Bad Fatties on Escalators – A Rant

I heard someone today say that we’re making it too easy to be obese because fat people can use scooters to get around, or use escalators instead of the stairs.

Okay, dude.  Let’s be clear that what this person is saying is: “If you are fat and require mobility assistance, we should actively work to make the world more difficult for you to navigate.”  If you’re concerned that we are somehow making it “too easy” for fat people to pursue their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, let me assure you that one of the ways you can tell that we are NOT making it “too easy” is that someone is willing to suggest, out loud, that if you are fat and disabled we should make it intentionally difficult for you to get around.

The idea here is that fat people with disabilities don’t deserve to be able to navigate the world with dignity because it’s their own fault.  I hate to let facts get in the way of stigma, prejudice, and oppression but people of all sizes become disabled for many reasons –  fell down some stairs and needs to use a scooter, or doing their best “Hey y’all watch this!” for their buddies and are now riding out that groin pull on the escalator.  If you are thin then, in this person’s estimation, you can do whatever dumb ass thing you want and they are happy to support your need for mobility assistance.  But if you’re fat then it doesn’t matter why you need assistance, you don’t deserve it. And when we treat one group differently than another because of how they look, that would be bigotry plain and simple. In truth, people of all sizes face stigma and ableism and if you want mobility assistance you should be able to access and use it without shame, at whatever size and for whatever reason.  And that last sentence shouldn’t be controversial as it is a big flaming sack of obvious.

And let’s not pretend that this is about our health. First of all health isn’t an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control or guaranteed.  And even if we are interested in pursuing movement as a path to health, while many studies suggest that movement leads to greater health, there are zero studies that say that movement has to be taking the stairs instead of the escalator or walking five hundred miles around Disney World this weekend.  No, this isn’t about our health. This is about compliance. Fat people are supposed to atone for the supposed moral failing that is our body by only being seen in public doing things that people want to pretend will promote thinness (or at least punish fatness) – we must eat salads with no dressing and take the stairs and at all times and be a “good fatty” or we deserve even more shame, stigma, and mocking until we can finally hate ourselves healthy thanks to all of those people who bullied us for sport.

Well, screw that.  My body is not a moral failing, a sign of my lack of willpower, or a measure of my health or worthiness.  To paraphrase Marilyn Wann, the only thing you can tell from my size is what size I am and what prejudices you hold about people my size.  My body is amazing and I will stand up for it, take care of it, and be undeterred and unashamed of properly caring for it, especially because of societal bigotry perpetuated by people who make their money and/or their self-esteem by trying to rid the Earth of people who look like me. Some days I walk 18 miles as part of my marathon training.  Trust me when I tell you that my fat ass will be taking every escalator I see for the rest of the day.  Some days I don’t exercise at all and I just don’t feel like taking the stairs. Don’t like it?  Bite me.  If something happened to my mobility then I hope I would become a bad ass fatty on a scooter flipping the bird to anyone who had a problem with the way that I navigate the world.  I will not allow others to make me feel ashamed and I will stand up for my friends of any size who use mobility assistance of any kind for any reason.

In fact, I think that we should work to make that assistance safe, affordable, and as easy to access as possible.  When I say safe I don’t just mean physically safe (having scooters that are rated to carry very fat people etc.) but also emotionally safe – which is to say that if you use a scooter to get around Disney World there should be exactly zero asshats who would say anything or even look at you sideways – if they have the urge to say something then they can go ride “It’s a Small World” a couple dozen times until the urge passes and they have not just the right to remain silent, but also the capacity.

Let’s all try to focus for a minute on a simple fact:  other people’s bodies, and they way that they navigate the world, are absolutely none of our damn business.  None.  If you think it’s your job, or a good idea, to make the world more difficult for fat people who use mobility aids then to paraphrase Ron White, the next time you have a thought, just let it go because man, thinking is not for you.

Like my blog?  Here’s more of my stuff!

