him out, and yes he deserves it, I’m more interested in addressing the social narratives in which individual comments like Dr. Miller’s are encouraged. I’m also interested in the structural aspects of fat oppression. I decided that what I wanted to do was to highlight all the amazing fat individuals who are in graduate school, or have completed graduate school – to provide a visual repository for anyone who doubts that fat individuals lack the abilities or qualities to succeed in academia. And to celebrate the amazing work being done by these rad fatties!
I present to you FuckyeahFatPhDs – check it out!
I’m a lot more optimistic about the impact of FuckyeahFatPhDs than about firing Geoffrey Miller. He’ll probably be replaced with someone equally likely to bring their unexamined sizist attitudes into their hiring practices. I mean, scientists still think they’re immune to sexism.
Basically, this guy (who sent the fat-shaming tweet) is a real piece of work. NYU Professor Geoffrey Miller on eugenics, from a link in the Atlantic piece:
“China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. I worry that this poses some existential threat to Western civilization. Yet the most likely result is that America and Europe linger around a few hundred more years as also-rans on the world-historical stage, nursing our anti-hereditarian political correctness to the bitter end.”
Not only does he believe that China’s one-child policy is really a eugenics policy, he is in favor of eugenics, and thinks most people’s opposition to eugenics is “anti-hereditarian political correctness”. There’s nothing more to say about that, is there?
…Or maybe there is. See, for a long time, I thought “I’m not politically correct” was another way of saying, “I like being rude!” But apparently, now it means, “I’m pro-eugenics!” This is all very confusing to me.
He’s got a series of tweets labeled with the hashtag #diversityisourweakness. This guy is supposed to be an Evolutionary Psychology professor. Now, I have a pretty low opinion of evo psych, at least in practice, but I wouldn’t have expected him to be this ignorant of evolution. When the next influenza pandemic hits, and some people have a gene that makes them immune or resistant, will diversity be our weakness? I suppose he would argue that the people with the minority gene have the “right” gene, and the rest of the people are examples of “diversity is our weakness”–but we don’t know which genes are the “right” genes ahead of time in a situation like that. And we’re not likely to any time in the near future. And some genes are the “right” genes in some situations and the “wrong” genes in others. (Dandelion and orchid children [hypothesis: people with “fat genes” are dandelions and people with “thin genes” are orchids–they are doing well in first-world countries because they’re in a relatively good environment], sickle-cell anemia genes, genes for an animal to be bigger allow them to be more dominant in good times, starve quicker in bad times…) And in many cases, the “right” or “wrong” situation is determined by the balance of other genes. A very simple example of this is Fisher’s principle: a gene that results in an individual having more male offspring than female offspring is advantageous if everyone else is having more female offspring, disadvantageous if everyone else has that same gene and is having more male offspring.
(Fisher’s principle is in my mind because one of the links from the Atlantic article [about how China does not have a eugenics program] mentions it; however, the author does not understand it correctly. The author believes that China’s imbalance of males [which is non-genetic in origin] is “bad for a population genetically” but that would only be true [and Fisher’s principle would only be relevant] if the gender imbalance had a genetic cause rather than an environmental cause. Unless you believe in Lamarckian evolution [protip: don’t!], killing [or aborting potential] girls will not cause your offspring to inherit a tendency to have fewer girls.)
Before Geoffrey Miller apologized* for his tweet, he defended it by saying, “It’s about willpower/conscientiousness, not just smarts”–which is true enough, but we disagree on whether being fat is an indicator of the willpower/conscientiousness a PhD candidate will have in working on their PhD specifically. For one thing, I don’t think most people will go from fat to thin simply by not eating carbs. And I don’t believe that it’s equally easy for all people to be thin. It seems to be possible for most people with “fat genes” to become and stay thin, and for most people with “thin genes” to become fat, with extreme enough lifestyles, but the fact that BMI is so heritable says that most thin people aren’t living fitness-and-food-obsessed lives. (You could also infer that from the fact that only 3.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 get 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, yet about 1/3 of American adults have a BMI of <25. Even if you assume that all of that 3.5 percent is “normal weight” and “underweight” people [protip: don’t!] the vast majority of thin people do not get the recommended minimum amount of exercise–let alone hardcore-fitness-nut amounts of exercise.)
