I wish I could quantify what it feels like to be a fat person to someone who isn’t. I wish it was possible for them to live in my adiposity, for them to experience the world the way that I do. To feel the pressure, the negativity, and the hate directed at my existence every day I dare to wake up, and live my best life in my big fat body.
Whenever an oppressed minority speaks up about micro-aggressions, or privilege, the privileged gall at the thought that they might be oppressors. They are quick to say “not everyone…” but not as quick to actually speak up when someone does. I read this article today: “A call to action: Your fat friend is going it alone” and the author “Your Fat Friend,” had a call to action. Those of you with thin and average bodies, who are granted that privilege, stand up for your fat friends. When you see something like what happened to Errol, don’t avert your eyes and be glad it’s not you. Say something. You have no idea what that would mean to most fat people.
I got Jury Duty summons for the second year in a row. They never called me in last time, so I got to be on call again. All week I called in, all week I was safe. Until Wednesday night (my last night on call) when I called and was told I’d been selected to come in. I wasn’t dreading it too much, but there was a little gnawing worry that began when I got the recording saying I had to show up the next morning. A little chewing thought that most people would never have going into a normal, daily situation like Jury Duty, the DMV or a Doctor’s office.
I thought about the possibilities. What if the room is tiny? Will I be the biggest person there? What if the chairs are small, and have arm rests (like most waiting room chairs do)? Will I be stuck in a room for hours, overflowing my plastic chair, miserable, embarrassed and in pain? I wasn’t dreading Jury Duty. I was dreading the waiting room.
When I got there, the room was a tiny 12’ x 12’ grey box. 20 small plastic chairs shoved inside, already almost full with grumpy people. And there I was. A very tall, very large woman, walking through them. I found a chair in a corner so I could spread out a little. The arm rests bit into my hips. It’s already begun, I thought. They weren’t so bad, I had sat in worse, for much longer. I filled out my paperwork and tried to avoid the stares at me. I was a big woman in a little chair. Apparently a sight to behold.
After the wait, we went into the courtroom. Sitting on the bench was a relief. But walking into that room, I was aware that I took up more space. I wondered if I should have worn a dress to hide my tummy better. If I should have worn something a little lighter, as that grey prison room was sweltering, and now I was sweating. More waiting, and then I was selected to go sit in the tiny Jury box. I looked at the chair I was told to sit in and my heart sank. It was the smallest office chair I’d ever seen. I sat, and was in so much pain. We broke for lunch, and I quietly asked the bailiff if he could get me a different chair. He looked me up and down, and said he would do his best. I left for lunch hopeful. I felt strong for asking for what I needed. Instead of sitting in pain. How silly to feel brave for asking for a basic thing like that. But I’ve been taught to be silent about my suffering. That I have brought it upon myself. That I SHOULD be in pain. Because I deserve it.
After lunch, an armless office chair awaited me in the Jury Box. I had asked and it was delivered. I felt triumphant. The short time in the smaller chair had already given me large bruises on my hips, I needed the respite.
Studies have proven that fat shaming does not improve overall health, or contribute to weight loss. Fat shaming not only decreases overall well-being – physical and mental – but it also actually contributes to weight gain. Even if you believe with every fiber of your being that weight loss is the end all of health and wellness, oppressing fat people is not the way to bring that about.
Accessibility is a basic right. Making sure that the most people can participate in society is our job as members of that society. Having a habitable life should not be a privilege saved for the well off, the light skinned or the thin. And we have to stand up for ourselves and for others. Just as Your Fat Friend’s call for action says, we can’t do it alone. This can’t just be a fat person issue. It needs to be an everyone issue.
Be an ally. Be the change.