There have been countless incidents of fat people being forced to pay more for seating on an airplane. Kevin Smith’s experience on SouthWest quickly went viral, when he leveraged the power of twitter to register his complaint. We know about this incident simply because he is a famous director, but this happens everyday to people who do not have the power to call attention to their discrimination.
A club in Montreal recently decided to put up a notice on Facebook, announcing that fat people are not welcome at their club.They had no problem publicly displaying their fat hating policy, because hating fat people is something that is extremely socially acceptable. There are several fat activists who claim this kind of behavior is proof that fat phobia is the last acceptable bias; however, what it really stands as proof of, is the fact that we have divided our treatment of isms into covert and overt. Much of fat phobia/ fat hatred today is very overt.
Natural Nails in Dekalb County, Georgia added a rather interesting and apparently discriminatory surcharge onto one client’s bill: $5 for being overweight. WSB TV reports that salon manager Kim Tran told customer Michelle Fonville that the extra money was to pay for the $2,500 pedicure chair should it break, since it has a weight capacity of 200 pounds. Ultimately, Tran waived the $5 fee…and also told Fonville not to come back.
Michelle Fonville: I was humiliated. I almost cried I turned my face, because tears were forming in my eyes.
Reporter: Michelle Fonville says her experience in Natural Nails in Dekalb County on Monday turned from pleasant to painful in a matter of moments. She said things went downhill after she had gotten her manicure, pedicure and eyebrow arch and the manager gave her the bill. She realized that she had been over charged by five dollars.
Michelle Fonville: I say, I’ve been overcharged. I say she may have made an error. She broke it down and then she told me, that she charged me five dollars more because I was overweight. I say ma’am you can’t charge me five dollars more, that’s discrimination. You can’t discriminate against me because of my weight.
Kim Tran: That’s not discrimimation. That’s not about discrimination.
Reporter: The manager tells me it’s about the salon chairs that cannot hold more that 200 pounds or it could lead to costly repairs.
Kim Tran: Twenty-five hundred dollars – do you think that is fair when we take twenty-four dollars and we have to pay for twenty-five hundred dollars? Is that fair? no
Reporter: The manager did refund Fonville the five dollar overcharge and told her to take her business elsewhere.
Kim Tran: I say I sorry, next time I cannot take you.
Michelle Fonville: It was a matter of fact attitude and I just couldn’t believe that another human being was talking to another human in that manner. The word has to get out there these people are discriminating against us because of our weight. I mean come on we’re in America, you cannot do that.
Reporter: Fonville says the shop should post their weight policy to save customers like her embarrassment and humiliation The manager tell me she also charged her longer to do her nails and that if she had been there when Fonville first arrived she would have taken one look at her and told her that she could not be serviced here.
I suppose this woman’s fatness was also to blame for taking longer to do her nails. The salon absolutely refuses to acknowledge that this is a problem of their own creation. If you are going to run a business that is open to the public, you would think that it would make sense to create an environment in which everyone could be served. This is the exact same excuse that airlines give for forcing fat passengers to buy two seats when they travel. We socially have designed the world to accommodate certain bodies and when people who are outside of the so-called norm demand to participate, they are punished. Tran did not see her behaviour as discriminatory, because it was not her being told that she does not belong. Everyday we set up barriers that exclude large swathes of the population, and unless we are personally affected, our privilege allows us to ignore the effect that is has on others. People are invisible because we create them as such. Today Fonville was heard, but she is one amongst millions who we have silenced to support the idea that only certain kinds of bodies belong.