An Inconvenient Fatty

First they ignore youWhen Rachel Ebert heard that a company was creating amazing 3D printed leggings with designs by local artists, but not in plus sizes, she went to work. She contacted the company and they were very receptive – now they are expanding their line to include plus sizes.  They are working with Rachel and encouraging input from the plus size community.  (If you’re in Seattle you can help, can check out Rachel’s request here.)

I think that Rachel is awesome for asking, and I appreciate that the company was responsive to her request, I really do.  But I also want to know why she had to ask?  I there are so many fat people, why is making clothes for us an afterthought? I’ve been in a huge mall in LA where they did not sell a single shirt, dress, skirt, or pair of pants that fit me.  It’s not just clothes either, recently I tried to take my partner to a performance and the theater in LA said they didn’t have seats that would work for us, we couldn’t bring our own folding chair – I finally asked “what can we do so that I can give you my money and we can see this show?”  the manager responded “I’m sorry, this just isn’t something we accommodate.”

And lest you think that it’s just clothes and entertainment, in things as critical as healthcare the needs of fat people are often simply ignored.  Despite the fact that healthcare facilities are put in place to meet the needs of the community, and the community obviously includes fat people, they often build and stock them as if we don’t exist.  Basic healthcare tools that other people take for granted, like a chair that fits them, a blood pressure cuff that’s the right size etc., fat people have to stress about, pay for on our own, or do without.

Then there’s the idea that we take up “too much space” as if some people “deserve” a world that they fit into, but others don’t.  Too often fat people are treated as an inconvenience whether it’s  “Oh do fat people wear clothes?” or “How dare you expect the doctor’s office to have a chair and blood pressure cuff that fits you!” the idea is clear that being accommodated if I’m thin is a matter of course, being accommodated if I’m fat is a special request.  (And of course we’re worlds away from expecting many businesses to accommodate us without us having to ask.)

This idea of fat people being inconvenient can even be internalized.  In response to a blog about fat people on planes I received a comment for a fat reader “It is inconsiderate to inconvenience others due to our size. Please, lets not go too far demanding equality.”

This person has the right to think this but I’m not going along for that ride.  I think that if someone feels inconvenienced because another person achieves equality, then the first person was most likely benefiting from the inequality.  It does not follow that the person who was unequal should say “Sorry dude, my bad.  I’ll just go back to a life of oppression- nothing is more important than your convenience.”

It’s pretty hard to fit “Equality Now! I mean, as long as nobody is inconvenienced in any way”  on a protest sign.  Or try chanting: “What do we want?  Equality!  When do we want it? Only when it doesn’t inconvenience anyone!” It just doesn’t have that ring to it, you know?

To me this is about equal treatment, not special requests.  I am asking for exactly what other people who look different than I look already have.  And if people don’t want to give up the “conveniences” that are the end result of the stigma and oppression that fat people deal with, then as far as I’m concerned they are going to have to learn to live with disappointment.  The truth is that we’re not inconvenient, we’re inconvenienced – grossly, sometimes life-threateningly, inconvenienced –  and we have every right to ask for equal treatment.

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Published in: on May 27, 2014 at 9:00 am  Comments (48)  

48 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. NOTHING frustrates me more than having to worry about whether I am going to “fit” in certain places. I am so tired of not being able to just do what I want to do – when I want to do it – with no fear of being impeded by a chair, table, medical equipment, etc., etc. Absolutely frustrates the hell out of me.

    We went to NYC a few years ago with another family and we had tickets to see a broadway play. We bought the more inexpensive tickets and those seats were built for toddlers. I kid you not! My very slim friend(probably size 4 or less) had to sit in that seat spread eagle – no leg room AT ALL. At that point, I knew there was no way in hell my ass was fitting in that chair. I had already hurt my hips by shoving myself into a seat to see the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. My husband (all 6’4″ of him) was not going to be able to get his legs in there either (mine was more of an ass problem). At any rate, he went down and talked to the management. They did give us seats on the floor that were much roomier and we were both comfortable. I was so thankful to be able to see the show, but I had to be separated from my son and our friends. That stuff just gets to me! I try REAL hard not to feel embarassed, but it’s those old tapes playing and I struggle with it. I look forward to the day when I will hold my head high and just go after what I need and not slink off unnoticed or injure myself trying to get into a seat.

