This post was sparked by a discussion in the comments of my previous post about fat identities and thin privilege at different sizes.
Since last Friday’s post led to a couple of very interesting discussions in the comments, I’ve decided that I want to make a point to focus more on fat issues beyond fashion (although they may sometimes include fashion; right now I’m working on another post about why fatshion is important in the FA movement), and so I’m going to be devoting Fridays to these discussions. I’m calling it “Fabulously Fat Fridays,” and I’m going to be tackling whatever fat issues I deem important (or that anyone else wants to hear my take on; feel free to leave suggestions in the comments). I hope that you’ll enjoy reading my posts, and that they’ll spark some discussion. Without further ado, here is the first official post in the series!
Fat people physically take up more space than thin people. That’s pretty much scientific fact. However, in our society, fat people, especially women, are so often made to feel ashamed about that fact. We are made to feel like we don’t have a right to take up space, be it physical or metaphorical space (by which I mean representation in the media, mostly). Here, I’m going to talk about the physical space we take up.
We live in a world designed for thin people. Thin bodies are kept in mind when designing seats in theaters or on airplanes, chairs in classrooms, booths in restaurants, aisles in buses, and so on. The list is endless. Look around you, and it’s clear that the world isn’t designed for bodies over a certain size. Those of us over that size are constantly shamed, inconvenienced, and sometimes denied access to or charged extra for the privilege of inhabiting spaces designed for thin people. Fat activism, in my mind, means not standing for that anymore. It means fighting for our right to be treated with basic human dignity, which doesn’t just mean being tolerated in a world designed for thin people. It means having what thin people have access to all the time: spaces and accommodations designed with us in mind. As illustrated above, we aren’t just fighting for equality; we are fighting for justice. Not everyone needs the same accommodations but the outcome should be the same for everyone.
(This argument also applies to a lot of disabled people, so while I’m speaking specifically about fat people here, I recognize that the challenges described are often faced by anyone with a body outside of the norms accepted by our society.)
The quintessential example, the question brought up time and time again, is airplane seats, so I’ll use this to illustrate my point. This is where a lot of FA writers would talk about tall people or strong perfumes or some other sort of person you could have to sit next to that would be an inconvenience, or maybe about how fat isn’t always a fat person’s fault. I’m not trying to criticize anyone in particular, but that’s a line of thinking that I’m uncomfortable with. Not that any of it’s untrue, but that’s making excuses, and beside the point. The point is this: we are fighting for the right of everyone, no matter what their size, to take up space and exist in a world designed to fit their bodies. With that in mind, everyone on an airplane, fat or thin, is paying the airline for transportation from point A to point B, and that should be provided, at the same cost, regardless of one’s size, because anything else is discrimination. End of story. No excuses necessary.
So, let’s say you get this far, and you agree with me in principle, but you’re not sure what the practical solution is. We can’t possibly have fat-accommodating seats in every restaurant, airplane, and theater at the same cost, can we? Yes. Yes, we can, and yes, we have to. I mean, ideally every space would be designed to fit larger bodies than they are now because there are so many people who don’t fit in these spaces as they are, but even if we don’t do that, having a few larger seats is totally doable. For example, public buses in my city all have 3-4 wider seats in the front of the bus. They aren’t just used by fat people, because there aren’t 3-4 people large enough to need a wider seat on the bus at all times, but when there are people who need that accommodation, it’s there, and no one has to be shamed or humiliated or inconvenienced for taking advantage of it. And if you’re thinking that if we add a “fat section” to every public place, people would be shamed for sitting there, well, that’s possible. But that’s no reason not to accommodate fat bodies, and every reason to stand up and say “fuck you” to a culture of fat shaming that says we don’t have a right to take up space.