You Just Can’t Know

Published June 26, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

A couple of weeks ago, the Daily What on Tumblr posted this photograph:

Seated Woman

With the caption: “Lazy Lady Is Lazy of the Day: I’d say give this lady a laziness award but she’d probably be too lazy to accept it.”

Now I’m quite sure I’m not the only one pissed off by the assumptions made by that caption.  I found I was so pissed off that I had to just set the picture aside and give it some thought before I shared it here with all of you.

It still really, really pisses me off.

This is another example of someone looking at a person, and making an assumption about them, simply by what they see.  Ok so in this picture, we see a fat woman in a line for Burger King, sitting on a chair.  That must totally mean she’s a big fat lazy cow right?

Would they be offering the laziness awards if it were a thin woman sitting on that chair?

But what about what we don’t know?  Let’s ask a few questions.

Do we know whether or not this woman has any illnesses?  Might she be a sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, fibromyalgia or any other illness that causes fatigue and body pain?  What about recovering from an injury or surgery?  Perhaps she’s going through chemotherapy treatment?  What about a spinal injury?  Maybe she had a baby recently and has complications from birth?  Maybe she’s actually pregnant?  Perhaps she has balance issues due to damaged inner ears?  Who knows, I could go on.

Maybe the woman has just worked a 16 hour shift somewhere and just wants something quick and cheap and easy to eat so she can go home to bed.  I mean she’s between a soldier/marine (sorry my American friends, I’m not sure of the uniform) and a woman in scrubs – it could be the wee small hours of the morning for all anyone knows.

That’s the thing with bodies.  Most of the time, the casual observer has not a damn idea what is going on with someone’s body.  A person cannot make a snap judgement of someone as lazy just because they see a fat woman sitting on a chair in the queue at Burger King.  The same thing for people who take the elevator one floor rather than the stairs, or use the disabled toilets when they can walk, or use the handrail on stairs.  Whether they are fat or thin, there are reasons that they do this, and those reasons are nobody’s fucking business.

50 comments on “You Just Can’t Know

  • Absolutely! Unless people have had that kind of a problem, or know people who do, they usually have no idea that a lot of people can walk or stand for a short while, but no longer–not without pain, or not at all. On the New York subway, signs designate a few seats for people with disabilities, and those signs say “Not all disabilities are visible.” There are many intersections between fat and disability issues, including that some illnesses or treatments themselves cause weight gain.

    As you may know, given prejudice like this, it takes guts to ask for a table instead of a booth, ask for a seat-belt extender–let alone take a chair in line. Socially, we are so afraid of condemnation that it is often easier to stand, even in some pain, than to stand out. So do people do this because they’re lazy? No.

    • Absolutely! People are shamed for requiring a seat, or a different table, or seat belt extenders, or the fat arm cuff at the doctor, so they just don’t ask for it, and put themselves through further discomfort and pain. It certainly does take guts to ask for those things.

    • As you may know, given prejudice like this, it takes guts to ask for a table instead of a booth, ask for a seat-belt extender–let alone take a chair in line.

      This is so incredibly true. Good on her for being able to go “I want to sit down! I will sit down!” I still have a habit of trying to push through the pain when I exercise, even though I know my body is telling me I need to stop, because I don’t want to eb the fat girl who can’t keep up. To have the guts ot go “Hey, sometimes I am not superhuman, and that is okay” is a skill I have not yet mastered.

  • Even if a person does do something out of total laziness like taking the elevator instead of the stairs when they are perfectly able to do so?

    Who cares?

    Nobody ever screams at lazy thin people.

    I have orthopedic issues and can’t put too much pressure on my broken foot. I wish I didn’t have to deal with it but unfortunately do. Oh, then I get the fucking concern trolls who tell me it’ll get all better if I just lose 20 pounds! Read: it’s BROKEN. I had it cut open once and may have to again for “exploratory surgery”. Getting smaller won’t do shit.

    I take that damn elevator with pride. 😉

    • I take the elevator at work for fire drills because they’re just a drill. The day after a drill, the WHOLE office complains about sore legs – not just the fat people. If an emergency occurs, I’ll use the stairs. But for a drill, I’ll role play one of the people who can’t and then I get the elevator down when the fire chief clears me. That doesn’t make me lazy, it makes me smart. Because the following day, I’m the only person in the office able to bend under desks, lift boxes and move stuff, the only one not stiff and sore!

    • And even if an illness would be better with less fat or less weight that doesn’t mean that anyone can sustainably lose enough to make a difference. And one thing seems scientifically clear about health and weight: yo-yo dieting is far worse than staying a steady high weight.

