Fat People in Scooters

ShamelessI have heard from a number of fat people with mobility/health issues that things are made more difficult by the idea that using a cane or scooter or getting Type 2 diabetes or whatever is living down to a negative stereotype about fat people.

Somehow it’s become popular for everyone from stand-up comedians to adults clinging to their junior high school playground bully persona, to make fun of fat people in scooters, fat people with diabetes, etc.  I just want to ask these people:  what the hell is wrong with you?

Their cowardly excuse is typically that somehow these people “brought it on themselves” so it’s ok to make fun of them.  This is entirely wrong on a couple of levels.  First you don’t know what someone’s situation is by looking at them, and even if you did it’s still just a convenient excuse for being a bigot and I’ll tell you why.  I have a friend who was in a wheelchair for a while because she got drunk, jumped from a moving vehicle and broke both her legs.  I know a guy who was in a scooter and now uses a prosthetic leg because he got drunk and crashed his motorcycle. I know a woman who had to go to the emergency room repeatedly because she refused to stop eating shrimp though she is allergic. Even after telling people what happened, these three people have related to me that they still got nothing but sympathy and offers of help (which is what everyone should get no matter what their circumstance – not a lifetime of shame and judgment) so methinks the fat hater doth justify too much.

Unfortunately we are not the jackass whisperer and we can’t make anyone stop this behavior.  But we can make sure that we do not perpetuate any of this stigma within HAES/SA community.   I would suggest that we should be on the frontlines fighting for respect and dignity for those who use mobility aids or deal with issues that society wants to erroneously blame on their fat (or anything else.)  There is no place for blame or shame in mobility or self-care.

I understand that I am very lucky/privileged.  My body is uniquely built for fat athleticism.  I put on muscle (especially Type 2 muscle) very easily which makes it easier to move my big fat body around.  I have naturally high proprioception and kinesthetic awareness.  I’ve been an athlete all my life which makes things easier.  I have had access to amazing professionals who have supported my health and well-being from a Health at Every Size perspective. Not every body is equipped to do what my body can do. Lots of bodies can do stuff mine can’t.  And that’s exactly as it should be.

I also know that, just like everyone else, what my body can do could change.  I believe that would make my body different, but no less amazing – still blinking, heart beating etc – still an awesome body.  If something happened and my mobility changed that would absolutely be difficult, when I injured my neck and didn’t know if I’d ever get the use of my right arm back it was hard.  But I was able to make it me and my body against something scary (also part of my privilege being neurotypical) and not me against my body.  So if I ever lose my mobility, regardless of the reason, I hope to name my scooter something awesome; get to work with some glue, glitter, and streamers; put a bumper sticker on the back that says “Got Something to Say About My Size?  Dial 1-800-Bite Me”,  and roll my way into a sparkly new life on wheels.

So if you’re rocking a scooter, a cane, an oxygen tank, living with Type 2 diabetes or something else that people are trying to make you feel ashamed of because of your size or anything else, I say those people can go fuck themselves.  And if you want someone to hang out and help glue rhinestones to your scooter or put subversive bumper stickers on your oxygen tank, call me!

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42 thoughts on “Fat People in Scooters

  1. Thank you for this. I’m blessed to be able-bodied, and I escape a lot of stigma that would otherwise come my way because of how my weight is distributed. (“But you don’t look that fat, and at least you’re proprtional!” Ugh.) I don’t anticipate ever needing one of those scooters myself, but I cringe when the “fat people on scooters” thing gets trotted out by some of the most surprising people, including, most recently,George Takei. I don’t understand how you argue on one hand for respect and tolerance and then point fingers at and shame someone else, I really don’t, and it’s taken some of the shine off my hero-worship there.

    1. Ugh, did I miss another Takei foot in mouth moment? I’ll be honest here, after his complete lack of respect when it was politely pointed out that mocking fat people was Not Cool (during the ‘santa comic’ and ‘starship captain demotivational’ incidents), I’ve all but stopped following him or giving one hot damn what he has to say. To the point that if a friend links or shares a picture off his feed and I agree with the picture’s sentiment… I will go find that image *somewhere else* and link/share it myself from there. Just to avoid having anything to do with appearing to be a fan of the man.

      I’m petty that way I guess.

  2. yeah. I thought immediately of the George Takei thing. I commented on it too, saying something about being anti prejudiced on one area, but here he was encouraging it in another.

  3. < — Fat T2 Diabetic. Who thinks you, Ragen, are awesome. And honestly, 99% of the people who find out I'm diabetic are super nice about it. The other 1%? Can kiss my sugary tush.

