Allowable Prejudice

I fell into a discussion about the size of airline seats and found a huge well of resentment inside myself. You see, I am fat. I thought I was ok with it, or resigned to it or what ever one gets when they decide that the prejudices of others don’t bother them anymore. Evidently that is not quite true. I am angry. Deeply, truly angry. I am sick unto death of paying extra to assuage the prejudices of people who judge me without knowing a thing about me. There is no social stigma attached to this form of bigotry. It is acceptable. After all, it is the fat person’s own fault. If they would just “use a little discipline and not eat so much”, “quit being so lazy and exercise more”, “educate themselves about nutrition and make better choices”, they could easily conform and become like everyone else. I used to believe that. I now know that in many respects, the game is rigged. Take those airline seats for instance, they are built for a size 6 person. Since the “average” person is a size 12 you are already filling the seat pretty full. Insert one size 20 person into this mix and we now have to give up the “cushion” space that makes us comfortable. Everyone is now disgruntled. Are they annoyed at the airline, who installed seats that they knew were too small to provide adequate seat space? No. They are mad at the fat person. It is so clearly their fault. Even the fat person is angry with themselves. People say that fat people should be “allowed” to purchase extra seating, or maybe sit in a section of “larger seating” sold to them at higher prices. Segregation is such a historically viable option.

You see that size 20 woman sitting over there? She knows more about nutrition and exercise than all six of the thin people at the next table, put together. And discipline? She hasn’t eaten ice cream in 10 years. Does she exercise enough? Depends on her health problems and time, I suppose. Does she eat sensibly? Her diet is probably better than yours, but don’t let me steal away your chance to feel superior to someone else because of an accident of genetics. After all, if it were as simple as making a choice, I assure you that we would all do it. It’s difficult, you say, your voice reeking of compassion. Yes. Well. I promise you it is not as difficult as life as a fat person. What would cause a person to “choose” to be fat? The cute clothes? The social approval? The attention garnered from the opposite sex? Maybe the health benefits? (although they have found that a certain amount of weight as we age actually helps us, but that’s a different article). The only things that have as many euphemisms as “fat” are death and bodily functions. We don’t like to mention those things either. Why? “Thin” is not a pejorative word, it’s a descriptive one. Yet we all know that, “You’re so thin!” is complimentary, while, “You’re so fat!” will probably get you punched in the face. We seem to be happier saying that people are “heavy” or “large” or, my personal favorite, “plus size”. Plus what, I ask you? Somehow by not calling them by the ugly word, “fat” we are being unbiased. Yes. That worked so well with “people of color”.

Now I realize that we cannot force others to find fat people wildly erotic. That’s ok. I don’t find men with hairy knuckles attractive. I handle that by not sleeping with them. I have never felt a need to approach one and say, “too bad about the knuckles baby, I could’ve really gone for you if you’d just shaved.” Or started a campaign to shame them all into shaving or buying gloves. I don’t want to do that anyway. How about just trying to accept variations in people’s size at least as well as we accept variations in people’s skin tone. How about realizing that it may also be a genetic trait over which they have only about as much control as those who decide whether or not to tan. How about examining your own attitudes and assumptions and realizing your own bigotry where it exists. Inside yourself. How about we get mad at the airlines next time?

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