    Thanks for the example you set. People like me draw strength from that and, little by little, gain the courage needed to stand up for ourselves.

  2. Chairs. I hate chairs. Some chairs, that is. The kind without arms, the extra-wide kind, the fully cushioned heavily padded comfy kind… Those I like. The ones with arms that don’t connect to the base of the seat I’m kind of ok with, because I can get in and out of them just fine even if they’re not the comfiest thing ever. The ones with the connecting arms are awkward – I sort of slide in ok, and the fat around my hips and upper thighs has someplace to go, but when I try to stand up again there’s always the chance that the chair will try to come with me, resulting in an awkward shuffle-bump to get the chair off my ass before anyone notices. The absolute worst kind of chair though (in my opinion, and not counting the really flimsy ones) are the kind that look sort of like an icecream scoop. They’re usually pretty comfy, the back is supportive, the sides are like a gentle, reassuring hug… That creates a vaccuum of doom that literally sucks at me when I try to get out of the damn things. They are deceptive-chairs. They look comfy, they even feel comfy, but when you try and remove yourself from them you find yourself engaged in a full blown battle for possession of your own hindquarters. Or at least I do.

    I’m sure I had a point to this in mind somewhere, but it’s after midnight after a long day at work and somehow my comment has turned into a chair rant. Oh well.

    • I completely removed the arms from my chair at work. Woohoo! Freedom!

    • Earlier posts on Ragen’s blog on the subject of chairs prompted me to replace all but one of my consulting room chairs with armless chairs. Such a simple thing, so blindingly obvious, but I needed it pointed out to me. I’ve kept a chair with solid arms in the room because I also see lots of elderly people who are frail and need something to use to lever themselves upright,

      Tiny victories …

      • Good idea about the leverage. Most armrests I find are actually too low. Most of my arm pain comes from having to stretch un-naturally to reach the armrests.

  3. Hell. Yes.

  4. It’s pretty fucked up that your partner couldn’t even bring her own chair. Does she have a wheelchair that she could bring in? I have a feeling they couldn’t refuse to let her sit in a wheelchair. I’m sorry you guys had to deal with that😦

  5. That is one of many reasons I hate LA. I’ve been there several times now and I felt so out of place the entire time. Except at Disneyland. They are super fat-friendly there.

  6. The leggings look nice, but $80?? And they will probably be charging more for the plus size!

  7. The clothing thing is ridiculous. If, as we are told, the average woman is a size 14, it boggles my mind why so many clothing stores consider that the upper limit of the sizes they will carry. Fat people are so numerous we will soon send the earth plummeting into the sun, but for some reason clothing companies do not see the monetary advantage of providing us with stuff to wear.

  8. It is about “otherness.” Thin is seen as normal for a human, even if it is not common. Therefore, fat is seen as something else – not normal, deviant, even not human. They want people to buy their clothing and see their play. They don’t make clothing or seating for fatties because they don’t see us as people if we can’t pass as thin.

    What they don’t get is that not only are we human, but we are normal, too.

  9. I feel compelled to point out a misunderstanding here. The company stated in their response to Rachel that they were working on the plus sizes.

    I scrolled back to Rachel’s Original post on the RNT page and I’m going to cut and paste from it directly:

    “…They responded immediately, saying that they are working on patterns for 2X and 3X, but are taking their time to make them the best they can be. So, I told them if they need a test body, to holler at me. AND THEN THEY HOLLERED AT ME. !!! They invited me to come and try out their 3X pattern, let them take some measurements, jump around, and provide feedback on the fit.”

