Pretending There Are No Fat People

Angry FrustratedI was reading a piece that discussed how fat people are more likely to die in a car accidents because the safety equipment is not made (or tested) to accommodate them.  In the comments a number of people said that car manufacturers shouldn’t change their safety equipment because fat people can lose weight.

Let’s be clear that people who are making this argument are saying that they are ok with fat people either never traveling in cars or dying, unless or until we become thin.

I’ve heard the same thing about other accommodations for fat people, whether they are for safety, transportation, medical care, or entertainment, the idea is that fat people shouldn’t be accommodated because they can, in theory, eventually become thin people.

Let’s start with the fact that there is no study in which more than a tiny fraction of people were able to lose weight long term, and most of those studies define success as an amount of weight loss so small (2-5 pounds) that it wouldn’t make a difference in whether or not a fat person could fit in a seat, or utilize a seat belt properly.

But even if we had any reason to believe that all fat people could become thin, none of them could become thin this minute, which leaves the matte of fat people who need to get to work, access medical care etc.

The truth is that the people who run companies that make cars, build and stock hospitals,  etc. are well aware that fat people exist, and they use social prejudice against fat people to give them cover for their money-saving, fat-people-harming decisions.  It makes me cringe every time I hear a commercial where some car manufacturer waxes poetic about how customer safety is their first priority (though their safety features don’t work for fat people), or a medical facility has a commercial talking about how important patient care is though they don’t have equipment to handle high weight patients.

I don’t think that pretending fat people don’t exist should count as a safety policy, medical care policy, or good customer service, and I think that anybody who suggests that it’s ok to risk fat people’s safety now based on the belief that we could be thin later is a dangerous bigot. We’re customers too, and we deserve to be accommodated.

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Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 10:44 am  Comments (25)  

25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That’s horrible! Are all car companies engaging in (practically) murderous bigotry, or are there a few that actually do care?

  2. This goes right down there with the fact that the majority of testing of medicines is done entirely on white males, despite (or quite often because of) the fact that women’s bodies and those of some other ethnic groups respond quite differently to those medications. After all, they cost more to test on those groups.

    It’s the problem of the ‘default human’ standard, which has long been white and male and is also of ‘average’ weight and height. Once a product works for the ‘default human’ it doesn’t get tested on any sort of outliers… even women who make up OVER half the population.

    Until we see different sizes, different genders, and different colors as fully human, this problem won’t go away.

    • “Until we see different sizes, different genders, and different colors as fully human, this problem won’t go away.”

      This.

    • Exactly. This is why it took years of emergency contraception being available before it came out that it isn’t as effective in women over 165lbs. Coincidentally that is roughly the average weight for women in the US so HALF of all women in the US would have the morning after pill potentially be ineffective (once you get over about 180lbs it’s nearly useless and this is regardless of fat it’s dosage per lb). This isn’t just an issue with this medication but many others are packaged in standard doses even though their efficacy is better if dosed in mg/kg. It also means that smaller individuals have a higher risk of toxicity if given the standard dose.

      • Your response makes me so sad because it’s completely systemic racism, sexism, and patriarchy. It’s ingrained and that’s just so not OK.

      • I tried to explain this to my husband once, by way of explaining that at his weight, yes, he needed three Aleve at a time instead of two, because dosing was for an “average”-size man. I think he had trouble believing it was such a systemic think to under-dose anyone who is overweight.

        • Holy cow – that never occurred to me! No wonder I always have to take three!

    • Statins would be a classic, Twistie. So many doctors and scientists out there keep saying “statins do not benefit women”, but this seems to fall on deaf ears, still. The fact remains, too, that all of us have ALWAYS been different, no two the same height, weight, width, hair colour, shoe size, dress size, as you point out – they’ve got no excuse at all not to cater for all-comers.

      • I’ve actually discussed the statin issue with my doctor and she has told me in no uncertain terms that the information about women and statins is not correct. Do you have a scholarly source for that?

  3. I once had a fat-shaming health care worker try to explain to me how ridiculous it was for fat people to expect the extra staff (I still doubt that one) and extra equipment it takes to treat them — that was her basis for the “I’m paying for your healthcare because your fat” argument. Of course, the same person tried to explain to me that all fat people are sick because there were always one or two out of the ten on her floor that were “morbidly obese”.

    I figured if she didn’t understand that made the vast majority of the sick people she saw small-to-average, there was no point in going on to explain that the fat people were paying the same and deserved whatever accommodations necessary to get them the same care. (If she didn’t get percentages, I assumed abstract thinking was going to be even harder.)

  4. So tired of all of this. I am a “fit” fat person. Exercise, eat right, etc., etc. My body is what my body is! I don’t understand why these so called geniuses (medical professionals, etc.) don’t know about simple genetics. What the hell? Drives me out of my mind!!! I exercise and eat right so that I can feel well and energetic – not so that I can look like society wants me to (of course, I never will no matter what I do)!

