It’s Because It’s My Body

Photo by Richard Sabel.

Photo by Richard Sabel

It seems that a thread today on a fat hate site suggesting that people e-mail me and ask why I don’t support airline tickets being based on passenger weight.

Setting aside the fact that some particularly muscular and/or tall people would likely flip out, assuming that this wasn’t meant for them but was only supposed to be a means of punishing fat people, and the impracticality of having everyone weight in when they get to the airport with their bags to get the final charge for the flight (and how would they handle people with mobility assistance devices – do you have to pay extra for your wheelchair?) , there’s the fact you can’t tell whether or not someone will fit in a seat by their weight, so it wouldn’t do anything for people who complain that about having to sit next to a fat person.  But those aren’t the real reasons that it’s not ok.

The real reason is that we are not self-loading freight, we are people, customers, and we all deserve the same experience – travel from one place to another in a seat that accommodates us. The airlines have done a great job of creating a problem (having planes built that ignore the size of their actual customers, then creating shared space (like the armrests in the middle, then shrinking the size of the seats and the distance between them, having planes with different seat sizes and seatbelt sizes) and then convincing passengers to blame each other rather than the airline for the problems the airlines created.

That doesn’t chance the fact that it’s not luggage.  It’s my body.

While we’re at it:

It’s not a representation of greed or capitalism or any other metaphor.  It’s my body.

It’s not a picture without a head to accompany yet another OMGDEATHFAT article.  It’s my body

It’s not a stand-in for my physical or mental health.  It’s my body.

It’s not for you to judge. It’s my body

Do you get it?  It’s my body. So back off.

My body is far too valuable to be treated like a car whose worth is lowered because of some wear and tear.  It’s far too astounding to be a metaphor or a political statement.  It’s far too complicated to run on the same formula used to fuel a lawn mower. It is far too profound to be reduced to a ratio of weight and height.  And it is far too amazing to be judged by anyone.

Because it’s my body.

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Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 10:54 am  Comments (37)  

37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This post brings up an issue that I have a little bit of a problem with.

    I completely understand wanting to be treated equally to other people. To not be discriminated against because of my size. To not be punished for being a fatty.

    In many cases this only requires the will to do so.
    But, when it actually costs a service provider, a business, more to provide service to a person because of their size or other physical characteristic that is different from the average person, what moral basis do we have to ask that they eat the extra cost?

    Now that I think about it, there is precedent. Special hearing devices for the hearing impaired. Special treatment and facilities for those physically less able.

    I guess now that I think about it, the best argument that fat people should also be accomodated is that people with other differences that cost businesses extra, are already provided for, and it’s the law. So not doing the same for fat people would be a clear case of discrimination. A clear intent to punish fat people.

    OK, never mind …..I figured it out on my own .. *S*

    • Reading your comment reminded me of the way that some stores (like Walmart, for instance) charge $1 – $2 more for XXL and larger clothes, with the excuse that takes more material to make those clothes. Well, it also take more material to make the Medium than the Small, and even more material to make the Large, so the reasoning is as skewed as their pricing scheme. It’s almost as if making larger clothes for larger people was a begrudging afterthought: “Oh, fat people want to wear clothes too? Well, ok, but charge them more.” I’m not crying international conspiracy, but there certainly is a flaw in this system.

      • Even the fat ladies clothing companies, like Catherines and Making It Big, do this — charge more for 5x than 1x, and more still for 7x if they offer it..Doesn’t make it right.

      • Yeah, I call it a fat tax. Same for paying shipping because everything in my size range is only available only. Retailers don’t like it very much when I comment on clothing items.

    • That was a beautiful line of reasoning which helped me understand it SO much better because I’ve had the same questions. Thank you for adding your valuable voice to the conversation!!

  2. Damn. Skippy.

  3. Ragen, thank you. You remind me constantly of the dignity I have which others so often try to steal from me. We indeed are not “self-loading cargo,” but people – beautiful, individual, unique and wonderful creations.

  4. Ugh, airplanes aren’t comfortable for most people, so complaining about someone taking up more space than someone else is just crazy. I think the seats need to be made to accommodate the majority of people, not just my 90 pound niece who is barely even 5′ tall.

