Image description: A plus-size woman poses in front of a sunset-lit city skyline and water with one arm in the air and the other wrapped around it. She’s wearing blue jeans and a black crop top sweater.
Once a friend of mine observed that in their daily life, they just felt like they didn’t see many fat people at all. And it’s true: fat people are often missing from public life, especially very fat people. Why might that be?
BMI is bull, but let’s use the master’s tool for a moment to examine the master’s house. I live in a body that is quite fat and my BMI is 42, so let’s use a BMI of 40 as our starting point. Depending on which source you reference, people with a BMI of 40 or more comprise 6-10% of the American population, so around 10% of the population is fat of the kind that you’d notice walking around in public. So where are they? Why isn’t at least 1 in 10 of the people you see out and about (in non-COVID times) very fat?
Well, that 10% of the population is also a group of people who face significant barriers accessing public life at all. Thin people have designed a world that excludes us.
💔 If I can’t buy professional clothing, you won’t see me in your office.
💔 If I can’t fit in an airplane seat and people stare and glare at me when I buy two, you won’t see me on your flight.
💔 If I can’t wear any of the clothing sold, you won’t see me at the mall.
💔 If I can’t fit on the rides, you won’t see me at the theme park.
💔 If I’ve been discriminated against in hiring, you won’t see me in the elevator.
💔 If I can’t fit in the chairs, you won’t see me in the waiting room.
💔 If I can’t fit in the desk/chair combos, you won’t find me in the classroom.
💔 If I can’t fit in the booths, you won’t see me at the restaurant.
💔 If I can’t fit in the seats, you won’t find me at the theatre.
💔 If all the casting calls include “attractive” as a proxy for “thin,” you won’t see me on stage.
💔 If I can’t have knee surgery, you won’t see me at the gym.
💔 And if I’ve been denied knee surgery and gotten too many glares and stares for using a scooter at the grocery store, maybe I just stay home, get all my groceries delivered and stop offering myself up to the pain and abuse of even attempting to exist in a public sphere that was designed to push me out.
I want you to note that I’ve done something very deliberate here: Most of the statements above start with If I can’t. If I can’t. If I can’t. Now, I’d like you to go back and re-read those statements, replacing “If I can’t” with “If people with thin privilege have arranged it so that I can’t.”
How does that change the responsibility for those outcomes?
The motivations, of course, vary, but every single one of those broken-heart bullets is the consequence of deliberate decisions made by people with a specific type of privilege (that of thinness). This is what oppression looks like.