I know, I know: this is SO last week. However, I couldn’t resist adding my own interpretation of HOW people have been responding to the Kevin Smith incident. In case you’ve been spending all your spare time in Farmville, here’s a brief recap: Kevin Smith, famed director of such gems as Chasing Amy and Dogma, was recently tossed off a Southwest flight for being too fat. Happily for us fatties, a media storm ensued and many fat activists got to share our perspectives in the public sphere. Of course, many other people chimed in as well. Below is my response to one person’s compassionate, but thin-centric, article on the subject.
I’ve been thinking about this article and how to best respond to it. Most of me thinks I should just give the author the thumbs up and move on, since ultimately, he came from a place of compassion and should be commended for that. I always honor people who want to learn more about their own privileges and about the groups who suffer as a result of that privilege. However, if he or others are interested in hearing what a fat advocate (read: me) says about this issue, I am happy to oblige.
The author, like most liberal/progressive peeps who have publicly discussed this issue and achieved some kind of recognition (the fatties tend to get swept under the carpet, not shockingly), comes from a self-aware position of compassion and generosity. Yes, the thinking goes, we thin progressives are inconvenienced, BUT fatties are ever-present in our ever-expanding U.S.; therefore, we need to start thinking about how this social problem will affect us. More specifically, the question about making fatties pay more in retaliation for infringeing on the rights of the thin folks (and it all boils down to that, no matter how kindly it’s stated) becomes the chief point of contention.
In short, this is what most people seem to be debating: How much are thin people willing to put up with before they agree to make fatties pay?
In my world, the question of whether to charge fatties more misses the point(s) entirely. It’s letting the privileged peeps control the tone and content of the discussion, and it always leaves the ones most affected, the fat folks, on the defensive. (This is inevitable, of course, when privileged folks focus, as they too often do, on how others’ rights infringe on their own.)
I have a couple of really basic points:
1. Discussions of this issue tend to center around the rights of thin peeps not to be touched/infringed on by fatties. Wouldn’t it be a lovely thing if the core of our discussions could instead address how everyone could achieve maximum comfort? How is it okay for people to talk about flyers’ rights of comfort and EXCLUDE the comforts and rights of the very group we’re addressing as “the problem”? When did our rights to comfort get dropped from the conversation?
2. Fat people make convenient scapegoats. It’s easier to lash out at a fatty for supposedly eating wrong, not exercising, being unhealthy, driving up healthcare costs, taking up too much public space, and so on, than to demand that institutions accommodate everyone’s rights. The fact is, airline seats have been getting progressively smaller while our Americans butts stay the same or slightly expand. How is it we’re not rioting against these greedy, capitalist a-holes? I guess because these greedy a-holes have done such a grand job of pinning this entire topic — the whole issue of airplane comfort — onto the hips, thighs, and butts of fatties!
Here’s a very brief and faboo discussion of this issue by fat rights super-shero Marilyn Wann: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFgzaUibJYs&feature=related
And in case anyone is listening, or cares, fat people don’t like to be pressed up against thin people, either. I don’t care if their hygiene is great or not, they’re chatty or not, or they have a child or not; I deserve the right to space and comfort, especially when I’m paying so much money (and earning less money than my thinner counterparts, but that’s another topic). It’s a shame no one ever thinks to ask fat people about our comfort and experiences.
I don’t want to spank those progressives, especially those not affiliated with the fat rights movement, who have come to the defense of fatties. For the most part, those folks have done us a great service. However, I also think it’s important to keep fat folks — our voices, our experiences, and our rights — in the center, or at least in the midst, of this discussion. After all, my butt craves comfort, too, and I refuse to say that in an embarrassed or apologetic tone.