So You’ve Been Inconvenienced by a Fat Person

You Forgot Your BullshitA couple of days ago I wrote a blog to remind people that equal access is not special access. What followed was a predictable flood of comments (that I will never publish) with stories (many of which strained credulity) from people who claimed to have been inconvenienced in some way by fat people who dared to exist. They were shocked – SHOCKED I tell you – to find that fat people thought that they deserved to exist in the world and get the same experiences as thin people. So I thought I’d create a nifty little guide to help these people process their experiences.

A fat person acted like an asshole

If you’ve been inconvenienced by a fat person who acted in a way that you would consider shitty regardless of the size of the person, then this has nothing to do with the person being fat and if you think it does, then you are combining their bad behavior with your size bias.  Assholes come in all sizes, if you focus on the size of the person and not on their bad behavior, then it’s you who is being an asshole.

I didn’t like the way a fat person looked (because they were fat, because of how they were dressed etc.) 

Here’s a little newsflash – nobody owes you aesthetically pleasing by any definition. If you don’t like the way a person looks (any person, of any size by the way) there are always at least three other cardinal directions in which you can focus your gaze.  The problem here isn’t the fat person, it’s your issues with fat people, and your choice to put them down instead of challenging your own biases or, at the absolute least, taking some advice from the band Chicago and look away, baby, look away.

A fat person encroached on my space

This was by far the most common and it often centered around seats on transportation, or public places and the idea that somehow fat people existing isn’t fair to thin people. (or, more specifically, isn’t fair to sizeist thin people.)  If your space was “encroached upon” by a fat person then your problem isn’t with the fat person, it’s with a space that doesn’t accommodate people of all sizes. If you are sitting in a seat that fits you, then your question shouldn’t be “why is this fat person crowding the seat that fits me,” but rather  “why isn’t this company providing everyone the same experience that I get?” (the experience, in this case, of a seat that accommodates you.) Otherwise what you are saying is “I deserve a seat/bed/space that accommodates me, but people who look differently than I do don’t deserve the same things that I get” and that’s super messed up.

If you are a fat person dealing with one of these scenarios, just remember that you are not the problem – the problem is a world that doesn’t accommodate you and the people who want to  blame you for that, or use that as an excuse to engage in sizeism. Unfortunately this may become your problem, but it shouldn’t be happening and it isn’t your fault.

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5 thoughts on “So You’ve Been Inconvenienced by a Fat Person

  1. To the thin people of the world who are uncomfortable sitting next to a fat person who “overflows” into “your space”: The fat person is JUST as uncomfortable as you, and perhaps even more so. Often, those chairs have arms, or maybe bars at the back that dig into the legs and hips, and it can be physically painful to sit in a chair that is not designed to accommodate you.

    So, next time you feel a little bit squashed, just remember that the fat person is feeling even more squashed than you are. And please don’t add shame to that pain, OK?

    If the company cramming people into the space would just be willing to cram a few fewer people in, and, you know, NOT CRAM THEM, but actually give everyone sufficient space, you wouldn’t be complaining about being squashed. It’s not the fault of the other people in the seats. It’s the fault of the people who 1) purchased too many seats for the space, and/or 2) designed the seats too small, in the first place. They’re actually designing the seats to be smaller than the average person! WHY?! Probably so that almost everyone can feel equally squashed, rather than only a small minority of people.

  2. There’s a great piece making the rounds, I’m sure you’ve seen it Ragen, about what it’s like to be the fat person on a plane and I think everyone needs to read it. I mean, EVERYONE. Us fatties know what it’s like, we know the kind of anxiety and shame floats to the surface, but I think a lot of straight-sized people never even stop to consider how the fat person feels. It’s all about YOUR convenience, right? Who cares about fair and just, as long as you get yours!

  3. I especially like the “enroaching on my space” bit. The man I loved — and always will love — has a friend who may be at least a tad fatphobic.

    Possible trigger warning below:

    I used to nearly constantly check out his and his friends’ Facebook profiles because I was — and still am, to some extent — obsessed with him. I want(ed) to know everything about him and that includes the people in his world.

    Anyway, this woman, a good friend of his, posted an article detailing an airline considering weighing bags AND passengers, and she replied by simply saying, “Good!”

    I have seen many of her posts, since they’re public, and that was the first one I saw that was endorsing fat shaming. Who knows if I’m not seeing other horrendous stuff?

    I cannot help but wonder if he won’t be my man because he’s afraid of what others would think of him being with a fat lady (I’m almost 300 pounds and he’s maybe 150 pounds).

    Though you’d think a 52-year-old would be mature enough to not care what others think about his choice of partners.

    Another former friend made even ruder comments.

  4. You know who actually DOES encroach on my space? The men who sit on the bus with their legs as far apart as possible, regardless of the women who are tucking into themselves, making themselves as small as possible to accommodate the men who have no concept of sharing space.

  5. As always, Ragen, you beautifully combine penetrating social commentary, contemplations of institutionalized inequalities, and rockin’ 80s ballads. Brava.

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