Thursday 16 January 2020

Fatphobia And The Frustration of Secret Accommodations

asking for accommodationKathy Deitch is one of the multi-talented (like, original Broadway casts of Wicked and Footloose talented) stars of the sketch comedy group Fatch. After their sold-out show last week (the one where I got to do stand-up!) she headed to a high-end spa for a group celebration of her friend’s birthday.  One of the things they were looking forward to was hanging out in their fancy spa robes while they had drinks, watched sunsets etc.

Except when Kathy went to get a robe, they didn’t have one that fit. She called housekeeping who brusquely told her that robes were not available in her size. Upset but determined not to let it ruin her time, she decided to lodge a complaint when she left, choosing to wear the clothes that she brought, so that she could just focus on having fun with her friends.

Near the end of her stay she made her complaint, only to learn that the spa did, in fact, have robes up to a 5X. Per Kathy the woman seemed genuinely upset about the misinformation, but by that point it was too late.

Of course there are plenty of places (and transportation options, doctor’s offices, and clothing lines etc.) that simply don’t bother to accommodate fat people, which is completely unacceptable. But this is an example of another difficulty of living in the world in a fat body – secret accommodations.

That theater has some armless chairs that could be set out, that restaurant has a half booth/half table where the table moves,  plus-sized robes exist. But they won’t tell you about them unless you ask, and you have to ask the right person (or several people) to find one who knows what’s up.

There are easy fixes to this. But really, the first step is for them to decide they want to accommodate people of different sizes (rather than operating out of fatphobia.) Once the decision to be a company that is not mired in weight stigma is made and communicated down the chain, things can easily improve.

In Kathy’s case there are multiple options for solutions. First of all, they could just have robes in all sizes set out. Failing that, they could have a sign that says “Don’t see your size? We have robes from XS to 5X, please call the front desk and we’ll be happy to bring you a robe in your size.” At the very least, every employee should be made aware that the robes are available in those sizes (And while 5X is a good range, they could also get even bigger robes to make sure that those above a 5X can enjoy the same experience that everyone else gets.

It’s also important to note that, because of widespread fatphobia, making a fat person ask for an accommodation is not asking something simple or neutral. We never know when a reasonable request (for something that should already have been thought of) will result in our being the victims of fatphobia at the hands of the person to whom we are making our request. This situation becomes even worse for those who deal with certain kinds of anxiety, as well as those who are also members of other marginalized communities because it means they don’t just have to fear fatphobia, but also racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, et. al.

That said, if you feel up to it (and remembering that this is bullshit and you shouldn’t have to do it,) it can definitely be worth asking. You can ask directly, or call or e-mail ahead to see what can be made, or you can show up and ask to be accommodated. While the answer may be some fatphobic pile of hot garbage, that’s always wrong and never your fault.

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Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRON-distance triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!  (DancesWithFat Members get an even better deal, make sure to make your purchases from the Members Page!)

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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