Fat Crash Test Dummy Drama

DefendWhen I talk about fatphobia being life threatening to fat people, I’m often told that I’m being over-dramatic. I don’t think so and here’s an example. Several news outlets ran a story recently about the manufacture of fat crash test dummies. It turns out that fat people are 78% more likely to die in an automobile crash, and the increase may be in large part because crash test dummies are built to model thin bodies, and thus car safety systems are built to protect only thin bodies. To combat this, a company called Humanetics is developing fat crash test dummies.

Here are some responses to this story:

“Instead of making obese test dummies they should actually use the 78% higher chance of death in an automobile accident to encourage weight loss for obese people.”

Even if there was a single study that exists where fat people were able to become thin long term, the message “Change your body size or you’ll die needlessly because we refuse to make safety equipment for you” is not encouragement, it’s criminal negligence.

“Hope none of this was paid for by our taxes”

Let me translate from asshole to English “According to statistics 70% of people are fat and I’m completely comfortable with their tax dollars paying for the safety of the 30% of us who aren’t, but you better not use their taxes or mine to pay for their safety. I’m an incredible asshole and I approve this message.”

“Why not put a whole extremely obese family in there to start with? Dad weights 400 mom weights 300 kids weight 280 and the dog weights 220. Lets see those test results!!!”

Asshole to English:  “I think that killing fat people and their pets is three-exclamation-points hilarious!!!”

“It shouldn’t be necessary to make obese crash test dummies. Overweight is one thing, obese is another. Its unhealthy and a drain on the healthcare system.”

Asshole to English Translation: “I think it’s cool to kill off entire groups of people if they meet my definition of unhealthy or if it makes healthcare cheaper.”

And this is what happens when we make appearance based discrimination into a national pastime, having wars against everyone who looks a certain way, funding research to figure out if a group of people who share a single physical characteristic can be shown to be more expensive than others etc. We get a world where people take to the internet (anonymously, of course) to suggest that some people don’t deserve to live based on their appearance.

Luckily this isn’t everybody. One thing to remember when we read comments like this is that these are left by a few people who, without much going on with their lives, have made online fat bashing their main activity during their free time (and, it would appear, many of their work hours as well.) They pounce on these kinds of articles, sharing them with each other and rushing to say that absolute most abhorrent thing that they can think of.

Obviously (or, it should be obvious), people of all sizes buy cars – many taking the safety rating of the car into account – and we all deserve to have a vehicle whose manufacturer actually included us in the safety system design. These crash test dummies are definitely a step in the right direction.

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49 thoughts on “Fat Crash Test Dummy Drama

    1. Hatred of fat people was going long before Obama was elected, though I’ll grant that Michelle Obama has probably made it a tiny bit worse.

      First ladies typically only get involved in popular causes.

      1. I did not mean to single her out, it was rather a try to jump that “it’s all Obama’s fault”-Bandwagon – usually referred to by Thank you Obama .. and in this case it was rather the First Lady .. So you see, an ill attempt in humour.

  1. To be honest: I am quite shocked right now by these comments. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in Germany, and/or because I am very sensitive and aware of things and thoughts like these, but it so much reminds me of ideologies and the thinking in Nazi-Germany: They claimed that there is “unwertes Leben” which means “life unworthy of life”, and with that they justified the systematic killing of millions, not only jews (whose “jewishness” was often based on certain looks, like a large nose, and there were guidelines on how to identify a jew by looks – sound somehow familiar?), but also political opponents, homosexuals, Sinti & Roma, disabled people and the mentally ill, even little children, just because they didn’t fit into their narrow ideal of the “superior arian race”. This “superiority” and the others “unworthyness” was also based on hatred and pseudo-science and the desperate need to prove to oneself that they are better than others and to blame someone else for everything that goes wrong.
    Thinking like that is not only stupid, but dangerous and inhuman. Honestly, sometimes I am scared of what people are capable of.

    1. Oh Klara, exactly my thoughts. Very well put, too.

      In fact, I gotta ask: would it make the a&&holes more comfortable if I simply wore a yellow star of David on my sleeve? Cuz, I get that it’s all about the skinny folks.


      1. No stars of David for us, vh. We will wear golden Twinkies. Geddit???? Isn’t that hilarious????

        That is, if we don’t all die in car crashes first because cars aren’t built for our safety.

