Home Social Construct What Happens When Your Professor Shows His Scumbag Tendencies on the Internet

What Happens When Your Professor Shows His Scumbag Tendencies on the Internet

by Erika Nicole Kendall

So, I actually had the pleasure of watching this happen real time.

Geoffrey Miller's awesome lack of will power on public display.

Geoffrey Miller’s awesome lack of will power on public display.

And, by pleasure, I meant the eye-roll inducing, headache-causing, frustration-inciting kind. So, not really pleasure at all.

After this fine, upstanding, evolutionary psych professor realized the error of his ways (also known as “was properly upbraided by his colleagues), the following tweets appeared:

My sincere apologies to all for that idiotic, impulsive, and badly judged tweet. It does not reflect my true views, values, or standards.

— Geoffrey Miller (@matingmind) June 3, 2013

Obviously my previous tweet does not represent the selection policies of any university, or my own selection criteria.

— Geoffrey Miller (@matingmind) June 3, 2013

…and then, his account was mysteriously locked, so that he could no longer be subjected to non-academics telling him how much of a fat-shaming scumbag he is– er, might be. Might be. Of course.

Jezebel’s – of course – Laura Beck had this to say:

Ruh roh! Who do you think got a call from the chair of his department? Oh! Maybe they called to offer him tenure? Ya think?

Miller’s apology isn’t irrelevant, but it is suspect, and I sincerely hope that he’s never allowed on an applicant review committee — or even able to conduct an interview.


I hope it goes without saying that body weight has no correlation to the greatness of one’s mind. If it did, we wouldn’t have Psycho, Matt Foley, or the last two contiguous states. I’d also hesitate to not call Oprah the smartest, savviest person alive. The cruelty and inaccuracy of statements like Millers can’t be emphasized enough, especially considering that many fat people read his tweet and it reinforced the societal message that our weight is our worth — not just physically, but mentally, as well.

Most depressing part? This man teaches a postgraduate level Human Emotions course. [source]

Those of us who remember the Psych Today situation with the professor who made the world’s most disparaging remarks against Black women? We remember that that guy was an evolutionary psychology professor – a highly respected one – as well.

What so many of the write-ups about the situation overlook, is the fact that this guy lectures at NYU and is, apparently, well-respected in his craft and followed, on twitter, by quite a few academics…

…who promptly began to chime in and validate his fat-shaming. “OBESE PEOPLE DO LACK WILL POWER.” was damn near a chant in that dude’s mentions column. (To be fair, there were plenty people dressing him down for his comment, as well.) I was shocked by it, but then again, I wasn’t. Considering the fact that professors with his expertise enjoy a far larger salary than the average person, that can absorb the cost of buying even the most frivolous “healthy convenience foods” at even the most expensive grocery/health food/foodie/food snob, I don’t expect them to be sensitive to people who have neither the money nor access to those stores.

And, don’t you worry, baby – I’m already aware that half of the people reading this have already written off that argument, and that’s fine. “But what about the people who can afford those products (considering half the US actually lives in poverty, yes… half , that number might not be as high as you think) and do have access to those stores (again, not as many as you think)?” they say. Do they have the knowledge it takes to work with fresh ingredients? Hell, if stores can barely understand how to keep produce fresh and instead sell processed food in abundance because they can’t afford the expense that comes with selling fresh food… do you think the average person new to fresh produce is gonna know? And, if they don’t and are willing to learn, how long do you think it takes to learn? How willing is a person going to be to learn, if they only waste money with rotting food in the beginning?

And, in a society that not only encourages emotional eating, not only uses it as a marketing tactic, but also refuses to embrace or accept or acknowledge it as an eating disorder… does it not make sense to see a lot of people who might be stress eating as a means of coping with a high-octane grad school program? And, by extension, people who are overweight as a result of that stress eating?

I mean, and this isn’t mere excuse-making – when I go speak places and have very frank and open discussions with people about their food choices, this is what I hear. It’s not fat-apologia; it’s trying to understand the legitimate barriers to healthy living, so that we can create resources to help people.

And, Mister Brilliant Evolutionary Science Scumbag Guy, one bonafide way to create resources for people? Is by punishing them for their size, and implying that they shouldn’t be admitted to their respective programs because of their size. You know, because if they were merely bulimic, at least you can’t tell if they have “will power issues.”

That last paragraph…was said by no one. EVER. EV. ER.

The weird thing about this dialogue – and the people who chimed in agreeing with him – is that it leaves us to wonder. Does size discrimination play any kind of role in graduate school admissions? Is this something worthy of exploration? Are biases playing a role in the process? I mean, education is clearly identified as a marker of upward mobility – even though the unemployment rate was high, it was considerably lower for college graduates than it was for non-college grads – and closing those doors to some because of their size directly affects their ability to live the healthy lives people expect us all to lead. The size discrimination is counter-intuitive used in this way.

His mentions, as of late, have been full of people razzing him for his statement and, while I don’t encourage that – I’d much rather you come follow me on twitter, instead – I don’t think it’s a bad thing to let him know your thoughts. Ahem.

