Fat Hatred and Discrimination on Public Transport: Guest Post by Foxie

Published November 26, 2011 by sleepydumpling

About a week ago my friend Foxie mentioned on Facebook that she had been discriminated against by a bus driver in her home town of Adelaide, who refused to allow she and another woman to board a bus, citing that it was full, only for them to discover that it was not, and the driver was only letting thin passengers get on.  On talking to Foxie about her experience, she spoke about the increasing level of fat hatred and discrimination she has seen on her regular commute on public transport in Adelaide.

As a public transport commuter myself, I have experienced my fair share of fat hatred and discrimination.  It has affected me so much that I avoid catching trains here in Brisbane because it is so prevalent on them, and prefer to take the bus because at least with a driver on board and within earshot, abusive behaviour is curbed somewhat.

I asked Foxie if she would write a piece about her experiences for me to share here on Fat Heffalump, and she has kindly done so.  So without any further ado, here is her piece on fat hatred and discrimination on public transport.  Hopefully she will also update us on the situation in the comments below.

Trigger warning for fat hatred and abusive language.

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My dear friend, Kath, asked me to write something about what I have experienced in the last three days and I decided that I would as I needed to vent. Writing my vents down has always helped and this subject has really made me angry.

It seems that I have been surrounded by inconsiderate, self-centred, downright nasty people in the last three days all with comments or actions being negatively made towards us fatties. Now most times I just let these things flow over me like water off a duck’s back but this week it has, quite frankly, pissed me off.

Firstly I was dumbstruck at the behaviour of a male aged in his late 30’s to early 40’s on my bus home on Monday who made an initial comment about how he couldn’t sit down because the “fat chick was taking up all the space and making others stand”. Now for starters she was sitting on a seat at the very front of the bus that only fits one person anyway as it’s not a full two-seater like the rest of them. Secondly, he did this loud enough for all those on the bus to hear. I was standing right at the back, hearing his voice so clearly, I actually thought he was standing just a couple of people down from me.

Now some people looked at each other with faces saying “oh my, I can’t believe he said that”, while others chuckled. The lady suddenly slumped her shoulders and looked out of the window. I felt for her, I really did. He continued to make fun of her size and even offered her a mars bar in case she was hungry. Thankfully, someone stood up in defense of her and told him he was a jerk and if there was a kingdom for (and I don’t like the word he used) cu**s, he would be the King. The King of Cu**ville. This made some people laugh and he shut up. Still I could see the lady was distraught but she never snapped back at and continued to ignore him to the best of her ability.

The next day, I got on the bus again and heeeellooo! He was back. This time he was within reach and he started on another lady, except this one was only a young pup, maybe late teens, early 20’s. He was with a work colleague this time and he was not amused at having to stand once again. I hadn’t seen him at first because we were all piling on like herded sheep and it wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I realised it was going to be one of those rides home again.

His first words: “Sorry mate, I’d offer you the seat here but you know, those fat girls are taking them all up again”. I looked at the young girl and saw her get all embarrassed and swore I saw her heart break. I felt my blood starting to boil. I bit my tongue to start with but he just went on and on and on. Finally I had a enough and said “I see the King of Cu**ville is back in town”. He just looked at me stunned and stumbled with any form of a comeback. So I continued….

“I really hope you don’t have a partner or children of your own that suddenly get sick and put on any weight because you’d disown them in a heartbeat wouldn’t you?” No answer. “And I reckon if you had a daughter who was of a larger size and she got picked on by a jerk like you on the bus, you wouldn’t try to defend her at all, you’d tell her to go eat some celery, exercise and harden up right?”. Again, no answer. “Seriously dude, grow up! It’s people like you that cause people to snap and not in a good way. You really should consider what you are going to say before you say it because you have no fracking idea WHY any of us are the way we are, you have no idea if it’s pure laziness and love of food, you don’t know whether it’s a medical condition, you don’t know shit! So shut the frack up before I put you on your ass!”. I got applauded by the majority of people at the back of the bus.

He looked at his work colleague for some back up and he just said “She’s right mate, you can be a real jerk sometimes and a lot of the time, rather offensive towards people.” That there was priceless because he suddenly had nobody and was stuck on the bus for the next 20 minutes surrounded by people that were going to smack him if he opened his trap again.

The young girl who had put her iPod on smiled at me and said “Thank you”, tears rolling down her cheeks. He had pissed me off and I couldn’t hold back any longer. I think if my husband had been on the bus with me he probably would of smacked him out before I had gotten the chance to say anything.

Today however, was the icing on the cake!

