I’ve been away from the fat-o-sphere for a few months – I’ve still been reading, but I haven’t been blogging, or being terribly activist-y at all. But I’m back now, and I hope be blogging regularly for you all at AoF!
It’s been an interesting time for me – lots of changes and decisions, lots of stress. But lots of good times too, especially with my friends.
I do everything I can to make my life a safe space. I cultivate friendships (both online and off) with people who hold similar beliefs to my own, who are anti-bigotry in all its insidious forms. I try to call people in my life out on their problematic usage of language and stereotypes. It’s not always easy.
About six weeks ago I started a new job in a state government department. The people I work with are universally lovely – helpful and friendly, and very welcoming to new staff members. I was having a bit of a chat with my co-worker and another girl who works with our department but on another floor one afternoon, when the conversation segued into a discussion about public transportation, and its limitations.
Now, I’m a huge (heh) advocate of public transport. I’m 24 years old, and don’t have a driver’s licence – not even a learner’s permit. At some point I will do it, but it’s fairly low on my list of priorities; I live very close a major busway stop, in an inner-city suburb. Technically I’m within reasonable walking distance of my workplace, though I catch the bus most mornings. I’m also only a fifteen minute walk from a train station.
So, I love public transport. We talked a little bit about the issues with it – rising fare costs and the like – when one of the girls leaned forward conspiratorially and said (paraphrased slightly): “You what I hate though? When I’m sitting down, and an obese – you know, morbidly obese – person gets on and I’ve got a free seat next to me.”
I raised my eyebrows. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
She looked a little flustered. “Well, you know, if they sit next to me, they’re going to touch me. I hate that!”
I remember resisting the urge to tear strips off her, and said mildly, “Well, R___, I’m morbidly obese, so I hope it wouldn’t offend you if I sat next to you.”
I nearly gave up on the conversation when she responded with, “Oh, but you’re not like that – I mean people that literally hang over the edge of the seat.”
“It’s fortunate that you aren’t actually paying for a seat on a bus, then – we pay to get from point A to point B, there’s no guarantee it’ll be comfortable,” I said, and went back to my desk, gritting my teeth.
The seats on Brisbane buses aren’t large. I carry most of my weight in my belly, so my hips aren’t super wide, but I do hang over the edge of the seat a little. I’m a size 22. How could I not? Seating is not made to accommodate fat people. It’s this kind of casual bigotry – ew yuck I don’t want fatties touching me – that makes me incredibly annoyed, and I try to speak up against it whenever I can.
Interestingly, there haven’t been any negative repercussions. I still get on well with this co-worker, we chat about mundane stuff, our work and the like. But she hasn’t brought up the subject again. I doubt I’ve converted her – we all know how difficult an idea size/fat acceptance is in our thin-privileged culture – but if I can sow the seeds, start the thought process towards someone beginning not to hate themselves and other fat people, then it’s a conversation that’s well worth having.
I went to Sydney for a few days in July. I’ve not had trouble with airline seats so far – they’re occasionally a tight fit, but I can get my seatbelt done up without an extender. No trouble this time either, though the seatbelt on the return trip seemed shorter, and no one was rude to me when they sat down next to me either.
But I’m flying to New York City (OMG OMG) in early November, and I’m a little nervous about that. It’ll be the longest flight I’ve ever done (13 hours BNE-LAX, and 5 hours LAX-NYC, the same coming back) – the closest I’ve done to that is the nine hour flight to Japan. Hopefully QANTAS’ seats will be comfortable; I’ve never flown with them before so it will certainly be an experience.
I’m ridiculously excited about this trip, NYC has been a dream destination for me for years. Any suggestions on things to do? I’m going to go see lots of shows, and of course I’ll be hitting up Re/Dress – can’t wait to finally see it for real!
Bonus photo: It was the lovely Sonya’s birthday party last night, and being very mature women, we decided that a riff on this meme would be hilarious:
We totally challenged the dominant paradigm. Also we are fancy! Sonya is wearing an Asos dress, I am wearing a Monroe (Myer) dress, and we are wearing the same black oxfords from Betts. In fact, we bought them at the same time! Fatty shopping bonding. <3