    And I’ll take this one step further, It drives me crazy when people try to say that heavier passengers cost more for the airline in fuel. Um, no, not really. For the average plane, be it an airliner or military, approximately 80% of a fully laden aircraft’s take off weight is the plane and it’s fuel (I got this info from my husband’s technical books, he’s an aircraft maintainer in the AF). Think a DC10, Airbus 380A. Finding the best fuel efficiency for a plane has more to do with finding the perfectly appropriate sized engines and the optimal flight level and airspeed. The introduction of winglets (the little upturn on the end of the wing) decreases drag by about 3.5%, that helps a little… Until we use lighter materials or find a lighter fuel (JP8 is already lighter-weight than it’s predecessor JP4 by about 30%) this isn’t going to change much. Planes consume the most fuel upon takeoff, when they are heaviest in weight… and when not flying at optimal levels/speeds. Think when the pilot has to change flight level to keep from flying in bad weather or is stuck in a holding pattern around an airport. The weight of the passengers and their luggage accounts for little in fuel consumption.

    • Good points, Tara.I’ve also dealt with this by saying okay, yes — each added bit of weight on the plane uses a little more fuel than a plane flying empty. It’s probably a neglible amount, but whatever–let’s think this through.

      If I weigh 230 pounds but pack lightly and fly with a suitcase that weighs only 15 pounds, then I’ve added 245 pounds total to the plane’s carry load. If the person sitting next to me weighs 180 pounds but has checked two 35 pound suitcases and has an 8 pound carryon, then that person has added 258 pounds total to the plane’s load.

      SO: If we were seriously going to charge by weight, we’d have to line all the passengers up with their suitcases, weigh everybody with their suitcases, and then calculate ticket prices. Which is obviously absurd.

      I like this little thought-experiment, though, because it makes it pretty clear that people who suggest this arent’ really talking about fuel efficiency and total weight on the plane. They’re talking about fat bodies. They’d be outraged at the suggestion that their “normal” body plus two heavy suitcases costs the plane more than my fat body plus a carry-on and should therefore pay more.

      In any event, Ragen said it best. In fact, we are NOT “self-loading” freight. But even on the purely freight-based viewpoint, the argument falls apart.

      P.S. I do know that suitcases over a weight limit pay a surcharge, but I’ve always understood that that’s because of the extra trouble and effort required of baggage handlers, not because of fuel efficiency on the plane.

      • The overly heavy bags are due to a two-person lift rule. Bags over a certain weight require that two people are used to move them, hence the charge.

    • Hi Tara…..

      Well, I’d like to point out that your reasoning about extra fuel cost is not quite right. Of course there are fixed costs, overhead costs that don’t change much with added cargo. But there is only so much cargo that can be carried, and those fixed costs have to be paid too. So the cost of carrying cargo really is a lot more than just the difference in fuel it would take for that added weight, and by weight is the way that is calculated for freight.

      The argument as to why people who require special accomodation, like fat people, people with disabilities, musicans and their instruments, etcetera, cannot be made on the basis of “it really does not cost them much more”. Those people do require special accomodation. Technically, it does cost the business more. So, the decision that businesses should accomdate those extra costs has to be made on the basis of social decency. It has to be made out of kindness, and an attempt to take care of everybody’s needs, even if some need more than others. It really is a form of socialism. Which, is a good thing. In my opinion, we need to be honest and recognize it for what it really is.

      The situation with larger clothing costing more to make because of added fabric costs is a similar case. It really does cost the business more. In addition to the amount of fabric, there is some small amount of additional time required to sew the larger seams. There is also the cost of creating the pattern for larger sizes, which is not as easy or cheap as it might seem. The market for those sizes is much smaller than more average sizes too, so costs have to be recouped from fewer sales. Here again, what we want is special accomodation. I think we need to recognize that. But I think manufacturers also need to recognize that it is the right thing to do.

      I don’t think anybody begrudges Stephen Hawking for what must be the mind boggling cost of taking care of him, transporting him, etcetera. Fat people should not be treated any less sympathetically.

      • Except that ultimately means that a size 8 costs more than a size 4, which costs more than a size zero to make. Where does differential pricing end? Do you charge the actual price for clothing for each size? Then it becomes an even more severe economic disadvantage to be fat, and that encourages unhealthy behaviors because then people start adding financial reasons to the already grocery-length list of reasons people starve themselves to thinness.

        That, in my book, is not an accommodation.