    They were /already/ working on the bigger plus sizes, Rachel didn’t have to ask them to do it, they were already doing it. They were taking their time in order to do it /right/. They were smart and accepted her offer of help and that is what is so totally awesome. They were trying to do it right and they accepted help in order to do so.

    It just seems unfair to say Rachel had to ask for plus sizes, this company should be doubly celebrated for already planning to create them and to create them /properly/ so they look good on fat bodies.

    • I hear what you are saying, I think my writing wasn’t clear, but this is exactly my point.  They were already doing leggings in straight sizes, why did they feel comfortable launching only straight sizes while they were still “working on patterns” for the plus sizes?  Why did they have to wait until a plus size person contacted them and offered to model – they don’t know (and couldn’t find) fat fit models at the same time they found straight size fit models? Again, it’s treating plus sized people as if we’re an inconvenience and we can just wait while the straight size people already have what they need.

      Also, just for community members who may be reading this, it’s not ok to post anything from Rolls not Troll outside of the community without permission.

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

      • And even if there was some kind of valid reason for not having the plus sized line ready when the smaller sized line was released, why didn’t they have info posted prominently on their web site?

  10. I hardly leave the house anymore because of the fear of not “fitting into the world”. I can’t sit in chairs. I just can’t now. I try and the pain is overwhelming. So I just stop going. I stopped going to my doctors because of it and I don’t go to my daughter’s doctor appointments either. My husband takes her. I can’t sit in the waiting room for an hour in pain or God forbid, stand up the whole time and prove to everyone that I am too fat to sit.

    The worst though is the zoo. Walking the entire zoo is hard for me and they have trollies. I am too fat to fit in them. I had to watch my whole family drive away on a trolly after trying to fit in and losing. I cried for hours after that. My weight is a very sensitive subject for me and to have 100+ people look at me like a monster because I tried to wrench my fat body into the trolly. I desperately want to take my daughter to the zoo again but I can’t do it because I’m terrified of the embarrassment.

    • It doesn’t matter what the 100+ people think, Mel, it only matters what you think. Clearly, you are not a monster, just a sensitive, beautiful human being.

      There are some theaters and restaurants I don’t go to because I don’t fit comfortably in their chairs and I am no longer ashamed to admit why if someone asks me to go to them. It’s obvious from looking at me that I’m fat, so people understand.

      Is a mobility scooter a possibility for you? A friend has one and now she can go just about anywhere. I only wish I had the stamina to keep up with her!

      • I could really never use a mobility scooter, if the embarrasment is too bad now it would just be 100 times worse with one. I was thinking about renting one at the zoo though just so i can go with my daughter, but I would feel horrible to have to make my family and friends slow down for me just because I’m too fat so i have to use a mobility aid. My God, this self esteem issue is pretty crappy. I don’t think I ever realized how much I hate myself.

        • The average mobility scooter can keep up (and even outpace) your family; it won’t slow anyone down.

          You might find yourself embarrassed at first, but I personally try to live by the adage that most people are just concerned about their own selves…they’re not going to be looking at you or thinking about you for very long, if at all, and in the meantime, you’ll be comfortable and happier, which you deserve to be as much as they do.

          • I agree with ninafel. There is a quote that says something like “We wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of us if we realized how little they do.”

            And since the only thing we can control is our own minds, it’s important to train ourselves to replace negative thoughts about ourselves with positive ones. I used to not be able to look in a mirror without thinking Ugly. If that thought pops up now it automatically gets reframed to “brown eyes” or “short hair” or even “what a kind, intelligent person looking back at me!”

            I was the queen of low self esteem, but it CAN be changed.

            • Can I ask how exactly you changed your outlook on yourself? I don’t have any idea how to actually change it. I would have never thought up looking in the mirror and thinking neutral things to replace the negative. I need to do this for myself. Last night I stayed up crying until 3 am because I couldn’t stop telling myself how worthless I was because of my size.