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

50 thoughts on “Bad Fatties on Escalators – A Rant

  1. Wow, what a special kind of jackass. Unveiled sizeism coupled with ableism. Seriously. There’s something seriously wrong with people who think it’s condoning/encouraging unhealthy behaviors just because fat people are offered basic requirements, like clothes and mobility assistance. Health isn’t possible to gauge by looking at someone’s size, for one thing, and even then so freaking what if someone is unhealthy? Why do people feel the need to deprive others of their basic needs? It’s just pure asshattery. There is no excuse for it. However way you spin that crap, it’s still discrimination.

    I remember reading something from a trashy newspaper about some comment of a random jerk saying he wouldn’t share a seat with someone who he finds to be too big. And I’m thinking to myself: really? Here you are an able-bodied male, who refuses to give a seat to someone who may need that seat (there are designated seats for the disabled, pregnant and elderly on the train) but because oooh, it’s going to be uncomfortable seating with someone bigger or he automatically thinks the fat is the reason for their disability, they don’t deserve the seat? I desperately wanted to respond on the newspaper: Please get off your privileged high horse, asshat.

    These people really make me lose my faith in mankind, but it’s great to see people like you fighting for social justice. You’re like the light in a very dark tunnel. With people like you, I can hope for a better future.

  2. I wasn’t aware scooters were made especially *for* fat people; I thought they were for everybody who needs help getting around. Where do I get mine? I’d duct-tape a camera to the front and organize jousting matches and Scooter Lazer Tag parties and post the videos on YouTube with John Williams music.

    That actually sounds like fun. (schemes)

    I love the assumption behind this idea. If only a fat person parked a few blocks away and took the stairs every day they’d morph into a lean example of physical perfection BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES! Like some people really believe us fatties put on a fat suit every day and it’s only cross-grainedness that’s preventing us from taking it off and joining society.

    1. Dude! Can I herald your scooter jousts? I have it on good authority that – when properly roused – I can be heard clearly in the street from the third story of a brick building.

      1. Twistie – a herald would be so completely awesome! Do you have heralding attire – something with some bling perhaps?? Gotta look all “herald badass”.

  3. The only time I had this happen to me was at the grocery store. I’d just had minor surgery on my foot and needed some basic groceries (milk, fruit, veg, etc.) before I headed home to pass out on my bed for 12 hours. It was a huge store, and I was in so much pain I could barely hobble in through the door without tears coming to my eyes.

    I asked a gal who worked there if I could use one of the mobility scooters, and she was REALLY nasty about it. At first she said, “These are only for people who need them. Someone else might need it too” hinting that because I was in my early 20s, I should be healthy enough to walk. When I explained I’d just had a huge chunk taken from my foot and wouldn’t be very long, she sighed heavily, got one out and snapped, “This only has about 20 minutes left on it. You need to move fast. It’s not going to last THE WHOLE STORE, you know. Are you SURE you need this??”

    I said, “Well, you can either let me use this scooter or deal with me passing out in pain on your floor. Your choice.”

    She gave me a dirty look and walked away mumbling about fat lazy people. The thing was, at the time I was doing Jenny Craig and losing crazy amounts of weight, so I probably weighed about 180 at that point, not really “big” with my body type. But I guess because my arse was round and my thighs big I wasn’t allowed to be helped because dammit, the walk would do me good and it was probably my fault that my foot needed surgery because of my fat-assedness.

    (The scooter, btw, died after about 15 minutes. I left it in the middle of the aisle where it died).

    1. did you contact management about her attitude? just wondering, because i certainly would have tried to get her fired. Then again i am a customer service stickler.

  4. Should my friend who blew out his knee twenty-five years ago and has walked with a cane ever since have to use the stairs because he’s not thin? Would it be okay if he had the cane and happened to weigh a lot less than he currently does? How about people with heart conditions (like Mr. Twistie)? At what weight do they become no longer deserving of help because they have heart conditions? To whom shall we petition for the right to get from Point A to Point B?

    There are dozens of reasons someone might need the escalator or a scooter. Joint issues, heart conditions, recent surgery, being wiped out after a very long workout, various respiratory ailments, balance issues from an inner ear infection… and you know what? Every single one of these things happens to thin people, too.

