Living a Normal Life

No apologyReader Deanna sent me an article   (TW: The article has some problematic language) about how her city has purchased ambulances that are created to accommodate fat people. Predictably many people disagreed with the decision, calling medical care for fat people a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Obviously it’s horrifying that people feel like that whether or not someone gets life-saving care should be based on how they look (and what stereotypes are associated with that) – the idea being that people like them having ambulances and medical equipment that fits them is a basic right, but fat people having access to the exact same things is a “special right.”  Nobody seems to care that items that accommodate fat people also often do a better job accommodating people with disabilities and the elderly, as well as accommodating thin people. (And of course that doesn’t even begin to discuss the ways that racism, ableism, and classism affect the ability to get good medical care.)

The fact that people feel like this is not a surprise to me, it has been made perfectly clear to me that there are people who are happy to “win the war on obesity” by making fat people thin, or dead.  I don’t think that this actually represents as many people as it might seem, I just think that people who hate fat people also love making anti-fat comments on the internet.

The thing I want to talk about today is a bit more insidious. Even among the comments that were supportive of the city buying the ambulances there were several that said that they hoped that they found a way for people who need the ambulances to lose weight so that they could live “normal lives.”  I’ve heard this before from people who are taking exception to my decision not to diet. This is an extension of the problematic idea that fat people who deal with social stigma should solve it by losing weight, rather than by fighting social stigma.  In the “normal life” scenario the idea is that the world is created to suit people of a certain size (and often those who are currently able-bodied, neurotypical, white etc.) and everyone else should do what they can to fit that mold, rather than making the world more accommodating.  This puts the responsibility for those who aren’t accommodated on them to change themselves rather than realizing that the issue is the lack of accommodation.

Of course I can’t speak for all fat people, I can only speak for myself, but if you want to help me as a fat person have a “normal life” then I would ask that you focus on the ways that our society currently fails to accommodate fat people.  If you’re not fat a good place to start can be looking at things that you get as a matter of course that fat people don’t – ambulances and healthcare items are a really good example, so is something as simple as seating at a restaurant, theater, or on public transportation.  Ask yourself what a “normal life” means to you, then ask yourself what could be done to give that to fat people without making fat people thin.

If you are fat and you’re dealing with the idea that your size means that you can’t live a “normal life” it can be helpful to remember that the reason for that is that many things were created by people who ignored the fact that fat people exist.  That’s not our fault, though it can become our problem. As with any oppression, the people on the receiving end get to deal with it in whatever way they choose. Those who wish to help dismantle it would do well, as a first step, not to suggest that we should blame people whose lives are affected by a lack of accommodation for that lack.  Not being blamed for the oppression I deal with would be a great start to me being able to live a “normal life.”

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Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm  Comments (27)  

27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Just one example of how the medical field is ill equipped to handle fat people:Two weeks ago I had an MRI on my lower back. They tried to put me in head first but I got stuck, so they put me in feet first and it was a very close fit but I was able to get to the right spot.

    • With so many people with claustrophobia, one wonders why they don’t put everyone in feet first when possible…

      • In my case, one wonders why they don’t get open-sided MRI machines which are much more accommodating for fat folks, disabled folks, and folks with claustrophobia.

      • I think an MRI machine (or catscan or anything like that, have you even seen a mega x-ray machine???) is scary business without that. I got an x-ray 3 yrs ago, and I was scared of the machine, it was freaky looking, and had so many cords going on.

        The dental x-ray, you get to sit in a chair, and it’s only a small thing that’s attached to the ceiling and it’s about as big as your hand. I happen to go to a childrens’ dentist (they have no age limit) and the hygenists are extremely gentile and kind to their patients.

  2. I really don’t want to ask what a “normal life” is and who judges what is “normal” but I have to say that even with the stupid fat comments and looks and other judgmental snide comments, I have what I consider a “normal life.” I participate in life and live it as best as I can, making my best mark on it and my friends. Keep up the great work and motivating me and the many others who read and follow.

    • Thankfully there are no LAWS (i.e. norms) about how to live. Unless you count criminal laws, laws that save people from other people into that.

  3. If everyone has to shell out for health insurance every month, then everyone should be allowed to use it by getting proper, accommodating medical treatment when necessary. “Everyone” includes everyone, including the very significant portion of our population that is fat.

  4. I’m fat and I feel I lead a pretty normal life. some days I even feel I live a better than average life. and yes, coach airline seats bruise my hips and should change.

    • “coach airline seats bruise my hips and should change”

      A WORLD of YES! I just got back from my Honeymoon and had a flight from hell because airlines refuse to accommodate people of size. They airline split my husband and I up, giving us seats in different rows (even though we bought tickets way in advance) – so for the first time in my life I had to sit next to a stranger on the plane. And she was a HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING. She treated me so badly, forced me to put down the arm rest (even though it was so painful for me – particularly after hour 3 of the 5 and a half hour flight). The last two and a half hours of the flight I was getting horrible sharp pains shooting into my hips and thighs, but she still refused to let me put the arm rest up. She kept complaining that “I paid for a full seat, not a partial seat” – even though our thighs BARELY touched.

      My husband always sits next to me when we fly and doesn’t mind that our thighs touch a little. This lady, however, acted like I was taking up half her seat or something, even though I was barely touching her. She was horrible to me the entire flight and nearly had me in tears.