  4. Thank you so much for posting on this topic! I’m thinking that one area where fat poz art could get even better is if it included more fat people with disabilities. As an artist I’m thinking of doing a series of pictures to re-envision fat pwds as beautiful/handsome/adorable/dignified.

    1. I love this idea! I’ve thought about getting a professional photographer to take pics of me in my wheelchair or with my cane, partially for those days where I’m being down on myself and partially as a big f-you to folks that want to hate 🙂

  5. My paternal grandmother had type two diabetes, and the most she ever weighed (while not pregnant with my dad or my uncle) was 130lbs–only 5lbs heavier than “perfect” for her height on the bull**** BMI scale–and that wasn’t until she was older and already had diabetes! She was quite active for some one who lost their sight, and had a healthy diet. I’ve never understood why people automatically assume that diabetes = fat/lazy/only ate junk food/got what they “deserved”.

  6. My scooter has a skull + crossbones and a mockingjay decal. No glitter but – great idea! I’m constantly justifying its use by pointing out that my legs don’t work anymore, that it has nothing to do with my new body size. (Not many people ask, it’s my own problem really) I prefer to move under my own power but sometimes rolling just makes more sense (like the 5k I rolled in recently on behalf of my favorite non-profit). And yeah, life is fraught with fat bullies, it’s a daily battle – power on!

    1. Carol & Candice — Thanks for posting! I don’t currently have a scooter, but do have a disability that makes it impossible for me to walk more than a few blocks. I’ve felt so frustrated when unable to participate in 5ks, etc. Thanks for posting about what you do! It made me realize I’ve been self limiting and I can make a choice to find other ways to participate when walking isn’t an option for me.

      1. I know for me that it’s hard to figure out when I’m being self-limiting or when I’m rightfully being careful with a body that has mechanical problems. It can be hard to take those other avenues to participate in fun life things because of how fatphobia and ableism intersect, but when we band together like we are here….move over world!!

  7. Even now when I see a fat person in a power chair or scooter I have to consciously remind myself that most likely disease or injury put them in it, and getting fat was just a “bonus”. I spoke with a girl who’d not been thin most of her life, but who, after a horrible car accident ruined her legs, had to use a wheel chair. The lack of ability to walk around like someone with the use of their legs, she gained weight. She can’t get it do go away. It’s the nature of her situation. But people still automatically think her being fat put her in that chair. Why people automatically think that being fat put some in chairs, is beyond me… and I’m one of the majority whose brains automatically assume this. It’s just horrible and embarrassing and I work hard training myself out of that assumption because I know it’s not true.

    People who don’t know better have their thoughts reinforced by society daily. They have no way out of the trap, because they have no idea they are in a trap. *head shake*

  8. I live my life ‘out loud and proud’ as a fat person most of the time, but I still have one area that gives me trouble: the fear that some random glimpes of my life will be used to bolster fat prejudices and stereotypes. I was so afraid that people would see me as “too fat and lazy to walk” that I didn’t even use those scooters when I was recovering from surgery. I was weak and in pain, but I still trudged every step to keep myself off one of those “People at Walmart” pages.

    1. Holy crap – is that not just one of the worst websites ever???? It’s touted as humor all over the place, but I’ve become less and less able to see the humor in it as I learn and grow in the acceptance movement.

      1. You know, it’s funny. Hub’s dear friend tried to show me something on People at WM, and I told him I never wanted to look at it, it was degrading, unkind, and just plain not funny. He expressed total shock that fat me would feel that way.
        When I broke it down to whether he’d like to see pix of his brother who has down’s syndrome all over the web without his permission and accompanied by nasty comments, he got the point real fast.
        Amazing how he just didn’t see it before.
        Much as I hate that site, it’s actually a pretty great example of why not to participate in that kind of snark.

        Oh, and if there was someplace where I could appear, glue gun in hand to pimp a PWD ride, I’d be all over that event with cupcakes, glitter and attitude.

    2. Ugh, we should make t-shirts — I did the exact same thing when I was recovering from gallbladder surgery a few years ago. I didn’t see sense until my husband literally told me that watching me hobble around clinging to the cart for support was causing HIM pain. That was when it clicked… I was here causing myself pretty excruciating pain just to avoid being made fun of… when life experience has made it blindingly clear that I will be made fun of for my weight regardless!