    When I’m on my own, I often use the stairs. I kind of enjoy stairs. But when I’m with Mr. Twistie and his dicky ticker, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to seek out and use escalators and elevators. I want my husband around as long as humanly possible. That, too, is a legitimate reason.

    But if I’m alone and I feel I need the escalator – or just find it more convenient to take – I damn well have the right to do so.

  5. What’s really sad is that many people actually internalize this judgment. My uncle was really reluctant to use any mobility aids before his knee replacement…he said it was his own fault his knee was bad because he’s such a big guy. I mean, go ahead and suffer in pain and further damage your knee, why don’t you? That’ll teach you to think twice before being fat! He was finally persuaded to use a cane, which he’s kept up with even after the surgery. However, I think he ascribes some moral high ground to using a cane vs. a scooter, which is still kind of messed but, oh well! At least he gets around a little easier!

  6. I remember riding escalators in the 60s and 70s with my “normal” weight mom, when I was “normal” weight as well. I don’t think we can blame escalators for the “obesity pandemic.”

    And, by the way, it’s not easy to get your hands on one of those scooters. Insurance only pays for them if you need them to get around INSIDE YOUR HOME (and have a home that’s accessible enough to use one). Otherwise it’s typically a few thousand out of pocket. If you have your own it’s a bit of a hassle to take it with you (bus with a lift or car with big trunk, platform carrier, etc.) People aren’t using scooters on a whim.

    As for me, I miss out on a lot because I don’t own one. I can manage home and work with a cane and a little better living through chemistry. To go to the fall fairs, a walking tour, or even the mall I’d have to rent a scooter & that’s cost prohibitive. Hmmm…if I could get out more there might be some incidental walking/exercise as opposed to staying home on the internet…

    1. Not to hijack this thread or anything, but. . . okay, I’m gonna hijack this thread for a minute. I, too, need a scooter to maintain my life in the community. I do just fine at work and at home with a cane. In fact, my doc told me she wanted me to walk around the house as much as I could–right before she wrote me a prescription for a scooter. (And yes, every scooter comes in two grades to accommodate heavier people.) The scooter people came out and looked at my house supposedly to be sure I could use a one here (I obviously can’t) and so there was a lot of “wink, wink” activity all around.

      My scooter lives in the trunk of my car and I use it for malls, fairs, and walking tours. I used it to enable me to do jury duty last winter. I will use it to vote this November. And the first person who makes a comment about my size will get an earful about how exercise is actually bad for me, and how conserving energy will in fact extend my mobile life, how my weight makes absolutely no difference to my condition one way or the other, and just exactly what they can do with their assumptions.

      Now. Where do I sign up for that laser tag tournament?

  7. All this recent talk about mobility scooters has really riled up some long buried guilt in me, so confession time. In grad school, one of my fellow students used a mobility scooter for some unnamed condition. (She wasn’t fat, so at least I’m innocent on that charge, in fact, I’m still amazed when people refer to mobility scooters as fatty scooters because I see far more old people use them than fat people.)

    She’d constantly ask people to do things for her due to her condition, but whenever she thought she was going to miss out on something due to her condition, she was magically able bodied and my friends and I were pretty merciless about her behind her back, and now I feel like a huge jackass because I don’t know her story. I’m going with a defense of youth and peer pressure.

    1. Applying spoon theory here, your friend probably conserved energy as much as possible so she could do things she really did not want to miss out on later. And able-bodied people often do misinterpret that, especially when they cannot see the person paying the price later for that burst of activity.

      I’m glad you feel bad about it because it shows you are a caring person, and that your behavior ran contrary to your values. But I also hope that you won’t give yourself too hard a time about it, because we all do stuff like that before we’ve lived long enough to learn better. I once behaved exactly that way towards my uncle who, ironically, has the same disability as me. He, too, could get up and do what he wanted to do from time to time at that point in the progression of his illness. When I went through the same stage, I wised up.

      If you’re a jackass, we’re all jackasses.

  8. Love it…Don’t like it? Bite me. ha ha ha..Been nursing a messed up ankle from a strain while participating in a barbell class. I am limping around. Wondering how many people think it is cause I am a fatty..been taking escalators cause stairs hurt. Made me feel a bit better today. Thank you.