Talk to me, y’all. Help me understand. What am I missing?

You may also like


Rooo June 13, 2013 - 3:51 PM

“Does size discrimination play any kind of role in graduate school admissions?”

I’m sure it does.

And undergraduate school as well. (Pictures required to be attached to applications, anyone?)

And also, employment opportunities once one is finished with school (which has been covered here and elsewhere).

And women are punished for it more.

” I mean, education is clearly identified as a marker of upward mobility – even though the unemployment rate was high, it was considerably lower for college graduates than it was for non-college grads – and closing those doors to some because of their size directly affects their ability to live the healthy lives people expect us all to lead.”

And there it is.

“What am I missing?”

I’m a little confused by this, because personally I don’t think you’re missing anything.


Nef June 13, 2013 - 5:25 PM

Depends on the institution. It is ABSOLUTELY an issue for some places especially at the graduate school level where you have to interview. I happen to be obese (and working on changing that) and in grad school and trust me when I tell you if I don’t have willpower for nothing else, I got it for my academics. And I have many colleagues who are skinny and who don’t. So…weight, like GRE scores, are not a true predictor of academic ability and success but they aren’t shutting down the GRE anytime soon nor will race/size/gender/etc discrimination change until society’s minds do. That said…education is also inappropriately used as a predictor of behavior/ability as evidenced by said “Mister Brilliant Evolutionary Science Scumbag Guy”. His PhD didn’t keep him from making an erroneous statement with no empirical evidence as I know plenty of grad students with extra weight. It also did not give him enough couth, common sense, or pause to realize the ignorance of his statement and decision to publicize his ignorance. How ironic that the evolutionary scientist didn’t realize that we humans have evolved to cache everything on the internet forever and his academic career will always be plagued by his unevolved thinking and actions.

Also…I’ve read several times that part of the reason its so hard to lose weight is because our bodies are designed to hold it (set points & the like) for evolutionary reasons in case of famine, etc. If that is correct (and my bad if not), then how much of an evolutionary expert is he really?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 13, 2013 - 7:58 PM

The set point theory isn’t something I entirely believe in, but I feel like the rest of this comment is spot. On.

Nef June 13, 2013 - 8:07 PM

Thanks on both fronts…that set point thing was really dragging me down before reading the post you referenced. It makes me feel better that’s it’s not ture even if it means the idiot professor is a wee bit less of an idiot than I originally thought.

DrNay June 13, 2013 - 9:28 PM

Erika, what a timely post. I am at a Symposium for people of color in academia this week. One of the sessions today spoke about issues regarding how African Americans cope with stressful situations. Basically, it touched on self-medicating with food as well as cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol. One of the things discussed that struck me which I want to share with you is that although in general the research shows that those with higher education and less poverty tend to make “better” food choices, socioeconomic status is not a protector for obesity among African American women. So many other issues come into play which effect us and lead to our increased obesity problem. The research on this is coming out of University of Michigan. Thought you might be interested in how academics who understand are dealing with these issues instead of fat shaming like Dr Miller.

cteph June 13, 2013 - 9:29 PM

Does NO ONE take into account genetics? I know many woman who have AMAZING willpower who do diet and exercise and are still considered obese!
I know three of my friends who have genetic hormonal issues that actually make them unable to lose weight no matter what they do – and they have done a lot! I have never seen such willpower.
Genes have a lot to do with size. Not everyone was built to be in size 0-2-4-6-8. I am tired of my friends who look obese beating themselves up daily because they genetically can’t do anything about it.
There are a lot of people who do eat too much and eat poorly – but can you tell which ones do and don’t?
My sister is the WORST eater – never eats anything unless it has gobs of refined sugars and carbs, refuses to eat veggies etc – yet she looks like a model. Talk about lack of self control – but she has great genes. She’d never have the willpower to manage dissertation – let alone undergrad degree.
My husband who has more willpower than my sis but eats really poor (sugar and carbs galore) can’t even gain weight – he’s mocked for being too thin.

‘Sizing’ IS utter discrimination and happens all too frequently. This type of discrimination should really be labeled the epidemic of obesity.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 13, 2013 - 10:15 PM

I don’t take into account genetics, personally, because epidemiological my it’s largely debunked. Even our friends with stellar “willpower[sic]” might not be actually eating legitimately healthy foods 24/7 to facilitate weight loss…it’s just that there are countless factors that affect weight loss long before genes, and honestly, from what I’ve seen, genetics doesn’t determine that you’ll automatically be overweight…it more means you’ll be sensitive to things that contribute to obesity. They’re not the same.

Rai Camille June 14, 2013 - 1:12 AM

Went NYU for undergrad and grad – there was no in person interview or once over – it was academics and articulating your statement of purpose – Can’t say that for every department though…..Guess I’ll have to see once I apply to the PhD progr

Renee H. June 14, 2013 - 10:39 AM


Saw this and thought you’d find it interesting

Erika Nicole Kendall June 14, 2013 - 2:37 PM

Yep, and I see why. Great letter, but dang.

I knew before I’d ever read the footnotes that I’d see Bacon referenced there.

Comments are closed.