              • For me it has had a lot to do with reading as much about size acceptance as I can. Read something every day; don’t skip a day if you can help it. We need to counteract the plethora of messages we’re getting from the dominant culture.You might want to start with Amy McCarthy’s blog, as well her suggestions about bloggers to follow: http://www.bustle.com/articles/17333-7-fat-positive-bloggers-activists-you-should-follow

              • Well, years of therapy helped.🙂 Reframing is a technique I was taught and it just took practice. First step is to simply NOTICE when you’re beating yourself up. Thinking badly about ourselves can become second nature to the point where we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Simply by paying attention to my internal dialogue I realized how often I was saying something cruel to myself.

                Then, once I realized I was being negative, I reframed the thought. If my mind said “ugly” I didn’t argue with myself, I just inserted a different thought. I started out with neutral but true things like “brown eyes” and worked my way up to saying nice things to myself.

                Another way was deciding if I wouldn’t say something to a friend (you’re worthless, you’re a failure, etc) it made no sense to talk to myself that way.

                Or I would ask myself: is this helpful? Even if I was regretting something I had done or thinking of a mistake made, asking whether beating myself up over it was helping enabled me to see that it NEVER was helpful. It only made me feel worse.

                Sorry for such a long reply, but I really feel your pain because I have been where you are now. It can get better. You are not worthless and wouldn’t be if you weighed 80 pounds or 800. Remember you are a unique individual who offers the world something no one else can, so please be kind to yourself. Hugs to you,

                • I can’t find the blog, Fat!so? It says it’s not in use anymore, but i would like to read her stuff.

                  • I got that book from my public library and read it in one sitting. Loved it. You can probably find it on Amazon.

  11. I live near London, England. I really like going to the theatre. But… most of London’s theatres are at least 80 years old, and the seats are designed for much smaller people (apparently 80 years ago nobody was large). So I have a choice – do I squeeeeeze my not-enormously-huge ass into a torture device type seat, or do I watch drama on DVD? It’s the theatre’s loss. I don’t suppose many North American visitors of large size are that happy with tiny theatre seats, either.

    The blood pressure cuff thing… yeah, for many years I had a (skinny) doctor who on the very rare occasions he saw me would insist on taking my blood pressure, presumably to try and scare me into losing weight. There were two problems with this:
    (a) the regular cuffs didn’t fit my arm, so someone had to go hunt out the Super Large Old Cuff (maximum fuss and embarassment) that did fit my arm. (Funnily enough, back in the 1950’s when that had been made, it was a standard size)
    (b) Once he’d got the Super Large Old Cuff and taken my blood pressure, he had to admit that… it was textbook perfect. 80/100. Never varied. The look on his face… but he never gave up! One day, he knew, he’d catch me out, and I’d have High Blood Pressure, and he’d have WON the battle to MAKE ME LOSE WEIGHT… yeah. Right. Never happened.

    • Wait wait wait–fattie cuffs were standard size back in the ’50s?

      WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED, THEN?! Are nylon and velcro so darned expensive that they just–can’t–add the extra four inches without driving up the price $eleventybillion?

      Oh, right, only thin people should exist now. Because SUUURGING TIIIDE OF FAAAAT.

      • Old BP cuffs didn’t have velcro – they were really LONG and wrapped around the arm, then got tucked in. They accommodated both large and small arms and were long enough to go around a leg if need be.

        • I’ve seen one of those. They fit better than the sectioned and velcroed ones they make now. Also more comfortable. Like a glove. If they made them that way again, they’d immediately reduce the # of complaints.

          • And probably the number of patients with “high blood pressure”.

            • I would just remind everyone that it’s not about whether the cuff “fits” or not; it’s about using the cuff that will get your pressure most accurately. There’s an algorithm of the length and width of the bladder within the cuff compared to the size of the arm it is measuring. If your cuff doesn’t meet that formula, your cuff won’t measure your BP accurately, even if it fits around your arm.

