Fatphobia At The Spa

A number of blog readers let me know about an incident at a nail salon where they hung a sign saying “Sorry, but if you are overweight, pedicures will be $45 due to service fees for pedicurists. Thank you!”

I’m not sure if I’m more insulted about “Sorry” (are you, really?) or “Thank you!” (Um, you’re welcome? You sizeist ass). I blogged about this specific incident here, but it’s part of a much larger issue of fatphobia that affects fat people’s every day lives. A “fat tax” is an additional fee that is charged to fat patrons by services like pedicurists, spas, even massage therapists. Sometimes it even goes beyond a tax to complete exclusion. I asked some fat folks to share their stories.

One of the most common forms of exclusion is to simply create an environment that doesn’t accommodate fat people.

MH faced this as a massage therapist: “When I was a new massage therapist, I worked at a spa that did not have tables large enough to accommodate people of all sizes. It was really frustrating for me as well as my clients. When I was able to outfit my own studio, I splurged on the largest/highest weight capacity portable table on the market. It was expensive but worth the relief on my clients’ faces.”

LSK faced this issue from the client side of the table: “I’ve had a few massages here and there and feel like I’m going to fall off of the table because there wasn’t enough room for my arms. I could never relax into the experience because one arm or the other would pop off of the table and I would be laying there embarrassed as all hell and wondering what to do with my arms. Don’t get me started on the teeny-tiny robes!”

And robes aren’t the only thing that people had trouble fitting into; MK was one of many folks who faced this issue at the salon. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not fit into chairs when I go to get my hair done. They almost never had capes to fit me. Last year I went to go get waxed and they expected me to jump on to a table that looked so flimsy I actually laughed out loud while shaking my head.”

AC has had some luck with insisting on what she needs: “I go to Spas as often as I can, and always ask for a robe that will fit me (as I am unapologetically fat). It sometimes takes them a REALLY long time to dig one up. The places where they give you a little scrubs like outfit to wear (mostly Korean style spas) often have to give me the mens one, which is awkward when you are a cis-female trying to use the single sex areas of the spa. The best service I ever had was at the Madonna Inn. They asked my size before I arrived, did not balk at my 3X/24, and had a robe that fit me in the locker for me upon arrival. Really appreciated that.”

Asking for accommodation is definitely an option – but taking your time and energy to remind a place that serves people that people of all sizes exist can be difficult, stressful, and the exact opposite of the relaxing experience that someone might be looking for when they head to the spa.

The responsibility shouldn’t fall on a fat person who is just trying to get the exact same experience other people are already given.

Read the rest of this piece here!

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Published in: on January 12, 2018 at 11:36 am  Comments (9)  

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Interesting. I was intrigued with your favorable mention of the Madonna Inn. I and my wife at the time, Nancy Summer, stayed there years ago as guests, and also used the dining room, as I recall. Everything was size-friendly. Nancy weighed about 400 lbs. I saw other fat couples there as well.

  2. I was given a Massage Envy gift card last year and I still haven’t used it. I am so afraid of being embarrassed.

    • I’m a massage therapist at an ME and highly encourage you to use your certificate! We have a strict employee policy for non-discrimination of all types, including sizeism. At both locations I’ve worked for we have had clients of all shapes & sizes and have accommodations like table extenders for both height and width (a place to put your arms!).

  3. I’ll never forget the time I was in Cancun for my brother’s wedding. The resort offered massages, but only had so-called “one size fits all” robes. I had to keep my pants on because the robe didn’t close around me. At the time I was still pretty mired in diet culture, so I was ashamed of myself/body, but now I’d just be angry/annoyed. The pedicure charge is also nonsensical as well as sizeist. Why the fuck do you need to charge more to work on someone’s feet? Fat people don’t have more toes than average and skinny people can have callouses and bunions, too. If I saw that, I’d take my money elsewhere, and be loud as hell online (still have anxiety so I wouldn’t make a loud scene in the facility) about why.

  4. It’s so stupid that one person who wants the exact same experience as another can be singled out for being difficult because of size, ability, skin color, whatever.

    • And don’t forget that asking for THE SAME THING is often labeled as “demanding special treatment,” by the privileged people who believe that equality=oppression (of the privileged).

      If I hear “asking for special treatment” one more time… I’ll probably do what I always do, actually, because it is ubiquitous, and exploding into a thousand pieces won’t stop it. Only gradually educating the entire world will stop it. So, grrrrrrrr, and sigh, and try to talk some sense into SOMEBODY, and hope this time it sticks.

      • Yes. Apparently smacking people upside the head is wrong.

  5. WTF is “service fees for pedicurists” anyway? What is so special about fat people’s feet that they cost extra? Do fat people have extra toes? Do they have a third leg?

    Or do they just have to pay pedicurists more because they’re so fatphobic, they don’t want to touch fat people?

    • I think it’s because they don’t want to touch fat people.


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