    2. I too think of this connection often. I’ve been attending the Jewish Film Festival in Calgary for the past 3 yrs, the films are about 50/50 split btw Holocaust and modern comedy. Last year we saw a film that included lots of orphans during the 1940s, and the nazis said all orphans were considered Jews, and also based on head measurements (like phrenology). Truly disturbing, but this was accepted “science” at the time, and people made their living on promoting it.

      The film was “Suskind”.

      1. Thank you for mentioning the film! All this pseudo-science is just absurd, yet it is so hard to dismantle it because people WANT to believe it.

    3. It’s scary how easy it is to turn the society against a random group of people, and how quickly you can do it, with a little fairly easy and cheap social conditioning. Check out Jane Elliot’s eye color experiment. Or the Third Wave class in the sixties. Or the Milgram… dear me, *especially* the Milgram, as fat people have basically been Milgram’d on a society-wide basis. Why, *no,* sustained underfeeding and overworking won’t hurt a fat person the way it would a thin person! Their adiposity protects them from the effects of malnutrition or injury because [insert psuedoscience here]. Let me trot in an “expert” in an identifiable uniform to tell you all about it. Those silly fat whiners, faking those hospitaliztions and heart attacks to get out of their duty to you! It’s just the sort of thing you’d expect inferior sorts like that to do, isn’t it?

      …see how *easy* that is?

      1. Yes, and horrifyingly it’s everywhere. Behaviour and thinking like this did not dissapear with the end of WWII, and it was not invented by the Nazis in the first place, though I guess they were the ones who perfected it as well as the ways to get rid of people they deemed unworthy.
        But what I think is especially horrifying about fat-hate is that people are able to justify their terrible thoughts and behaviour by blaming the fat people, like “you can’t just decide to not be jewish or gay or mentally ill, but these fat people choose to be fat and we have to force them to be thin – while, you know we are just deeply concerned because health!”

  2. These kinds of stories piss me off to NO end. It is not my fault I am fat, and even if it was, I still have a right to be safe where ever I go. From airplanes to amusement park rides. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    The idiots on reddit could not get enough of a story that went around a few weeks ago that a crematorium caught fire because of an overweight man and his excess fat (a story which has been proven to be completely false by the way) but here’s the thing reddit idiots–you CHANGE. If it were true; change the way crematoriums are made so they accommodate ALL people. NOW. IMMEDIATELY.

    I don’t care how much money it takes, I don’t care how much people are inconvenienced.

    70% of the population can’t fit comfortably or safely on an airplane? You change the airplane! Industry wide. NOW. IMMEDIATELY.

    70% of the population can’t fit on hospital beds. You redesign the hospital beds. NOW. IMMEDIATELY.

    70% of the population can’t receive adequate medical care or its too expensive. You change the medical industry. NOW. IMMEDIATELY

    Sorry if I went off, but I can’t help getting angry when people so clearly want me dead.

    Yeah, I find that a little angering.

      1. Ha ha, thank you very much. I know what I’m talking about with my therapist today. He wants me to focus on gratitude instead of anger…but isn’t it a normal fight or flight reaction to get angry when you find out certain people (or possibly society as a whole) doesn’t even want you alive?

        I don’t know what I would do without the community of like minded people I have on the internet.

        1. Anger is a perfectly valid response to discovering someone wants you dead, I should think.

          I completely get where your therapist is coming from. Gratitude is a wonderful thing and quite healthy… but there are times when the only useful response is to get really, really mad and try to change things.

          The most important trick is learning how to balance the gratitude for what you have and the anger at what is being done to you to the point where you find a path forward that empowers you and builds something for others.

          (disclaimer: I am not a therapist, nor to I play one on television. I have not examined the patient, nor am I likely to have the patience to do so, though I have played innumerable hands of patience aka solitaire in my life.)

    1. Seriously, Anger is an appropriate response in my book. It took me hours to make any kind of comment on this topic today because of anger. Iwas having a really hard time stringing together words to describe how I felt. I could come up with 1 and 2 word curses just fine.

  3. This is one of the most offensive things I’ve seen in a while. I’m actually shocked to see they aren’t using obese crash dummies already. I think I just assumed it was logical to use a varying amount of dummies from short to tall and super skinny and super fat since people have a lot of varying shapes and sizes. But then again I remember when they started using child size crash test dummies and found out that the passenger side airbag is more likely to kill the child than if the air bag wasn’t even there. That’s why young children have to sit in the back seat now. I was shocked to see they hadn’t already tested that when they first started testing the airbags with the dummies. But the really nonsensical thing is the restriction is based on age, not height. So if you’re a short adult, you’re in danger and might not even know it.

