Dear Fat People: We Deserve Better

Angry FrustratedThe world is not built for fat people, and the larger we are the more things are inaccessible (and this often intersects with the oppression of other marginalized identities that some fat people hold, including racism, ableism, healthism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and more.)

Sometimes it’s annoying – like when there’s a restaurant we want to try, but they only have booths that are too small.  Sometimes it affects us professionally – like if a conference room only has chairs with arms that don’t accommodate us. Sometimes it limits our ability to move around our world – like fat people who aren’t able or are unwilling to pay twice as much as thin people for the same airline trip.  Sometimes it affects our health – like when the doctor doesn’t have the proper sized cuff to take our blood pressure.

Sometimes it affects our survival – like when they don’t have an ambulance built to transport us or medical equipment made to save us, or we have surgeons who don’t have any training working on fat bodies.  Sometimes it affects our death, like when we find out that the reasons doctors don’t have training on fat bodies is that they won’t accept our donation of our bodies into medical programs.

And adding insult to injury are the endless flimsy excuses that people always seem to have to try to justify this stuff. These combine to give us the message that we’re not worth considering in the first place (since they knew fat people existed when they built that hospital, and chose not to purchase items that would accommodate both us and thinner people as well.) And when it’s obvious that the lack of consideration has negative consequences for us (up to and including death) we get the message that we’re not worth the effort to fix the problem.  In the fat phobic, weight-biased society we live in, this can happen so often that we can begin to internalize the message and accept the flimsy excuses, the tired justifications, and even start to think that maybe this is all we deserve.

I am here to tell you:  Fuck. That. Shit.  Seriously, fuck a bunch of that. Fuck all of it. You are worthy of seats that fit you everywhere you go.  You are worthy of being able to access travel, and medical care just like a thin person. You deserve for the centers that handle cadavers to figure out a way to work with larger bodies so that doctors have proper practice on fat bodies (and if they can ship a fat body 5000 miles to do a completely unethical autopsy, it seems like this is a problem that can be solved.)

This lack of access can definitely become our problem, but it is NOT our fault. The problem is a combination of prejudice and the power to wield it. It’s easy to hear this stuff and think “Damn, I’m not worth a $100 blood pressure cuff or a $40 chair!”  But what it actually says is that someone harbors prejudice and bigotry against fat people, and is  in a position of power that allows them to put that into practice to harm fat people.” So it’s not our fault, and it’s not what we deserve, but often it becomes our problem, and it’s what we get.

When you are dealing with these situations you may or may not be able to do anything in that moment to change them.  I’m not even worried about that with this post (I talk about it here,  here and here.) Today I want to make sure you know, every single time this happens, that you deserve better. You are worthy, no matter what. So I offer this three phrase adage for you to use when these situations happen to you (feel free to change them up to work for you!)

  1. This situation is bullshit.
  2. I am not the problem here.
  3. I deserve far better than this.

No matter how you decide to handle the situation (and any way you handle it is absolutely valid,) no matter how many pathetic trolls comes out of the woodwork to claim that you are “delusional,” or that you deserve poor treatment, or that it’s “simple economics” or whatever, just keep repeating those three things until it sinks in, until you know it to your core – you deserve better.

If you could use more support, consider joining us for the Fat Activism Conference:

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on September 1, 2016 at 9:09 am  Comments (14)  

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Weight and body image, based on being accepted, got a lot of traction in my childhood. I know that fear of someone other than what you are told you are. We are never told who we are by those that want to perpetuate the phobias, it’s always what. Tall, thin, etc,etc. They don’t tell us because they don’t want us, all of us, to remember we are beyond words of description. We are worth receiving love and giving love. We are as valuable and tender as starlight.

  2. Good news for me… I’m in the hospital right now ( no, that’s not the good news, though I suppose it’s better than not being in the hospital, considering the circumstances)… an I have had excellent size-neutral care! Not once have they asked to weigh me, or mentioned my size, or tried to put me on a diet or anything! Big score for Legacy Emmanuel in Portland, OR!

    • HI! I read this yesterday and wanted to respond. But I got to thinking about this and, well… got all tangled up….

      See, my first thought was to think “Yea!” to the folks at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital for doing right by you. Thought maybe they should be recognized for this. After all, bad sizeist experiences abound -just read the stories on this site. Nice to read about a positive experience.

      But then, I thought, wait a minute. Why should they be commended for doing as they should?

      Don’t get me wrong. I am very pleased you are being well cared for and no one is giving you trouble for being fat. That should be the standard -not the exception.

      Hmm. Look at how I’ve been conditioned. I want to commend folks for the crumbs a sizeist society doles out.

    • HOORAY!

    • I don’t know if this is related, but my husband got excellent psychiatric care at that same hospital a few years ago. We were very pleasantly surprised. Hope your stay is short and health soon improved!

  3. Looking for suggestions – on a recent visit to a new doctor’s office with a small waiting room, there were two chairs that would accommodate larger people and 5 chairs that would be more comfortable for smaller people. Both the larger chairs were occupied…one by a larger man and one by a smaller woman (who was very intent on her phone and not paying any attention to anyone or anything around her). I considered asking her to move so that I could sit comfortably, but chose not to confront her. Raised with manners, if I saw someone that would need my seat, I’d be glad to offer it to them. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people notice, care or even think about anyone else’s comfort/needs anymore. Looking for suggestions on how I could have approached this woman to trade seats.

    • Take it to the office personnel.

      1) They are trained to deal with customers.

      2) They need to know that their office needs to provide more than two seats for wider customers.

      The person you talk to directly may not be in a position to do anything in that moment, but at least they can get it on the list of issues to address for the future of the business.

