posted by meowser
I’m a fatass, but I have skinny partner privilege. If you are a fat woman with a thin partner, you probably have some inkling of what I’m talking about. The fact that C. is thin (and yes, neurotypical, albeit geeky) means there are probably a lot of people who think better of me on first meeting than they would if my partner was also fat. If he likes her, maybe she’s not so bad, I can hear Nice People thinking. (I suppose there are some douchehoses who wonder what’s wrong with him that he has to “settle” for me, but I put them in a separate phylum of dungbrain.)
And nowhere am I more acutely aware of skinny partner privilege than I am on an airplane. When I fly with C., I don’t have to worry that I will get stuck next to Fatphobius jerkwadius who will howl to the flight attendants that OMG HER FRIGHTENING SADDLEBAGS ARE TOUCHING MY SUPERIOR LEG MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP. Only now, I’m planning my first trip on a plane without him in about eight years, at a weight about 20 pounds higher than it was the last time I did it. (I’m going to Pittsburgh to scout out locations for a possible move; he’d be moving, too, but he’s been there already and figured it would be cheaper if only I went out this time.) And all this BS with United’s “fatties pay double and wait endlessly on standby for the privilege maybe for days, and you’ll have to book a hotel room at your own expense too if you’re stranded overnight, fatass” policy has me quaking in my 18-inch-calf boots, lemme tell ya. Even if I avoid booking United, which I plan on doing unless this meatheaded nonsense gets chucked out the window in the next week, I’ve been to Seatguru and checked it against my vintage 1997 copy of Judy Sullivan’s Size Wise. And guess what?
ALL OF THE AIRLINES’ COACH SEATS HAVE GOTTEN SMALLER.
Yes, that’s correct. If you encounter any paid media news accounts of this story, they will tell you that airline seats have stayed the same size since 1960, while we’ve just been snarfing our way into bigger and bigger sizes. (Okay, they haven’t worded it quite that way, but you know they want to.) The paid media won’t tell you this lest the lose their airline ad business, but unless they had eensy-beansy seats in 1960, which was before my time — in which case they got bigger by my first flight in 1972 before getting smaller again — I can tell you that the statement that airline seats haven’t gotten any smaller over the years is hooo-eeeee. From Size Wise:
Airline seats vary from 18.5″ to 23″ wide, depending on the aircraft and its configuration….the 727, 737, and 757s have a 3/3 configuration with 19″ seats. Airlines with 3/3/3 or 3/4/3 configurations use an 18.5″ seat.
According to Seatguru, all the major domestic carriers today use planes with 17.0″ or 17.2″ coach seat, with the exception of Jet Blue, whose seats seem positively generous at 17.8″. In other words, the chances are good that in just the last 12 years, your seat got an entire 2″ smaller. And as commenter liz said on the SP “FUnited” thread, “And it further allows them to make the seats even smaller because the problem will always be the fat ass (no matter how skinny) and not the seat.”
Exactly. I want to say to all these people who think this plan is such a hot idea: “What on earth makes you think you won’t be next?” They’ve already chopped 2″ off the seats, what’s stopping them from chopping even more and then getting to double-charge even more people? (And almost all of them female people, as Kate astutely put it, since a woman needs only wear an average pants size to be in danger of not fitting, whereas a man of average height usually needs to be going on about 400 pounds in order to have any part of his body not fit in a single seat.) All this dribbledrool of YOU CAN’T EXPECT US TO RETROFIT THE PLANES WITH BIGGER SEATS FOR THE FATASSES BLAAARGH MONEY MONEY MONEY is exactly that — dribbledrool. They already did it in the other direction. (Newsflash: Some planes already have bigger seats in them, and they could easily fly those aircraft instead. They know this. They are pulling everyone’s superior legs.)
