Monday, December 28, 2009

Yes Disableism and Fat Hatred Do Go Hand in Hand

I should have known when I read the title of this post “My Fat Spouse” that somewhere along the line I would be offended.  It seems that a man is concerned with his wife's health due to her weight, after all we have all be taught that fat is a no no.   His concern should be for his physical fitness and not for her weight.  There certainly aren’t skinny people running around with high cholesterol or any other health problems right?  Nope, only the lazy food addicted fatties.  To be fair, he was careful to state that he did not want to shame her about her size and so I will give him credit because the usual approach is to make someone feel undesirable because of weight.   The kind of tolerance he displayed certainly did not continue on in the comment section.  I give you exhibit A:

I was at Walmart recently, being the Christmas season and all it's busier than usual, and I can't tell you how many motorized scooters carrying obese persons blocked my way in aisles and main thruways. I rarely see a slim person in need of a scooter (although it does happen). Seeing that always give me impetus to stay on a healthy path. For your wife, the will and desire to lose weight will have to come from within, but if you love her you will encourage her to get healthy. Do not ignore the 'elephant in the room'! (No pun intended - it's getting tired anyway)

image Well, heaven forbid people on scooters actually taking up any kind of space.  It is not at though we have a right exist or gasp even interact with the public.  I suppose we should take the example of Quasimodo and find a bell tower to hold up in until the world decides we are fit to be seen.  How dare we force ourselves into the narrow shopping aisles that merchants have created in order to store more product.  The over crowding couldn’t possibly be the fault of the store owner, when there are people on scooters to blame. 

One of the most pervasive misunderstandings of those of us that use mobility scooters, is that we are so fat and lazy, that we simply just don’t want to walk around.  The scooter is not seen as a manifestation of a debilitating illness, nope it’s just some ketchy new toy to enable a sedentary lifestyle.  Unlike the universal riddle of which came first the chicken or the egg, it is most certain that illness predated the use of a scooter.  If there was even the smallest understanding of the abuse that one must deal with facing the world in a scooter, the idea that it is a choice would be understood as ridiculous.

If one is in need of a scooter, it  is because their mobility is impaired in someway.  For an able bodied person walking around a Walmart is an easy task, however; for someone with fibromyalgia or a host of other conditions, it might easily be the equivalent of running a marathon.  Why should anyone exert that kind of effort to pick up a cartoon of eggs or a shirt made with slave labour?  Ooops, I forget that the “supercrip mythology” demands that people with disabilities must struggle everyday to ensure that the able bodied never feel any discomfort.

I have said this repeatedly but apparently it is something that I am going to have to say for the rest of my life: fat is not a disability, it is however at times a manifestation of a disability.  I am tired of the advice that if I lost weight, that somehow magically I would be able to party all night long.  If it were as simple as that, I would have long ago had my stomach stapled to bring about an end to the constant pain that I live with.  Today, I am wrapped in my electric blanket with no plans to move other than using the bathroom.  This is not because I find daytime television unusually interesting, it is because the pain prevents me from considering any other activity. If rolling over causes pain, how much pain do you figure going for a jog around the neighbourhood would cause?  It is not a matter of getting more fit, it is a matter that I have THREE CHRONIC CONDITIONS.

The people that speak about scooter users as just being to lazy to walk anger me in the worst way.  They speak from a position of privilege and complete and utter ignorance.  If everything that they did in their life caused them pain, then and only then, would they ever truly understand but that is not enough to stop many from sitting in judgement of me as I try to negotiate my life.  What they see is fatness and because that is viewed as a sin in our overly obsessed body conscious world, cause and effect never enters their minds.  Somehow they have determined that I must have brought this upon myself. Well I have news for you, I didn’t kick dogs in a former life, abuse children, or daily consume a tub of chocolate ice cream; I simply had the misfortune to develop extremely painful medical conditions.

We often claim empathy or in some cases pity for those that are sick but in truth such understanding is conditional.  If I were to tell each and every person my medical history for the last year (and it is a huge file) then and only then could they hope to have a small glimmer of what these conditions do to a body.  Perhaps, if I walked around with a sign explaining that I have firbo and sarcoidosis and what it does to a body, people might stop giving me evil looks while I try to live my life.  You see, if a person is understood to be in the least bit complicit in their illness, we suddenly lose all sympathy and understanding and though obesity is not something to be ashamed of, we have long ago decided that it is a metaphor for much that is bad about modern life. 

I am a fat, differently abled, Black woman.  I use a scooter to get around and sometimes my life involves an extreme amount of pain.  Why in world anyone would believe for a moment, that this is something that I would willingly choose continues to mystify me.  I have made many decisions in my life but I promise you, never did I actively decide to gain a ton of weight and ride around on a scooter because it looked like fun.  There are a lot pain free ways to get a thrill in this life and this certainly is not one of them.  So I guess the long and short of it is, don’t judge what you don’t know, or understand.  Able bodied status is temporary for us all and tomorrow you could find yourself  on the other end of the stares and rude commentary that you were more than willing to give out to others.