An interesting situation has developed in the United States’ bigger, cozier neighbor.
In January, the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled that disabled people taking domestic flights were entitled to two airline seats for the price of one. Though aimed primarily at passengers needing extra space for wheelchairs and even caregivers, the ruling–resulting in a policy that quickly became known as “one person, one fare”–also entitled “severely obese” to two seats for the price of one. The agency then left it to the three affected airlines (Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet) to determine eligibility criteria and gave them one year to settle the issue. “We are confident that the airlines will come up with a plan for eligibility,” CTA spokesman Jadrino Huot declared.
What Huot should have been confident of was that the airlines would appeal the part of the decision extending to obese people, if not the entire thing. They did, more than once, and on Nov. 20, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear another appeal, handing down the decision that those who are “functionally disabled by obesity” will get two seats for the price of one, effective as of January 10.
Reactions, as expected, have been varied.
The Montreal Gazette ran an editorial yesterday suggesting that because obesity–unlike other conditions qualifying fliers for a free extra seat–is controllable, the inclusion of heftyfolk in the policy was “almost an insult to the truly disabled.” Editors at the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier offered almost exactly the same opinion. And and Big Fat Blog, the decision was hailed as major victory:
All in all, this is a superb ruling and the Canadian Transportation Agency should be applauded for upholding our rights, enforcing their ruling, and allowing fat people to fly with dignity – something that the loudmouthed “thin” people on the internet are taking for granted.
This is the reaction one would expect, but it’s riddled with historical self-inflicted scars and ought to be a guilty one. Fat activists normally bristle at the idea that they have a disease or a disability, and scoff at the suggestion that obesity can increase the risk of other diseases. They don’t even like the term “obese” because of its clinical connotations, and would rather simply be called “fat.” I guess the thinking is that by seizing what has long been a pejorative term from the hands of hecklers and applying it to themselves, persons of size are saying, “I’m not ashamed, so eat me”–reasoning anyone should be able to appreciate. They talk about being “fit and fat” and credit themselves with not fighting their own physiology in a colossal and fruitless effort to achieve some warped cultural attractiveness ideal. They have a noble goal, one they often swaddle in shit by rising to the level of primo denialists when it comes to the medical realities they face, fodder which has already been dealt with extensively here.
What all of this spells is that by calling the Supreme Court of Canada ruling a victory, Big Fat Blog fans are more than happy to piggyback on a ruling intended chiefly to make the lives of mobility-impaired and severely ill people easier and adopt the mantle of “disabled” despite vehemently shunning it elsewhere. Caught ya!
Of course, fat activists are not the first group rooted in victimhood (rightly or not) to gloat over having things both ways, and they won’t be the last. When it come to doublespeak, not one BFB member could rise to 10 percent of the level of doublespeak regularly foisted on the public by members of the Bush administration. In general, though, this kind of behavior exposes the ethos of the group in question as not only incoherent, but at least partially fraudulent. If you believe you’re just a normal human variant who deserves to be treated no differently (that is, no worse) than anyone else and doesn’t want to be unfairly labeled or marginalized, great. Fight for that, and hard. On the other hand, if you’re just out to grab as much for yourself as you can, most likely with a big, silent “fuck you, society, you owe me anyway,” well, that’s typical too. But at least go ahead and admit it, so I can say, “Well, fuck me! What can I get by yelling real loud and flip-flopping when it’s convenient?”
I’m working on this already. The average American male stands 5′ 10″ and weighs just under 190 pounds. I’m 5′ 10″ weigh about 73% of 190 pounds, so it’s high time I started demanding a 25% discount on airline, bus, train, cab, ferry, rickshaw, paddleboat, monorail, trolley, hot-air balloon, gondola, dirigible, and white-water rapids trips. Oh, and ferris-wheel rides.
I wonder if the people large enough to consume two seats are also entitled to two in-flight meals. I hope so. If I were in that position, I, grinning around mouthfuls, would eat both of them as loudly as possible with one hand while using my cell-phone camera to take pictures of disgusted onlookers with with the other. Of course, this is the kind of shit I do anyway. I just think it would have more of an impact if I were a beneficiary of the 2-for-1 policy instead of just a crass traveler.
In case you were wondering, I wasn’t being serious in the last two paragraphs. I wasn’t even being sarcastic. I was just being kind of a tool. This whole post could have been a thousand words shorter had I just described the situaton, pointed a finger and yelled “HYPOCRITES!!!” And I know that someone’s apt to give me a hard time about being a “fat hater” at this point, but I’ll remind anyone tempted to do so that I’m an equal-opportunity critic when it comes to people who become merrily full of shit and deny everything they supposedly stand for when there’s a reward it in for them. They are the only ones who are hurt by this stuff, because it shows they can’t be fully trusted.