  9. I think that it is really important that we don’t make oversimplifications of disabled or injured people who also happen to live in thin bodies. Yes fat stigma and ableism intersects but that doesn’t mean thin people are not shamed for the state of their body. It is super complicated and while the intersection of fat / disability makes someones experience with privilege different it doesn’t mean thin disabled people do not face discrimination in similar ways.

  10. I’ve been using one of those wheeled walkers (with a seat) for a couple of years now simply because navigating some stores without it is impossible. And I use the mobility scooters at WalMart/FleetFarm/grocery stores all the time. I’m fat and disabled and if people don’t like the fact that I’m using the mobility scooter (and I’ve told them this), then they can be the ones to call for the forklift to pick my ass up off the floor when I fall down because my back cramped up and my legs went numb because there sure as hell isn’t anyone in the store who can pick up my almost 400 lb ass off the floor. That usually shuts them up (and shocks them that I would even say that…lol).
    I finally broke down a couple of weeks ago and admitted that I need a mobility scooter of my own because the walker just wasn’t doing the job for me anymore. If I have to use it for more than 30 minutes, forget it, I’m either done for the day, or in so much pain that I’m constantly having to stop and sit for a while. This isn’t fair to my husband when we go places, because he has to stop and wait on me, or go on ahead and hope I can catch up to him when I’m able to be mobile again (which isn’t very likely).
    I researched mobility scooters, and found one that’s rated to 500 lbs. But I had to pay for it myself. Insurance/Medicare will only pay for a power chair/mobility scooter if you need it to navigate inside your home – if you can still navigate your house on your own/with a walker, you’re on your own. Evidently, your quality of life outside your home doesn’t matter at all – if you need a scooter to be able to get out and have any kind of life, sorry, it ain’t happening with insurance/Medicare. I did look on craigslist to see if anyone had a used one for sale, but the nearest person with a Maxima was over 350 miles away, and they wanted $2800 for it. So used wasn’t an option for me, but it might be an option for someone smaller than me, who doesn’t need a scooter rated to 500 lbs.
    Luckily, we have good credit, and could put the scooter on one of our credit cards. Also luckily, because we paid cash for it (well, same as) we got a discount – the Pride Maxima normally sells for $3,375 and we got it for $2,868 (and I found a ramp on for half of what the mobility store charged). It fits in the back of my minivan, and is going to allow me to finally go places with my husband that I’ve been avoiding because they don’t have mobility scooters (or if they do, the walk to get to them is longer than I can handle [can we say most shopping malls?]). So for those who say I shouldn’t be using a mobility scooter simply because I’m fat, they can suck it. I’m going to ride in style and enjoy being able to shop and sightsee pain-free for a change.

  11. I don’t get irritated by fat people using mobility scooters and such in the store. What I get irritated by, are the high school or college students that are using them just to joy-ride around the store for laughs, then abandon them when they get tired of the game or the battery runs out of juice. Yeah, I know that some young people may need a scooter, but when you have a whole group of kids, and they’re laughing and carrying on with the scooter, then jump off and go running off through the store, it’s a pretty good bet they didn’t actually need one, other than for their own entertainment.

    My wife has bad hips (congenital), and had a total hip replacement about four years ago. She used a mobility scooter in a store once or twice after her surgery, but for the most part, tried to walk whenever she could. It wasn’t out of some sort of penance or guilt, but rather, knowing that movement was the best way to make the muscles stronger on both hips. While some doctors basically wrote off her hip pain as weight related, the one orthopaedist that really took the time to give her a thorough exam determined she would have bad hips, regardless of what she weighed. Loosing weight can decrease the stress on the bad joint, but it’s not going to make the bad joint magically become a good, properly formed joint. We were amazed at how many supposedly well-educated doctors didn’t seem to grasp that concept.

    1. “Losing weight can decrease the stress on the bad joint, but it’s not going to make the bad joint magically become a good, properly formed joint. We were amazed at how many supposedly well-educated doctors didn’t seem to grasp that concept.”

