I received a comment on my blog yesterday that I want to address here (trigger warning – if you just want to read my stuff and not the triggery stuff, skip the block quote below and the italics.)
For the most part I agree with what you’re saying, but there are times when being fat directly effects other people and that’s on public transportation and planes. I live in NYC, and while I know I have the right to ride its not fair to someone else when I need to take up 1.5 seats on a crowded train and part of my thigh invades someone else’s seat. This isn’t about rights or statistics, it’s about being annoying to others on public transportation and size functionality. I also travel a lot and there is nothing worse than being squeezed in a seat next to someone on a 5 hour flight. I don’t really watch my weight per se, but I do use my ability to comfortably fit into a plane seat and fasten my seatbelt as a personal barometer.
Let’s take this bit by bit:
I live in NYC, and while I know I have the right to ride its not fair to someone else when I need to take up 1.5 seats on a crowded train and part of my thigh invades someone else’s seat.
In the subway the seat divisions are arbitrary. Some people take up less than one seat but they don’t pay any less. The subway is a perfect example of paying for transit and not for space. You aren’t even guaranteed a seat. The people who get on first take up the available sitting space, everyone else stands. That’s the deal. If I paid my ticket and there’s enough room for me to sit, then I get to sit. People come in different sizes, this is the size that I come in, I take up this much space. and that’s just fine. We would never say that the legs of a really tall person take up too much space in front of them when they sit or that they should try to get shorter or pay more. Because that’s what size they are and that’s how much space they take up. I think that the best thing might be to have flat benches rather than seat divisions, so that people can take up as much space as they take up and everyone else can stand.
This isn’t about rights or statistics, it’s about being annoying to others on public transportation and size functionality.
This is absolutely about rights. What are fat people supposed to do, stay at home so we aren’t “annoying” people with our big fat bodies? My right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t exist if it includes public transportation? That’s not how it works. People can get annoyed by whatever they want but that doesn’t make it my problem. I’m annoyed by people who are prejudiced against people my size, but I don’t get to kick them off the subway.
And the phrase “size functionality” smacks of ableism as well as the myth that you can tell how healthy someone is or what they can do by their body size. [note: In conversation with Nona, she did not mean size functionality as I interpreted it. In her words she “was referring to being able to do things like fit comfortably into an airplane seat.” I’ll leave the original text because I do think that people talk about size functionality in the way that I interpreted it as well, with my deep apologies to Nona for the mistake.] I’m extremely functional for someone of ANY size – I’m a dancer who can do the splits, press 1,000 pounds with my legs, backbend, leap etc. but that doesn’t give me any more right to public transportation than anybody else, so don’t worry I’ll still let you on the subway even if they can’t do all of those things. It’s the subway, not the Olympics, and it’s called public transportation, not “thin functional body transportation”. The job of public transportation is to get the public (which includes people of all sizes, ages, and abilities) from place to place safely, not to give people an opportunity to stigmatize and shame some of the public.
I also travel a lot and there is nothing worse than being squeezed in a seat next to someone on a 5 hour flight.
Oh, let’s gain some perspective, there are LOTS of things worse than being squeezed in a seat next to a fat person for a flight of any length. Like sitting next to someone with Ebola, or getting a cancer diagnosis, or spraining your ankle. Let’s not hyperbolize. The thing about airlines is that they try to have it both ways. They say that we are paying for a seat and therefore if we take up more than one seat then we need to pay for more than one seat. But it’s ok for men with broad shoulders to take up more than one seat. And it’s ok for people with long legs to take up more than one seat. We would never make them pay for an extra seat. But if you’re fat then you need to pay up? How is that fair?
Also, when they overbook and people can’t sit in the seat that they were promised, they turn around and say that we aren’t buying a seat, we’re buying the trip – not the seat. And if that’s the case then it shouldn’t matter how much room anyone takes up since we’re paying for transportation from one place to another. The airlines have made seats smaller and changed the pitch (the angle of the seats) which also means that there is less space. Different planes have different sized seat and lengths of seatbelts so it’s impossible to predict what will happen.
I proposed some alternative solutions but in the end your beef is with the airline, not with people who look like me. People come in different sizes, this is the size I come in, it should be treated exactly like height. I happen to fit in an airplane seat but when I’m stuck next to the tall guy whose legs and shoulders are in my space, he is always glaring at me as if it’s my fault while I’m not complaining because I understand it’s not his.
You should also know that they make it very difficult for us to buy two seats even if we want to. You can’t always buy two seats in the same name and so you have to call and book on the phone which often incurs a surcharge in addition to buying the second seat, then people have arrived at the airport to find that their seats are separated, or that the airline says that they can’t have two seats because they need to put passengers in, or they have to deal with the glare of passengers and the whispers that someone got left behind because the fatty needed two seats, it’s even worse if the person doesn’t take up very much of the second seat. There are also the people who fly the first leg of their trip with no problem and then, stranded in a strange city, they are told that they have to buy another seat. Believe me, it hurts us at least as much as it hurts you. Here’s a video that really captures a lot of issues.
I don’t really watch my weight per se, but I do use my ability to comfortably fit into a plane seat and fasten my seatbelt as a personal barometer.
So you feel comfortable not watching your weight, but you feel that I need to try to change my shape and size so that I don’t “annoy people”? Let me recommend this post on thin privilege. The problem for me is that every attempt at weight loss has a less than 5% chance of resulting in long term weightloss and a whopping 95% chance of leaving me the same size or bigger than I am now, and less healthy. I’m not risking my good health because someone doesn’t want to sit next to me on a plane, nor should I have to.
This transportation argument that says it’s ok to be tall, have broad shoulders, long legs etc but that if you are fat then you are the devil incarnate get off my subway car. It’s bullshit and it has to stop.
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