And once again, this is coming down to — hiss, boo, groan — the very idea of the alleged “choice” involved in being a horizontally gifted individual. I personally don’t think civil or social rights have jackall to do with “choice” — I don’t give a damn if you were born Jewish or you converted, we both get to stay out of the pogrom. But unfortunately, a lot of people who have a lot of clout do use that standard for determining people’s rights, and I’m beyond certain that that is the dynamic that is happening here. Elsewhere on the “FUnited” thread (over 400 comments and counting! way to go, Shapelings!), commenter Sue reports calling up United and asking some more questions about the two-seats-for-fatties policy:
I am so angry. I just called United and politely asked if I had to have two seats and how would they know it… They said yes blah blah blah. Then I asked what about a person in a wheel chair that takes up a lot of space…would they have to buy two seats as well? He said no. I then went on to say if I got a wheelchair, then I would not have to pay for two seats? He said that was correct. I then lost it. I am shaking with rage right now.
Right. Because if you are a wheelchair user, or you have other medical equipment that causes you not to fit into a single seat, the airlines’ official stance is that it’s not your fault and you shouldn’t be punished. If they see you with an assistive device at the gate, they don’t ask if you need it because you started a barfight, or because you huffed a couple of spray cans of Aqua Net and plowed your Harley into a giant redwood; most assistive-device users need their equipment for reasons other than that, so the few with self-inflicted injuries aren’t separated out and treated unequally. (Although, of course, fatasses with assistive devices routinely get accused of having eaten their way into disability, most airline personnel will keep schtum about such thoughts even if they have them.) Probably a lot of this has not so much to do with them having the utmost respect for PWD so much as recognition that U.S. law will not be on the airlines’ side if they deny a medical equipment user equal access.
But bottom line is, people feel okay about punishing us fatasses who don’t have medical equipment, because the default assumption is that we chose to ascend to the highest possible BMI category by being oh-so-careless with our diet and oh-so-slothful with our movement. Like choosing the fries over the salad makes a difference of a hundred freaking pounds or more. Even if you are the kind of extreme binge eater who did put on serious weight bingeing, it’s still not a matter of conscious choice, for cat’s sake. You still have to have the genetic capacity to become the size you are, fries or no fries, binge or no binge. (Not to mention that you also have to have the genetic capacity to binge.) And as with the medical equipment, you can’t tell by looking who needs it because they just do and who needs it because they fucked themselves up horribly, and frankly, it shouldn’t matter anyway.
O Canada, why do you have to keep proving again and again how much smarter you are than your blowhard egotistical neighbor to the south? One person, one fare — no, that does NOT mean a 600-pound person gets to sit on you for five hours, what it means is that someone whose width, or other reason for not fitting in a single seat, is sussed out ahead of time and comped the extra seat. Yeah, that’s right. They just give it to them, pending presentation of official documentation of said physical condition at check-in. None of this mix-in-a-salad-if-you-don’t-like-it crap, which always seems to come from people who mix in a fuckload less salad than I do anyway. And anyone who thinks a second seat is just the ginchiest gift from God should be forced to be strapped against a seat divider on a cross-country trip and feel that thing digging into their back the whole time. Ow, ow, owwww. Nobody wants to be crunched up against that seat divider, trust me. It’s just that sometimes shit happens and it’s necessary.
But it’s just bewildering that people would choose to hate on us instead of unloading their frustrations on the airlines for being so incommodious. Speaking of which, that woman on Kate’s segment, who complained about her 2-year-old paying full fare? Does she know that they used to only charge kids 2-11 half fare? I know this, because when I was 12 years old circa 1975 (probably before this woman was born), my parents begged me not to wear any jewelry or makeup to the airport so I’d look younger than 12 and they could save some money. I refused. (Does any 12-year-old girl want to be mistaken for 11?) But undigressing, why would they resent us so, unless we thought we could Do Something About It? Yeah, I’ll tell you what I could do about it. I could go off my meds again, and eventually fit into one 17″ seat with canola-oil ease. That is, if I didn’t commit suicide before becoming appreciably smaller. If someone got stuck next to me when I was seriously depressed and having screaming/crying jags, even if I got to be a size 8 they’d still be lodging complaints.
And no, I’m NOT just going to stay home, either. Not all the time. Add that to the list of things I don’t owe Fatphobius jerkwadius.