What years of sneers and lies can do to you

I think I may have reached peak cynicism. I found this story of a teacher who got an anonymous note from a student sort of amusingly predictable. Here’s the note the student sent:

just wanted to let you know that I don’t have any respect for you as a teacher, not a professor, I refuse to call you that. And the reason I don’t have any respect for you is because you obviously have no self-respect at all. How am I supposed to respect you if you can’t respect yourself at all. And you know what really kills me about it is that you don’t feel bad about how you look or how you .. put yourself out there. You don’t look good. You need to take better care of yourself. And people do care what you look like. You’re a slob. You’re the size of a car, Kar-a. Now fuckin’ fix it. And I just gotta say that you’re not good as a teacher … you’re not confident. You can’t be confident being fat. Fuckin’ A. I hate you and everything you stand for. Your fuckin’ feminism is autistic. Nobody thinks it’s cool. You’re not special with your fuckin’ feministic beliefs. Go do something original and stop being a trendy whore. Bye-bye.

So, so familiar. I get that kind of thing every week, and at this point, I’d just laugh and laugh. Maybe I’d post it and mock it.

But I shouldn’t. This kid has real problems: he’s become a toxic sludge monster, loaded with terrible opinions and contemptible prejudices. That’s a real loss. The teacher it was sent to, Kara Waite, still has some little bit of hope left in her, and can still feel some pain and sympathy.

I cried for a world in which an intelligent, qualified woman can’t do something as simple as assign a little light feminist theory without being called a fat whore.

I cried because I had no idea which of my male students had left the message; it could have been any of them, and that thought made me terribly sad. I cried because female academics are the target of a truly insane amount of sexist behavior and bias. I cried because there are women in my life and past versions of myself who’d be crushed by a message like that. Women whose days would be wrecked by that hateful, cowardly bullshit. Women who’d think of it and start another crash diet, who’d remember it mornings in the shower, pinching their belly rolls and sobbing.

Me, I’d just write the student off as an irredeemable asshole. Some days, I just can’t muster much concern for the bearers of vicious toxicity.


  1. EigenSprocketUK says

    I was guessing the professor was a woman by about the fourth sentence. How depressingly predictable.
    I would love to see the text presented to all the students for them to dissect. That might allow a few arseholes to out themselves, and persuade a few others that they should keep their arseholes to themselves.

  2. Menyambal - Jabba the Hutt's Pa says

    So she’s supposed to stop being trendy, and she’s also suppposed to follow the latest appearance trends?

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    OFFS- the article says that the student rang up to leave this message on her voicemail. JeezuzChristMaryShit.
    And she was strong enough to play the message to her students: wow- you ROCK! The kids are lucky to have someone that strong. I wouldn’t have been.

  4. dick says

    I hope the cowardly student doesn’t decide to buy a gun! Demented people, & guns, don’t mix.

  5. quotetheunquote says

    While I agree that the misogyny and body-shamed crap are truly the worst aspects of the story, I could not help thinking of something else first – how the hell did this guy make it into college?!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent a lot of time around university undergrads – I know there are plenty of inarticulate people out there, but this one was (apparently) enrolled in a second-year literature course. How does this happen?

  6. EigenSprocketUK says

    @Dick #4, I hope the student doesn’t ever get a gun, date a woman, bring up a family, wield a fist, pin up a calendar, start an argument, whistle in the street, grope, sneer, nor even snigger at someone’s rape joke. I hope they don’t even ironically favourite a Cosby video, not anything. Not a thing.
    I hope that this student changes his life first, before taking his next breath, drawing breath only to start an apology, because he’s a shitstain and no amount of 4am drunkenness could start to excuse this.

  7. The Other Lance says

    but this one was (apparently) enrolled in a second-year literature course. How does this happen?

    Required general studies courses at the college, probably. I’d bet a nickel the student who left the message didn’t want to be in the course in the first place.

  8. Onamission5 says

    I’d bet the student was an English major enrolled in order to study the old white dude classics, you know, real literature, and got his undies wadded by the idea that one could view Shakespeare through a feminist lens.

    The aforementioned attitudes were unfortunately not a rarity in my college English department.

  9. says

    I clicked over and read Ms. Waite’s article, and I have to say: Ms. Waite, you are an amazing, talented teacher, you rock in every possible way. You’re beautiful, too – I found myself smiling right back at your photos. Your students are so very lucky to have you in their lives, no matter how briefly. You are bringing about change, and opening minds. Thank you.

  10. says


    “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”

    Is that ever truth.

  11. Vatican Black Ops, Latrina Lautus says

    @dick #4:

    Demented people, & guns, don’t mix.

    Could we please stop using “demented” as a slur, and as a synonym for fucked-up-ness? Dementia is a horrible group of diseases, and I know people who suffer from it who are gentle, kind and more than a little scared because of it.

  12. says

    Dick @ 4:

    Don’t bring fucking weapons into things. Christ. “Demented” people? Please, point me to the August period in human history when attitudes like this weren’t present towards women. I’ll wait. When you’ve done that, please tell me what particular planet you’ve been staying on, where there have not been years of women receiving all manner of open threats and harassment simply for daring to be female on the internet (as if the shit we get for daring to be female in public wasn’t bad enough.)

  13. says

    Microraptor @ 12:

    When did “autistic” become a slur?