      I have both diabetes and arthritis, and my doctors know that while I will do a lot to control the diabetes and perhaps reduce the arthritis, I will not do anything unsustainable to lose weight. As a result, I am fat, often eat more healthily than most people (I am pisco-vegan), and practice yoga. A combination not dreamt of in many people’s philosophies.

      And if I chose not to do *anything* to control my diabetes? Still my choice, always my choice!

  • I saw this picture, too. It infuriated me. I had a back injury a few years ago that rendered me unable to walk without pain, and standing still was excruciating. It was an exercise injury, from trying to prove to all those assholes that I wasn’t fat and lazy and worthless. That woman in the picture could have been me at any point in my year long recovery (except that I’m considerably fatter and would have been an even better punchline) I guess the point is she shouldn’t be eating and a fast food place, amiright? I can’t tell you how much I hate not only the caption but this thing which is now seemingly everywhere of secretly taking pictures of people you find funny/gross/whatever for your own sick pleasure in mocking them online. I HATE IT, HATE IT

    • Oh yes, that one pisses me off too. The whole concept of just taking a photo of a complete stranger and posting it online. I’ve been on the receiving end of that one, and it fucking sucks. If someone hasn’t posed for the photo, or given you permission to take their photo, then don’t do it. And particularly don’t post it online.

    • It’s so officiously rude that it makes my head spin. Would those assclowns who take and post these photos of random strangers like it if someone took embarrassing pictures of them in their not-very-finest moments and posted them online for the world to see? I don’t think so.

      • A friend of mine loves those sites. I challenged him and said that it had happened to me. He replied “But you’re not a candidate for one of those sites!” I had to explain to him that while HE doesn’t think so, he’s my friend and treats me with respect, plenty of strangers on the street DO think I belong on one of those sites. It has actually happened to me, not just a suspicion, but I caught the bastards.

        Even reading those sites is off, and I wish people would think of the implications before they do it.

    • I’m the same. I just hate mocking strangers, full stop. Be they celebrities or whoever else. I want to say to these people who think it’s funny and go “You don’t know them! You hqve no RIGHT! And even if you did know them, you STILL ahve no right! They are HUMAN just like you!”

  • I had the same thought when I first saw that picture, and saw the way people mocked the woman for “being lazy”. This was held up as an example of “LOL FAT PEOPLE ARE LAZY! FAIL!”, and even someone photoshopping the woman onto a treadmill.

    That kind of judgment is sickening; the kind that leaves you with a churning feeling in the pit of your stomach. Too many people force themselves to endure great pain because of exactly this reaction to someone sitting down.

    • I have to say that in the weeks I’ve been following Daily What – this is the only post I’ve ever had a problem with. That’s why I followed them, it was all fun stuff without any of the nastiness. Since this one, I’ve not seen it happen again. Don’t know why the slip up, it’s disappointing.

  • If you look out the door to the left of the picture, you can see that it’s obviously not bright out. It doesn’t look like the sun’s going down, but rather, coming up. Of course I can’t know for sure.

    Maybe she just woke up after taking care of a sick child all night or an infant and has to go to work at 5am. Seriously. Gotta give people the benefit of the doubt.

    • Who knows. It looks like fluorescent light out that door to me, rather than natural light. But even if it was the middle of the day, her sitting there in the queue is nobody’s damn business except hers. It clearly doesn’t bother the lady in scrubs behind her.

  • My first thought looking at the picure was “Good idea”. Because, yes, she might be ill, or exhausted. But she might just *feel like having a chair*. So what? In which world is standing in line in a fast food place is a moral virture, or sheepishly accepting an uncomfortable situation morally superiror to doing something about it?

    That caption is stupid in too many ways to explore them all.

    • inge, if it’s been like the lines I’ve been in at various shops, restaurants and businesses, they move at a snail’s pace and I wish I had a chair handy.

  • She might also be waiting for her order to be COMPLETED, not waiting TO order. Or perhaps she’s a relative of an employee, waiting for them to get off work. Or maybe the chair was there, in the way, and rather than move it, she sat down.

    You can’t tell ANYTHING, really, from the picture alone.

  • I’d also like to point out how many demonstrably fat people are in that line (looks like just the one, to me.) And who is heading the line? Two rather slender and athletic-looking young men.

    But, clearly, FAST FOOD IS FOR FAT PEOPLE.

    • Yes, but they’re thin and athletic looking men! They must be healthier than the fat woman sitting down! Let’s not scream about what they choose to eat!