Today I came around the corner from my workplace to see my bus already at the bus stop and people had stopped piling on. There were a couple running towards him and so he waited. When another lady and I got there, he looked us up and down, looked in the rear view mirror and said “I’m sorry ladies, this bus is full and I can’t let anyone else come on.”. Now neither of us had looked at the amount of people on the bus as we ran towards it and therefore said “oh ok” and rejoined the queue.

Upon turning around and saying a couple of things to each other, we realised the bus was not full, in fact it wasn’t even half full of people standing and there was plenty of room for us to get on. We looked at each other, turned towards the door of the bus to see him let on more people, all of “petite” size. Now he had not asked anyone to move back or anything and he hadn’t closed the doors to move on because it was “full” as we had walked back to the queue.

Immediately the lady that had been declined access got her phone, pen and paper out and wrote the bus number and route down, along with a description of the driver and took a photo of the bus, clearly showing the room that was on there. She then phoned up the bus company to complain, stating to me that she would then hand the phone to me for my complaint to be given.

Other people in the line started talking about it and how they couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed and so when she’d finished with her complaint, she asked them if they’d help her by giving her their details if she needed further witnesses to the incident. 7 out of the 10 said they would and gave her their name and numbers. I put my complaint in and then we both got on the next bus. She had told the person on the other end that she wanted a phone call by 5pm tomorrow from management or she’d be taking the incident to the Minister for Transport, ACA and Today Tonight and then filing papers for discrimination against the driver and the company for not disciplining him or getting him counselled.

It was while talking to her on the bus that I discovered that she worked for a Law Firm with her specialty being discrimination. The first thought that came to mind was “he screwed with the wrong lady”. I then wondered if he would of done that if we were actually disabled with canes or a walking frame. I’m betting he wouldn’t have and made people move down instead so that we could get on as well.

I can tell you I was absolutely appalled by the whole affair and to have this sort of crap for three days straight pushed me over the edge.

Yes, I’m a fatty. Yes, there are medical reasons for why I am the way I am and I have learnt to be happy with who I am because in the end, it’s my life and if I am unhappy with it, then it’s up to me to do something about it. I don’t need nor want to hear from someone, who doesn’t know a thing about me, that I need to lose weight, that I am disgusting or anything of the sort. I’m human just like they are. I have feelings just like them and I have a right to be treated as an equal regardless of my size.

There is a very good chance my young daughter will have the same issues as me from puberty so I am working hard to help prevent that; to ensure that she has a life without the bullies and I will do everything in my power to protect her from the jerks like I have had to deal with these last three days.

Will the bullying of fatties ever end? I don’t think it will, but I can always hope and will stand up for those that can’t defend themselves against those that choose to be their own “King of Cu**ville”.

Here’s hoping I see that King again this week……

by Foxie

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What are your experiences with public transport as a fat person?  Do you find some situations are worse than others?  Share in the comments.

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30 comments on “Fat Hatred and Discrimination on Public Transport: Guest Post by Foxie

  • There are a lot of kings of c**tville out there and I’ve encountered several in Sydney in my journeys. My oh works as a bus driver and he had to be restrained by myself to stop him decking one arrogant little maggot who mooed at me the entire trip on the bus. I don’t know why he mooed at me-the bus was half empty and there were plenty of seats available everywhere.
    You are right though that it is not acceptable to make fun of the disabled, of people from different nationalities, but it is still open season for the intolerant when it comes to fat people and a couple of other groups.

    • He did it because he is an arrogant little maggot.

      I have to add though, people experience racism and disablism all the time on public transport. I see it myself regularly and have to speak up. We’re a long way from being the only marginalised people in public – it’s just still legal to discriminate against us is all.

  • You both rock!
    Of course, the people who take up most room on public transport are men who sit with their legs wide apart and refuse to move up. I once had to sit on the armrest for a 20 minute train journey because a “normal” sized young man was taking up 3/4 of a double seat and I wasn’t brave enough to ask him to move over when he didn’t have the consideration or courtesy to only take up one seat on a crowded commuter train. Larger people generally try to squeeze themselves into as small a space as possible, thereby taking up LESS space than selfish jerks!

    • Ugh, The Huldra I totally agree. I sit on my bus and I look down the rows of seats and it’s ALWAYS men who sit on the aisle seat with a bag or an empty space beside them at the window, intimidating anyone who wishes to sit there. And you’re right, they do that spread-legged thing as if they have giant testicles (they do not, ever).

  • I too have noticed that no one seems to comment when someone who is slim takes up two seats on a crowded bus. I often see people sitting on the aisle seat with the window seat empty on a crowded who do not move. I have often stood when there was not a lot of room to sit & I would be encroaching on someone else’s space.

    I have not had anyone openly comment on my size on public transport, though I bet people have thought not nice things. I guess as long as they think those things about people who are just inconsiderate jerks, I can deal. Oh and as long as they only think, not say them. Goodness knows I think some awful things sometimes that are never voiced!

