What Fat People Deserve

No apologyI notice that sometimes the stereotyping of fat people that is encouraged by our current culture leads to a conversation about fat people that makes us sound as if we’re a different species, or that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is somehow a pursuit for “special privileges” rather than the pursuit of what everyone else already has, and I wanted to take some time to examine that today.

I think that, as a society, we can forget that body size is simply a physical characteristic – like hair color or eye color or height- and that the reason fat people’s lives are different is not necessarily because we are fat, but because we face completely unnecessary shame, stigma, oppression, stereotyping, and lack of accommodation.  Were it not for all of that, the only thing all fat people have in common is a single physical characteristic- otherwise we are as varied in lifestyle, opinions, politics, habits, health, dis/ability and everything else as any other group of people who share one physical characteristic.

So let’s look at the idea that fat people who ask to be accommodated are asking for something special, rather than just asking for what everyone else already has. For example, I’ve heard thin people say that it’s not fair that a fat person needs more space on a plane.  Broken down, their argument is that people at least up to their size take up “the right amount” of space, but people who are larger than them by some arbitrary standard (although not so arbitrary that it could ever include they themselves) should have to pay extra to get a seat that fits them because they take up “too much space.”  From this fat person’s perspective, everyone else on the plane has a seat that fits them and fat people are just asking for the same thing that everyone else already has.

I wonder how many people ponder the fact that they could have been born into a culture where fat is the standard of beauty, thin is seen as unhealthy, and everything is built around that.  That’s not better than what we have here but it does help illustrate the fact that just because someone happens to have been born into a culture that is constructed to suit their body does not make that person’s body a “better body”, nor does it make them somehow “deserving” of a world that is built for them.  It also doesn’t mean that those of us who aren’t accommodated by this culture have “worse bodies” or are somehow “deserving” of a world that is built to exclude us.  Sometimes I get push back about the idea that fat people are oppressed at all and  I talked about that here.

I think that a big part of the solution is for us, as a culture, to properly acknowledge, celebrate, and accommodate the diversity of body sizes (not to mention dis/abilities which is a whole other blog). We certainly have a long way to go, but I believe that we can get there.

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Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 1:58 pm  Comments (15)  

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d like an airline seat that fits me, too, but I made the horribly selfish decision to grow taller than what the airlines consider the ideal height for their seat spacing.

    I had to pay extra this weekend to get specialized insoles put into the new hiking boots I was buying, because of my vain decision to have narrow feet, rather than conforming to the normal foot width for a man my size. Even the narrow sized boot was a bit too wide for my foot.

    Man, what a self-centered bastard I must be to expect manufacturers and businesses to accommodate my body preferences…

  2. Another great blog Ragen…it brings up a subject that I’ve been wanting to mention on my own blog but just haven’t gotten to yet. I recently came into a little bit of money and decided to take a much needed vacation. My father had been a military attache at the US Embassy in France when I was 10-13 so I have always really wanted to go back, see our old neighborhood and hopefully see some old friends. I speak passable French so I was very excited about my trip.

    As bad as the US is for fat acceptance, I sadly learned that mainland Europe in general, and France specifically is light years behind us. I figured it would be just the opposite with their much more progressive views on health care, economic systems and gay rights.

    I will go into more detail on my own blog one of these days but here’s a couple examples of how bad it was. Paris prides itself on being a handicapped accessible city, but if you are in a mobility device like myself, you are not defined as handicapped, just lazy. When trying to get on to one of the elevators at the Paris Metro I could see an older man in a wheelchair desperately pressing the close button so I could not board with him. As the doors closed he screamed “vous crsis cardiaque est mon argent vous griss merde!” (basically “my taxes pay for your heart attack you fat shit”). When I finally did figure out that I was pretty much going to have to use taxis to get around the city (hello credit card cash advances, costing me double what I thought the trip would cost), the cab drivers that I could get to pick me up were rude and dismissive and would complain loudly in French about my “weight” ruining their precious cab. I was only too happy to play the ignorant American and pretend I couldn’t hear what they were saying and then start speaking French when they tried to charge me a weight fee.

    Probably the worst example was when I went to the Louvre, after paying my admission and the lady again not realizing that I spoke French looked at lady in line behind me and said “enfants sage garent luers jouets a la masion” (polite children leave their toys at home) while pointing at my mobility device to which the lady replied “le gros homme mange bonbons et glace” (the fat man eats too much candy and ice cream to walk) and they both got a tremendous laugh at my expense.

    I soldiered on like I always have and enjoyed what Paris did have to offer a fat, disabled person. Sadly, my trip made me homesick for the progressiveness of the US. At least when it comes to Fat Acceptance.

    • I think at that point I would have looked at each of them in turn and clearly and succinctly said, “You are unspeakably rude” (en français) and then turned on my heel and left.