      • Actually, I don’t feel you made any arguments against my discussion on fuel uses. The differences in prices you mention have to do with accommodating people and their special requirements, not the weight of the people/cargo.
        Cargo flights cost less because it is far easier to palletize a bunch of boxes/other items and secure them by a load-master in the optimal configuration for perfect weight balancing within the plane (my husband actually works primarily on transport aircraft that also have the ability to add palletized seats). Not to mention, with cargo, it is easier to wait to fly the plane until the plane is at optimal weight for fuel consumption. Of course, they will fly light if they are shipping an overnight shipment for which the customer paid more. Here we are back to accommodation.
        There’s a reason only military, their dependents and retirees generally fly on military flights, we get loaded on with few frills, we get a safety briefing, boxed lunches are made available (which were packed by the flight kitchen) and there is additional water. We can be barred from flying this way ever again and if anyone involved is active duty (or the dependent of an active duty person) that active duty person can get in serious trouble if you do anything considered untoward towards the crew.
        In an airline, in the passenger compartment, you have a number of flight attendants who attend to the people on board, help with stowage of property, safety, and some comfort assistance. That costs far more than a load master tying down a pallet.
        I do not think it “specialized accommodation” if the airlines simply made seats and leg room in such a way to accommodate @ 80-90 percent of the population. So the cost of a ticket would go up for all, and after the initial backlash by people, flights would resume.

      • The vast majority of patterns, especially where American designers are concern, aren’t drafted for human beings in the first place. Mannequins, size six (which have a bust-waist-hip of 34.5-25.5-35.5), are used, and sizes are scaled up or down. Plus size designers use larger mannequins, usually about a 12 (38-29-39). There is no curve to the upper back despite humans having them as a normal part of anatomy, no variance is typically allowed for bust size (though plus-size designers may assume a C- or D-cup rather than a B), figure type is based on Dior’s New Look (which is what initially drove the medical portion of the anti-fat movement), and limbs are assumed to be straight (neither muscular nor fat). The average four-year design school requires one single-semester class covering plus-size fashion, with emphasis on camouflage, and plus-size models can be anything from size six to size 12. (A typical model is 00, with a “fat” model being a 0.)

        This, frankly, is only the beginning of the technical problems with the fashion industry. Hell, a lot of “designers” can barely sew. (I’ve been sewing in one form or another since I was three, and the only way I can watch Project Runway is with my mom. We can usually spot the top three by the end of the first episode, and heckle the HELL out of the disasters. :D) Additionally, the culture of the entire industry has been known to outright mock wannabe plus designers, and has an attitude that IMO influences designers to use cheap, synthetic fabrics in plus designs, where straight sizes would get natural fibers.

        Basically, the whole thing is a clusterfuck.

        I never worked in the industry, btw, but I worked alongside it for a fair while, and quite a few of my coworkers either worked with or were good friends with designers. All in all, it only made me more interested in learning to alter and draft more thoroughly.

        • Thank you.

    • Spot on. I watch Mayday religiously (I believe it’s called Aircrash Investigations outside of Canada) and in cases of emergency landings where they have turn around, they can either dump fuel or hope to hell the runway’s long enough so they don’t run off the edge. The Swiss Air 111 crash is an example where they dumped fuel, and there was an A380 in the past couple years that had to return to its original port after only a few hours into the flight. Thankfully, the A380 made it.

  5. Great article.

    I was standing in the checkout line the other day, surrounded by dead forests full of fatphobia, and I noticed something.

    Namely, the prevelance of “I got my body back!” or “I’ve got a new body now!” to describe weight loss. And it hit me what a strategically devious way of talking about weight loss that is. THIS IS my body, not an organic fat suit I can take off, not a prison entrapping a thin person, not a monster I have to defeat to “earn” my real body. Unless those women were victims of alien bodysnatchers, they’ve had the same body the whole time, too. But talking about it like that- what a great way to keep society thinking of fat bodies and fat people as separate entities, and of the War on Obesity’s goal of eradicating fat bodies as something that can be achieved without eradicating fat people. It’s an insidious form of dehumanization, separarting me into a human mind and a subhuman body, and pretending the War on Obesity is going to rescue the former from the latter instead of destroying both.

    • Lady R, thank you. That’s excellently said!

    • Love this!

    • Yes. Or a brain transplant.

    • We need good fuck-you responses to those statements.

      “Inside you, there’s a thin woman screaming to get out!”
      *burp* “She’s not screaming anymore.”

      “Don’t you want your real body back?”
      “Not since the aliens incinerated it.”

      “Just think about the new body you could have!”
      “Ooh, good point. I want a robot. With death claws!”

      “You know there’s a smaller, happier person inside you.”
      “Actually, it’s two Dwarves and a Hobbit!”
      -or-
      “Oh, crap. Frodo, RUN!”

  6. Hmm, I wonder if those fat haters would also believe that smaller people should pay less for our seats. Me, I’m 5’1″ and have the body fat of a Chihuahua. Clearly, by their logic I should pay less. I take up less room, I cost the airline less, blahblahblah, I doubt they would see it that way if confronted however. They probably wouldn’t like it at all. Because it would be “unfair” and “unjust” to them and I wouldn’t be paying “my fair share”.