      Yes! Absolutely! Arthritis runs in my family (or should I say, we all limp because of arthritis). Fortunately, the surgeons I have dealt with understood that I was born with bad architecture. Yes, when I lost some weight, my hip did feel better, but eventually I needed a new one. Weight loss is no panacea. Now comes the knee, which is so misaligned that I could weight 98 pounds soaking wet and still be in pain.

      1. One doctor told my wife she should weigh no more than 120 pounds, and of course, made weight loss sound like the easiest thing in the world. Sorry, but she would look skeletal at 120 pounds, and would cause herself far more health problems trying to get there, than she ever will focusing on being healthy instead.

        Then again, this was the same moron doctor who told her she needed to lose 90 pounds before he would do the hip replacement surgery, and that she should be able to easily do this in six months by losing ten pounds a month. I hope for the sake of the patients that were stuck with him, that he was better at surgery than he was at math, or at “bedside manner.” He inspired no confidence whatsoever, and I would not have trusted him to remove a mole from my hiney, let alone letting him perform a major surgery such as hip replacement. Thank heavens, a co-worker’s wife did medical transcription, and recommended a much better orthopaedist.

    2. I see that joy riding thing ALL the time here, especially in the Meijer near me late at night. Maaaaybe Meijer is just randomly over run with disabled 20 somethings at 2am, but it seems unlikely. Especially when they are racing and goofing about and jumping up and chasing each other. And no one does anything about it. *That* I find disgusting..not people calmly using scooters of whatever size age and shape that quite likely need them.

  12. Would it make these types feel better if a fat person using a scooter had a little recorded message saying, “I’m sorry…I’m fat, I know it. All my fault. Please just try to forgive my moral failing…I’m sorry…I’m fat…” that repeated every 15 seconds, like those recordings on walkways at the airport??

    Unless you’ve committed some sort of atrocity, I don’t think one needs to apologise for any state of being.

  13. Social expectations for fat people in public are never really about health and usually not even about size. It’s always about punishment.

  14. It’s total BS and thank you for ranting about it! My husband tore his ACL and fractured his femur doing one of those dumb drunken stunts you mentioned…but because he’s fat, and now walking with a cane, he’s constantly getting looks of disgust like he’s just a lazy fat person that can’t walk on his own. The bigotry is so infuriating!

    1. Amen to that. If they see a fat person using a cane or a walker, they’d never guess they broke their whatever skiing or paragliding or doing parkour, they’d assume parts just wore out due to general fatness.

  15. Just got home from a Costco mobility scooter riding trip. I am happy that you continue to post on this issue because I need all the morale building I can find. I’ve been around the size acceptance movement for over 30 years, but this issue layered with disability is relaltively new to me. It’s a challenge. So far, my best method of challenging attitudes is eye contact. People tend to act as if a disabled person is invisible, fat as we might be, and I spend my time getting eye contact with everyone around me and saying lots of “hello.” I see discomfort in some and plenty of warmth in others. Well worth the effort.

  16. Makes me wonder how many skinny people would have been as dedicated to PT with a broken ankle. Or as willing to skip the scooter and escalator options that way as well.

    Yeah. I rock.

    But not as much as you, Ragen. Miss you! 🙂

    1. While I respect people’s desire to push through pain and try to return to “normal” as quickly as possible, walking on a broken ankle out of frustration or an odd sense of bravery/pride might prevent the bone pieces from fusing. This happened to me; after six weeks of my ankle bone not healing, I got frustrated and stopped using crutches. The bone never healed. I had to have an ORIF six months later. This time, I did not put weight on that leg until the doctor said the bone was healed.

      1. It wasn’t bravery/pride that had me walking on the ankle. And I made sure that it was a stable fracture before pushing too hard. It also kept me from dancing for many months which made me a sad panda, indeed. Thank you for sharing your story, however, and I am very glad to hear that it has healed now.

