When Rachel Ebert heard that a company was creating amazing 3D printed leggings with designs by local artists, but not in plus sizes, she went to work. She contacted the company and they were very receptive – now they are expanding their line to include plus sizes. They are working with Rachel and encouraging input from the plus size community. (If you’re in Seattle you can help, can check out Rachel’s request here.)
I think that Rachel is awesome for asking, and I appreciate that the company was responsive to her request, I really do. But I also want to know why she had to ask? I there are so many fat people, why is making clothes for us an afterthought? I’ve been in a huge mall in LA where they did not sell a single shirt, dress, skirt, or pair of pants that fit me. It’s not just clothes either, recently I tried to take my partner to a performance and the theater in LA said they didn’t have seats that would work for us, we couldn’t bring our own folding chair – I finally asked “what can we do so that I can give you my money and we can see this show?” the manager responded “I’m sorry, this just isn’t something we accommodate.”
And lest you think that it’s just clothes and entertainment, in things as critical as healthcare the needs of fat people are often simply ignored. Despite the fact that healthcare facilities are put in place to meet the needs of the community, and the community obviously includes fat people, they often build and stock them as if we don’t exist. Basic healthcare tools that other people take for granted, like a chair that fits them, a blood pressure cuff that’s the right size etc., fat people have to stress about, pay for on our own, or do without.
Then there’s the idea that we take up “too much space” as if some people “deserve” a world that they fit into, but others don’t. Too often fat people are treated as an inconvenience whether it’s “Oh do fat people wear clothes?” or “How dare you expect the doctor’s office to have a chair and blood pressure cuff that fits you!” the idea is clear that being accommodated if I’m thin is a matter of course, being accommodated if I’m fat is a special request. (And of course we’re worlds away from expecting many businesses to accommodate us without us having to ask.)
This idea of fat people being inconvenient can even be internalized. In response to a blog about fat people on planes I received a comment for a fat reader “It is inconsiderate to inconvenience others due to our size. Please, lets not go too far demanding equality.”
This person has the right to think this but I’m not going along for that ride. I think that if someone feels inconvenienced because another person achieves equality, then the first person was most likely benefiting from the inequality. It does not follow that the person who was unequal should say “Sorry dude, my bad. I’ll just go back to a life of oppression- nothing is more important than your convenience.”
It’s pretty hard to fit “Equality Now! I mean, as long as nobody is inconvenienced in any way” on a protest sign. Or try chanting: “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Only when it doesn’t inconvenience anyone!” It just doesn’t have that ring to it, you know?
To me this is about equal treatment, not special requests. I am asking for exactly what other people who look different than I look already have. And if people don’t want to give up the “conveniences” that are the end result of the stigma and oppression that fat people deal with, then as far as I’m concerned they are going to have to learn to live with disappointment. The truth is that we’re not inconvenient, we’re inconvenienced – grossly, sometimes life-threateningly, inconvenienced – and we have every right to ask for equal treatment.
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