  7. Elegant in it’s simplicity.

  8. Tomorrow I board an airplane to go home, and I’ve been steeling myself against hateful looks and the possibility of worse. Thank you for the body armor!

    • Just remember, in the immortal words of Bilbo Baggins, “Fuck this shit. *GOES FOR THE KNEES*”

  9. Do you hear that? It was the sound of a mic dropping and everyone clapping and cheering. Thank you for this.

  10. And do airplane seats just grow organically out of the interior after the airplane body is completed? No, they’ve been deliberately shrunk over the years. Some clever jerk at whichever airline did this first just noticed, hey, we can head off complaints about our tiny seats by blaming fat people for yet another thing that has nothing to do with fat people and also make more money, yayzors!

    I have long legs. I can’t afford first class. Even when I was socially acceptably thin, I hobbled off of airplanes in pain due to the minuscule legroom, unless I could get a seat at the front of coach. I wonder if in my lifetime I’ll see a freakout over people who “let” themselves get “too tall” and find myself paying extra for the “privilege” of not having my knees feel like two balls of hot coals at the end of a flight. No, that’s too surreal and bizarre, while blaming fat people for airlines packing more and more passengers into smaller and smaller seats makes perfect sense.

    • What absolutely KILLS me about the shrinking of seats is that, from what I’ve read, people in general are becoming larger, not smaller! The airlines are creating the problem–or at least exacerbating it.
      I read an article a while back that claimed the American male of 2000 was 3 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than his 1900 counterpart. If we are, indeed, getting taller and heavier, why are we being crammed into the ever shrinking seat???

  11. This steams me to no end– like the size of our bodies is some kind of option we choose to have. “Oh, I think I won’t wear this X pounds today.”

    People are unable to leave parts of their bodies at home when others feel they are offensive or inconvenient. 100% of my body is me and I take it with me everywhere I go, even on planes. How dare they say that only the first 75% of me gets to fly for normal price, but that other 25% is extra?

  12. I recently traveled back and forth to Boston on Southwest. I’m short and fat, but I still take up only one seat, so I didn’t go the ‘request an extra seat’ route that Ragen has explained before. I was VERY nervous flying on Southwest. When I flew Delta in January, I was nervous, too, but I didn’t have any problems. The big difference this time? I decided to NOT let it get to me.

    In January, I was very subtle about requesting seat belt extenders, pushing the call button and speaking softly. This time, on all four flights, I just asked as I got on the plane. Let them say something. I was armed with righteous indignation and a better sense of self than I had six months ago.

    Not one flight attendant said anything rude or gave me any weird looks. Not. One. They just smiled and said, “Of course!”, reached across to the cabinet, and handed me an extension. Only one of them tried to roll it up and be all subtle, but I got the sense she was protecting me rather than herself. I don’t need protecting, but I let that one slide. I felt so relieved to just head for my seat and not fuss or wait.

    Still, those seats are too damn small and while I get the whole MOAR SEATS thing that airlines are trying to do to recoup their bottom line, I hate it. I feel like flying was way more pleasant 20 years ago. Now there is just so much drama and expense… Get off my lawn.

  13. Beautifully said, powerful and remarkable! Thank you for giving those haters a teachable moment. And this is also a great reminder for all of us to value our beautiful bodies. They are fabulous and so are we! Thank you!

  14. I know that Ragen is aware of this, but airlines in Canada were ordered by our Federal Court several years ago to have a “one person, one fare” rule (which applies to people with disabilities as well as passengers who need an extra seat because of their size). The policy was estimated to cost the two airlines 77 cents and 44 cents extra per ticket.The policy was introduced in 2008 and I have not heard of it causing any problems, and our airlines have not gone out of business or anything like that. The cases leading to this decision are a pretty interesting read and a good example of legal advocacy leading to an improvement in human rights for fat people.

    • In my opinion, Canada is getting it right. However, as I also opined in my response to Tara, this is still an accommodation. All passengers pay a little more to cover the extra cost of people who, for various reasons, need extra room, or extra services, etcetera.

      Canada is a much more social nation than the US. In many ways they have taken better care of their citizens than the US has. Here, it seems the prevailing attitude is every man (person) for themselves. Grab whatever you can get. Which, makes for a pretty ugly situation when people start assailing those with disabilities, those with different body sizes, or others with special needs, in order to grab a few more bucks for themselves.

      Being a super-death-fat size person, I’m all for improving the rights of fat people. However, I’m even more for improving the right to fair treatment for ALL people.

    • Excellent. But what if I’m flying from Canada to another country?

  15. So… a baby would cost, what, $10?

  16. Yeah what’s with the single armrest in the middle? Would it kill these companies to make armrests for everyone?


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