    • That is a truly awful trip! Maybe some other responses are “Hitler would be proud” or “the skinny lady dresses immodestly”.

    • The first time my mother went to Paris, she asked me to translate “my father died liberating Paris” into French in case she ran across any attitude. Maybe something in a similar vein? Because that was too much — I couldn’t have let it go.

      • I’m not really a confrontational person so a lot of instances when I should have stood up for myself I just didn’t. I even agreed to pay one of the cab drivers the “weight fee” he charged me until I realized that it was just a lie to get money out of unsuspecting tourists. At least I didn’t fall for it again.

        I live in the San Diego area and as liberal and great as most of California is, San Diego is very conservative and extremely fitness and health orientated. Living here I feel like I am barraged with messages of healthism and constant reminders of the need to be thin. But it was NOTHING compared to Paris. There I got the pervasive message from peoples, stares, words and actions that I was not even viewed as human. Like I mentioned, one day when I come to terms with it, I will blog about the whole experience because by no means was the albeism and outright hatred limited to the three examples in the original post.

      • Did your mother have that say because it’s true or just to get others to shut up? I’m interesting in learning about family war heroes/traditions. My great-grandfather fought in WWI and my grandfather repaired airplanes in WWII at the old base here in Calgary.

        • That in particular was just attitude — my grandfather was actually on a boat in the South Pacific at that point. I never met him or got to hear anything about the war because he died when my mom was really young.

    • Simon that really sucks, I’m sorry😦 I live in Europe right now and I used to have similar thoughts about Europeans being oh so progressive etc etc but now I’ve learned otherwise as well. Bigots are everywhere.

      • Thank you, but I always have to remind myself that there are wonderful people everywhere too! And after all of the negativity I was able to treat myself to the most amazing Blanquet de Veau and had a wonderful conversation with the chef who really loved that someone appreciated his food as much as I did.

  3. “I wonder how many people ponder the fact that they could have been born into a culture where fat is the standard of beauty, thin is seen as unhealthy, and everything is built around that”

    Yeees!!! And I also wonder: when people think that everyone should be thin, beautiful and healthy and can be shamed if they are not – don’t they realize how quickly they themselves can be one of those persons they are shaming now? Suddenly one needs special medication and gains weight from that, or needs a mobility device, or whatever …
    I totally agree with you that people come in all shapes and sizes and should all be treated equally. But even if people see that as “special privileges” for fat/disabled/whatever persons – how dumb must they be not wanting to grant those “special privileges”, thinking they will never need them themselves

  4. Reblogged this on Jessica A Bruno (waybeyondfedup).

  5. It is sad how these things are built into our culture. I am a large size – the only large size in my family – and there is this constant unspoken ideal of thin-ness.
    I don’t think thin people look healthy – and not so long ago larger people were described as healthy.

    But this undercurrent of presumption is really intollerable.

    These “thin people” will agree when I talk about the things I read on your site – and things like big is beautiful in general. But then when it comes down to it you can see they have all these reservations.

    “Big is beautiful.. but” you can see them thinking “but” because they don’t want to be fat and they think fat is unhealthy and wrong and bad, just because that is what modern culture told them and continues to tell them.

    I hate these people!!!

    I love this blog and it is my only salvation from the horrible world of judgemental bastards. I love you.
    Thank you .

  6. I remember back about 20 years ago when Oregon was considering its first challenge on gay rights. Homophobes all over the place were saying that gay people were demanding SPECIAL RIGHTS, not the rights of all citizens, whatever their sexual orientation. Maybe in 20 years it will be fat peoples’ time?

  7. Our time is now, if we choose to make it so. After having discovered this blog a few weeks ago, I was selected to plan the worship service at church for October 19th which happened to also be “Children’s Sabbath”. I was hunting on the internet for a special song for the focus moment and I came across “Jesus Loves the Little Children” which is no longer in our hymnal. I didn’t really care for all the verses on the first one I found. So I kept searching and did some “cherry-picking” and came up with this composition of verses, which might make a good theme song for the fight for fat rights:

    Jesus loves the little children
    All the children of the world
    Red, brown, yellow, black and white
    They are precious in His sight
    Jesus loves the little children of the world

    Jesus loves the little children
    All the children of the world
    ev’ry color, ev’ry race
    all are covered by his grace
    Jesus loves the little children of the world

    Jesus loves the little children
    All the children of the world
    FAT and skinny, short and tall
    Jesus loves them one and ALL
    Jesus loves the little children of the world!

    so, If Jesus loves us ONE AND ALL, why can’t we just love each other as we are, and stop judging? Are you hearing me skinny people? We don’t mind that you are skinny at all, we love you! All we ask is that you love us too!


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