  • What a horrible experience you have had. I’m sorry. But that’s fantastic the way you stood up for yourself and those other poor people. Good on you! I travel every day on the tram and have never had any bad experiences. But then again, I usually don’t sit down next to people, only when a double seat is free, and, like the commenter above pointed out, I try to squeeze myself into the corner as much as possible. I’m usually listening to/watching my ipod too, so wouldn’t hear any comments anyway. So perhaps I’m just too oblivious to other people to notice any negativity?

    • I tend to do the same thing Katie, though I still get the comments. I avoid sitting down unless there is a double seat free, squish myself in against the window and always use my iPod to block out the snark.

  • Thanks Kath for giving Foxie the platform to speak, and thanks Foxie for speaking out.

    I haven’t caught public transport for a long time, but the ONLY negative experience I have ever had was when my then partner and I were getting on a bus to go into town. I hopped on first and as my boyfriend was coming up behind me he patted me on the bum affectionately. Someone on the bus saw it and said something along the lines of “why bother doing that, you wont make it any smaller”. The other 3 or 4 passengers on the bus laughed along with the person (who, if I recall, was a woman) who made the ‘joke’. I laughed it off at the time but I was absolutely mortified that a stranger thought this was an appropriate thing to say not just to me, but in a public situation where others could hear here.

    Bringing that kind of attention to my weight (and I should point out I was probably about 30 kilos smaller than I am now) was just devastating for me. I was only about 22 and severely insecure about my weight.

    Other than that, I’ve never experienced anything negative. I’m either completely oblivious or just really, really lucky!!

    • What a douchey thing to say! It never ceases to amaze me how people think it’s totally acceptable to just insult a complete stranger going about their day. I get so angry when I hear people who think they’re so entitled to just say whatever they please.

  • Foxie, you rock my world. I bet the King of C*ntville is hoping to god he doesn’t run into you again! And I bet that young girl he was harassing will never ever forget you because you had her back.

    I live in the country and so don’t have the need to use public transport very often (i.e. when I am in the city, there is little to no public transport here). When I do I am very conscious that other people give me ‘the look’ or avoid sitting next to me (even if there is room). I am flying interstate in a few days and I am glad I will be sitting next to one of my two children because at least then I don’t have to worry about sitting next to a stranger and worrying about their attitude. I even bought my own seat belt extender so I don’t have to put up with attitude from the stewards.

    Thankyou for sharing your experience and I am sorry you have had to deal with such blatant fat hate. I am *so* glad though that you were able to blast the King and report that driver.

  • I’m glad that jerk was put in his place and hopefully he will think twice before making a nasty comment on public transit again. Same goes for the bus driver—where I live, we can’t refuse anyone if the bus is full so people are standing, sitting on the floor in the back and sometimes on each other’s laps!

    Luckily I haven’t experienced any fat hatred while riding. My local county bus that only operates Monday-Friday is geared towards disabled and/or low-income passengers, many who are visibly large so it’s just common that you will see people like me riding and nobody gives it a second thought.

    And like Thehuldra, there are a lot of guys who take up more room on the buses I ride by sitting with their legs open wide or sit in a seat longways so their feet stick out in the aisle. But the bus fills up so quickly due to students to attend the local community college so the guys can only do that for a few minutes.

  • I’m in America, so my experiences might be a bit different, but I regularly take my local public transit during heavy commuter hours. I get on the bus at the begging of the line, so I usually get a seat, though I usually have to sit next to someone. The worst offenders in my opinion are female students who put their backpacks on the seat next to them while on a two seat bench seat. Now, I have to recognize the mindset behind this: I myself have been boxed in by a creep on the bus, and honestly it is one of the awfullest experiences I’ve had on the bus. But when the driver is constantly telling people to move back to let more people on? Not cool.
    More often I have experienced people who would rather stand than sit next to me, I make the effort to scrunch next to the wall, put my big backpack on my lap, and make as much room as possible, and even as people are pushed back they will take standing over sitting next to me. Like I’m contagious or something. Luckily, grannies don’t seem to have the same reservations of my student peers, and I guess it’s just as well.

    • I experience the same thing quite regularly Squeegeelicious. People will stand even if the seat next to me is the last one on othe bus. Sometimes I think I want to print out that fake book cover “Fat is Contagious” and put it over my regular book just to fuck with their heads.

  • Thanks all and thanks Kath for sharing it for me.

    Yes I find a lot of men sit with their legs wide apart, I actually experienced that one the other day but I “stood” my ground and made him pick up his backpack from between his legs and put it on his lap. :-P

    I used to see the school kids a lot with their bags on the seat next to them, granted sometimes their bag has been so big and filled with so much stuff there is no way known they could put it on their lap or on the floor infront of them at all, so the seat next to them is all they have. I get on the bus too early nowadays and the school kids are still sleeping.