  17. Can I add one more voice to the “I hate when people tell me to take the stairs!” chorus?

    I have chronic nerve damage in my hips, and some days, I literally cannot feel my feet hit the floor. I’ve learned to compensate on level ground (because after the first step, the distance to the floor is always the same), but stairs are tricky (because the distance to the floor on the front leg is different from the distance to the floor on the back leg).

    If I’m using stairs in public, I need to physically look down at every single step. In any kind of crowded space (mall, larger school building, etc.), this does not work — because I need to look forward to where I’m going as well.

    So sometimes I take the escalator or elevator — because then I only need to look when I’m getting on or getting off (and because a lot of people also look, it’s considered more normal). But I’m well and truly over people chiding me for being “bad” for using the elevator or for being “lazy” because I do not also walk up the escalator while standing on the escalator.

    1. There is a perky sign at work about using the stairs for your health. It’s right by the elevator. I always have a big heavy backpack with at least one monster laptop in it, sometimes two, along with a pile of paper. Often I’m wearing some sort of heel. So um, no, sorry not taking the stairs with that monster on my back and already cranky knees, sucking up my stair spoons for the rest of the day, and if you don’t like it, bite me.

  18. When public health organizations constantly remind us to use the stairs or park our cars farther away, I don’t think they realize not everyone is able to move around freely in all their anti-obesity frenzy. Sometimes, it’s not just “laziness” and society needs to be reminded of that daily.

  19. Recently, I finally worked up the nerve to rent a wheelchair at a small museum. Despite my fears, no one asked why or gave me trouble about my size, even though I live in Korea where even taxi drivers ask people (especially foreigners) personal questions (age, marital status, salary, etc.). I got to explore the place for over an hour without ending up in pain afterward. Kids stared at the fat waygookin in the chair, but I just smiled and greeted them in my best Korean while trying not to run them over.

  20. I don’t even use escalators – i take elevators due to an escalator phobia. I wonder what kind of bad fatty that makes me?
    Also, does anyone know where we could find pics of fat people on scooters looking badass?

    1. I despise escalators (but will use them) and my mother is terrified of elevators. Made shopping interesting growing up. Back then all of the department stores in town had at least 3 floors. We did a lot of mixing & matching depending on how far the climb was, how much of a hurry, how hot it was, etc. I’ll never forget the terror of going down the escalator of JC Penney with an armload of glassware–and what genius thought it would be good to put all the breakables on the 3rd floor anyway?

  21. I always use the elevator to go one floor at work. Never apologize, I am the fattest person there. Yes I know this because they had to special order a lab coat for me. The elevator runs constantly so it is not just the fatties using it.

  22. Also, haven’t these people making the judgements seen other people who are just as fat or fatter walking around?

    That would be like me assuming any 70 year olds I see in a scooter is using it because they’re old, and assuming that anyone their age or older must need them too, and completely ignoring the spry 80 year olds walking past me. It’s impossible to know why someone needs mobility aids simply by looking at them (other than maybe if someone no longer had one or both of their legs perhaps, but even then, they may still be able to get around with a prosthetic, so you’re on thin ice).

  23. So, there should be no mobility aids for fatties. Hang on, the steam coming out of my ears is blinding me.
    I’ve mentioned before that I work in a retirement community. One of the people I help is a rad 94 year old fatty (yes, Virginia, old fat folk do exist, I’ve taken care of many of them in my time.) She had a stroke when she was 90. Of course this does not happen to 90 year old thin people ever, so it was all because she was fat.
    This lady gets around in her power chair. She goes to movies and concerts and lectures. She is amazing, and I hope I can be half as cool as she is, should I reach her age.
    That someone would dare say that folks like this (or any of the other disabled folk of whatever size) do not deserve mobility aids just boils my blood.
    I’m 47, and while I don’t have to avoid stairs, there are a lot of stairs in the place where I work. I walk the hallways but take the elevator if I have to go up more than one flight, or my knees and ankles will really start to despise me by the end of the shift. Of course this is all because I’m fat. It isn’t as if I had knee and ankle issues when I was 18 and starved myself down to 108 pounds. (Hint–I did.)

  24. keep on keeping on, sister! you are a force to be reckoned with! plus, you give the rest of us some great zingers, should we ever need them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.