I don’t like her: She’s obese.

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

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23 comments on “I don’t like her: She’s obese.

  1. vesta44 says:

    I am so sorry you have to deal with an asshat like that – makes for a hostile work environment, to say the least. I had a supervisor who told me that I didn’t look like I was working very hard when I was doing a certain job, and she harassed me about it constantly. I finally told her to look at my time sheets and take notice of the fact that even though she thought I didn’t look like I was working very hard, I was working at 125% of standard, so she could just STFU and leave me alone. Needless to say, I didn’t keep that job very long, but I knew it was coming and had another job lined up (and it was a better job that utilized my abilities much better than that one ever did). I don’t know for sure that she harassed me because I was fat, but she didn’t harass anyone else there, and none of them were fat, so that was the conclusion I came to (and very few of them worked as hard as I did on that particular job that she harassed me about).

  2. jenincanada says:

    Hot damn, what a shitstain. *hug* I’m so sorry that you went through this and have to continue seeing this ass every day at work. You are right though, he is a very toxic person, and has a lot of issues. You? You are wonderful and classy and a great writer. You are awesome. He is not. Same goes for the shitty people who follow your blog and are looking to see you cry ‘victim’. Fuck them and the bridge they trolled in on. You are moving forward, just like the rest of the world, because that’s the only way the world moves. They’ll catch up eventually or get left behind.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thank you so much! Fortunately I only have to see this guy twice a month — I work from home the rest of the time. But he’s a big presence in the company, and getting bigger. Today he was upstairs (in the office) talking politics with someone for about two hours. Some workday, that.

      As for the other trolls, they certainly did ride in on a big fat (ha!) bridge. I hope they realize what cowards they are, stewing in their little forum on the edge of the internet.

  3. Oh, that says so much about who he is. Assumptions don’t go well with science, from what I understand. If he’s willing to write off 1/3 of the population because they are “obese,” I would hate to see what assumptions he is making about other people. As someone I adore once told me, if you follow someone who makes those kind of statements around all day, you’ll notice a pattern, i.e. it’s not you, it’s him.
    I do think looking for another job is a good move, but it’s also a way to bide your time while the asshat continues to expose his true colors. Having people on your staff who act in that manner sets a company up for a lawsuit.

    • bigliberty says:

      You’re absolutely right. This is the kind of person who thinks that improving himself means destroying other people. I’ve seen him try to take down lots of people, and he works hardest at those he considers most beloved. For all I know that’s why he pinged me — I’m generally liked by my colleagues (though not the big boss, I’m afraid), and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. That kind of confidence is intimidating to people.

      To compound the creepiness of this guy, he’s also an early-stage charmer — when he’s getting to know you he really ‘cuddles up,’ turns on the charm, flirts, whatever works. It’s gross, and he’s really, really good at it (seems sincere). Horrible person.

      I’m not sure if his behavior will ever really get called out, though I agree, it’s not good for any company to be blind to the toxic nature of some employees. Though wasn’t there a recent study about how prevalent psychopaths were in high-ranking positions in businesses?

  4. Etooz says:

    Man, I have been meaning to post an apology on my blog for chewing on something you said FOREVER, but since I started work, I’ve been right straight out. Just popping by to say I love your blog and the fact you are from Mass (as am I…wish I still lived there.)

    I just read your entire post to my boyfriend.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks for the nice comment! I sat in traffic coming in to work today — they’d closed one lane on the highway for about 300 total feet, and I sat in traffic for 30 extra minutes. Woo, Massachusetts! 😛

  5. Holy crap, what is wrong with people? I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with this. AcceptanceWoman beat me to it but this is just no way for a scientist to behave. Make broad and sweeping generalizations about people based on visual cues is the precise opposite of science. And people who want to find someone on the internet and and trashing them has got to be one of the very lowest forms of cowardice that exist in popular culture. Thanks for being awesome! I love your blog and really appreciate your work.

    ~Ragen

    • bigliberty says:

      Ragen, thanks so much for commenting! I love your blog, it’s such a great asset to the ‘Sphere. I just wanted to mention that semi-religious Healthism has penetrated the hard sciences, as far as I can tell. I’ve only really been involved with physicists, mathematicians, and computer programmers, but while they’ll argue at length about the merits of string theory as a theory — in that right now it’s very difficult to prove or disprove it — they’re the first to pretend that calorie counting is legitimate science, and wax on about their various eating habits and why they are superior. They don’t realize that most of their information, probably gleaned from popular science mags and press releases on articles, is bunkum. And it’s almost impossible to argue with this, because they cling so tightly to a few myths, like calories in = calories out, eat less move more, and so on. If you try to suggest that the human metabolism is more complicated, that nutrients are absorbed differently person-to-person, that there are differences in efficiency, and so forth, they hand-wave and claim that, “Well, maybe, but you known, it’s not like the calories you eat just disappear.” Totally frustrating.

  6. deeleigh says:

    Ugh. It’s just the worst when an asshole is the one being groomed for leadership and you start to suspect that you’re someday going to have to answer to someone who you can barely tolerate having as a colleague. Yeah, I’ve been there. I don’t know what kind of position you’re in to look for another job (science jobs often requiring relocation and all), but you could always ask around. It’s easier to find a job when you already have one. On the other hand, a lot of people are unemployed right now, and having a job – especially a good knowledge job that you’re not overqualified for – is better than not having a job.

  7. tehomet says:

    God. What a schmuck you have (unfortunately) to deal with.

    It makes me sad and angry that people like the schmuck behave in this way. It’s on the slope and we all know where to where that slope leads.

