Reader Stephanie brought this up on Facebook and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The idea that fat people are just potential future thin people is the basis of so much poor treatment and discrimination against us. Everyone from friends and family, to businesses, to healthcare facilities have made the decision that they don’t have to accommodate fat people since we could, in their estimation, someday be thin people.
This is a problem on more than one level. First, the idea that we can all be thin is a total myth based on all the research that exists. While most people can lose weight short term, almost everyone gains back their weight with the majority gaining back more than they lost within a few years. There isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have managed to maintain a significant amount of weight loss long term. Which is to say that, other than the possibility of short periods of being thinner, most fat people will always be fat. Fat people exist, have always existed, will always exist and so the world should accept this and accommodate us, rather than simply hoping that we will someday cease to exist.
But when we’re talking about accommodating fat people, whether or not we could be thin someday is irrelevant, because we are fat now. Treating us as potential future thin people is nothing but an excuse for discrimination and poor treatment.
The people who manufacture planes know that fat people exist, and yet they continue to build planes as if only thin people will fly. The airlines know that fat people exist, and yet (with the exception of Southwest, which has an EXCELLENT customer of size policy) they continue to try to charge fat people twice as much for the exact same service.
People come in lots of sizes and ignoring that basic fact shouldn’t be a profit center, and isn’t a justification for discrimination. It literally doesn’t matter if we could be thin someday, there are fat people who need to fly today – for work, for weddings, for funerals, for all the same reasons that thin people fly, and we deserve to be accommodated in our actual bodies. Airlines should not be the arbiters of what size humans who travel are allowed to be in order to get the same service (in this case travel from point A to point B in a seat that accommodates us) for the same price.
Healthcare facilities know that fat people exist, and yet they continue to have lobbies with no armless chairs, equipment from blood pressure cuffs to beds to imaging technology that doesn’t accommodate us, and doctors who can’t accomplish the most basic functions of their jobs because they are so stunted by their fatphobia. These healthcare providers and facilities are clearly letting us know that if we can’t be thin then they are perfectly happy giving us subpar healthcare, and that’s not just disgusting, it’s unethical. Rather than shrugging and telling us that we can have a blood pressure cuff, or chair, or bed that works for us if, and only if, we can look different than we do now, healthcare providers should be screaming bloody murder that they need the tools that are necessary to take care of patients of all sizes.
Even if we could become thin, it still doesn’t justify the way that fat people are treated. Fat people have the right to exist and be accommodated in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, harassment or oppression. It doesn’t matter why we are fat, what “the consequences” of being fat may or may not be, or if we could or want to become thin. I am not a thin woman covered in fat, I am not a potential future thin person. I am a fat person who deserves to live in a world that acknowledges my existence and accommodates my body.
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