Reader Jodi, talking about the post on Eating While Fat, brought up another aspect of the EWF experience: “Of course, when I go into a restaurant, I first have to decide whether or not I will fit in a booth made to fit only skinny people or will I have to sit at a table. I have been in many embarrassing situations where the host doesn’t ask, and I go to sit in the booth, and I just can’t breathe… then have to ask to be moved.”
Asking for accommodations can bring up a lot of emotions – stress, embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, guilt. I think that one massive problem is that we’ve been told that asking for accommodations is asking for some kind of favor or special treatment above and beyond what everyone else gets. Also, as fat people, we are told that we are responsible for our fatness and therefore should simply get thin so that we don’t need the accommodations.
Let’s examine the situation: There is plenty of evidence to show that people are a variety of sizes for a variety of reasons which are not necessarily within their control and that we have no proven method to change size over the long term. More importantly, it doesn’t matter why I’m fat or even if it was possible to be thin. I have every right to exist in my body as it is and I don’t owe the world a body that fits in a restaurant booth. The same goes for people who desire or require accommodations due to physical or mental illness, disability or any other reason.
Asking a business for an accommodation is not asking them for special treatment. It is doing them a favor, and one you shouldn’t have to do. You are granting them the courtesy of pointing out something that they probably should have thought of already, or at least should be grateful to know about now. The people who opened that restaurant know that fat people exist and eat out, so why didn’t they make sure to have chairs that fat people can fit in? When the hospital opened to provide healthcare to the community they were aware that the community includes fat people; so please don’t act all surprised and inconvenienced when my fat ass shows up and needs a bed that fits me, you should have ordered that bed when you ordered all the rest of them. If people on the plane who aren’t fat have a seat they can fit into, then when a fat person asks for a seat they can fit into they are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for what everyone else already has.
So what can you do about accommodations? First, realize that you shouldn’t have to ask for them and that if you do you aren’t doing anything wrong or asking for anything special, you’re doing the business a kindness. They should be embarrassed. Second, you get to decide how this works. Let’s use restaurants for example: If you want to be confrontational you can go into the restaurant and ask for a chair without arms and if they don’t have one then ask for the manager, raise loud hell, start a letter writing campaign etc. Or, if you’re not up for a fight today you could call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they have chairs without arms or pick a restaurant that you know works for you. (I would love it if you would share your strategies for this and other situations in the comments!)
You can tell the host/ess “Three for a table please” to avoid being seated at a booth. Is there a policy that parties of less than four have to sit in booth? Well, that policy is for other people – how about we cruise on over to that six top so that I don’t have to eat with my boobs resting on the top of the table and my spleen being compressed, you can take away the three extra chairs. Obviously this isn’t just for fat people – maybe you need a seat out of the sun or close to the entrance, somewhere to park your scooter, a table that works with your wheelchair, a place to sit in your class that is not a tiny chair with a connected desk, to not have to sit at a long bench with your table super-close to strangers. You are paying this business money so making you comfortable should be a primary goal for them, not an inconvenience. If it’s not, then you get to choose what to do. It turns out that fat money spends the same and so if a business isn’t interested in attracting and keeping me as a customer then I take my money to one that is.
It’s less than a week away! Check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Check it out!
Book Me! I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!) Click here for details
Here’s more cool stuff:
My 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