    The commenters sound like the schoolyard bullies. Why does this attitude towards fat people remain acceptable into adulthood? I agree with Klara. It sounds like, “I’m superior human because I’m not fat. You’re sub-humans for being fat. You should just stop existing and make the world a better place for us superior true humans.”

    A lot of the comments make it sound like fat people don’t pay taxes or health insurance. Is there some BMI box on the IRS tax forms that lets me get out of paying taxes if it’s over a certain number? Somebody please tell me where this is because I’ve been missing it all these years!

    1. I’ve looked and looked for that ‘get out of paying taxes for being fat’ box for years and have yet to find it. Sigh. Mr. Twistie and I could use the bucks back.

    2. Besides being horribly annoyed at the whole concept of people being outraged by a fat crash test dummy…. I cringe every single time someone drags out “their tax dollars” being used for something they don’t want to pay for but is a legitimate use of tax dollars. Just because it does not serve that person does not mean it is not of use to the rest of the population. I do not have any children, but I am not offended that my tax dollars pay for schools.

      1. I am annoyed that my school tax dollars are more and more paying for bureaucrats in the school system, instead of paying to educate children, particularly when those bureaucrats spend a lot of time figuring out how to manipulate the standardized tests to make themselves look good in the metrics, instead of using the test results to figure out where they are being deficient in actually educating young people…

        1. That sound’s like a perfectly legitimate thing to be annoyed about! I, too, often wonder how we can have School Czars (and why in the world do we use that term???) and spend serious bank on paying these “CEOs” of Education, yet teachers have to purchase their own supplies. Confounding!!

    3. I so often ask myself: Why are people thinking like that? Why are they thinking “I am better because I am white/thin/tall/male/…”? Sure, psychology tells me it’s because of insecurities and the need to compensate them to feel better for a short time. But 1. it does not work, why don’t people get it? and 2. we are all full of insecurities. I certainly am. Then why is this sort of thinking so very unimaginable for me (and many others), while it obviously is the common way to think? Why do so many people have the need to bully and others don’t? Why do so many people have the need to make themselves feel superiour and others just don’t? We do live in the same world and the same society, don’t we? And maybe: How could those who don’t feel and think that way show others how to “unlearn” their hateful and harming behaviour? (And could this even be done at all?)

      1. Honestly I think it all starts with upbringing and how people are raised. I think that plays a big factor in it; if children are raised by bigots they will more likely be bigots themselves. The chain continues. It takes a strong person to become something very different than what their parent(s) raised them to be – and often times it takes an outside adult intervention (a teacher, aunt, cousin, care provider) that shows them that things can be different and that people who are bigots are perpetuating useless and unnecessary hate, for no reason other than a false sense of superiority.

        I was once in a grocery store shopping with my now husband and a child of no more than 5 came up to me, I smiled and she just glared at me and said “You’re FAT! Eww!” and ran back to her mom who was only a couple feet away and obviously heard what was said as the child had said it very loudly. The mom just gave me this slightly hostel but mostly dismissive look, with not even a mild look of embarrassment. She didn’t even say a thing to the kid – other than to ask her what she wanted for breakfast. Hello next generation of bigot. Now I’m really hoping that she has a family member or teacher that puts her on a better path, because her mom is well on her way of teaching her to be a straight up, hate filled bigoted bully.

    4. Oh yeah. I have a friend who is 4’8″ which is below the height they recommend kids sit in the back AND use a booster seat (4’9″). I really hope she’s never in an accident because to be honest any car she drives should have the air bag disabled for her safety.

  4. Initially crash test dummies were tall thin men. It’s taken years to get variety. I’m glad they have added obese people.

    I’m not surprised at the hate. Our society has been trained to hate fate people and believe it is easy to lose weight, so anybody who doesn’t is fat on purpose.

    1. And only recently have they added female test dummies to the product line. They did that when it came to light that the injuries/deaths women get are due to the “safety features”, like air bags and seatbelts hitting in the wrong places on a woman’s body compared to a man’s.

      1. Imagine what would happen if someone posted, “I don’t want my tax dollars going to develop safer cars for women,” or what if it were discovered that the results from crash test dummies were more applicable to whites than to blacks or hispanics? “I don’t want them developing safer cars for THOSE people because they make me uncomfortable!”

