If You Are Inviting Fat People to Your Event…

High bar chairsThis weekend there are tons of BBQ’s and such going on here in the states, but events and meetings happen every day.  And every day, fat people are “invited” to events and meetings at which they aren’t accommodated in even the most basic ways. Most often this isn’t done on purpose, it happens because  thin people don’t know what they don’t know. I know that you want to truly welcome fat people to your event, so let me help you out:

Seating:

The importance of fat friendly seating cannot be over stated. Seating that is sturdy and accommodating (ie: loveseats, armless chairs, benches etc.) The seating should also fit in with the seating that other people have (if everyone is in the yard but the bench for your fat cousin is on the porch, that’s not cool.) Don’t make your event another fat people and chairs hate story.

I’ve Got a Blank Space Baby

Is there enough room for fat people to navigate your event?  Whether it’s between the tables at a buffet, or throughout your home, or in the restaurant you’ve chosen, accessible seating won’t help if we can’t get to it without knocking over the dessert table on the way. Clear the widest spaces possible to accommodate the most people.

Everybody Poops

Does the event space have a fat friendly bathroom?  You may not be able to change the size of the bathroom in your house, but there are some things you can do – if the hip space is being limited the the hanging toilet paper roll, you can put the roll on the sink or towel rack.  Make sure that you don’t have a garbage can blocking the door from opening the door all the way etc.

Nobody Should Be a Shit

Consider putting something on your invitation about this being a body positive event (no body shaming or food policing allowed.)  And/or, if you’ve invited people who you are worried will fat shame or food shame your guests – consider having conversations with them ahead of time.  You are creating this space, so you are the boss of it! Make it a priority not to invite people into a hostile environment.

Finally, I want to point out that accommodation is not just for fat people – consider ways that you can make everyone on your guest list as comfortable as possible.  Is there easy parking and access for people who use a wheelchair or have limited mobility?  Are you inviting People of Color and racists to the same event (or Queer and Trans people as well as homophobes and transphobes, Muslims and Islamophobes etc.)? If so, remember that “I want to oppress you” and “I don’t want to be oppressed” are not simply two equal but differing viewpoints – the first is an expression of harmful oppression, the latter is a statement of basic human rights.  So think about how are you going to make it a safe space for your friends/family with marginalized identities, and make sure you’re not inviting people into an oppressive environment without warning them.

When I posted this to Facebook there were a couple of commenters whose knee-jerk reaction was “You should bring your own chair” (and, apparently, our own bathroom?) While my partner and I do often bring our own chairs to events (and doctor’s offices!) just to be sure, we shouldn’t have to do this.  The idea that some of your guests should be coming to a BYOC situation is not inviting at all. Take responsibility for making your space/event inclusive and accommodating for the people you are inviting into it. As K.C. said on my Facebook post about this: don’t just mean well – do well.

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Published in: on May 28, 2017 at 11:11 am  Comments (34)  

34 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “…and, apparently, our own bathroom?” I’m now envisioning people coming to events with their own plus-size, accessible port-a-potties in tow.

    • Awesome!

    • I throw a party every year that requires me to rent a port-a-potty. I switched companies two years ago for many reasons, but one of them is because I thought the potties were really small. I didn’t think about it in terms of people of a larger size; I was thinking about it in terms of drunkenness and dealing with hangover. The new company always brings an accessible port-a-potty when only one potty is required. The difference in cost is minimal. Honestly, it just makes sense that if you are going to rent a potty anyway, to rent a roomy, accessible one that works for more people.

  2. So true. We sometimes have to bring our own chair, and if it is a public place, scope out the seating in advance! Many people seem to think that “one size fits all”, leading to disastrous consequences. But there is a diversity of sizes, shapes, and needs in the human population. We should get used to it!

    • Ever see the British comedy show, “Miranda”, starring Miranda Hart? She plays a large (big and tall) woman, with a petite best friend.

      Several times throughout the show, they both have to sit down, and it always happens that the petite woman takes the chair that would, in fact, accommodate Miranda, leaving an utterly inappropriate chair for Miranda. It’s like walking into the doctor’s office, that has one chair for fat patients, and some thin person is sitting in it, rather than in one of the many other chairs, leaving the fat person to stand.

      It is played for laughs (like the time she got the kiddie-chair stuck on her bottom, because it had arms, while the other kiddie chair did not), but I always notice that she HAD an option. The thin woman took it, without even thinking, and then thinks the large woman is a silly and a klutz for not being able to force her body to fit into a smaller space. In fact, I think we are meant to notice that, because a lot of the “silly” things that Miranda “does,” are things that are pushed upon her by the world. (To be fair, most of the things she does really are silly, but they are not size-dependent)

      I actually like the show, because it seems to me to be punching up (especially in later episodes! I love the ending! She finds her voice and accepts herself, with empowerment galore!), and pointing out that the people who put her down are, in fact, problematic in their own right. They show how “one size” does not fit all, and just a little awareness on the part of thinner people will make it so that everyone can have just what they need, in regards to seating, at least. It’s subtle, but it’s there. In punches up at the people who put her down the most.

