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In all transparency, I received the following comment a couple of months ago to my 6 Tips For Flying While Fat post. I wanted to save it for a moment when I had time to dedicate a thoughtful response to it. But, I forgot about it. Oops. Luckily, I remembered and so here we are. Why respond at all, you might ask? Because fat accessibility is important and I’m tired, y’all. I’m tired of people poking holes in my arguments as to why fat accessibility matters. Fat oppression is real, and evolution is necessary.
A response to a reader
Let us start right at the beginning. You refer to my advocacy of my needs as “demanding for special treatment.” However, I don’t demand for special treatment. I would say, I demand better treatment. I demand that the world change for me. For us. I demand respect and acknowledgement of my existence. There should be a plan for me. I demand to be thought of when creating spaces. I don’t want to be an afterthought anymore. The world can evolve and improve. We can make space for everyone.
Next, the myth “Calories In Calories Out” is an outdated and oversimplified fantasy of a much more complicated and layered issue. There can be unlimited factors that contribute to weight gain. Some of those factors are within our control. Some are not. There is no way you will ever know which factors caused any one else to gain weight. And further, weight (as well as health) is 100% irrelevant when it comes to whether or not a person deserves equality in access to resources. Which is what I am “demanding” for. There is a disparity between thin people and fat people having access to resources. It is unequal. I am quite literally, asking for equality of access.
As far as your mention of PCOS. Yes, I have PCOS. I’m aware of the issues it brings. One issue it causes me in particular is that is makes it super difficult for my body to extract the energy its supposed to from food. Its literally not doing its job. Food goes through me without my body getting the nutrients I need. Hence wanting to eat more and never feeling quite full or energized. I did not bring that upon myself, it’s part of my chemistry.
I’m not sure where you read that I said I was disabled. I’m not disabled. I advocate for fat accessibility and often include disabled folks when I speak of oppression, especially oppression I do not face personally. This means, I list disabled people alongside other marginalized groups such as black and brown folks. I try to acknowledge my privilege of not being disabled and being white, often. Additionally, I try to credit my work in fat accessibility to the disability rights movement, as I know I wouldn’t be able to talk about any of this if it weren’t for the many who have done the work before me to draw attention to issues of accessibility. The goal is to make the world more accessible to all. To all folks who need it. That includes fat people, fat disabled people, etc.
In reference to your point of oppression only being valid if its impossible to change one’s marginalized identity…I’m assuming you’re comparing fat oppression to racism, as one’s race can’t be changed? How might that logic apply to people who live in poverty and experience systemic oppression such as classism? In theory, one’s income can change, correct? Your point doesn’t quite hold up. Fat oppression is a very real, very prominent issue. Google “body shaming” and see how many articles pop up from reputable sources. People are talking about it. (Whether or not those search results contain conversations diving deep enough into the issue to fully grasp the complexity of it all…well, we’ll get there).
Additionally, fat people face a great deal of oppression because fatphobia is inherently woven into our culture. It’s pervasive and is often paired with oppression tied to other intersecting identities. Fat people are less likely to be offered jobs after interviews and experience life threatening anti-fat medical bias which is oppressive as heck. That means fat people are literally not receiving proper healthcare. Lack of access to healthcare is oppressive.
I choose my happiness, mental wellness, and eating disorder recovery over intentional weight loss through toxic diet culture.
You perpetuate this idea that because it is possible for my body to change and for me to lose weight, that I should. Sure, I might be able to lose weight. I could also have weight loss surgery. I choose not to. It’s not a priority for me. The expenses are too high. I choose my happiness, mental wellness, and eating disorder recovery over intentional weight loss through toxic diet culture.
I disagree with the statement that I am “taking away from real struggles of actual oppressed people.” Please remember, I talk about fat accessibility and fat activism topics (on my website) which impact about 35% of people in America. We are actual oppressed people. There’s also plenty of room at the table when it comes to people chatting about topics that matter to them. The internet is a big ole place.
I understand that the language around the quote “its oppressive for fat people to have to buy two airline seats” may sound striking at first. But, it really is oppressive for an airline to require a person to purchase an extra seat on a flight because the seats are small. It’s unjust. Think about it, the seats are small because of the airline. They are small because of capitalism. They are small because they’re trying to cram as many people as possible onto a flight and make as much money as they can. Forcing fat passengers to pay twice as much as thin passengers is oppressive. It puts the blame on fat people for what is a capitalist issue. The company (aka the people in power) create an issue by knowingly making seats that will not fit many passengers and then say “just make them pay for two seats!” Thats absurd.
There are so many people who think we as fat people should “just lose weight and [we] will fit on the plane.” But, there are totally “average” sized men who find airline seating uncomfortable. They touch shoulder to shoulder to one another. Additionally, their knees push against the seats in front of them. So, no, losing weight is not guaranteed to solve that issue.
Also, what do you expect fat people to do in the meantime? When you say things like “just lose weight and X will work better for you” you’re literally saying we should be non-existent until we have lost the amount of weight needed for all of our problems to be magically solved. No, thanks. I’m not interested in hiding away anymore. And losing weight will not solve everything.
Further, your comment about dogs on flights is dehumanizing. I’m not understanding the logic behind comparing fat humans to passengers with their dogs.
You’ve asked, “Why should people accommodate for you?” I truly believe that evolving is an important part of being an active person in society. We build ramps for folks in wheelchairs. Braille exists so that blind people can read. We made crosswalks for people who walk to get across the street safely. We have sign language. Translation services and interpreters. Alternate homework assignments for youth who have different learning styles. Accommodation is literally how we make up for the fact that we’re learning more and more every day about just how diverse humans really are. We create means of transport and then realize they don’t work for everyone…and we adjust.
Moreover, I don’t really like the word “accommodations.” It’s harmful. It has a connotation of the person receiving help as not inherently being deserving of said resource. It creates a dynamic where the person needing help has to feel guilty for someone going out of their way to give them the baseline service that other people have been able to receive all along. I’m not asking for a different hotel room because I’m bougie and like the view better from another location. That sounds more like an accommodation. I’m asking for a room with a bed big enough for me and my partner.
Making your space accessible to all is the bare minimum of being able to provide a service. You should care about fat accessibility if you want a service/resource to capture it’s intended population.
Finally, what is the point of me talking about all of this fat accessibility stuff? Why does fat accessibility matter? The point is to help change the fucking world. In positive ways. I’m not trying to shrink myself anymore. I’m not keeping quiet. And I’m not the only fat person in this country who feels this way either. I’m trying to help people connect, share, feel validated, advocate for themselves, and live life more comfortably.
Fat people have always existed. We just want access to the resources you have always been able to have. We deserve that respect. And, we want to live life visibly without ridicule or discrimination. I’m working hard to educate others, open eyes, and hopefully create change that makes people’s lives easier. I bring good energy into the world. I encourage you to try and do the same.