    Went on a trip to NYC with friends a few years ago. Decided to go see the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. They herd you in there like cattle in these long rows. I had to smash myself into the seat. I was bruised so bad that I could barely walk for a couple of days. I like to think that I wouldn’t put up with that now (thanks to people like you, Ragen – helping me to see that I can demand to be treated better)!

  5. There’s a similar problem with most shoulder harnesses not being a good fit for short people (mostly women).

    My paranoid reading is that not accommodating fat people might not just be about saving money– I wouldn’t be surprised if people who worked on that would be mocked for it.

  6. I travel a fair bit, both in cars and on planes. There’s nothing more humilating than finding that the most basic safety mechanism – a seatbelt – might not fit you. On planes, it’s a given that it won’t, but in vehicles, it’s hit or miss depending on the make and model. Most of my road travel is for work in work-owned vehicles, which means I’m at the mercy of whatever vehicle someone else decided to purchase. We have two vehicles at work and only one allows me to drive comfortably with my seatbelt fastened. In the second vehicle, I can only drive if I slip the shoulder harness behind me, which totally negates the safety factor.

    I’ve had people tell me that extensions are available – for both cars and on planes – but it is beyond humiliating to have to ask for one. Ones for cars can be expensive (my office did purchase one when they realized my problem with the second vehicle). Airlines don’t let you bring your own, sparing yourself from the awkwardness of having to flag down a flight attendant and ask for an extension. Normally they are provided quickly and quietly (seriously, extensions are slid to me covertly and without eye contact like I’ve just scored drugs or porn), which I do appreciate. Only once have I been moved because my excess size (their words not mine) meant that I couldn’t sit in an exit row.

    It would be nice if manufacturers would just make safety equipment more accessible. I can’t see why they don’t just make seatbelts longer. Any excess not used does just stay rolled up around the coil. It’s not like it’s flailing about in the car causing danger to those of smaller size.

    • What airlines won’t let you bring your own seat belt extender? I fly Southwest because the extender I bought only fits their seat belts. Unfortunately, they are not standard across all airlines, but you CAN buy them. You just need to get the correct one for the airline you’re flying,

      They’re not exactly cheap either but it’s the best money I’ve spent, travel-wise. I never have to ask for one and I never have to worry about it. I do think it’s incredibly stupid that extenders are even needed. I fit in the seat with the arm rests down just fine but can’t even come close to buckling their inadequate seat belts.

      • Hmm, just did some investigating and apparently the official policy of Southwest Airline is that you are only supposed to use an extender they give you, not one of your own. Supposedly it’s a safety issue but mine gets used far less than the ones they use to demonstrate with several times a day.

        But I’ve been using my own extender for years and have never had a problem. A flight attendant did once tell me, very politely, that I couldn’t sit in an exit row because of the extender but she didn’t seem at all concerned about where I got it.

        • I live in Canada, so I’m usually limited to two major airlines here. Technically, neither will allow a passenger to bring in their own extender any more, although I can usually sneak one in if it’s a bigger plane. Unfortunately, I am usually stuck on smaller planes (where I live and fly to usually means I’m always on smaller planes) with one flight attendant. I had one experience where the flight attendant made a big production about the fact that I wasn’t allowed to use my own extender and I was violating policy. It was awful. The flight was full so 49 other people got to listen to me being scolded. After that, I just decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and now just brace myself to ask for an extender.

          • I would have blistered her ears about treating people with dignity and compassion, and then I would have reported her to her airline. I’m sorry you had to endure that.

    • My driving instructor said that putting the shoulder part behind you is ok, and you’re still obeying the law with the waist in the belt. I have to do this, mostly in winter since the coat is so thick. Older cars (60s-70s) never had shoulder straps. My grandparents had a car from that age, and they had added their own shoulder straps, but never used them.

  7. Out local fire station had an open house and we got to look inside the Life Flight helicopter. They showed us how and where the injured person was strapped onto the flat slab and strapped into the helicopter. It did not look like a very big space. I asked what their weight limit was, and they said 200 pounds. I said, “Whoa, look at me, you couldn’t get me in here, nor half the people I know.” The next year they had a great big new helicopter with a 500 pound limit. Better anyway. I guess flight has some limitations, not to mention government budgets.

    • Wow – glad they got their act together!!

      • That is a TERRIFYING story, despite its happy ending. A relative of mine is alive only because a Life Flight helicopter got her to a major hospital after a terrible wreck. She very nearly died as it was. I don’t know her weight but I’m quite sure it’s over 200 pounds. Seriously, a limit of TWO HUNDRED POUNDS? It is just horrifying that there are Life Flight helicopters out there that are incapable of helping something like half the population.

  8. How much does it cost to make 6 more inches of belt?

    I have to put the seat so far forward, it eats up all the “extra” belt available, so it’s like my waist was out there already. If cars had those real 6 inches extra, short women, fat people, midgets, could all sit happily in the car, and not have the belt choke or chafe them, or have to put it behind their backs. Also, having the connecting point on the wall being 3 inches lower, would actually put it on the shoulder, instead of part of our face.


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