      • Miranda Hart also did an amazing dramatic turn as an unlikely best friend, on the very-good, and heartbreaking, series Nurse Jackie.

        Come for the fat-positivity, stay for the tv-show recs. Here from FB.

        • I never heard of Nurse Jackie, except the title, but I’ll have to check it out! Thanks!

          Some TV-show and move recs are important! It helps us to know what shows are going to lift us up and which ones to avoid.

  3. The uber trendy high chairs in the one photo really tell you all you need to know about who and whom exactly this establishment wants sitting in it. And it ain’t a diverse crowd of differently-abled people with different body types, more like a if you don’t fit into this chair you don’t fit into our establishment. Kinda like the haute couture designers who “simply” have an “artistic vision” of their product and it doesn’t included what they consider old, ugly, over weight, poor, differently-abled people wearing them. They know what they are doing nine times out of ten, it is a very specious way of setting boundaries while pretending they don’t exist.

  4. Ragen this is exactly perfect. Many people like me live in assisted living facilities and would love to get way to an outdoor picnic or barbeque. But if this picnic isn’t set up for them, they may have make a very sad choice to spend just another day in the facility and not getting out. I’m very lucky because my daughter and her family only live a short automobile drive away and since I’ve been visiting their house for years they are well set up for me to come over. However, there are dozens of people here who can’t get out even for an afternoon because their destination is not physically accommodating to them.

    • This reminds me of a story about a wedding from hell that I once read. The guests, ALL of the guests, were expected to trek from the parking lot up a hill to an outdoor area, where there was no seating for any of them, no shade, and no water! Older relatives were dropping like flies, and some guests could not even make it there, because there was no wheelchair ramp.

      And when Grandma keeled over and needed an ambulance for heat stroke and dehydration, who was blamed for “ruining my wedding?”

      Meanwhile, the entire wedding party was inside an air conditioned building, having their pictures taken for TWO HOURS. In the summertime, in the U.S. South (I don’t remember what state), and with refreshments and comfy chairs.

      But it’s the weak old folk who “ruined the wedding.”

      Accommodation – it’s for everyone. Because even the most healthy, able-bodied, thin, socially acceptable bodies have needs, including the need to see the people they love adequately accommodated.

      • When my mom was a para legal, they had a retreat at some camp some where, and everyone had to cross a huge lawn to get to a seating area to refocus and recommit to their dedication to work and social service and the community… blah blah blah,,, she twisted her ankle and spent the three days with her leg up on a chair. I know why they do these things and they mean well, but think about it people, are ALL you employees thin, non disabled young people? All?

        • Exactly. And if they are ALL thin, currently able-bodied young people, then it’s time to take a look at your hiring practices!

          • Back when I used to do a lot of temp work, I discovered the company at which I WANTED TO WORK!!!! because I spent a day working the reception desk, and I saw a huge proportion of the people who worked there. I talked about this experience with an employment specialist, once, and she mentioned that if you want to find out if you’ll fit in with a company, watching who comes and goes for a day is a big, big hint. If you’re concerned about diversity, you’ll see if it’s good there, or if nobody else looks like you.

            Of course, if nobody else looks like you, they may be actively trying to recruit someone just like you. But the odds are that you’ll feel out of place, if they hire you, at all, until there are more people who look like you. Being the first of any demographic group is always hard.

            Some people don’t understand the sheer comfort there is in a diverse population at work. Even if there’s not anyone in your particular intersection of demographic groups, if you’ve got a really big variety, most anyone will be able to fit in and feel comfortable there, because 1) they won’t stand out as different, and 2) accommodations are probably already in place, or at least accepted when requested. The more variety, the more likely they are to understand the need for new accommodations, without push-back, even if that particular thing never occurred to them before.

            • Same goes for me as a customer. I want to see diversity when I go somewhere shopping. It makes me feel more comfortable. If I see all super thin blonde women, I feel like I shouldn’t even be in there and have a hard time buying things.
              My sister and I owned a restaurant about 10 years ago, our staff was awesome! The ages ranged from 16 years old to 60+ years old, and sizes from small to plus sized. We had a lovely woman from Ethiopia, a guy from Slovenia, a man from Benin (close to Nigeria,) 2 African Americans, 1 Mexican American, 2 white blonde Mormons, this amazing guy who had a physical disability, an older Italian guy who didn’t speak English, etc. We all got along and had so much fun working together. Our clientele was also a diverse group. And this was in Omaha, NE, surprisingly!