  4. I have narrow hips, so I tend to forget the issues faced by my friends who have wide hips.

    I’m trying to be more conscious of this issue, but jeez, what do you do when you are already in the movie theater and realize your friend is going to be cramped? I offered that we could leave (it was a second run theater) but she decided to put up with it.

    I know this is about more than chairs, but that is what has been most obvious to me as I try to be aware of the needs of various friends.

  5. My step-sister is once again trying to lose weight and is convinced that she knows what it takes this time around, according to her post. Honestly, I believe in Ragen’s “mind your own business” rule (UR), so I am choosing to not say anything because, if it makes her feel whole, then more power to her.

    I am not threatened by other people’s choices to lose weight if they feel that is what is best for them.

    I am tempted to tell her about the research coming out that is saying, even if said research ends up being incorrect, weight loss is a nebulous concept. I am tempted to tell her this to possibly give her something to think about but, again, what she does with her body and life are none of my business. What matter is what she wants to do and I will gladly support her, albeit quietly, since we don’t chat much.

    She has greatly internalized the fatphobic messages our society has perpetuated, though. I have known her for almost 20 years and, while I could be wrong here, I think that she feels she will finally be OK and good enough when she is thin, which is sad and absurd. I am sure health plays a role too.

    She wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini because she doesn’t believe she has the “correct” body to wear one, which means a non-thin body.

    She is planning on rewarding herself and her kids with a trip to the big D when she loses a certain amount of weight.

    Hell, I am super fat myself and, if I want to go to ANY amusement park, I will go if I am able to do so (funds allow it, for example).

    • Edit: Matters.

      Also, when I mentioned being whole, I was referring to my step-sister, not Ragen. I didn’t type clearly enough, it seems.

      We can’t go back and correct our posts.

    • May I make a suggestion?

      Instead of telling her about how fat acceptance can change her life, tell about how it changed YOURS.

      Instead of telling her about how diets don’t work, tell about your own personal journey toward giving up diets.

      And do these things only when it is appropriate to be talking about yourself and your own issues.

      For example, while she’s gushing about the latest diet or her plans for her future thin body, nod and smile. When she’s NOT on that topic, that is your turn to talk about your own body acceptance.

      Also, if The Big D is Disney World, you can talk about your own plans to go there (funds permitting, but there are deals), and how you’ve researched about how fat-friendly they are there. How they accommodate big bodies. How you’d love to make it a big family affair, and enjoy your visit with your sister and nieces and nephews, and all.

      You can’t change her mind directly. If you push, she’ll push back. But if you show her how much happier you are, now that you’d stopped battling your body, she might decide, on her own, to change her mind.

      I really do hope she won’t make her kids wait for HER success. She should take them when she can afford it. Disney World is great for families of all ages, but they will appreciate so much of it more as younger children than as teens. And if she insists on waiting until she has achieved a “bikini body,” then they may grow up and move out first!

      Imagine their chagrin if they find out later that she *could* have taken them, but *would not* because she was ashamed of her own body.

  6. This reminds me of a story I once heard (sorry, I can’t attribute, as I don’t remember where I heard it).

    It was just after a blizzard, and the steps and wheelchair ramp both needed to be shoveled, before people could enter the building.

    A janitor was starting to shovel the steps, while a crowd grew below, waiting to enter the building.

    Among the crowd was a young man in a wheelchair. He asked the janitor to shovel the wheelchair ramp, first.

    The janitor just shook his head, and shoveled away at the stairs.

    The young man repeated his request, a bit louder. “Please shovel the ramp first, and then the stairs.”

    The janitor stopped shoveling, looked at the young man and said, “Nope. You’re only one person. The rest of the people can use the stairs. They take precedence.”

    The young man tried to speak up again, but the janitor shushed him, and called him selfish, wanting to put himself first, when all those other people had just as much right as him to enter the building.

    But then the young man shouted, “THEY CAN WALK UP THE RAMP, TOO, YOU KNOW!”

    By accommodating the man in the wheelchair, he would have made it possible for EVERYONE to get into the building. But by only accommodating the able-bodied people who could use the stairs, he was making everyone who could not use the stairs (including those with invisible disabilities) wait in the cold.

    It’s the same when you’re planning a hospital that does not accommodate fat patients. Thin people can be carried on stretchers that work for fat patients. Doctors who are trained to work on fat patients, as well as thin, can work on thin patients.

    Restaurants and other businesses that provide seating for fat customers mean that their thin customers will have seats, as well. They can sit in the wider/sturdier chairs, too.

    Refusing to accommodate these people, because they are “only a few” doesn’t make sense, if you are not actually taking anything away from the many, in the process.

    This is not “The Wrath of Khan,” where “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Wider seats, sturdier furnishings, wheelchair ramps, and a whole host of other accomodations take away *absolutely nothing* from the “many,” while they provide for the “few or the one.”

    So why the heck focus on the stairs, when there’s a perfectly good ramp?

  7. I don’t know if this is the proper place to vent this, but I need some place to vent. I saw a post emphasizing Gabourey’s weight loss, and while I believe in the underpants rule and don’t like to tell people what they can and can’t do with their bodies, it makes me sad that she’s jumped on the weight loss bandwagon with Oprah, and with other celebrities. As a fat black woman, with not many plus size representatives in the media to begin with, all of my favorite plus size inspirations have gotten smaller. Jennifer Hudson, Oprah, Gabourey, Monique, it’s really gotten to me as I’ve still struggled with self acceptance and size acceptance. Not many African American women are participating in the size acceptance movement due to the heavy stigma around being fat and black and constant ridicule towards fat American American women or black women in general. I just feel like giving in, I’m only 28, and still learning but I feel defeated. Weight loss, diet culture, and thin obsession is all around us and it’s deafening.


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