        How long before we have a society as portrayed in the old Twilight Zone episode, “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You”?

          1. I truly miss the thought-provoking stories of a show like “Twilight Zone.” Seems today’s television shows are all about showing real people acting like jerks to each other, or depicting how quickly they get into each others’ pants.

  5. This is something I think about quite often but don’t like to talk to my thinner friends about because I don’t want them to be thinking about how their car isn’t made for me! I’m worried that a seatbelt won’t hold me in an accident, and that I will injure others. Seat belt length is also an issue. Most belts only just fasten for me, although newer cars often have longer belts. I also read that for the airbag not to injure you, you should be a certain distance from the steering wheel, and there’s no way I can get more than an inch between my belly and the steering wheel and still be able to reach the pedals!

    It’s just one more thing that makes me feel like a whale out of water (not a land whale, Ragen!), like chairs with arms, and when people move aside to let me pass but don’t leave enough space so I have to ask them to move some more. Only in this case it actually involves my safety and the safety of those around me. 😦

    And the reason the horrible, shaming comments are ao truly terrible is that they make us afraid to ask for the accommodations we need because we know this is the attitude we will have to face, whether people are arseholes enough to actually say it, or if they just *think* it and think less of us if we point out that we need to be accomodated too.

  6. This isn’t really related to this particular post, but I had an experience today I wanted to tell y’all about. I’m in London for a few days and I saw the absolutely fantastic Rembrandt exhibit at the National Gallery (if you’re in the UK and possibly can, then GO). And — it was almost like some kind of epiphany for me. I was wandering through these rooms of incredibly beautiful portraits, subject paintings, woodcuts, and sketches, and almost all the people in them were fat (at least by today’s standards).

    There were a couple of female nudes, including one small sketch of a sleeping woman, that were so beautiful they almost made me cry. And they’re fat. Their bellies spill over onto their thighs, their arms are full and round and ample, they have double chins — of course I’d always known this about Rembrandt’s art but from reading this blog I really SAW it in a different way (thank you, Ragen!).

    But here’s what really struck me. For the nudes, I assume Rembrandt picked models who fit his own ideas of beauty; but the portraits are presumably fairly representative of upper-middle-class and wealthy people of his day (the ones who could afford to have their portraits painted). And they were all, male and female both, of a size that would now get them harried and castigated and abused. Everyone had a double chin. Everyone was, well, AMPLE is the word that occurs to me again.

    And I thought — the claim that obesity is a “modern problem” is clearly just flat-out bullshit. The idea that in the past everyone was thin is just a LIE. There I was, looking at a cross-section of people from Rembrandt’s day, well-to-do ones who could afford portraits and models whom he paid who were probably *not* well-to-do, and their bodies were all plump, rounded, substantial. I’m sure there were thin people then, too — he just didn’t paint them. But the normal state of an adequately nourished body in Rembrandt’s Holland seems to have been what would now send the obesity police into a frenzy of horror. It was a real moment of realization for me of just how horribly skewed our own view of “normal” body size has become.

    1. In the past and in certain societies, being ‘ample’ was a sign of wealth and well-being. You had enough to eat, warm clothes, good health and didn’t work yourself to death.

      Now being thin means you have enough for a personal trainer, possibly a chef, appearance surgeries and time to do all that stuff. Assuming you don’t have the genes to be naturally thin, anyway.

      I kind of prefer the first one.

      1. I sure prefer the first one too. And it makes sense to me that standards of beauty have always reflected what’s difficult to achieve and therefore rare — most people in Rembrandt’s day very likely didn’t have enough food and so were thin,so the ideal of beauty included lots of well-nourished flesh.

        But what really struck was that even in the portraits where the sitter was by no means presented as beautiful–the elderly with deep wrinkles and fallen-in lips, for instance–most were still quite plump. This just seems to reiterate my growing understanding that if a body is given sufficient food and exercise and has good health, in many cases that body will naturally settle at an “obese” weight. For such people, that IS a “healthy weight.” But somehow society has completely forgotten that.

    2. As I’ve pointed out numerous times in the past, being thin as an “ideal” is a relatively modern concept, enabled by our abilities to store ample food and transport it almost anywhere rapidly (which has only been the last hundred years or so). Before then, surviving the lean seasons meant having a sufficient store of body fat to sustain life. This was particularly important to women who might either be pregnant or nursing over the lean months. In those cases, it wasn’t just one body needing the fat stores, it was two.

