Taking Pics Of Fat People On Planes

fatphobia while flyingUSA Today has released a video suggesting that people should “discreetly” take photos of fat people seated next to them on planes, and post them on social media if they don’t get the desired result from their initial complaint to the airline. [Edit, after people complained, they “discreetly” edited their video, but did not issue an apology or any kind of retraction.]

The indisputable fact here is that even though plane manufacturers and airlines know that fat people exist, they continue to build planes, buy planes, and create policies about planes as if we don’t.

What USA Today’s video puts into sharper relief is the discriminatory way that this is handled. The focus is only on the experience of thin people, even though fat people are also made uncomfortable by being forced to be squished next to people who may or may not be total fatphobes who would take pictures of us and post them to social media, but USA Today is not suggesting that we get any relief.

Only by dehumanizing fat people could you reach the conclusion that thin people who aren’t happy with the fact that airlines discriminate against fat people should “discreetly” take pictures of fat people and post them online. (Which I’m wondering is possible how, exactly, when they claim to be so squished that they feel they should lodge a complaint? It seems like if you have room to discreetly take a picture, you have room to STFU and get to your destination.)

Perhaps most tragically, this problem is easily solvable. It could, in fact, be solved tomorrow. Southwest airlines has already done it – fat people can get as many seats as they require for free, and those seats are treated as one seat (so if the flight is oversold, the fat people still get their seats, and Southwest follows their overbook policy.) That way people who need space around them can get it (to be clear, there are disabilities that can make being seated without space around you a serious issue, and folks with those disabilities should be accommodated,) and fat people can get the same service that everyone else on the plane is getting.

While there can certainly be hiccups, my partner and I have used this policy all over the country, with enough frequency to get “Fly By” (frequent flyer) status and have never had a single problem.  Meanwhile, Southwest just celebrated their 45th consecutive year of profitability so don’t tell me it’s impossible.

People come in lots of different sizes, and failing to recognize and accommodate that should be seen as a business mistake that must be corrected, not a reason to take pictures of fat people and post them to the internet.

Speaking of which, as I mentioned, I fly a lot. And on every single flight I see people with broad shoulders jutting over into the space of their seatmates, I see people with long legs splaying their knees and invading the seemingly sacred space of those seated next to them. But there’s no outcry, no videos telling us to complain to the airline and the world that we’ve been seated next to our long-legged or broad-shouldered brethren.

Because this isn’t just about, or even mainly about, space – it’s about fatphobia. Otherwise thin people would be working alongside fat people to make sure that we can all have the same experience – travel in a seat that accommodates us. Not insisting we be punished for existing through public shaming and double charging.

Instead, far too many people – both thin people invested in fatphobia and fat people struggling with internalized fatphobia – see fat people as the problem, and thin people as the only people whose feelings or comfort matter. The current situation on planes isn’t unfair to those who, by luck of the draw,  fit in the arbitrary amount of space that airlines have decided to call “one seat” (based on their profitability and not on the actual size of human asses.) The current situation is unfair to everyone, and the solution isn’t for fat people to stop existing, stop flying, pay twice as much for the same trip, or find themselves being “discreetly” photographed by the asshole seated beside them. The solution is for companies whose business is transporting humans to commit themselves to transporting humans – all humans.

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11 thoughts on “Taking Pics Of Fat People On Planes

  1. Spot on with flash bulbs! Discretely take pictures? Good Grief like the whole world isn’t standing up and taking selfies of themselves at memorial sights, photographing the food stuffs they are about to eat or sharing WTMI in every realm of their lives, yes, take a picture of the fat person bothering you today. Specious, telling, scary. Do the Morlocks know they’re Morlocks? I bet these social warriors see themselves as the wronged members of society. My God, Grow up or stay home dillweeds!

    Oh, and at 390 lbs, I have had my picture taken “discretely” on numerous occasions by social fat trackers, sullen teenagers barely suppressing smirks and Professionally Upset Citizens out to show how degenerate a society we live in with photographs of my body…I have not been on a plane since 1981.

    Tell me I’m paranoid. S’fun going to Lowes or Home Depot and watching various men freak out over me and my mom, also very fat, as we buy home improvement stuff. Endless! On a plane…I don’t know, I’m prayin’ I win the lottery and fly first class if I ever get to take a trip again…Or fly Southwest…? Thanks for the tip!

    Here’s a question. Do fatphobes get more upset when you have naughty goodies in your cart or when you are buyin’ fruit and veg and whole grains? I honestly can’t tell anymore…

    1. Hi Jen

      It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario with the goodies in the shopping cart. If it’s crisps and cookies it’s: no wonder they’re so fat. If it’s fruits and veg it’s: Who the hell do they think they’re kidding. Bet they down a tripple McD menu on the way home.
      There is no way of winning this game, so go for the stuff you like and will actually eat.

  2. Ugh, here we go again.
    What the actual fuck, USA Today?
    If someone “discreetly” takes a picture of me without my permission and then posts said picture of me without my permission, I’m going to raise a whole lot of hell.
    Absolutely disgusting that anyone could even think of this as being a good idea.

  3. Just so we’re clear, USA Today, a) setting a fat rando up to be chased out of their house with gruesome threats because they had the bad luck to be seated next to your entitled ass is not going to make your airplane seat any bigger, and b) DO NOT EVEN PRETEND you don’t know that’s exactly what would happen to your hypothetical fat seatmate after you posted them on social media. Do not pretend this isn’t a play to “solve” the problem of poorly-sized seats by making people you feel don’t “need” or “deserve” the space as much as you too afraid to take a plane. You weren’t born yesterday and you aren’t posting those articles from a stenotype.

  4. Just as an aside, USA Today edited this video, and the taking photos discreetly part is no longer in it (even though I still feel like it’s awful without it). But Your Fat Friend had written about it, Buzzfeed picked it up and the end result was not an apology. It was merely them quietly editing their BS suggestion.

  5. On the topic of Southwest Airlines. In the travel episode of the “She’s All Fat” podcast, Sophie Karter-Cahn explains how to navigate the Southwest Airline Customer of Size policy, and her own experiences flying fat, and I found it to be really informative. This episode is about 2 years old, so I don’t know if any of the information has become obsolete. (https://shesallfatpod.com/s1-episode-13)

    I haven’t flown on any airline since 2010, so I found it really helpful.

  6. I have long legs. Or maybe they’re just long femurs. I have to stand up to let people walk past me in a theatre because my knees touch the seat in front of me and turning sideways doesn’t leave a big enough gap. I also have a butt, so if I’m trying to leave in that same space, I’m always worried I’m smacking people on the backs of their heads with it. Indeed, if they would stop cramming so many seats so close together (anywhere…theatre seats, planes, lecture halls), it would give everyone more space to breathe.

  7. The Southwestern solution sounds like easily the best solution; so much more humane that any other option sounds absolutely ludicrous and unkind besides it. Good shout out. I’m not American and I rarely fly but this still was a great shoutout.

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