    It’s not a great time to be looking for work or setting up a business, so I suppose those aren’t solid possibilities for you right now. Although I’m sure you’re tempted.

    On the bright side, at least you only have to interact with the schmuck rarely.

    And happily, your friend is awesome and you are awesome yourself.

    Don’t let the bastard grind you down.

    • bigliberty says:

      I am tempted! I’ve been having lots of ideas regarding a startup web company. I’m learning some web programming, which is similar to other languages I already know, to start playing around with creating webapps which might be useful to some potential project. We’ll see!

  8. publius1796 says:

    I am so sorry you have to deal with that. I had similar experiences during my PhD and post-doc at Cornell (both in Physics). I eventually had to leave my post doc because I just couldn’t stand watching the a**holes get ahead and watching bad behavior get rewarded. Unfortunately, I think this superficial, ends-justifies-the-means, Kantian culture sweeps across all socioeconomic and educational strata in American society, so you’re probably going to come across a few bad apples like this “snowflake” no matter where you work. I wish I had something more encouraging to say, and I wish you all the strength in the world to keep fighting the good fight!!!

    • bigliberty says:

      Oh, a physicist! (high five) I’m sorry about your experience. That’s part of what made me decide not to pursue a PhD in math after I got my MA. I had a really bad experience, and it wasn’t handled well by the department.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I know the working world isn’t a bed of roses, but I think there are weeds and then there are weeds, if you know what I mean.

  9. Ms. Moran says:

    I love your blog. Thanks for sharing this obviously painful issue.

  10. Jackie Yoshi says:

    I am so tired of anyone who stands up for themselves or another person being called defensive. Yeah, I’m defensive, it’s what people who care about others do. They stick up for their friends. Apparently people like Mr. Special Snowflake don’t understand how proper relationships work. They think they’re only out for themselves, and then absolutely shocked when they’re all alone, and nobody wants a thing to do with them.

    I also think our society is screwed up when caring is discussed as if it’s a bad thing. Being defensive, standing up for others, are acts of caring. Seems there are many people who don’t understand the simple idea that if you care about others, they will care for you. I have had a run in with these kinds of people, 2 of them who abused alcohol because guess what? Nobody wants anything to with a smug self-superior jerk! When will these people get it? They’re the ones who are doing wrong.

  11. I’m sorry that you have to deal with such a shitweasel. I know they exist in my workplace too, but thankfully so far I’ve been able to remain ignorant as to who they are and what they think of me, and I hope to keep it that way.

    I’d rather be “obese” than a complete and utter douchenozzle anyday.

    Hugs hon.

    • bigliberty says:

      Thanks, Kath. I’d rather be “obese” than a whole lot of things, including being an douchenozzle. I feel fabulous having the kind of self-confidence this special-snowflake coward obviously does not have; I even pity him (but only a tiny bit).

  12. richie79 says:

    I had a similar experience some years back in my first cubicle-farm office job after University. Co-workers who had feigned had in fact for six months or so been circulating emails and IMs about me – commenting on what I was wearing, logging in intimate detail what I’d eaten that day, even circulating fat porn images with my face and that of my then-GF (also fat) around the office. It wasn’t a minority either but a good 75% of the office (there were a couple of folks who later made it clear they wanted nothing to do with it, but didn’t feel they had the support to go to management over it, especially as a couple of the lower managers were also involved in the clique responsible).

    I had no such qualms. Not that it didn’t absolutely devastate my burgeoning self-confidence (finished off a few weeks later by being dumped by said GF – 2003 was my equivalent of the Queen’s ‘annus horibilis’) and ultimately cause me to quit. For a few years I even kept some of the emails, to re-read if I ever thought I was getting (as one of them put it) ‘too big for my boots’. Ultimately though a combination of maturity and FA helped me come to terms with who I was and that actually maybe sometimes I was right and the rest of the world had indeed actually gone mad. Now I approach it from the perspective that if certain people like me and approve of me I’m probably doing something wrong.

    Both your experiences and mine just go to show what cowards these people usually are. I was never meant to be privy to the exchanges about me and discovered them entirely by accident. Similarly your slimeball co-worker was probably intimidated by your superior intellect and had to make snarky remarks behind your back because he knew he’d be utterly annihilated in a face-to-face argument. Defensive indeed. How else is it going to appear, when every day we are faced with a barrage of hostility at every level from kids calling out rude names in public to international governments, corporations and governments plotting our elimination?

    • bigliberty says:

      Richie, I just wanted to thank you for your comment…I love it when you comment here, haven’t seen you in a while! I’m so sorry about your experience, that sounds humiliating. I agree there is a giant component of cowardice in these behind-the-back comments — as a note, he did the same thing to my lady-in-shining-armor friend a couple of days later (that is, tore her apart behind her back). I wasn’t there, but if I had been, I would have torn right back.

  13. I’m sorry you had to deal with such a turd of a coworker. Thank you for this blog. You are brave, kind, and fabulous!

  14. Cara Hartley says:

    I’m also sorry you had to deal with the rude comments on the message board. Those people should be ashamed of themselves.
    I have to admit that one of the reasons I refuse to go to high school reunions is because I can just imagine how the people who called me “fat” when I weighed 132 (bulimic) pounds would refer to me now that I weigh close to 300. ‘Cause people can indeed be assholes. I’ve worked too hard on trying to accept myself a little to have all my efforts be shot down in one stupid night of spending my paycheck at the cash bar because being around all my old “friends” was such a “great” experience.

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