    Some years ago now. When it’s not being used incorrectly to excuse J. Random Whitedude doing something wrong, it’s often used as a code word for retarded.

  14. says

    Microraptor @ 12:

    When did “autistic” become a slur?

    Some years ago now. When it’s not being used incorrectly to excuse J. Random Whitedude doing something wrong, it’s often used as a code word for ret­arded.

  15. says

    microraptor @12
    Specifically the 4chan/image board community is a likely origin. Back when it was my place to study how terrible people do terrible things I watched it appear and gain popularity. In addition to what Caine said, it also roughly means “you are socially awkward/unacceptable” or “that is socially awkward/unacceptable”. I most often see it used when it refers to someone liking something that the person using it as a pejorative does not like.

    The nature of the person writing the letter is pretty familiar to me.

  16. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I too wanted to ask “when did autism become an insult?”. hesiation let me fabricate, hat maybe it refers to the stereotypical image of autists as lacking any awareness of other people, as actual people, rather than animate obstacles. Extrapolated his insult into, Feminists think men are just objects [irony?] and only consider females as people [ie autism stereotype], Feminists are completely self-centered. Males are people too. Since you think I’m not a person, I’ll not listen to you..

  17. kiptw says

    Something about this message struck me the first time I read it, but the fact it was a voicemail explains it: no dumb misspellings. Just one bonehead mispronunciation.

  18. hexidecima says

    I’d have written the entire thing on the board and told the class that one of them wrote it. I’d then invite the author to stand at the front of the class if he isn’t too ashamed.

  19. says

    One: It’s uncool to use a diagnosis — whether your target has it or not — as an insult. You only manage to hit everyone and you make yourself look an ass.

    Two: Fat-shaming. I don’t even get this, man — some of the most confident and awesome women I’ve known have been “fat” (though I suspect this bloke would call anyone over a size 4 “fat”).

    Three: The level of entitlement and disrespect here is just fucking phenomenal. Who the fuck is this kid, that he thinks he can get away with talking like this to anyone, much less a teacher… Disgusting. Fucking disgusting.

  20. says

    slithey tove @ 15
    It’s possible that your interpretation is correct, but it’s hard to say. An important way of looking at this is that this is a kind of appropriation, but I hesitate to directly relate culture to neurodevelopmental disorders*. Consider how “OCD” is colloquially used as “peeve” or “irritant”. That sounds right, It’s a kind of “socially and psychologically appropriative hyperbole”.

    What I put above is the most specific I can get of all the uses of it that I have seen. One way of looking at it is that they are basically offended by Feminsim, but one defining feature of these people that I have noticed is that they are very resistant to describing what they are offended by in objective terms. It’s an intense emotional reaction and they have to resort to a appropriative social analogy that suggests themes.

    The connection to it “not being cool” solidifies the relation to a desire to enforce their idea of social conformity. It’s pretty sad when they best they have is that Feminism is “not cool” which really explains why they have to resort to mob attacks online, all they have is group social dominance to get what they want. Wanting her to not think she is special is another connection there.

    The reference to “trendy whore” is another social control tool so I suspect problems with the opposite sex and socialization with 4chan/reddit types as a basis for the social circle.

    Maybe we can get a little closer if we think about projection. It’s sloppy projection.
    They basically don’t respect her but don’t have a good reason and project it onto her. It’s personal to them, so they personally attack her by going for appearance, seemingly a standard resort for someone bad at controlling or articulating how they feel about something.

    They need her to feel bad about herself and don’t like the way she “put’s herself out there”, which is also very non-specific but may suggest they don’t like that they teacher is willing to talk about Feminism without apology. But they say they think she is “not confident” which might be gaslighting in an attempt to make a confident person actually feel less confident.

    So it might sum up to: personal attack based on appearance, pressure to conform with an attached gendered insult and psychological appropriation as hyperbole. Empty of any substance except that they might have problems with how they look themselves and the opposite sex.

    *I see these things, including my own tourette’s syndome in terms of personality differences and managing that like people might with other personality issues. Family culture involves personality themes often so this might not be a bad comparison. I am admittedly getting evo psych here, but it helps being one of the people with the labels.

  21. says

    WMDKitty @20
    It strikes me that in summary they have to attack the person’s view of their own appearance and how they see themselves socially. I’m not sure it matters what they attack physically as long as they have something. It adds a layer of negativity to the rest as a package.

    In my view the only point to fat-shaming is social dominance because I never see anything other than emotional distaste with nothing that actually affects the other person otherwise. At best it projects their own insecurities which would make sense in a group that uses physical appearance on one another and outsiders in dominance displays (makes me wonder about different forms of bigotry coming together and race too, common software?).

  22. Rey Fox says

    Feminists think men are just objects [irony?] and only consider females as people [ie autism stereotype], Feminists are completely self-centered. Males are people too. Since you think I’m not a person, I’ll not listen to you.

    Seems a bit convoluted to me. I figure “autistic” in this context basically means “what I perceive to be socially dysfunctional because it doesn’t glorify or cater to my mediocre white male self.”

  23. mickll says

    “Autistic” is used as a slur amongst the dudebro/gamergater/channer set, the message is essentially “I don’t agree with your beliefs so I conclude that there must be something wrong with your brain!”