Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychologist from the University of New Mexico. He was guest lecturing at New York University when god knows what inspired him to tweet: “Dear obese Ph.D. applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth.”
As someone who is both a fat woman and a trained researcher, I am offended on every possible level. First of all, it’s upsetting that a professor (who has, btw, sat on admissions committees and who ostensibly would like to do so again in the future) would try to rally people for a round of “bash the fatties.”
Secondly, it shows a lack of professional credibility that someone who claims to be a researcher would suggest that every fat person is fat due to an overconsumption of carbs. His text is also a blatant denial of the existence of fat Ph.D.s, when there are many. It’s crazy that he would suggest that people of a certain size needn’t bother pursuing their dreams. This guy teaches a postgraduate class in human emotions! Why would he think this was okay to tweet to the world?
Interestingly, in much of the media, it was suggested that his sin was not what he said, but rather that he tweeted it. The inevitable apology followed: “My sincere apologies to all for that idiotic, impulsive, and badly judged tweet. It does not reflect my true views, values, or standards.” And then, perhaps after receiving a call from the admissions director at University of New Mexico, he added: “Obviously my previous tweet does not represent the selection policies of any university, or my own selection criteria.” Really Geoff, can I call you Geoff? I’m betting you wish you hadn’t punctuated that first tweet with “#truth.”
Luckily for Geoff, if he gets fired over this, he may be able to pick up a consulting gig with Beautifulpeople.com. The dating site, which only allows “beautiful people” to participate, has created a job recruitment division. They claim that this is necessary because: "Numerous studies have shown that consumers tend to respond more positively and are more receptive to attractive people."
But do people really want to work for a company whose first level of screening is a vote on the applicant’s attractiveness by the opposite sex? What if something happens that changes the employee’s appearance -- if they get into an accident or, oh, start to age? Since they were hired on the basis of their beauty, can they be fired for it as well?
The next question might be, what level of abject bigotry is acceptable? What if studies show that people prefer female CPAs? Should H&R block start firing their male employees, or at least cease to hire them? Cracker Barrel had to walk back their “no gays” policy by saying that it was an overreaction to a “perceived need” of their client base to not have interact with gay people. What if customers don’t like brunettes? Or tall people?
As we just talked about with Abercrombie and Fitch, these things aren’t necessarily illegal (though they could be if “attractive” includes a preference for race, ability or another protected class), but they are disgusting and we can say so by not participating and by spreading the word that discrimination based on physical appearance in hiring is happening and that it’s wrong. #truth
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.