But even leaving all that aside and assuming that you believe that a person’s body is a direct reflection of a person’s effort, I see no reason to assume that people will bring equal levels of effort to bear in all of their endeavors. You might as well say that if you can’t stop drinking heavily, you can’t write great novels. (Which is not to say that drinking helps you write.) Or that you can’t become a great guitar player if you use drugs.
*The one good thing I’ll say about him is he did actually apologize, as in, he said that what he did was bad rather than saying “Sorry that you got offended.”
Other links, on less aggravating matters! And with less commentary! (Sorry, but I just had to nerdrage about the stupidity of “diversity is our weakness”…)
Why I don’t diet–an ode to my father This was just beautiful.
Why I Think Declaring Obesity a Disease is Harmful Comprehensive!
The Third Option (About declaring obesity a disease)
Good Fella (On James Gandolfini’s death)
Reform Physical Education: Gym Class Shouldn’t Require Team Sports (Alternate Title: Dodgeball Should Not Be Part of Any Curriculum, Ever: Making kids play team sports in PE is neither healthy nor educational) Bears a certain resemblance to my PE experiences. I wasn’t quite as interested as the author in being successful in gym class, at least in my clearer-headed moments. One of the things I don’t like about the way my brain operates is that in certain situations–mostly when I’m frustrated–I get a sort of tunnel vision and lose my sense of proportion and ability to think clearly. It’s somewhat similar to how I’ve heard anxiety attacks described. The main reason why this is/was a problem for me is that I tend to cry when this happens, which is/was embarrassing for me. It doesn’t happen as much now (both because it’s somewhat easier for me to not cry, and because I can better avoid situations where I would cry), but there were long stretches when it seemed like I cried almost every gym class. Which is a long way of saying that in the moment, I did really care about succeeding at whatever I was failing to do in gym, but most of the time I didn’t.
I also didn’t share the author’s feeling that being bad at team sports meant something about my abilities generally. Probably because I fit the “nerd who is the opposite of a jock” stereotype pretty well–I was good at most other things in school.
From the link:
Calling the class “physical education” was some sort of sick joke. The lesson I was learning about my physical body was that it was useless, inferior, and quite possibly infected with a cootie-like virus. We should have been learning about how complicated and capable our bodies were and how to make them healthier. Instead we were playing dodgeball.
The proponents of team sports in schools say it helps kids learn that they have a place in a team. In this, for me, sports were very effective. I learned early on that my place on a team was similar to that of the elderly antelope with a gimpy leg on a nature program. I was a good distraction, being mauled and eaten so the other, less obviously damaged could get away.
If I had not been subjected to such effective team-building exercises, maybe as an adult I would not be such a loner. Experiences in school can have a devastating effect into adulthood. A British study from Loughborough University showed that physical education in school can be so traumatic that it turns women away from physical fitness for the rest of their lives.
Needless to say, my physical fitness did not improve over the course of my school career. Instead, I developed a slouch and the impression that my perfectly normal body was disabled. A notion that, despite being in perfectly good shape, I held onto until I was 30.
Even Cracked admits that significant, permanent weight loss is rare.
Table To Farm: Coca-Cola Cake Edition This podcast includes a discussion of soda taxes. L.V. Anderson is pro-fat acceptance; we also hear from Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center and Daniel Engber, who is not fully on board with fat acceptance but is nonetheless not on board with a lot of the mainstream anti-obesity measures.
I was going to link to http://glorifybasecamp.com/swimming-with-ajummas/, but apparently it’s gone now… Anyone who already read it, it can be our special secret…
You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve been on the internet somewhat less than usual, too. No newsworthy reason for that. Sometimes I spend more time on some hobbies than others. Lately I’ve been spending time on this.
Also, I have a yoga injury. While I was going into forward fold on Tuesday, my dog decided to run from one window to another to bark at things. He hit me in the head with his head. It’s still kinda sore.