        • And even a young, thin, non-disabled person can trip, and a lawn is more likely to be a tripping hazard than a smooth floor. Gophers don’t usually leave holes in a smooth floor.

          What does that even have to do with the work, anyway? A recommitment ceremony? They’d probably be better off with a pep talk and some breathing exercises, right there in the office.

      • How awful! Not to mention the fact that a lot of the female guests were probably wearing heels too.

  5. This is great, Ragen!

    Also, be aware that sometimes you will be surprised by your guests. I mean that is two ways. 1) Sometimes, guests bring their own guests. 2) Sometimes, you invite a friend from work or church, or some other place where a certain standard of behavior is the norm and enforced, and when they come to your house, without Human Resources telling them “That’s against company policy,” they let loose with their real attitudes that they had kept hidden before.

    While it is best, of course, to know in advance who is coming, and what their attitudes will be (and don’t invite people with lousy attitudes!), if your guests surprise you, remember that YOU are in charge.

    If someone acts out of line, you do not have to give them a second chance. You can swiftly gather up their things, and say, “Oh! What a pity you have to be leaving us so soon. Such a pleasure to have you. Bye, now! Drive safely!” as you shuffle them out the door.

    If they don’t budge, repeat, but louder. Repeat louder and louder until they leave. Do not give in. Do not give up. If your guests see you shuffling someone out the door, they will (most people will, at any rate) support you in it, especially if they saw you doing it in response to someone being a jerk. Even if they didn’t see what triggered it, most people will see this as know that something happened, and you are doing your best to salvage the party for everyone else. The jerk earned his expulsion.

    It’s hard, at first, to realize that you can be polite, and still have a spine of steel, and stand up for yourself and others. Take strength and comfort from the fact that you are doing this for your guests, not just yourself. You may be strong enough to suck up the pain these jerks have splashed around, but your guests may not be. They NEED you to protect them. Therefore, you absolutely ARE being polite when you do the “What a shame you have to leave so soon” shuffle.

    Practice with friends and family before the event, if you need to.

    And on the topic of bringing your own chair – that is only acceptable if EVERY guest was asked to bring their own chair. For example, someone in a small apartment hosts a cookout in the complex green, and everybody has to provide their own chair, since the host only has a tiny dinette. That is fine, because it is not discriminating against anyone the host simply chose not to bother to accommodate. The host does his best, and the guests accept the limitations graciously and equally.

    • Actually, I had to pass on a BYOC event because 1.) I walk with a cane and 2.) I take the bus, so the thought of dragging some kind of sturdy chair around with me on the bus was just too much.

      • That’s a real pity. Stuff like that is why some people bring extras.

        I used to be a bus-rider, too, so I know how it is. Shame you had to miss it. Next time you’re invited to a BYOC event, maybe you could call around, and see if someone with a car and an able body would be willing and able to bring one for you?

        Helping each other out makes parties so much better.

        Of course, the very best thing is to only host what you can actually manage, without asking your guests to bring their own chairs.

        Speaking of bad hosts, I read in Miss Manners a while back, and it still sticks with me, a letter from a hostess complaining that when she threw a dinner party, her guests actually sat down at her beautifully set table! Horrors! It turns out that this person keeps her beautiful table beautifully set, at all times, except once a week when she washes the dishes. She expected her guests to serve themselves from the buffet, and sit on the chairs around the living room, holding the plates on their laps, while leaving the perfectly serviceable (and beautiful!) table alone. And she was shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you! that her guests would ASSUME that they were supposed to sit at the dining table for a dinner party! Much dudgeon.

        Hehehehe. Made me laugh so much. I love it when the cluelessly impolite people write in to the manners maven, saying how they are right, and the other people are wrong, expecting her to take their side and getting a put-down, instead.

        If your host knows that you walk with a cane and take the bus, even if they did need to do a BYOC event, a good host would have made arrangements for your chair, at least. That’s the gracious thing to do. So, either they just did not know their guest’s situation (possible, if you’re new to the relationship), or they were just inconsiderate hosts, in the first place, in which case, you can comfort yourself that you probably didn’t miss much, except perhaps an opportunity to write to Miss Manners about it.

  6. This. I’m a frequent guest in my brother’s home and he is in mine. He’s aware that I’m a large person. There is exactly one chair in his home that I can sit in without getting bruised and I only get it if I’m lucky. We were there for a Mother’s Day BBQ but I spent most of the event in the house because I forgot to bring my own outdoor chair. I need to have a conversation with him about this…

    • Since this is your brother, and you are a frequent guest, when you have that conversation offer to split the cost or contribute to the cost, if you can. Might help make it happen, since furniture can be expensive.