              About 13 inches is the maximum arm circumference for using a regular BP cuff. Anything above that and a large cuff is usually needed. The maximum circumference for a large cuff is more variable. If in doubt, there should be a size range printed on the cuff (but you’ll need to know your arm circumference in cm). You can read more here:

              http://www.wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/2009/03/importance-of-blood-pressure-cuff-size.html

  12. Not okay to be unable to accommodate anybody, whether they are fat, tall, short, disabled or whatever.

    Hearing about the seating issues made me think of the extra effort my friend in a wheelchair has to go through.

    FYI, you can be a good or bad disabled person. She had to listen to a rant about how the ranter disliked disabled people who were so lazy they used an electric wheelchair. The ranter was talking about a friend of hers. Fortunately she had connections and the ranter got a talking to.

    This is depressing me, so I will close with a verse from Seanan Mcguire’s Wicked Girls:

    For we will be wicked and we will be fair
    And they’ll call us such names, and we really won’t care,
    So go, tell your Wendys, your Susans, your Janes,
    There’s a place they can go if they’re tired of chains,
    And our roads may be golden, or broken, or lost,
    But we’ll walk on them willingly, knowing the cost —
    We won’t take our place on the shelves.
    It’s better to fly and it’s better to die
    Say the wicked girls saving ourselves.

    http://seananmcguire.com/songbook.php?id=238

  13. My favorite part about this is how on the one hand, the world could not possibly be ANY less convenient for someone my size… and yet everyone assumes I “choose” to be this size. Which isn’t to say I don’t have a right to “choose” it if I want, but with all the research that demonstrates you can’t make fat people thin (longterm) or thin people fat (longterm), it’s just endlessly frustrating.

    I did the “good fatty” thing. I tried, desperately, for many years to be smaller. To make my body less inconvenient. To become less conspicuous. And no matter how “good” of a fatty I was… I never lost enough weigh to have it make a difference in terms of societal acceptance or convenience.

    So WHY would I choose to go through all this? Maybe some people would, but not me!

  14. This might be kind of silly, but – the way this has come up for me is with those robes you get at the spa or in a hotel room. My size has varied but I have NEVER comfortably “fit” into one of those damn things. It’s the worst – to get excited about the luxury and then feel like a ham strapped into a terrycloth case. Bigger bathrobes for everyone!😀

    • This!! I won a coupon for a spa treatment a few years ago. It was a really luxurious place and I couldn´t be more excited. That was, until I got there. The first look the receptionist gave me told me everything I needed to know about that place. Long story short, they tried to fix me into some disposable undies and robes that were half my size and when it didn´t work and I complained, the manager said that they´ve never been in that situation before and there was nothing they could do.
      Of course it was my fault, being the only fat woman in the planet and wanting to go to a spa… *eyeroll*

      • Had the same problem when we went on holiday in Lake Garda, and they gave us free spa robes for the pool. Both were Medium. It was bizarre. I mean, stereotypically, Italian women are shorter and smaller, but these were meant for very slim tall people, judging by their length and size.

        Those hospital robes always worry me too because of my large boobedness. I’ve done some accidental flashing…

      • How about the paper gowns at the doctor’s offices? When I go to the gyno, they give me this paper vest so that they can do the breast exam. I am sitting there with my boobs hanging out for the world to see. It doesn’t even come close to meeting in the middle. Then if I pull it a little bit, it tears. So then I have a shredded too small paper vest on. I get so pissed off every single year! Next time, I am going to say something!