      Not that I learned. Six or seven months later I stepped wrong while hiking and messed up my bad ankle again, and found myself limping through WalMart to buy a new ace bandage and some ice packs because heaven forbid I be a “bad fatty” and use the dang scooters. Apparently I’m a slow learner lol

    3. I am the same way. My body hurts if I exercise too much because of my Fibro, but just the other day taking my mom shopping, I opted to limp around and hurt myself more instead of hopping on the scooter for the same reason- I don’t want to feed stereotypes… and I need to find a way to reconcile my needs with my activism desires. Perhaps telling people I don’t want to go out when I don’t feel up to it would be a step in the right direction, for now. Or maybe I can ride the scooter and be a daredevil with it to at least make people know I am having fun, if nothing else.

      1. >I opted to limp around and hurt myself more instead of hopping on the scooter for the same reason<

        Sadly, I do this far more often than I'd like. I balk at the scooter, when I know I'll be 1000 times more comfortable. I have fibro, too, plus a couple of other things that basically mean I can't do a lot of walking. I'm still coming to terms with that (diagnosed recently).

        To Ragen, thanks so much for this post. I've bookmarked it and will continue to come back and read it when I need a boost.

  9. Thank you for your words on this. I don’t use a scooter but am having some issues because a car accident a few years ago did a major number on my knees. It’s really frustrating, especially since I’ve had really good mobility and flexibility for years until now. I have to fight a lot of this negativity and self-blame talk in my mind and it’s not always easy, even with a HAES philosophy.

    It’s good to be reminded that sooner or later, everyone has limitations to deal with and to have more self-compassion and patience about the frustrations that limitations bring.

  10. My mother had radiation that decimated her bones that then resulted in stress fractures, she still refuses to use a scooter but she does have to have a walker and it drives her crazy to have to use it. And I am sure people just assume its her size when it has NOTHING to do with that.

  11. I had two reactions to this story:

    First, when I read the title I immediately imagined fat people on moped/motorcycle-type scooters, not mobility aid scooters. May we all someday live in a world where a well-placed homonym leads to images of carefree fatties cruising down the road at a top speed of 50 MPH.

    Second, I thought of my own T2 Diabetes diagnosis. My diabetes happens to be well controlled with (cheap, cheap, cheap) oral meds and a (generally) healthy lifestyle (a variety of foods and regular movement.) Because of this, I consider myself both a diabetic AND a healthy person. But, I still have not told my family – much less anyone else – about the diagnosis (outside of a cousin who is also diabetic and my wonderful, supportive husband) because I do worry about “living down to a negative stereotype about fat people.” I just don’t want to be the living embodiment of the stereotype, even in a family where my size (large) makes me the outlier rather than the norm (ie, the other diabetics in the family are thin.)

    1. “First, when I read the title I immediately imagined fat people on moped/motorcycle-type scooters, not mobility aid scooters.”

      That’s what I thought too! But then, I had an experience that primed that association:

      Last fall, I saw a fat woman on a robin’s egg blue Vespa. She was wearing a turquoise dress and had bright red hair (trailing out of a matching helmet), and she looked FABULOUS and HAPPY.

      I wish I knew who she was, because I would like to tell her:

      a) How gorgeous she looked
      b) How great her ride looked (fun and girly, but not frou-frou)
      c) How much it made my day to see a beautiful fat lady living her life.

  12. When I was using a wheelchair, I knew it was my fault I was having to use it. I own it completely.

    See, I was mountain hiking on an extremely difficult path (one level lower than mountain climbing). As I was coming off a big rock in the path (one that couldn’t be gone around), I dislocated my knee. Since I didn’t have insurance at the time, I had to pop the knee back in place myself.

    It took seven years of increasing pain and increasing disability (to the point I was using a wheelchair) before I had insurance and could do something about it.

    So yup. TOTALLY my fault I was using a wheelchair.

    It just happens that it had absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact I was and am fat, though.

  13. Sorry this is so long but here is the type of attitude I deal with daily on this message board:

    A few questions about A1C and diabetes:

    My son is a type 1 diabetic, which is a completely different disease than type 2. I wish people would learn the difference and specify the type when discussing diabetes but that is another subject all together. When he was diagnosed at age 4 he had ketoacidosis and was in the ICU for a week. His A1C was only 12. 15 is ridiculously high.
    and her attack on my comment that DIABETES IS DIABETES (And since I’m only a Medical Laboratory Tech, I wouldn’t know about Diabetes or that I’m Insulin dependent as well )
    NO, there is a HUGE difference- TYPE 2 is largely preventable, and many of the risk factors for TYPE 2 can be eliminated with time and effort.

