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15 February 2010

Entitled Embodiment

A study in carnality: Americans take up a lot of space; and some more than others. I remember news stories discussing how the increased size of American bodies cut the margins of freight and weight on airplanes. I remember reading that the amount of fat on the American buttock was interfering with the delivery of intramuscular injections.
What fascinates me now is the entitlement that comes along with the super-sized bodies. This is not true for all plus-size, queen-size or diva-sized people. I’m just thinking and writing about a few – more than a few – folk I have encountered over the years.
From airplane seats to theme-park rides, I watch people unapologetically taking up some or all of the adjacent seat – even if it is occupied. I confess I have had to endure the horror of a stranger’s thighs and belly rolls pressing against me from the side.
Most recently I have watched people demand that the world accommodate them: redesign seating in theaters, on planes, household furniture; slow to their pace; reshape the very terrain if it is too much for their overburdened knees. And all at someone else’s expense, it ought to be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The problem of their mobility or fit are someone else's. Everyone else's. And god help you if you point out that breathing, joint pain and mobility problems in some cases just might be weight-related.
Human bodies can be beautiful at any size. Fat is beautiful even when it is unhealthy. And inflated egos can inhabit any size body. And sometimes there is a direct, proportional relationship between the size of the ego and the size of the carcass.
Since I wrote this, actor/director/comedian Kevin Smith was just booted off a  Southwest Airlines for violating their "customer of size" policy. He says it was because he was too fat. However, he admits that he bought two seats per their policy and then shifted to an earlier flight on which there was only one seat available. That's when the captain removed him. I wonder was there another passenger whose seat he was sharing without consent?


  1. As someone who has struggled with weight and compulsive eating issues all my life, I'm pretty sure that, while those folks may seem unapologetic about the extra space they are taking up, inside they are dying. It's not something anyone would choose.

  2. I'm interested that all the overweight people pictured are white women. Perhaps I am sensitive since I am an overweight white woman myself, but I wonder, are large men or large women of color less offensive to you?

  3. Songbird, the majority of the pix on my google images search were white people. (I think the top one is a boy.) I did intentionally avoid ones that looked like ambush pix with little black boxes over their eyes suggesting a lack of consent to be photographed. I went with the first couple I found.

  4. Mary Beth, I can certainly imagine that's true. I'm writing about recent experiences where people abrasively ordered me to share my seat because I didn't need it and spoke insultingly of my body. And a situation where folk volunteered for a demanding physical activity - let's call it prayer walk over rough ascending hilly terrain. After being told how physically demanding this activity was, they misrepresented their ability to participate, demanded we slow to their pace even though that meant missing the subsequent event, demanded another path, complained the as advertised event was too much for regular people and demanded the bus that brought us be made immediately available for those who decided half way they couldn't finish, and much more. Those folk - not all large and struggling folk are the self-entitled about whom I'm writing.