        • You SHOULD say something! My doctor has a variety of sizes when it comes to the paper gowns, and the ones she gets out for me have always fit me both at my peak weight of 500 lbs and my current weight of 350 lbs. It is possible for them to have such things, we just need to make it plain that we expect the same courtesies our slender sisters get.🙂

  15. Thanks for writing this excellent article. You were able to articulate something I think about often because I face these types of challenges most everyday. I have issues with chairs in public places. Medical equipment doesn’t usually go up to my weight. Even things like the scale in the doctor’s office. I know that they make scales that weigh people up to 500, 700, or even 1,000 pounds. But my clinic does not have one of those. Why not? Can’t fit on the table in the exam room there or in the chairs in the waiting room. Many people have acted put out if I ask for a chair to sit in. Forget about planes, movies, restaurants, and concert halls. But I have a higher expectation for my doctor’s office. Hmmm… I wonder if thin people have any idea have any idea what challenges fat people go through… just to find a seat in a public place. Or to purchase a shirt that fits from a mall. Or access medical care. I actually got a new doctor this year because his office has a blood pressure cuff that fits me and his staff are properly trained in how to use it on big people. I don’t really need his other specialty services. I wonder if he thought I was joking when I said I came there because I like his furniture.

  16. Speaking of taking up room. I went to a concert not to long ago. The concert was amazing but I don’t get why on the floor, they had dinky chairs that very few people could sit on my mother who is straight size couldn’t fit, the worst part? They tied the chairs together so you were invading over people’s space. And the child next to me kept pinching my thigh with her chair and when I told her to stop her mom got offended saying I needed to lose weight. The thing is, don’t bring a three year old to a concert for adult or if she acts up, take her home. The huge bruise on my leg wasn’t needed.

    I am going to another one next month and I hope it isn’t the same. Because holy that would suck.

    • That’s horrible!!

      I never understood that reaction: “Well, you need to lose weight…”

      Even if they felt it was true, how on earth are you meant to shed 20 pounds there on the spot? It’s not like, “Hey, your hat is tall, please take it off so I can see…”

      I’d reply, “Well, you need to gain civility. How’s that?”

      • I don’t get it either, but the part out of all it that pissed me off the most was how the chairs were tired together and so small. I get the whole “cram as many as possible in!” thinking but some where along the line they have to stop and think and understand people of all shapes and sizes are coming to the concert.

        As for the mother’s comment, I looked at her and said “I may not be able to shed 30lbs at the snap of my fingers but, you would do best to learn some manners and teach them to your child.”

        • Nice.

  17. It reminds me of an aunt I had who was plus size. She had a stroke at the supermarket and fell and hit her head and was rushed to the nearest hospital. She was critical at the time but we were told she could not be treated at their facility because of her size. She had to be air lifted to a hospital the next state over and died on the way. Her life could have been saved if the first hospital could have accommodated her. Her daughter took out a lawsuit. It never made it to court.

    • OMG!!!!!!

  18. The comment about the airplanes is dumb. There’s no reason why making airlines more accommodating to fat people would inconvenience thin people or even really deprive them of privilege. Larger seats and more foot room benefits everyone. No one wants to be squished up against a stranger in a confined space no matter what size they are, or what size the other person is.

  19. The theatre didn’t want money?!?! They sent you away?!?! What the he!! kind of world do we live in???

  20. You make an excellent point about how seeing fat people as an inconvenience can be internalized – I think that’s why it’s so easy for people to just say horrible things without giving it a second thought. Clearly, you’re just an inconvenient thing, not a human being who deserves respect. *eyeroll*

    Also, I’m TOTALLY stealing the line above from another commentor – whenever I hear someone mentioning that someone else needs to lose weight, I’m going to tell them that they need to gain civility and respect for others. Good line.

  21. I especially love retailers who offer plus sizes online, but not in store. So if I want their special sizes I have to pay more, pay shipping, often buy a ton of stuff when I just want a few things and ship everything back.
    Just today I ordered a pair of padded bike shorts from online. There were a few choices, but many of them nonreturnable and the sizes and measurements were confusing. I ordered a pair and hope that I’m not stuck with a pair that doesn’t fit. Meanwhile REI and Dick’s both had about 20 choices of padded shorts. Not a single pair in a size above a 12 or “Large”. The whole world tells me that I should work out and get on my bike etc… But, then the same world tells me that the stuff I need to do those workouts should be difficult to find, if not impossible.


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