      Fat people were far more likely to survive long enough to pass along their genes to another generation.

      I’ll say it again – if it weren’t for fat, there wouldn’t be a human race to complain about fat. Fat doesn’t kill. Fat saves.

      1. I think biology also plays a part. We naturally look for the plump, but have to taught to prefer the thin. Just look at all the traditional, unaffected societies in Africa, Australia, and South America: all prefer fatter women. And Mauretania still practices the “fat brides”, which have fattening tents owned by every family with girls, where the grandmas/aunts/mothers take their daughters/granddaughters to get fattened up before their wedding.

        I saw a docu about this a few years ago, and the women they profiled was stick thin before this, and wanted to escape the country to continue her education (no schooling beyond grade 10). She was fattened up to 330 lbs prior to the wedding over about 8 months (weight gain of 210 lbs it seemed) and she still had 3 more months after the wedding before they could consummate their vows, where she would gain up to 450 lbs total (or even higher, the more the better). After her weight gain experience, she didn’t want to leave, and was actually happier. Her husband wasn’t bad either, very caring. I suspect not all are caring, but that is the case in any society, but the window into their society was very illuminating.

        Not to mention that the fattening tents/huts had been there/part of the culture for thousands of years (not the physical structures, but the idea behind it).

        1. From what I’ve read, the fattening process can be very cruel. I think the Mauritanean standard of extreme fatness is as artificial as the mainstream standard of extreme thinness.

          1. Yes, I remember reading about how it was practiced among Islamic and some Jewish circles in North Africa, how they’d pinch the toes as a distraction from the feeling of fullness and “about to vomit” stage. The pain was stronger than any other feeling, and was used as a way to make them eat more.

            The fattening tents in Mauretania, the grandma (on the show) had a whipping stick and threatened to beat the granddaughter if she didn’t drink all the milk.

    3. I just viewed Rembrandt’s Bathsheba, and she is obese, with the double chin as you described. That is the only painting I know about (as it was the subject of a Murdoch Mysteries 5 yrs ago). I’ve noticed other painters who painted only/mostly obese ppl: Michelangelo (even the sculpture), Medieval and Renaissance painters, Rubens. Someone posted these earlier this year: http://www.takepart.com/feature/2014/05/15/famous-paintings-photoshopped-to-look-like-fashion-models

      The other people in the paintings are photoshopped too, the angels, cherubs, etc. Even the 1917 painting shows a fat woman.

  7. I decided not to get poo on me by reading the comments, but I did go read the article (via CNN).

    Hate to piss all over your taxes-for-me-but-not-for-thee “righteous indignation,” but Humanetics is private sector. They make and sell the dummies, and the articles about it appear to be an advertising boost of sorts – taxes have nothing to do with it (well, no more than they have to do with any other corporate entity). It also discusses their new line of more fragile dummies, designed to test how well the vehicular safety features work for people with weaker bones, but of course it’s only the larger dummies the trolls zoned in on. As usual, they seem to have read the article and either didn’t actually understand it, or reacted as if it said what they wanted instead of what it actually said, or maybe didn’t actually read it at all, because the words might get in the way of their “righteous indignation.”

    I mean, how dare a company make a fat mannequin (or a fragile mannequin, or a female mannequin, or a short mannequin, or a baby mannequin) that does not exist to serve THEM! Everyone knows all the clothes, food, supplies, and resources are supposed to be for THEM! ONLY THEM! THEM ALONE! …because fat people are so greedy.

    1. “Hate to piss all over your taxes-for-me-but-not-for-thee “righteous indignation,” trolls, but Humanetics is private sector.” – that should say.

  8. OMG! Your current article, about seatbelt testing hit home! My cousin was in a HORRIC car wreck, Oct. 22. It was single car (we don’t know what happened) just that the truck rolled SEVERAL times! We do know he has always been serious about his seatbelt & he was ejected out of the car (meaning the seatbelt let go at some point)!! He’s in bad shape, lost his left eye & currently/maybe always paralyzed from the waist down! Just sad we are not worthy to have seatbelt a tested! This is a seriously hard working family man! They just adopted a 2 year old! You want to talk about medical bills?!?!?! (I’m sorry if this was a bit of a rant & needs to be removed)

    1. I am so very sorry about your cousin’s injuries. I hope that he recovers as well as he possibly can. It’s hard even to know what to say except to send you all my best wishes.

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