Open Letter to a Special Snowflake

Dear Special Snowflake,

We got it: you’re special. There’s nothing wrong with being special–in fact, I celebrate the specialness of each person I meet and get to know. While it’s interesting to study the rise of and adherence to conformity in society, I actually find conformists boring. I’m on the lookout for unique traits, those characteristics which set each of us apart.

I have no problem with your specialness. Rather, I have a problem with how you are not special. I’ll explain.

I know you think you are, by virtue of being A Special Snowflake, superior or set apart in a way that individuals are not typically set apart from each other. I know that you think your genetics, experiences, talents, and education have forged an individual so complex that no one else can in any way understand where you’re coming from, how you came to your conclusions, or intuit what you might do next. Further, I know that you think you have nothing in common with the un-Special Snowflakes around you.

That’s fine. I don’t even have a problem with how you view yourself–that’s your business. What I do have a problem with, however, is how you treat the un-Specials*. And the way you treat them is not special: cruel people have been treating other people cruelly since we slithered from the goop. The issue here is not how your specialness is special, but rather, how you use what you view is a superior uniqueness of self as license to abuse the people around you.

You say that by virtue of your Special-ness–genetics, talents, education, experiences, money–your cruelty is excused. From you, accusations are truth. From you, insults are necessary. From you, abuse is to be expected. You are a superior being: you do not have to play by social rules. Your Special-ness excuses it. Your Special-ness is so needed and desired by the world, that they are willing to put up with anything you dish out just to get a little of that Special something. Maybe you’ve even convinced someone else–a boss, a mentor, a lover, a parent–of your Special-ness, and that person does the work of covering up your cruelty, leaving you free to wreck even more havoc.

“But you don’t understand!” cries the Special Snowflake. “I am more intelligent than you are. I am more capable. I did work harder. I am a genius. I did suffer, once. I am suffering. You’re just jealous that you aren’t Special, like me. You’re stupid. You’re incompetent. You’re lazy. You’re ordinary. You’re sheltered. If you were Special like me, you’d see how Special I am.”

Legions of men and women of the Special Snowflake brigade have echoed you, over the centuries. Their birthright, abilities, intelligence, money, and power excused them from the need to be civil, and gave them allowance to be cruel. How Special is Special-ness of that sort, truly? It would seem, unfortunately, rather…ordinary.

So, Special Snowflake, at the risk of further raising your perpetually-elevated ire, I’m calling you out. You are ordinary. You are a pattern, a type that bubbles up over the course of history; in fact, you are so common that there is one of you in nearly every classroom and office. One can be intelligent, talented, well-educated, and monied without being cruel. There is no requirement to be cruel. Cruelty is a choice, even for Special Snowflakes.

Love,

BigLiberty

*Note that I’m not suggesting those who the the Special Snowflakes treats like un-Special aren’t special. Rather, I’m framing the judgment and perspective of the Special Snowflake.

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

Weight- and Looks-Bullied Minnesota Girls Fulfill Suicide Pact

This is so sad. Thanks to my husband for emailing the link as soon as he saw it — we’re the parents of teenage girls and are extraordinarily alarmed by the prevalence and virulence of appearance- and weight-based bullying.

These poor girls were only 14. They hadn’t even begun their mature lives, and they already decided — apparently for a long time — that they wanted nothing of this abusive world.

Settle said that her niece, Haylee, had been the victim of bullying after moving to Minnesota from Indiana with her mother and 8-year-old brother.

“She was made fun of for being overweight, her red hair,” Settle said. “She posted on my [Facebook] wall that she really wanted to come back…that the people were mean and cruel and she didn’t fit in.”

Even though Haylee wasn’t severely overweight, she was so uncomfortable about her size that she rarely ate in public at school, Settle said.

Paige was Haylee’s closest friend.

Haylee’s letter was to her mother and detailed plans for her funeral, Settle said.

“She requested everything pink and princess and butterflies,” Settle said.

“She was actually one of the most giving loving girls you would ever meet… She just loved everyone unconditionally…She couldn’t stand people to be made fun of, tortured, teased. She stood up for the underdogs and she was one herself,” Settle said.