    But here’s an update:

    A director of the company phoned the lawyer the day after, apologising that this had occured on behalf of the company but emphasised that there was no excuse for the drivers behaviour. He then revealed that the driver has been suspended pending further investigation. On that note, 5 or 6 witnesses have written letters in defence for my new lawyer friend to submit as evidence and she is waiting to hear what is happening now. Hopefully I will hear from her this coming week sometime.

    Again thanks for the kind words. I saw the King again the other day and he didn’t say a word, infact I’m not sure he was even prepared to breathe with me around :-)

    • Ha! That’s so great that you, the other passengers and even that guy’s workmate were able to shame him into acting like a decent person.

      As for the bus driver, I’d have hoped that he would get some kind of penalty – a lecture from a superior at the very least and maybe some diversity training – for what he did. However, losing his job over it seems like a bit much. It’s the kind of thing that could have been at least partly motivated by other things (maybe he was running behind schedule, for example).

  • Awesome post, Foxie!

    I haven’t ridden on public transport regularly in a LONG time – because of abusive people. As soon as I learned to drive, I drove! I have an 18 year old son and he has never been on a school bus. I have driven him to school every single day since he was 3 years old. No way would I let him go through what I did.

    A few years ago I went to New York City with my family for Christmas. We had arranged for transport from the airport to the hotel. Come to find out, it was a van that was supposed to fit a certain number of people in it. Of course, I was taking up more than “my share” of room. The van driver then proceeded to pick up a bunch more people and I was in agony until we arrived at the hotel. I was absolutely smashed into that van. It hurt physically and emotionally. I was so glad that our friends, who were going on the trip with us, had landed earlier and were already at the hotel. I would have felt humiliated.

    I won’t go into the abuse I took on school buses in my lifetime – I would have to write a book. I think “horrific” about covers it.

    Thanks for sharing your story and it makes me feel so good that you stuck up for that younger girl. I know exactly how she feels (and I know you do too). Keep on being bold out there. You are surely making a difference!

  • What a great result. Which just goes to prove how terrified corporate land is people claiming their rights – if only more of us realised the power that we actually have.

    My take on the first guy is a little bit different – from the way you described him and the way the person with him reacted, it sounds like he has a serious problem of some sort and if it wasn’t a fat person he was targeting, it would be a disabled kid or a slow-moving old lady. What is disappointing is that other people, who were clearly shocked by him (as shown by their applause) just sat there in silence.

    Congratulations for having the courage and the decency to stand up to him. Hopefully somebody who was watching you will be inspired to stand up to that sort of nastiness next time they come across it.

  • That’s an awful thing to have witnessed and experienced and I’m really sorry you had to go through it. Huge applause though for having the courage to stand up to it. People like that need to be put in their place and it’s a shame more people don’t speak up when they see downright abusive and rude behaviour. Good on you!!!

  • First of all, Foxie is a rockstar! I hope that if faced with a similar situation, I can be as awesome! Second of all, as a fat person who takes public transportation regularly, I empathize so much. I’ve never had anything said to me directly, but I’ve gotten the “look” or had people change seats. Luckily the latter happened recently and not when my self-image was in the toilet. I looked at him, gave him my snarkiest looking smirk, and made myself comfortable in the extra space. Unfortunetly, I still have moments where I try to shrink; but then I remember that I’m just as deserving of space as anyone else.

  • Thank you for sharing your story.

    As far as I know, someone has not said anything to me (behind my back? Probably). The man was a classic bully — making himself bigger by insulting someone else. He needed someone to tell him off and you did. I hope that I would have the wherewithall to do as you did when the opportunity arises.

  • Great and cheering story, but please don’t compare experiences to disabled people. Buses and trains (and taxis) frequently refuse service to disabled people, especially those in wheelchairs or with guide dogs, claiming there’s not enough room – when there’s people sitting in the disabled-reserved seats! There is no “last acceptable prejudice”: discrimination like this affects everyone.

  • I live in New York, so I take public transportation almost every day. There are people of all sizes, shapes, and walks of life who take up multiple seats. People who leave their bags next to them. The guys that spread out as if their balls need extra breathing room. People who roll up giant strollers across entire rows of seats. People who just plain old sit sideways and spread out. And yet it’s the fatties who get hassled. I personally haven’t had anyone say anything quite this overt, but I’ve gotten a few looks — like they’ll walk on, act like they’re going to the seat next to me, then stop and glare at me instead. Hey, I’m not stopping you from sitting there, it’s your hang-up and I refuse to feel bad about it. The closes to over was that once I squished in next to some guy and he let out a loud “humph” and got up and moved. Hey, more room for me.

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