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Let’s be honest for a moment and admit one thing; the world is not made to cater to fat people, from representation to societal beauty standards to clothing and everything else in between. When we discuss fatphobia, people often get caught up in fashion, magazines, movies, etc. While those are all super important and validating, we can’t forget that there are actual systemic things set in place to hinder plus size people from living full lives and lives with dignity.
Fatphobia means if you move through the world in a larger body, you are battling discrimination at every turn, and unfortunately, flying and traveling are one of them. There are very valid reasons why larger-bodied people are super anxious about flying, and I mean, can you blame them?
Flying While Fat
Recently, Newsweek published an article detailing a possible new policy for passengers “of size,”; the term used by airlines to describe folks flying who are fat. This article further states that airlines will soon reserve the right to weigh passengers before their flight or ask for their weight when purchasing their tickets.
As someone who is fat and loves to travel, when I read this, all I could think was, “here we go!” Here we go again with systems deciding who’s body is worthy of something and who’s isn’t, here we go with body policing, here we go with fatphobia being front and center and the driving force of a new policy to keep those with marginalized bodies out and then here come those people who are going to find all the reasons under the sun to justify it because… “obesity.”
In the article, the FAA discusses that this new policy is to monitor the weight limits of airplanes but call me crazy for thinking things and structures around us should be created and designed for us and not the other way around. *insert deep sarcasm here*
If aircrafts can be created for these weight limits including people and luggage, then what’s stopping companies and the FAA from creating aircrafts to accommodate new and larger weight limits?
Fatphobia, much like other isms and phobias, is built from and thrives off of capitalism.
It’s capitalism that allows airplane companies to build these mini seats and basically stack them on top of each other so that they can fit the most people per flight to line their pockets. It’s more important for them to profit than it is for passengers to be comfortable, a true representation of this country’s politics centering profit over people.
Policies for “passengers of size” already exist. Oftentimes larger flyers have to purchase extra seats, ask for seat belt extenders, etc. Requiring people to pay more because they take up more space sounds ableist to me. You knew fat people existed when these flights were scheduled, when these seats were built, yet ignorance persists. Airlines are not accessible, and here we are in 2021, and they’re creating more restrictions for bodies they find disposable.
Let me clue you in, most people who are larger and flying are already hyperaware about the amount of space they’ll take up. Anyone who has had an experience in a place that is not designed for them or doesn’t cater to them is very aware of this; you don’t need to constantly remind us.
If you’ve been fat or are fat, you don’t need the reminder that being seated next to a stranger who is most likely fatphobic already makes you want to shrink and become the smallest version of yourself possible.
Policies like this that discuss possibilities of weighing passengers before their flight and women being capped at 160 pounds while men are capped at 190 only further stigmatizes the experiences of fat people while flying and adds to the weight stigma we systemically experience.
I’ve had conversations with fat folks who’ve traveled during the height of COVID while most cities were on lockdown, and they shared that, due to airlines spacing passengers out, that was some of the calmest and least anxiety-inducing flying experiences they’ve ever had. To connect your most comfortable flying experience to a global pandemic and that being the only reason you were afforded slight ease is something to unpack in itself.
I also know fat people who have never flown for the many reasons listed here and who probably ever won’t (I hope they fly and the skies embrace them) because the FAA and other fatphobic industries like the medical institution decided their bodies didn’t deserve it.
When I say fatphobia kills, I mean it. With my whole heart.
Traveling is often connected to joy, your most loved memories, and living your best life. Airlines have committed to seeing to it that people who are fat and people who are disabled aren’t sharing in those memories. Because, at the root of it all, these systems would rather us not exist. They’re committed to fatphobia. How are you committed to its undoing?