If the Fat Acceptance movement needs to be about anything, it needs to be against a world where 14 year-olds (and 9 year-olds, and 4 year-olds) are made to feel absolutely worthless and broken for their ‘wrong’ weight.

My good wishes go out to the family and friends of these poor girls.

Universally Loathed

So many intelligent people can’t comprehend the genetics of size, which I find both astoundingly disappointing and rather nauseating.

If I hear one more time — just one more time — that the size of my body implies I’ve got some bevy of psychological issues, whoever makes that claim will be told in no uncertain terms why they are wrong. I’m done being silent about this, going along when other people spew misinformation and bigotry because I don’t want to rock whatever boat. I’m not out looking for a fight, but unfortunately you don’t have to go far these days to either get attacked or experience others being attacked for happening to embody the ‘wrong’ shape.

Nearly every group strives to disinclude fat people, to the extent where vociferous, well-reasoned  arguments will be levied against the culture of lookism only to then exclude fat people yet again. For example, a recent comment (which sparked this post), ran along the lines of: “Judging potential partners based on looks is wrong, but hey, sometimes you can tell when someone’s messed up and that’s when they’re OMGFAT!”

(because, the argument ‘from reason’ further stated, fat people must be fat because they overeat and they must overeat because they have some disturbing emotional problems which imply they are broken and hence undesirable partners)

I’ve had conversation with and read articles written by people with multiple degrees in tough disciplines which still cave to the rabid cultural assumptions surrounding size. My hypothesis is this usually stems from the fact that they themselves aren’t fat, nor do they have any experience with people of size. Since they’re perfectly reasonable and intelligent, that must mean fat people are broken! The same goes for average-sized people who rag on very thin people: they can’t seem to understand that many naturally thin people have tried to gain weight and can’t, and are mocked or derided for their size.

It’s all so very unscientific, and so very non-rigorous and logically fallacious that I can’t help to conclude there exists an intellectual double standard concerning size. I’m not quite sure why – perhaps it stems from the infallible authority granted to doctors and other medical researchers, who are of course just fallible people subject to the same bigotries as the rest of us, and who don’t necessarily conduct their research more rigorously nor do they possess some sort of super-reason inaccessible to the rest of us.

All of this leads me to conclude –

If you are a person of size there is one thing you can count on in modern society, and that’s being universally loathed.

So right, I’m pretty pissed off.

…because it’s abuse. It’s a way for one set of people to commit violence against another without having to make the effort to be physically violent. It’s a way for them to feel artificially superior by climbing on the backs of the deviant ranks, though really whatever status system being contrived is based on completely arbitrary values. (Like thinner is better – better for whom? Like more makeup is better than no makeup – better for whom? Like dark hair and blue eyes and fair skin is better – better for whom? Why? How did it come to pass? How is it rigorous or objective in any sense whatsoever?)

I’m going to say it right back – Modern Culture – yeah, look at me when I’m talking to you, damnit – I loathe you, too.

But my loathing is based in reason. Because I loathe any entity, group, or collection of ideas constructed in order to do violence to other people, to keep them from reaching their full potential.

I especially loathe intelligent individuals with willful blind spots. Perhaps that’s because I used to be one of them, I’m not sure. Regardless, while I don’t think intelligent people need to be perfect (honest intelligent people will be the first to claim that they’re not perfect) I do think they have a responsibility to closely examine their own potential biases. Else doff that elitist mantle: you are no enlightened thinker if you willfully latch onto a belief because it conveniently supports your worldview without making sure it is rationally sound.

Most modern intellectuals, along with everyone else, have been socialized to believe fat people are low-status, disgusting, and broken. Hence they are willfully ignorant with respect to any information that might suggest the opposite. They want to keep finding us ugly, and disgusting, and broken. They want to other us. They want their bigotry to be reinforced, because they have a visceral fear of fat people.

And visceral fears are difficult to root out. Flipping through the pages of history they might in fact be one of the stickiest points of human prejudice. Why is that? I have a few theories.

Visceral fears are self-regulating. Teach a populace to loathe something, and they often self-segregate based on that characteristic. In that same sense those fears are passed from generation to generation, since children will be — through horrid, memorable abuse and punishment for deviance, often at the hands of their parents, teachers, and peers — well-taught to toe loathing’s line.

