Taking Up Too Much Space

IMG_9103 - CopyOne thing that fat people often tell me makes them uncomfortable is the idea that they take up too much space.  Here’s what I think about that.  I think that our bodies take up just the right amount of space, whatever size they are.  If they get bigger or smaller they still take up just the right amount of space.  Because they are our BODIES.

It is ridiculous for people to think that they, and anyone smaller than them, take up “the right” amount of space, but those bigger than them take up too much. Spare me.

Nobody takes up too much space just by virtue of existing.  Tall people don’t take up too much space.  People in wheelchairs don’t take up too much space.  Fat people don’t take up too much space.  If you are on a crowded train and you sit with your legs completely splayed out sprawling across as much space as you can, then an argument can be made that you are taking up too much space, but it is impossible that your body takes up too much space just being your body

There are things in the world that are made to fit only people of a certain size but that doesn’t make all other bodies wrong.  It means that when they manufactured those things, they either pretended that bodies outside of those sizes don’t exist, or they simply made the decision not to accommodate people of all sizes.  When I encounter these situations I can choose activism, or not.  If I go into a restaurant and I’m not comfortable in their booths or the arms on their chairs pinch I have a few options.  I can say nothing and suffer through, or I can leave immediately.  I can let the management know about the problem and give them a chance to accommodate me, or I can just decide that if they wanted my business they would have made different choices and so leave and never come back.

Regardless of what I choose the problem resides with the booths and the chairs and not with my body.  I take up exactly the right amount of space and I believe that you do too.

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Published in: on October 26, 2013 at 11:42 am  Comments (20)  

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A lot of women feel like this regardless of body size. Like they’re too loud, or they have to fold in on themselves, or hunch over. One of my self confidence projects was to practice taking up my full complement of space e.g. walk tall. It’s incredibly empowering to do, but also difficult, because we’re taught to shrink.

    • I’ve read a few things about women’s use of public space, and one which sticks in my mind is that if you watch people just walking in the streets normally, when two people are heading for a collision, if they are of different genders, the vast majority of the time it will be woman who steps aside and the man who continues unimpeded.We’re conditioned into making ourselves as small as possible so as to make space for men everywhere we go.
      My pet hate is the men who sit on crowded buses with their legs as far apart as possible. I used to shift over and press into the window to get away from them. I don’t do that now – I take up my half of the seat and when their legs start to encroach, I don’t make room by giving up my space. Some of them really don’t like it.

      • “My pet hate is the men who sit on crowded buses with their legs as far apart as possible. ”

        There’s even a tumblr for that now. It’s especially useful when talking to someone who tries to deny that this problem exists.

        http://mentakingup2muchspaceonthetrain.tumblr.com/

        • And look at all the women sitting next to them, feet and knees together, bags on laps, arms folded…

          • I actually don’t “sit like a lady” anymore–on the advice of my orthopedic surgeon! After my hip replacement I am forbidden from crossing my legs, even at the ankles. This, and the day I quit sucking in my stomach, have added so much comfort to my life🙂

      • The amount of startled looks I get when I just stop and let the guy go round me, or give a very loud and obviously sarcastic sorry (sometimes accompanied by a ‘for you barging through me’) is pretty impressive, I mean the one advantage of being a fat woman is that you are hard to miss right?

        I’ve also been known to loudly enquire to startled looking onlookers if I’d suddenly become invisible after someone tries to go through me rather than round, I tend to follow that up with wondering if I show up on security systems or if I can now have a lucrative life of crime.

        But it is always men who expect me to get out of the way, even when I’ve got several bags and one of those hard to steer suitcases on wheels. Things like that helps separate the decent guys from the self-entitled jerks.

      • Ha, I’m also the one that will sit directly beside someone that is sprawled out on the bus… nothing makes them sit up faster and “make space” then someone sitting in their bubble.

    • I am a trail runner.

      Facts: 1 ) Some of the trails are very narrow. 2) Runners/pedestrians have the right of way over mountain bikers. 3) Most mountain bikers in my area are male (though there ARE women out there. 97% of the time I encounter men. For example, in my husband’s riding group, 9 of the riders are men; my friend S. is the only woman. I run between 50 and 75 miles a week, so I’m out there a lot.)

      Men all but run me over out there because I refuse to give up my right of way or take less space than I need. They act really pissy when they can’t barrel down the centre of the trails at top speed and have to share the trail. It’s THEIR trail and the way they use space is a REMINDER of this. Well. I don’t move over for them. I take the space I need and I absolutely do not give up good footing. One day I’ll probably get hit. That will be the day someone gets his derailleur ripped off and smashed over his head. Hopefully he’ll be wearing a helmet.

      Wow. I’m so angry now, just hearing all these stories. I never ride the train. This reallllllly bothers me.

  2. I remember my mother talking about getting on trucks, back when she was in the army in WWII. The convoy trucks routinely held a dozen men – so everyone would always be startled when they could only get 10-11 WACs into one. But a bunch of 18 year old guys (most of whom had not yet reached full growth, may I add) could fit easily on the benches – though one might lean forward a bit, to give room to all those wide shoulders. The women, though, even though they were shorter and otherwise seemed smaller, had wider hips, and took up more room actually *on the bench,* And there was nothing they could do about it.