  7. I’d be willing to bet it is a passive aggressive way of reinforcing accepted (even when denied) social prejudices. For everyone to BE welcome, the space, yes, has to be WELCOMING to everybody. A lot of people “just don’t think”. I mean if you have always been a size five, maybe these things just never occur to you.
    It would just be a think out side of the box issue if the underling assumption IS that you and your over sized body is not truly acceptable to us, me this place etc.
    I read a study someone did on chair/table sizes in college settings, they gave out questionnaires about seat comfort and access and one (presumably thin person) replied “Yes, the chairs fit me just fine, because I am not a pig who eats so much that I am too fat to sit in the chairs.” Pretty sure she/he meant just that.

    • Wow. As opposed to “The chairs fit me just fine because I am the size for which they were designed.”

      I feel sorry for the data managers who have to read these answers to the study questions.

  8. Hi,

    Related to this blog… does anyone have recommendations for portable chairs? I always look at them, but I have hard time making a decision.

    Jennifer

  9. I dont see it as being fat, maybe “fluffy” lol. I agree with all of this. I mean think about plane seats? the worst!!! Going to events and feeling like the chairs just arent meant for you… if you eat too much youll be judged. etc

    • I know that you mean well and It’s absolutely fine for you to choose the adjective that you prefer for yourself, but it’s important to remember that it’s also fine for people to call ourselves fat. Suggesting that we’re not fat, we’re just a euphemism for fat, makes it seem like there’s something wrong with being fat, and there’s not. (For example, I also have brown hair but nobody has ever said to me “You don’t have brown hair, you’re just “brunette”) More here in case it helps: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/why-do-you-call-yourself-fat/

      ~Ragen

      • True, I apologize. I was more meaning for myself. I didnt mean for it to come off like that. You’re right we can choose what we want ourselves to be called. I didn’t mean to offend you!

      • I do mean well! I meant in terms of me! It totally came out wrong! I totally apologize! I get it! So sorry

    • There are different levels of fat too. Someone might be, like you said, going to events and feeling like the chairs aren’t meant for them, or being very uncomfortable on a plane. But there are people who just do not fly at all and do not go to events at all because they know they will not fit into the seating. Not only might someone not fit into seating, but might not have it when they need it. Not everyone can stand or walk for a long time.
      I’m somewhere in between. I am privileged enough to have access to a lot of things, I still fly on airplanes, am fine at most restaurants, movie theaters, etc. I can stand and walk for long periods of time. However, I hesitate going to places I am unfamiliar with, such as sports stadiums and theaters. Unfortunately, the place where you are going to does not usually have this information on their websites, such as seat width. I have missed out on a lot because of this. For example, I really wanted to take my son to see the Harlem Globe Trotters, but it was at a stadium, and those are usually the worst, so I just decided we wouldn’t go. I hate making my decisions based on seat sizes.

      • Thank you. You’re right. There are different levels. I am blessed that I can still do most everything. I used to not go out much and really isolated. I’ve made baby steps with choosing to start going to places. I am very hesitant to. Wish it was easier for us all ❤ I don’t like to hear that you have missed out on a lot. I wish the best for you!

  10. I used to work in a Dr’s office with those horrible arm chairs that exist only for thin people in the waiting room. I remember being flat-out blessed to be in the presence of the woman who explicitly asked for a chair to accommodate her while she was waiting. My co-workers talked shit on her when she was out of ear shot (I hope) but I told them that I was so honored to see an example of someone saying, “I deserve to live like the rest of you.” And not apologizing for it at all.
    Recently I stopped in and saw that they’d renovated and half of the arm chairs were replaced with love seats and soft benches. I think that woman had a lot to do with that design choice. She made changes for others going forward.

    • Thank you for defending her against the co-workers who shouldn’t have been talking about another person like that!

      And I am so glad that they took to heart the need to accommodate all their patients.

  11. Thank you for this. Since reading your blog months ago, my eyes have been opened to some of the difficulties people of a larger size face that I frankly never thought of. I never thought of them because, even though I am also plus size, I didn’t have to deal with those particular problems. Sounds awfully self-centered, I know. But I do think it is a common mindset not to realize a problem exists until you experience it, or see or hear of someone struggling with it.

    I host a lot of parties, though I am not doing one for memorial day. I recently looked around at my furnishings and realized that while I had a couple of options, I didn’t have a lot of them. The outdoor furniture is due for replacement. When I replace it, I intend to get a more varied assortment.


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