So what do we do? How do we handle being loathed? Well I know what we can’t do — OBEY.

Which suggests that the initial reaction we must cultivate is ANGER.

(I won’t go into constructive/destructive anger at the moment, but obviously I believe the above falls into the constructive category)

So get angry. What makes you angry about the way you were treated in your past, or currently, or the way you fear you might be treated in the future? Why do you think it’s unfair? You have every right to loathe what is being done to you, because it is objectively wrong. You know that, you agree with that, or else you wouldn’t think this whole Fat/Size Acceptance thing holds any water.

Get pissed; you deserve it.

Dangerous Waters – Part 1

Sometimes the hate is so virulent, it very much takes my breath away. I get scared, thinking of not only my safety, but the safety of my fat compatriots, and my future likely fat children.

These are examples where people hate fat people so much (for often different reasons, or no reason at all) they suggest fat people should be tortured, maimed, or killed, for the crime of being fat.

They were chillingly easy to find. Part 1’s site of this new series is angry.net.

I put in bold the parts where harm, torture, maiming, and killing of fat people is advocated.

Fat People – angry.net

These are quotes from within posts. Posters aren’t arranged by their order of posting on the site, i.e., I didn’t quote everyone, only the most violent (though they were all ignorant, hateful, disgusting, and appalling).

Poster 1:

Go ahead chew your way through a tower of cheeseburgers from McDonalds — in your parents’ basement at the age of 35 surrounded by a stack of moldy comic books. I hope you fuckers DIE of a premature heart attack from all that polyunsaturated fat you goofballs seem to like to ingest on a regular basis. For you imbeciles the drug of choice isn’t beer or pot, its MARGARINE. Go to your mommies and whine! Fuck you Harry of Ain’t It Cool and Bob from the DKE list. You could both stand to lose some weight. You can start by cutting off your fat ugly fearsomely misshapen heads.

Poster 2:

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH FAT PEOPLE!!!!?!?!!??! They whine and complain every day about how they want to be skinny, and they go crying to john walsh, oprah and maury so people can see their UGLY, FAT ASSES on TV. Who in the right mind would want to actually see their nasty fat fucking asses on TV!! I say FUCK YOU FATTIES! I HOPE YOU DIE IN THE FILTH YOU CREATED FOR YOURSELF.

Poster 3:

I am angry with these fat losers. They can’t control themselves. They say, “I need to go on a diet, and then they stuff their faces with greasy shit!” Then they wander why they can’t do a simple thing a fit and skinny person can do. We should send these fat losers on a deserted island somewhere where they can lose some weight and actually do some physical exercise.

Poster 4:

Something else about fat people eating are these ENORMOUS bastards who get winded getting up and WADDLING 15 feet to the buffet. Then waddle out to their handicapped parking spot. DIE FAT FUCKS YOU ALL STINK STINK STINK!

Poster 5:

Women have the worse manners in the world. They act like a bunch of homeless dogs when it comes to dinner time. The next on of you fucking cows that sticks their nasty hands all over my food will get harpooned!

Poster 6:

It was really bad we left a bar and he was drunk and he got in a fight with this shorter and leaner kid. He got his ass kicked the fat piece of shit and I was left there like what to do. The kid that kicked his ass was really hot. I could tell he looked really jacked too underneath his shirt and I bet he can fuck so much better. He ran off with his friends and i watched my fat BF struggle for breathe on the ground, and so I walked out on him. You’re on your own you fat weak person.

Poster 7:

Fat people piss me off to no end, because they are a blight on society. They inflict themselves on everyone else and attempt to draw pity from the healthy people around them. A fat woman that is “happy with how they look” should be slapped and brought down to the level they are at: Dirt.

In conclusion of this disjointed and rambling rant, fuck fat people. It would be beneficial for the world as a whole if they were just all tossed into a pit and used for energy / fuel for cars. The extra food could be sent where it is actually needed, and the money saved on gas and fat ass accommodations could be spent on more important things. Fucking leeches.

Very unnerving, but it needs to be shown. Please link to this post whenever someone claims that fat people aren’t violently hated (and there are people who claim that).