    The default was “young male, not fully grown.” That didn’t mean there was anything wrong with “adult woman” – but the culture hadn’t gotten used to preparing for them. (She had a couple of funny-in-retrospect stories about places where they just hadn’t thought about Woman as Not a Boy in a Skirt – there was a learning curve…)

    Here in NYC, the subway designer’s default appears to be “slender person dressed for summer.” Come December, no one fits in those seats. There’s no room for coats. But no one suggests that we all stop wearing parkas, which are bulkier, and go back to wool coats, even though that actually is a matter of choice.

    There are many reasons one person might take more room than a mythical default person – or even an actual person in the same place. And if we can accept parkas and backpacks and strollers, we can accept hips.

    • What are WAC’s?

      • Women’s Army Corps.

  3. Since discovering FA, I have found it much easier when being seated in a restaurant to simply tell the staff I’d rather have a table than a booth, or that no, I don’t want to sit at one of those bar tables with the really, really high chairs that leave my feet dangling a foot and a half off the ground. I always say it with a smile and using pleasant language, but I make my tone good and firm so they know I mean business.

    A simple ‘No, I’m afraid that won’t work for me. Do you have another option available?’ or ‘Do you have a table available, instead?’ has always gotten me a fair effort at another solution.

    Now the only time I don’t speak up is if the restaurant is clearly too crowded for much individual accommodation. Then I’ll decide whether it’s more important to me to eat right that moment or have a comfortable seating experience. There have been a few times when I was willing to put up with dangling feet over the hunger I felt.

  4. I’m really comfortable taking up space most of the time.
    I travel a LOT on business, but just had my first real negative flying while fat experience recently. The flight attendant was spectacularly unhelpful and negative, not just to me, but also to a passenger with a disability. I usually have no problem speaking up and requesting what is needed, but it’s such an uncomfortable situation on a plane.
    I can’t afford not to get where I’m going.

    Side note:
    Ragen- I’d love to take your friend’s survey, but I’m not out about FA on google. She can post a url that leads direct to her survey without requiring a google log in. She can even make a nice link using the Google URL shortener device. (goo.gl) I’ll check back to see if she gets you an updated link and signal boost it later.

    • Thanks so much for the comment. As far as the survey goes, though it’s a google form, I don’t think that you have to be logged in to google to use it. I just logged out of my google account and the link still took me right to the form. Is it asking you to log in? If so, try this link if you are up for it: http://tinyurl.com/kct6tqa

      Thanks for your help!

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  5. On the complete other end of the spectrum, I was watching a show called “Little People, Big World” which was about a married couple who were little people. They had finally got around to remodeling their house so it worked for their size. When the inspector came to check the work, he insisted they raise the height of the railing on their deck because it didn’t fit regulation. The regulation was for average height people and it would block their view.

    I suppose you could make the argument that since they had average height children, the railing needed to be changed, but it sounded like that wasn’t the reason given. It had to do with a regulation designed for average height.

    I also hate that furniture is designed for a certain height, and as a short woman, my feet usually dangle.

    • Indeed, what’s with these super high beds? Along with being fat and short, I have arthritis. Recently, I was staying in a vacation rental house that was advertised as accessible. I’m still not sure for whom it was accessible. Certainly not me. I had to take a flying leap to get atop the bed. On the other hand, the toilet was so low, I could barely stand up after use. There were high bar chairs. The pool had no railing. The only accessibility was that it had no steps to walk into the place or out to the pool. Oh, and they had big spacious leather chairs (but no ottoman). My youngest sister found the place, and it was clear to me that my criticism of the place felt like a criticism of her. Time to not get miltant, so I’m here to rant.

      • opposite end of the spectrum here. Hubby is 6’7 and I’m about 5’9 so those super high beds are just right for us!

  6. All fabulous replies to a problem in general – we matter and we fit! I remember an episode of Grey’s Anatomy Season six where a male opera singer was diagnosed with lung cancer. I don’t have his exact words in front of me but he rants about having to make himself “fit” into the world around him. He was fed up with it. The only time he gets to be himself is when he is on stage. The world is MY stage and as long as I am not HARMING anyone then I do as I please and will not try to “fit” into their ideals. As for OFFENDING people, that’s another story! LOL (Some people need their underpants waist band snapped a few times…Sorry Ragen, couldn’t resist! LOL)

  7. Ragen, would love to take the survey and help out your friend, but she didn’t include an option for those of us who take advantage of the way our bodies are actually best adapted to ingest probiotic material: from our food (live-culture yogurt, as well as other fermented foods like pickles, tempeh, and sauerkraut).

  8. I hate when I walk into an establishment and see those molded plastic booths with the attached table. I just know I will be miserable at that point. Depending on who I am with, I usually leave. My husband always checks out the seating for me too. So very tired of this situation.


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