      • As are hot, thin women. But omg fatty put down the donut!!11one You should be satisfied with just one tiny piece of lettuce and a piece of organic whole-grain bread that tastes like cardboard! U fatties are not entitled to eating for pleasure or whatever the hell you feel like after working a 12-hour shift! Yes, because fatties don’t work! They just drain mah tax dollars!

        Sorry, I had to. 😉

  • Agreed! My mother has Fibromyalgia so I know some of what people like that go through, and I have a knee problem (not both knees just one, I broke it once and it hasn’t been the same since). So hell yes I’m gonna take the elevator or the chair! Hell yes I’m gonna encourage my mother to take them before I will!

    But do I get crap for it. Yes, does my mother….nooooo. Because my mother is one of those women who you just don’t say those kinds of things to. And I also get the whole, “If you’d just lose weight your knee would be better!” Well folks I didn’t start having knee problems until after I’d lost 20lbs on accident.

    • I have a friend with Fibro who is a tall, lean male. He often needs to rest up, or take care of himself a little more than usual because of the pain he feels almost all of the time gets more than he can handle. You wouldn’t know it to look at him though – he’s lean and to most of the outside world, looks like he is pain free.

      He told me he never gets labelled lazy for taking a chair when others stand, or chipped that he should be more active, despite the fact that nobody knows he has an illness. People are just fine with it, no judgement cast.

  • Holy crap! Before I reply to all of the posts above, I have to share with y’all:

    My spam filter is chock full on this post. Lot’s of usernames like Fat Hater and Fuck You Fatty, Thin and Proud, Fat C___. For some reason, this post is really drawing them out.

    Of course, the beauty of WordPress is that they go straight to the filter unread and I can just chuck ’em all with one click. Not to mention block them unseen too.

    But I wonder if this post is attracting them more because it’s calling out the bullshit factor or if it’s because I linked back to the Daily What post? For some reason it’s a nutbag trigger, that’s for sure.

  • I don’t know if I’m any better. I immediately thought, “Aw, poor thing has arthritis.” It was a snap judgment on my part that made me feel better about myself. There have been many times I’ve had to do weird shit like that because my knee was giving out. As a fat person, I got all kinds of dirty looks and sighs. Yet, I couldn’t do much about it. So my powerlessness came out as sympathy for this woman. God bless her for being resourceful and getting what she needed!

  • It could be a fast food place within or next to a hospital. Maybe she’s a patient, the nurse behind her could be with her? Anyway, I don’t really care.

    Just wanted to comment on Rachel’s statement above “nobody ever screams at lazy thin people.”

    Actually, that’s not quite true. As this post points out, plenty of people are judged for things like using lifts when they can walk, regardless of size. If you have an invisible disability or illness and you’re thin, you will still face judgement and prejudice for being ‘lazy’. Mind you, I’m sure that at least some people will assume disability in a thin person but laziness in a fat person, definitely. Or else they’ll blame the person’s disability on her/his weight.

    • True, I hadn’t really thought of that. I’m just thinking about my own experiences and whatnot, and usually when I hear a person complaining about someone being lazy, it’s almost always directed at a fat person.

      That and in general, the media and society tend not to yell at thin folks for their eating and exercise habits– and assumptions made about them tend to be positive. The first trainer at my gym that I had frigging assumed that I lied about my eating habits and how often I exercise outside the gym. Just like doctors assume the same, and random strangers who make other peoples’ bodies and choices their business.

      I’m sorry if my comment got misconstrued, but I’m speaking from what I’ve seen.

  • I agree that “thin” people get crap for being lazy too. It happens to me at least once a day at work. I take the elevator for one, two, sometimes three floors, and NOT because I want to be lazy or make the ride up for someone else a little bit longer!! I’m 20 weeks pregnant, not showing very much, and due to some minor complications, my doctor has advised me to take it easy–meaning not taking the stairs as I used to do, etc–and people DO NOT hesitate to let me know what they think almost every time I do it. I do think that larger people get more of it, but it does happen to us “thin lazy” folks too.

    Either way, it is really sad that so many people feel the need to pass judgement when they really have no business doing so. No respect.

  • This is something I’ve been thinking about. I just calculated my BMI for the first time in years (Even though I KNOW it’s bullshit), and I a couple of points past obese. However, I am incredibly fit and healthy (I can sprint for ten minutes without stopping, my blood pressure is on the lower side of healthy and everything is at good levels) but people looking at me might think I’m lazy and unhealthy and I sit at home eating cake all day. And this shit WORRIES me.

    When I saw that picture of that woman, my first thought was “Man, she must be so tired! Poor thing. Or she’s got some kind of disability. I’d be offering to carry her and bring her food to her.” it did not even occur to me that she’s just lazy. And then I moved onto the dude in the fatigues, who is quite easy on the eye from behind at least. I am a sucker for a person in uniform.