      This incident reminded me, yet again, that airlines HAVE TO CHANGE and I mean NOW. I was reading an article about airline seating and was shocked to learn that the designers used MALE hips as a measurement to design seats on planes sometime around the 1960s and it’s STILL used as a measurement today. Not only does that not work for women (who have much larger hips than men), it also doesn’t work for men as, generally, the widest part of a man is his shoulders, NOT his hips. And to STILL be using the same width measurement as they used in the 1960’s …that’s nuts. People have gotten larger in the past 50 years, to still be subjecting the entire flying populous to seats designed for MEN’s HIPS back in the 1960’s – that is absolutely inexcusable.

      • What airline were you flying? I just booked honeymoon tickets through Southwest because when I called Delta about a cheaper flight and asked about their “customer of size” policy, I got a “whut?” kind of response. When I explained what I meant, he was like, “no, you have to buy a second ticket.” I said, “Ah. Then I will fly Southwest because they don’t make you do that.” I didn’t even care if it cost me more to fly Southwest in the end. Seriously.

        • Yep, it was Delta we flew. It sounds like Southwest might be the way to go next time. I’ve flown several airlines and I think Delta might have been the most cramped experience I have had so far (even when we where flying in and I got to sit next to my husband). I never felt so cramped and uncomfortable flying before. We’re for sure going to be doing a LOT more research before our next trip. The flights nearly ruined the entire experience for us, it was that bad.

          • Airline seats seem to have been designed for the Munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz.” I don’t have problems with the width of the seats. I have problems with the fact that, almost without fail, the person in front of me will recline their seat all the way just about the moment the wheels leave the ground, and keep it there for the entire flight, pinning my knees to the back of their seat.

            If you’re outside their idea of ideal height or weight, the seats in coach are going to be miserable.

            • Pity those of us who live outside Southwest’s area. I’m in a small town in the NW, and Delta is usually my ONLY choice. I hate it. I really, really hate it. But if I want to ever see my family (all of whom live on the other side of the continent), I have to fly Delta.

          • Don’t forget to check seatguru.com. Someone posted this before, and I found it illuminating to check the dimensions, and type of plane. You can also sort by company or airline, and it will take you to booking as well. So you could check Delta’s entire fleet, and then see if that particular plane is flying near you.

            So sorry about your honeymoon. Last time I flew was March 2002, on a small 20 seater. I weighed about 100 pounds less than I do now, but it didn’t bother me, I think the headrest was the main issue and the cold feet. I don’t think they had heaters in it.

  5. Wish I could find a good paying job so I could live a normal life…

  6. Incidentally, this is another example of blaming people for some one else’s bad behavior.

    If X would just lose weight…

    If X hadn’t dressed like that…

    If X hadn’t gone to that neighborhood….

    If X had done what the cop said…

    I suppose it is an effort to control the fear of “There, but for sheer blind luck, go I” but it still pisses me off to no end.

  7. This reminds me of the social model of disability; that is, that the world designed for able-bodied people actively disables me, rather than my disability needing to be fixed to fit in with the world.

  8. Years ago, when walking in the woods, I found a tiny stump with my foot and went flying down an incline. When I hid the bottom I had a hyperextended knee.

    They didn’t have a brace that would fit me. They didn’t know where to find one and seemed confused that I would expect that they could. They couldn’t seem to grok that people who are bigger than high school basketball players might ever get injuries like this.

    They gave me a prescription for muscle relaxants without an end date or an action plan and sent me home. I got sick of staring limply into space after a while and called to find out what was supposed to happen next. “What, you’re not in PT?” they said snippily. As if I was magically supposed to know, being fat and broken down and all. (Did I mention I’d been walking in the woods?)

    As it happens, the injury healed completely, leaving only the Osgood-Schlatters I contracted as a tween that was dismissed as the kind of whining unathletic children do when faced with real exercise, therefore never treated, and so my knees have never not hurt. I didn’t even realize that they could have done anything about it for 20 years!!!

  9. Ugh, I read the article, which was truly horrid, btw. Then I read the comments, which were naturally even worse.

    I need to shower now.

    I have a great marriage, an adorable dog, a college degree. I have family and friends that love me.

    I’ve never exactly had a “normal” life… but it’s mine, I want and I deserve the right care to live it, regardless of my size.

    • Yes the comments were truly disgusting. I shouldn’t have read them. 😦

    • Sounds pretty normal to me. Who’s there to say otherwise?

  10. I dieted and hated my body for 30 years. THAT’S a “normal” life, apparently.

    I’d rather be happy and abnormal, thanks.

    • Here Here!

  11. I tried to be “normal” once. Worst ten minutes of my life.

    • Awesome!

  12. Oh hai necropost.

    I dug out my old Weight Watchers pedometer due to wanting a tangible measure of my daily activity because I’m working on a new habit. I never used it before. Well, I tried to use it off and on, but always got lost in the submenus. I finally found the instructions, though!

    It wants you to enter your weight, for some reason, but it only goes up to 135 kilos. I have no idea what I weigh, but I suspect it’s over 135 now.

    Oh hai I can’t walk. Nope-adoodle. I totes did not go up a mountain two days ago. Uh-uh, and I didn’t go all over the neighborhood putting up flyers yesterday.

    MAN, Weight Watchers is run by jackasses!


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