    With TYPE 1 there is no cure, no prevention and no chance of a break from the constant, BG tests, shots, pump site change, and highs and lows that come with it.
    and whether it is a result of Type 1 or Type 2 does not lessen the severity of the disease or the basic treatment of medications and lifestyle changes like diet.

    My son’s TYPE 1 diabetes can NOT be controlled with diet and exercise, he is attached to an insulin pump 24 hours a day because he does not have a functioning pancreas to make insulin for him. He can ot eliminate his need for insulin by losing weight and changing his diet.

    My son did not get it from poor lifestyle choices, and I get tired of people confusing the two types off diabetes and assuming that my 11 year old otherwise healthy kid got it from poor lifestyle choices. Like I said before, I wish people were educated on the different types of diabetes because yes, they are very different.

    Edgy Coolness- You provided some valuable information to the OP. I am not saying that TYPE 2 diabetes is not serious and I hope that she can get the answers and solutions she is seeking, but I disagree that DIABETES IS DIABETES.

    (I’m Edgy Coolness BTW)

    How are tax payers paying for obese people?

    quote:I think wording it as “tax payers pay more for obesity” is an odd way of phrasing it and one I haven’t heard before. Obesity simply costs more money and the burden is shared by everyone.

    obesity puts people at much higher risk of:

    heart disease
    joint replacements
    sleep apnea
    high blood pressure

    the above conditions cost lots of money to manage (meds, testing, increased hospitalizations, etc etc)the individual with insurance is not shouldering the burden of the costs themselves, its spread across the risk pool so to speak.

    And lastly one I refused to even engage in because of the SHEER IGNORANCE of the OP to her disease state and the false health benefits of her saving diet:

    It’s Official – all of my autoimmune diseases are gone! or The Benefits of a Plant Based Diet

    A little over a year ago I was not in good shape. Overweight, depressed, and and diagnosed with several auto-immune diseases: I was taking two antidepressants and way too many others medications. My husband was not far behind in his health issues and amount of medications he was taking.

    After watching the film “Forks Over Knives” we changed our eating habits drastically and basically became vegans.

    Fast forward to today and I am off ALL medications – I take nothing, not even supplements! My blood tests have come back and there are no signs of any of the auto-immune diseases I had a year ago. Plus I have lost weight too!

    My husband has also had great success with both weight loss and cutting his meds in half!

    I realize this isn’t the way for everyone but I am beyond thrilled with the results it has given us and highly recommend others to give it a try!!

    I just hate to see them posting wrong and often life threatening information and I post information from the CDC, from HUGS and HAES to a repeat of “WELL, ALL THE FAT PEOPLE I KNOW…” and that doesn’t even cover the self hatred because they failed on the latest fad diet which they constantly post.

  14. I’ve wound up on crutches a couple times in my life, due to sprained ankles. Oh, and that one time when I had the most horrific muscle pull in my leg, an injury I sustained while dancing. I always assumed that using the crutches beat not being able to get places, both while thin and while fat. But I did definitely see a difference in perception when I had my first major (well, as major as I’ve ever had, which I will happily admit isn’t terribly major overall and was clearly temporary in every case) injury while fat.

    When I sprained my ankle as a thin adolescent, people assumed I had sustained an injury while being active. I guess standing up could count. Yeah, I actually did sprain my ankle by standing up once. Co-ordination wasn’t my strong point at fourteen.

    When I pulled a muscle as a fat adult, people who weren’t there assumed that my knees were simply giving way under all the lard and I would soon need a walker or a wheelchair if I didn’t lose the weight. Nope, I was in the middle of my Scottish country dance class and I guess I hadn’t adequately warmed up my calf because suddenly it felt like something coming unthreaded in my leg and I couldn’t even stand up anymore. But once the muscle healed, I was back dancing and doing walkathons again. But it sure was interesting seeing the reactions of those who didn’t know me!

    In the end, whether the need is temporary or permanent, people who need mobility aids need mobility aids, period. And it doesn’t really matter whether it was pure accident, a bad choice, or plain old biology. Nobody should be shamed for having a medical need.

    Oh, and if anyone wants a hand with glittering up their wheels or coming up with badass slogans to paint on them, I’m your gal!

      1. Offhand I’m thinking stickers, rhinestones glued on using the kind of glue that sticks to metal, custom making (or having someone on Etsy custom make) some covers for the tops and hand grips out of badass fabric. Wrap it in glitter and/or colored and/or glow in the dark tape like they use on hula hoops. I hope that’s a start!


