Yesterday I was moderating friend requests on Facebook and I was reminded that far too many people connected to social justice are still rampant weight bigots. I’ll be scrolling through someone’s profile and see them on the right side of all manner of social justice movements; supporting Black Lives Matter, Queer and Trans rights, opposing Donald and all he stands for. I’m ready to press the “accept” button when I see that they have posted and defended articles and memes engaging in crystal clear oppression of fat people.
This experience prepared me for reading Slate’s recent job posting for a Political Editor. No, I’m not looking for a new gig, I was reading the post after receiving an onslaught of e-mails from fat and disability activists who were horrified by the bullet under “Requirements”
A fast metabolism and strong organizational skills
What the hell?
Are they really saying that they don’t want a Politics Editor with hypothyroidism? Or are they stating a preference for editors with hyperthyroidism? Is this an attempt to suggest that only the thin need apply? Did they not know that they could be in violation of DC Human Rights Act (which is one of few that protects from discrimination against appearance) and ADA/EEOC guidelines?
The question I was being asked most in the e-mails flooding my inbox was, “Why in the world would a fast metabolism have anything to do with an editing gig?”
I had heard this term in journalism before, so I had an idea about the misunderstanding, but I still felt it was a terrible choice of words for a job posting.
Full disclosure – I am a fan of Slate’s work, including and especially their political work. They even have a decent record on writing about fat and fat shaming, which I deeply appreciate. I’ve never pitched them and they’ve never asked me to write for them (and I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up after this piece goes to publication) so our current “relationship” is that they publish things and I often share and sometimes reference them.
I sent an e-mail to the main e-mail listed on their website as well as the address listed on the job posting offering them a chance to comment, and received the following from Jocelyn Westerhold (the e-mail came in without a professional signature, but her e-mail address was @alissaneilpr.com)
“Ragan [sic], I wanted to respond to the note you sent the Slate catch-all.
It's common for journalists to use the term "metabolism" to describe the pace at which journalists assign, write, and edit. With this role, we're looking for someone who can manage a high volume of posts per day, and that's what we're hoping to signify by using the term in our listing. It has nothing to do with biological metabolism in this context.
I became immediately curious as to just how common this usage is.
I googled “Fast Metabolism” and the first 15 pages yielded no mention. At that point, I got sick of looking at diet crap and googled “Fast Metabolism Journalism” –– More diet crap, but also a couple of articles referring to the concept of “metabolism” as a metaphor for volume of writing/publishing. None of them, as you might imagine, in the official capacity of a job posting.
That’s because, while the use of industry jargon can be supported in an industry job posting, it is an astoundingly bad idea to use wording in a job posting that, in a plain text reading, appears to exclude candidates based on their health and/or appearance.
I’m aware from the e-mails I received that activists have let Slate know about this issue, and the e-mail response I received shows that their PR company is aware of the issue (even if not able to spell my name.) And yet there it still sits in the job description, like a MAGA hat at a Compassion Convention.
It’s not difficult to change; Jocelyn the PR person (apologies, I don’t know her official title) has already done the heavy lifting for us:
someone who can manage a high volume of posts per day
Fixed it. Thanks, Jocelyn!
This is one of those times that people will insist we are overreacting or being ridiculous.
They are wrong and this matters. Slate claims, in this job posting that it is “committed to excellence through diversity.” So it would seem an extraordinary moment of cognitive dissonance to use a metaphor in the same posting that reinforces oppressive sizeist, healthist, and ableist stereotypes.
Mistakes get made all the time. Often they aren’t malicious, and someone can always come up with something that they feel “justifies” them. None of that makes anything right.
This was a mistake. Slate should fix it, learn from it, and do better in the future.