Just ask Oprah, I’m fat. Yes, I am fat. I was on her show and the title of the show was “What It’s Like to be Fat.” Clearly, Oprah is the arbiter of fat having fought and battled her weight for years. For the last 25 years, she has been publicly scrutinized and called names and had unflattering pictures splattered across hundreds of magazines and “news” papers…as if it were news.
So, yes, I am fat. But I’m certainly not the fattest person on the planet. I have yet to have the paramedics have to come to my home and use a crane to get me out of my apartment after having the city come and cut a wider hole in my door to fit my largess through. I have yet to go to the REI tent department to buy clothes. I have yet to not be able to make it up a flight of stairs. I live quite an extraordinary life regardless of my size not in spite of it. I have a fabulous husband. We live in a great little apartment in Los Angeles. I drive a decent car. We live an active life with travel and great friends. I had a great check up today from the doc…perfect blood pressure, great blood sugar, heart rate perfect…my health is great!
Of course, the President and his beautiful wife, have declared war on obesity. I sometimes half expect to see my picture on a PowerPoint presentation behind the President as they discuss the strategy for the war on obesity. Why is it that people in power never get that war isn’t the answer?! (Okay, maybe World War II…it made sense then…but I’m trying to make a point here…) LBJ started the war on poverty. And, there’s still poverty. Whether it’s war on nations or war on drugs or war on the so-called “obesity epidemic” it just never seems to make the intended difference. Right now we have more people in the world hating us now that we “liberated” Iraq and invaded Afghanistan…we are in the process of losing an entire generation of young Americans in wars that aren’t being “won.” The war on drugs has done nothing to stop people from using so-called “illicit” drugs. One can’t even go to Tijuana anymore without fear of drug trafficking induced gang violence. Hell, I can’t go to the chicken place on Sunset without being accosted by someone selling crack. And, the war on obesity is no better. People are still fat. Only now fat people are being ridiculed more than ever. They are being ostracized and abused emotionally. And, to what end?!
When I read yesterday that Kevin Smith of Silent Bob fame was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland the other day I was actually quite pleased. I wasn’t pleased that he was ruthlessly embarrassed and shamed by the low-budget airline. I was pleased by the attention and hopefully awareness it has caused. This is a man who COULD fit between the armrests. This is a man who does NOT need a seat belt extender and yet he was forced to make the walk of shame off the cattle car airline. I am relishing the public lashing that Southwest Airlines is receiving from Kevin Smith’s fans.
I have never personally been a fan of Southwest Airlines even before they started physically removing fat passengers from flights or denying them passage. Even with the policy in place that says a passenger must be able to fit in one seat and be able to put the arm rests down and not need a seat belt extender it is still up to Southwest employees discretion as to who needs to have two seats. Also, if two fat people fly together each fat passenger needs to purchase two seats which is ridiculous. I certainly don’t need two whole seats to myself. If I fly with my husband, who only needs one seat, I should be able to sit comfortably next to him with the arm rest up between us. But according to Southwest’s policy I would HAVE to purchase another ticket regardless. There have been many horror stories in the news about fat passengers being allowed on the first leg of their flight only to find themselves at their layover being denied access to the second portion of their flight. At which point the passenger needs to purchase another ticket or find another way to their destination. Absurd! Cruel! Bad, fucking, business!!
As I have said before, I do need a seat belt extender. I need a little more space than is allotted in one puny airline seat. I certainly don’t look forward to the idea of disturbing another passenger. Just like a passenger doesn’t want my fat ass in their seat I would prefer to not have some stranger using my hip as an armrest. So, what’s the answer? First, I think some sensitivity training is in order. People can be very cruel to fat people. Hell, they can be unusually cruel to most people given the opportunity. I just think people should be more tolerant and potentially more accommodating. Believe me you would much rather sit next to me, a clean well-dressed fat woman who needs an inch or two of your seat rather than next to the woman with the colicky baby or the person who showers only once a month and it’s the 28th of the month or the person who fell into a vat of cheap cologne or the guy with the flu who sneezes and coughs mucusy grossness, for a four hour flight. I’m just saying. Why doesn’t Southwest have a policy about those things?
I am all for businesses running their businesses as they see fit without government intrusion. If Southwest doesn’t want fat people to fly on their flights then so be it. They have done a very good job of making there stance known. I certainly won’t fly on their airline regardless of how many seats I have at my disposal. I am sorry because of Southwest’s poor policy allowing some random unknown employee to make a discretionary call on whether or not a passenger, Kevin, fit in his sit according to their policy (which he DID) he has been opened up to ignorant and hurtful fat bashing ridicule. If any good has come of this it’s that a small pen light has been shined on this subject.
Kevin Smith began tweeting about this as soon as it started on his flight the other day. He can be found on Twitter as ThatKevinSmith.
Southwest Airlines posted an apology on their website that wasn’t really an apology and then posted another that also never got to the point that Kevin Smith had requested admitting they had indeed made a mistake in forcing him off the flight. They can also be found on Twitter.