      2. Not sure if you have standard crutches or forearm crutches, but here are some things I thought about….ribbons off the handles, stickers (I love the idea of the hula hoop tape, cover the cushions with awesome fabric (there are Etsy sellers that sell covers)

  15. Ragen, I love you for this post!! I am totally stealing “I am not the jackass whisperer.” Count me in as one who could at times use a mobility scooter, but have chosen not to use it for fear of the fat shamers. Years ago hubby and I went to Disney World, and I refused to use a scooter even though it would have made for a more enjoyable trip for both of us. I suffer from a condition called lipedema, further complicated by lymphedema. Lipedema is a condition which causes fatty deposits in the body from the waist down to the ankles, and sometimes in the upper arms. This makes me very disproportionate, so I get even more stares than just regular fat all over people (or so it seems, I may just be hyper-sensitive). I only mention this because it is really underdiagnosed, and there is treatment if diagnosed in the early stages. A great website for info is curelipedema.org. Anyway, this condition impairs my mobility, and as I get older I do expect to eventually need a scooter. I’m really glad to have you in my corner, and I will be putting that bumper sticker on my blinged out ride! Thanks for making my day a little brighter Ragen and all you fabulous people in the SA/HAES community.

  16. The flame wars surrounding fat people and health care remind me of distinctions between “the deserving poor” and “the undeserving poor.” One group gets sympathy, help, and respect. The other group gets blamed for bringing trouble upon themselves. Add to this a pressure to cut spending and people start looking for people who don’t “deserve” healthcare (or other resources). I hope we don’t get to the point where every time a person goes to the E.R., the first questions after “do you have insurance?” are “can you prove this isn’t your fault?”

  17. I would tell you how much I love this post, but I’m off to pimp my tricycle (which I have to use because of balance problems) with some glitter. You know, we really need some cool HAES bumper stickers to inspire awe in the fathaters.

  18. Ragan,
    Your blogs are so spot-on. Like many others who commented, I used to think twice about using a scooter at large stores and either chose not to shop or limp along pushing a shopping cart. Then I learned my oxygen saturation rate was too low, and I needed to use oxygen. So, now, with the oxygen tank in the scooter basket, I feel like I am more entitled to use the scooter. Good grief. I was always entitled if it was too difficult to walk. Nonetheless, even with my oxygen tank “badge of honor for being really disabled,” I still feel people look at my size. But, I do think a bit of bling on the tank would be fun and maybe, just maybe, make me a bit less irritated about needing the oxygen. I can smile when I grab the tank to be on the go. I do want to walk as much as I can to get exercise and feel healthier. However, I am making the decision to walk for health and not because I am afraid of riding a scooter and encouraging stereotypes. At least I am trying.

  19. My grandfather suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. He is also considered obese due to his BMI (he can range anywhere from 260-269) but he is 6’3 so he probably wouldn’t get any mean remarks about his weight as opposed to a shorter person with the same weight. When he does go in the grocery store, he uses a scooter. I just can’t wrap my head around the nastiness towards those that need the use of mobility aids, and why we have to “see” a person’s disability to justify it. My mother also has RA and was diagnosed almost two months ago with MS. But from looking at her, you could never tell she’s in pain a lot. Due to the stigma attached with fat disabled people, she won’t use a scooter or a cane. She just walks through it. George Takai and his ilk can think what they want—let’s just hope they don’t need scooters one day. They’ll learn real quick once the shoe is on the other foot.

    1. It’s sad–with the bullying and stigma that Takei has had to endure, both for being homosexual and for being of Japanese ancestry in America at a time when the Japanese were not well thought of, you’d think that he’d be more sensitive to the difficulties that larger people endure.

  20. I work in a retirement community. The building is very large. Every night I have to go around and set the pins on certain doors (it’s a security check thing, it would be too boring to go into) and put up notices on bulletin boards. If my sciatica or my fibromyalgia are bothering me too much, I use the scooter that is there for use of the staff. My slim co-worker probably never feels guilty about using it. She has lung issues and lost about 20 pounds due to G.I. issues. But I feel guilty when I use it because of my large build. Sigh…

    1. That is to say, the reason that I feel guilty for using the scooter is because I have a large build. I am not using the scooter because I have a large build, I’m using it because of musculoskeletal pain.

  21. There is this awful belief that people with illness, disability or other health issues need to be pitied. That they’re somehow flawed or damaged goods that have no value to society. There is a perception that people with illness, disability or other health issues have no lives, contribute nothing and matter little to anyone.

    Perhaps if our society spent a little of that time they spend pitying people making the world accessible and welcoming, they’d finally see just how much people with illness, disability or other health issues are worth in our culture.

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