    You know what? I actually feel sorry for people who can’t see past her weight and assume that makes her lazy. I feel sorry for people who have such blinkers on that only restrict them to this one view of the world. They miss out on SO MUCH because of prejudicial CRAP.

    And then I feel sorry for myself for buying into it too.

    Sorry for the essay.

    • They miss out on SO MUCH because of prejudicial CRAP.

      Amen, Anna. Amen.

      But unfortunately a lot of folks, I know a lot of us in the FA world have felt this way before our eyes were opened, do let things like their appearance stop them from living full lives. I know I did at one point, and it’s because of prejudiced assholes.

      It takes a lot of time to overcome the brainwashing, lord knows I’ve been brainwashed into many other things (including always feeling like shit about myself) and it several years to reverse.

      But thanks to FA and talking to so many other people, namely women my age, who have had similar experiences and put up with the same shit every day that I do– I can grab life by the horns and do every thing that these assclowns say fat people can’t do / aren’t entitled to. You’ll only be stopped from living your life if you get it in your mind that you can’t.

    • Essay away Anna. I totally see where you are coming from. There are so many people who close their minds, and therefor their world, with prejudiced attitudes.

  • Wow, that’s so dumb. I can’t even imagine anyone being that lazy—my first thought would be that she has some medical condition.

    • Luxe the thing is, even if she was just simply sitting down because she couldn’t be bothered standing up… it’s nobody’s business. Except perhaps Burger King, if they had rules about the furniture. There are no rules on how much someone should stand or sit or lay down in life. Our bodies are not public property for other people to judge, ya know?

  • I follow the Daily What too, and was going through it with my brother when we saw this picture. We actually had a pretty good discussion about why it was unfair to assume that she was “lazy” as opposed to exhausted, in pain, or otherwise unable or unwilling to stand up. Both of our parents are disabled and use walkers that have seats so that in that situation, they would be able to do the same thing (and they often do).

    We agreed that the image would be funny if she was just tired or sore, but only in that it’s unusual and sort of amusing, and sort of rebellious (she’s tired, says “screw standing!” and goes for it; that’s awesome and makes me smile!), not that it’s funny because “she’s so lazy she can’t even stand in line! HAR HAR HAR”. Of course, if it’s because she physically can’t stand there because of excruciating pain or a disability, the “amusing” part goes away and is just left with “she’s awesome for deciding to do that for herself.” Sorry, it’s kind of hard to explain… Regardless of why she’s sitting, I think it’s great that she did that for herself. The lazy comment pisses me off, too. I hope my meaning comes across.

    • I get you Elle, for sure.

      I like the Daily What. This is the one and only time I’ve ever seen something I object to. It’s really disappointing when that happens.

      • Sadly I’ve been annoyed by more than this post. There are a lot of sexist posts (i.e. “Morning Wood,” “Get to know a hottie,” etc.) that disappoint me, even though they spotlight a lot of progressive, cool things too (although the comments on those posts often make me rage). The abundance of links to “MANOFEST” lately is really off-putting, too. The link recently to funny police blotters seemed innocuous enough, but then amidst the silly and ridiculous images, there was one about a woman who was raped. Please explain how that qualifies as funny?! 😦

  • I also have to be careful not to jump to conclusions when I see something like this…. I am obese and spend my work day standing and walking. While this is fine for 8+ hours, I do find myself using drive-thru banking, fast food, etc. Or just skipping the errands and going home. In our local DMV (Dept. of Motor Vehicles), there used to be a long, long line that you would have to wait in for up to an hour. I used to take a folding chair with me and just move it every now and then as the line moved. Now, the office has gone to a Pick-a-Number system and provided folks with chairs to wait in. I take some personal pleasure in maybe being the reason of this policy.
    Also, when I have seen a non-appearing disabled person getting out of a car in a designated Handicapped parking place, I have to remind myself that my father who has macular degeneration does not SEEM disabled but does carry a handicap placard. He does not drive, but when I take him on his errands, he likes to do them himself so I wait in the car in the Handicap parking spot so he can safely get back in the car.

  • If you have a Burger King like I do, you’d have to sit in a chair to wait for your meal because they are extremely slow.

    • Sounds like some of the places I’ve been – you’re like a soldier on parade, just trying to keep the blood circulating through your body long enough.

  • That stinks, she looks tired, Ive taken chairs to sit in line.

    People are too judgemental today, according to the American dream of delusional everyone lives to be a 100, which ignores such realities of sickness and death, no one wants to view anything that may pop their bubble. they treat people with so little compassion today. It is sad to watch.

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