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Stairs and stares

November 26, 2014

Fat HealthExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeDickweed

Recently, I was in Portland for a scholarly conference about sport and exercise sociology. It was a fantastic conference overall, but the space confirmed some fears I have about the combination of weight stigma and ableism in a space dedicated to studying how people move their bodies.

Let me start by saying that I didn’t bring my TravelScoot because I chickened out. I’ve had a lot of internalized fat shame and ableism regarding being a Scooter Fatty (that I’ve written about here and on my personal blog), so I decided to use my manual wheelchair even though I’ve been struggling with tendonitis in my right elbow and repeatedly spraining my wrists (the joys of hypermobility).

Since I was traveling alone, I had to pick which one large adaptive aid I was going to use, whether it was my scooter, rollator, manual wheelchair, or crutches. I have to plan for the worst possible mobility scenario, so it had to be wheels:

Sitting on the floor at the Denver International Airport next to my wheelchair

Sitting on the floor at the Denver International Airport next to my wheelchair

Anyhow, the hotel that the conference was held at had a fantastic full breakfast with a buffet and omelets to order … but it was on the bottom floor that two of the three elevators could access. The room I was sharing with colleagues was on the third floor and the dining area in one of the sublevels. I happened to be with one of my colleagues who is also fat, but not mobility impaired, and we were trying to get one of the elevators that would get us to breakfast, but each time the “wrong” elevator would open up either empty or with passengers.

I was sitting closer to the two elevators that were useful because of evil, thick hotel carpet that makes pushing my chair difficult, so I wasn’t visible when the elevator opened with these two passengers.  My colleague apologized to them when the elevator opened, but they responded with a snide “You could just take the stairs. It’s only a couple floors down.”

In usual smart aleck fashion, I told my colleague something akin to “yeah, only if I want to fall down several flights of stairs.” While that’s a bit on the dramatic side, I might have been able to get down there safely, but it would have taken me a half an hour and would have required me to lay down when I got down there … defeating the purpose of traveling across the country to go to a conference in the first place.

In hindsight, I’m disappointed that even in a place where people were engaging critically with all sorts of topics regarding the body in motion, I still had to fight for my space and place. People were still reading a fat body as a lazy body despite our shared discipline of sport sociology. It makes me concerned when I hit the job market in about two years, but I’m hoping that my persistent presence in the field will help change how both fat and disabled bodies are perceived in physical activity spaces.

Casey Sig

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    November 26, 2014 10:25 am

    I get the “look” from people when they see me riding my mobility scooter, and then getting off it to walk into a restroom. What they don’t realize is that most restrooms are laid out so that even if they do have a handicapped stall, there is no way to get my scooter into the restroom, let alone get it into the handicapped stall or to be able to turn it around to get it out of there again. Believe me, if I could get it into the restroom, I sure as hell wouldn’t be limping in there and almost crawling back out (especially if it’s crowded and I have to stand and wait for the handicapped stall). And people that give me that “look”, or have the nerve to say anything to me about being able to walk and still using a mobility scooter, well, they get “the bird” from me (and maybe a piece of my mind too, depending on how much pain I’m in at the time – the more pain I’m in, the nastier I’m likely to be to asshats). I just don’t have the energy anymore to give a rat’s ass what people think – most of my energy is taken up with trying to figure out how to navigate the outside world while riding a scooter.

  2. weightstigmaconference permalink
    November 26, 2014 6:59 pm

    This is one of the issues with lack of representation in research. You being there makes all the difference, even if it’s just ripples. Sorry the mobility problems (and idiots) spoiled an otherwise interesting conference for you.

  3. Jane Jetson permalink
    November 28, 2014 2:07 pm

    It is not unusual to see a scooter with crutches or a walker as part of the set up. Mobility has its limits. Some people can walk a few feet or use a walker. It doesn’t mean they can stand or walk for hours. People don’t realize or don’t want to understand that limited mobility still means limited mobility most of the time. You don’t have to have a spinal cord injury to need a scooter.

    I hope the rest of the conference went well. Those people had no business commenting on whether you take the stairs. I am an in-betweenie with a lot of think privilege. I take the elevator for a number of reasons including the fact that I wear 2-3″ heels. No ones business but mine. Also, in my opinion, if the ladies in line should have yielded the handicapped stall to you if they understood you needed it.

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