Today I was subject to such blatant, naked sizist hate that I’m still struggling to process its rationalization (that is, its lack of rationalization).
My very good friend is visiting my workplace for a couple weeks, to help train and be trained. Though I’m very lucky to work mostly from home, twice a month I commute into the city and to the office. I was excited to visit with her — we made lunch plans, and it was a beautiful day.
We talked about lots of things during lunch. I feel more comfortable speaking to her about my life than anyone, even probably my husband (sorry, sweetie!). After a while she brought up a colleague of ours, asking me how I felt about him. He’s a megalomaniac, believes he’s a super-special snowflake who is genetically superior to most people, and his stated goal in life is to prove himself “better than other people” (and yes, that is a direct quote. Amazing, huh?). He’s also the big boss’s new protege. Eh-heh. It’s like that.
I express this to her, though she’s heard it before. She’s in agreement. Then she tells me she’s at the point where she doesn’t feel the need to say another word to him, ever. Sensing a story, I ask her to back up and explain. You can imagine my surprise (and how proud I was of her) that the reason had to do with me. She, him, and a few other colleagues were out at lunch. There are animated arguments, the typical fare between competitive scientists. Then she overhears this person say my name, then:
“I don’t like her. She’s obese.”
My friend, being the lady-in-shining-armor that she is, and also being a strong ally, anti-sizist, and fat-positive — not to mention well aware of my activism and views on sizism — presses him on his statement, asking him why he’d say such a thing. He responds:
“She’s obese. And you know, she gets defensive about it.”
My friend’s got a hold of the special-snowflake now, and won’t let go. She says:
“Defensive? Defensive? Don’t you think she might have a good reason to get defensive, that, you know, certain people discriminate against her because of the way she looks?”
My friend is a ballet dancer. She knows how to use every bit of her body expressively — she showed me the look she gave the special-snowflake, and it was not, in any way, ambiguous. She was pissed, y’all.
The special-snowflake didn’t have much to say to this, apparently.
Later on I’m talking to a colleague and friend about my novel (he was honestly interested and asked, I don’t just bug people about my novel!) and special-snowflake makes an appearance. He challenges something I say, I respond, but it’s time for me to leave so I can fight with Boston traffic. So I close out the impending brawl with a sugary-sweet, “Oh, I can’t argue with you. I wouldn’t want to sound — defensive — or anything.”
Down the stairs I went, every — obese — bit of me.
I think I handled it fairly well, considering the special-snowflake’s ingenue status with respect to the big boss, and my friend handled her end extremely well. But it’s still bothering me. Eating away at me. And this is after a week away at a writer’s conference, where the response to my work, and the great people there, boosted my self-esteem enormously.
I know it’s not rational. This dude has real deep-seated issues, he’s got a toxic personality, and is a scary person in other ways (he harassed my friend — the one who stood up to him — a couple of years ago). I don’t care what he thinks. But that raw hate, so close to me, makes me feel extremely uncomfortable in my work environment. Especially considering the favoritism he so obviously enjoys.
It bothers me. It bothers me that I’ve spoken to this person at length and on several occasions about a wide variety of topics, ranging from poetry to physics, and this — this — is his opinion of me. I’ve been reduced to a superficial visual characteristic. Part of me is thinking, “Are you serious? Really, dude? How in the world can you pretend to be any kind of intellectual, to know anything about philosophy and political science, and not see your own views in this matter as deeply problematic?”
Also this — this — is the kind of person who gets ahead in my industry. This is the person getting showered with praise and opportunities. This–a nakedly obvious small-minded bigot, who feels just fine hating you, thanks–is the person bending the ear of the powerful. The idea that this person will eventually, and probably soon, be leading people under him, makes me shudder.
EDIT: I just found out that dozens of people from an old messageboard haunt of mine — where I met my husband — linked to my blog and snarked me in a thread on the messageboard. Some of the people I’d even been friendly with; that was a wake-up call. They actually went to the extent of analyzing some picture of mine to see whether I’d gained weight in the four years since I was active there (I certainly have), then suggested that this blog exists because I’m irresponsibly attempting to claim victimhood status when of course my weight’s entirely in my control, and blah-ed on and on about how fat hate doesn’t exist (ironic, much?), or creepily that it does exist and is justified (ew).
Score for the day: Bigotry: 2, Tolerance: 0