Saturday, June 30, 2007


For an inspiring story of juxtaposition, head on over to Lord Bargain's and read about his night, Friday night.

The juxtaposition I want to consider here is not terribly uplifting. My thoughts originated yesterday, as I was over at Shapely Prose reading about a couple in Australia trying to adopt a child. At issue is the woman's weight. Because of a medical condition she is both unable to conceive a child and obese. She has been ordered to lose a certain amount of weight in order to be considered for the adoption, and even though weight loss and maintenance has been shown to be largely unsuccessful for the majority of the population, she is working on it and has lost 10% of her bodyweight.

Kate's piece refers you directly to a blog report at Salon about the issue, and what struck me about this was in a comment in response. Now there are trolls in the world who will respond to any type of writing about fat people with all sorts of insults. Most typically, those of us who identify as fat are told that we are ugly, that we should be ashamed of ourselves and lose weight. We are told, ad nauseum, that we are unhealthy and are in denial of the facts (as if we could avoid hearing about those facts even living under a rock these days) and that trying to accept ourselves is a hazard to ourselves and a burden to others.

This commenter made the ironic comment to the effect that it was a good thing that "wideloads" had the opportunity to experience the discrimination that so many others felt in the adoption process. I had just finished writing the previous piece on debt and it got me thinking about how much shame and pain it is that people experience when they accumulate large amounts of debt. It can be an utterly devastating proposition...and it too is something that can block your chances to adopt.

But then I considered which of these two aspects of my life effected me more, in terms of other people's reactions to me, and hands down being fat (or a wideload...I kind of like that term cause of how I carry my weight) has had a greater impact across the spectrum of my life.

Extreme debt is a crisis in your life. I have watched what it does to an individual and a family. But the reality is that when you walk down the street no one knows that you have debt. You can make a change which will at least stop the harrassment that you receive (and let me be clear that I believe there is a special level of hell for those who choose to be debt collectors...really, there are other jobs available). In this day and age, it's not a great option, but it is an option.

But the harrassment for a fat person never stops. It's overt and it's subtle. It takes the form of well-meaning professionals who make comments about weight and losing weight when all you want is a relief from an infection. It's in the knowledge, when I walk down the street with S, that there are people walking by who wonder why he's with me. It's in not being able to go into a store like Old Navy and find either the variety or even the option to buy clothes that are in my size. It's in the experience of watching a news story about being overweight and seeing people not being fully experienced as people, but only as a large ass or stomach (and worrying that someday I'm going to recognize the outfit that fat person is wearing as mine).

My cousin is being married in Hawaii next year and my parents are planning to fly out of Los Angeles. My dad has already started wondering aloud whether he can take a boat because he knows that they are going to ask him to buy 2 seats on the plane, and rather than being thankful that he can now afford to do so, he's ashamed that people treat him differently.

It's just so striking to me that someone would assume that a wideloaded person would have never have experienced discrimination or would not know what it was like to be denied something because of their weight when the most basic thing, respect and dignity for that individual, is what is most often withheld.


Cody Bones said...

Great post Spins, I always enjoy your outlook, especially as I am just about to go out for dinner. 1st question: What should the financial institutions do for the person who has contracted with them to repay a loan? It reminds me of the argument about the drunks in a bar, when does the responsibility become the bar owners, and when is it the customers. Good questions. 2nd question: The airline incident is a very tough one. On one hand every customer should be treated equally and fairly, on the other hand, there is limited space on an airplane, and I've always lived by the old axiom "Your rights end where mine begin" In the case of a "wideload" (I hate that term) two forces will collide, i.e the two passengers side by side. The airline is in business to maximize a profit, and that is done by selling as many seats as possible. I wish I knew an answer to this one. I wish you and your family all the best and you sound sad lately, I hope all is well.

spinsterwitch said...

On the first question - Well, my answer to that is a changed one since I watched that documentary (Maxed Out). Did you know, for instance, that the companies that own the small payday loan operations are the larger credit companies like Bank of America & Chase? The companies also will extend credit to people who have high debt, and continue to increase limits even after they get into trouble with paying off the debt. They like people who run up large amounts of debt because they make more money on them than they do on those who are the responsible borrowers. So what's their responsibility, well, more transparency about terms and conditions, about interest rates and how they work. Being more responsible lenders in that if someone has a huge credit load, stop extending them credit because eventually they aren't going to be able to pay.

Second question - I don't think it's unreasonable to ask someone to buy a second ticket when they are as big as my dad. I sat next to someone once who was very large. She and I crammed together into airplane seats was very uncomfortable. But I was kind to her and commiserated about how sucky the seats were and how rude some people can be when faced with being asked to sit next to a larger person. They did not ask her to buy another seat, most likely because they had oversold the plane. In some cases, people have reported asking to buy an additional seat and being told that they couldn't for this very reason. My father's reaction comes from the very idea that he has to ask for this special accommodation and that he might be treated differently because of it.

These are all interesting questions. Obviously a lot to think about.

Thanks for your concern. I think that I've had a really stressful month and that may be what's coming across. I think I'll write about that in my post this a.m.

Aravis said...

This left me feeling so sad, for you, for your father, for my friends in the same position, and for all who are treated this way, whatever the cause.