Monday, May 16, 2011

The Last Legal Form of Descrimination

In this country it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, religion, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation.  However, it is still perfectly legal to discriminate against someone because of their weight.  How is this possible?  Why are overweight people excluded from the protection of the law? 

I was reading a blog post last week from Shrinking Kenz where she discussed how she and her mother were publicly humiliated by Southwest Airlines employees because of their weight. 

Nothing will tear down an overweight person like publicly making fun of or drawing attention to our weight.  A Southwest Airlines employee in Phoenix, Arizona publicly humiliated me in front of hundreds of other passengers.  I was so mortified by the experience that I never reported it or even discussed it with anyone.  After reading Kenz's post about her experience, I think its time I talked about my experience.

A few years ago, my husband and I traveled via Southwest Airlines from Louisville, Kentucky to Phoenix, Arizona.  We travel to Arizona every year to visit family in Tucson.  Before travelling, I looked up Southwest Airlines policy about overweight passengers.  Their policy essentially states that if your hips will fit in the seat with the armrests down, then you don't need to purchase another seat.  My hips fit in the seat, but the seat belts don't always fit and I sometimes need a seat belt extension.  I had flown from Louisville to Phoenix with no problems.  However, while we were waiting for our return flight from Phoenix to Louisville, the end of my vacation turned into a nightmare.

I was sitting in a crowded area at the boarding gate in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.  My husband and I were chatting about our vacation when a thin blond woman approached me.  She was a Southwest employee.  She stood over me and then bent over and peered down at me like I was a child.  Then she announced in front of everyone "You will probably have to buy another seat because you won't fit in just one seat."  I WAS MORTIFIED!  I tried to be calm and I said, "I fit in the seat.  I flew out here a week ago on Southwest and I didn't have a problem."  This didn't appease her.  Her response was, "That doesn't matter.  It is MY determination on whether or not you will fit in the seat.  I get to decide if you need another seat or not."  Then she began telling me that I would have to pre-board so that she could see if I fit in the seat or not.  I told her again that I didn't have a problem when I flew out the previous week and I knew I fit in the seat, but she kept telling me it was "her decision" on whether or not I could fit in the seat.  It didn't matter what had happened the previous week.  At this point I was crying because I was so embarrassed.  She just kept lecturing me about how "she" had to make the decision if I needed another seat and it didn't matter what had happened the previous week.  The she made me get up in front of everyone and walk on the plane with her so she could "see for herself" if I fit in the seat.  After meeting HER requirements, she didn't even apologize for humiliating me in front of all of the other passengers.  I cried the entire flight home.  All 4 hours of it.  I was so humiliated.  I was just devastated.  (Also, it turns out after reading a follow up post by Kenz, a Southwest representative told her that if you were allowed to fly without purchasing a second seat on a flight, then they couldn't require you to purchase an additional seat on a return flight.  Apparently, the employees at Southwest aren't even familiar with the company policies and they make their own determinations based on their own biases about overweight people.) 

What made the situation even worse is that everyone looked at me as they got on the plane.  There was a very large man sitting at the gate with us and she NEVER SAID A WORD TO HIM.  He was much taller than me and much rounder than me, but she never approached him about having to purchase another seat. 

It wouldn't have been so devastating if she had approached me quietly and asked me to come to the ticket counter or to step aside somewhere to discuss the situation.  Instead, she leered over me like she was disciplining a child and her voice got louder every time I tried to explain that I had flown out the week before with no problems.  It was the most humiliating experience of my life.  I was so upset by the ordeal that I couldn't even work up the nerve to call and report her behavior.  I just wanted to forget about it.  The only problem is I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN ABOUT IT.

I'm not trying to get anything from Southwest by posting this.  I'm just trying to bring awareness to the last legal form of discrimination in this country: weight discrimination.  It happens every day in this country and its time for it to stop.  Obese people have feelings too. 

I know that there are jobs that I didn't get because people made assumptions about my work ethic based on my weight.  Or maybe they just don't like fat people.  You can see the look on their face and know that no matter how qualified you are for the position, YOU WILL NEVER GET THE JOB.  And unless they say "You aren't going to get this job because you are fat", there is no way to prove they are disciriminating against you.  And even if they did say that to you, technically the law doesn't cover weight-based discrimination.  You can only hope to get it covered under the disability discrimination law, and that is probably unlikely to happen.  

I know this happens to people every day in this country.  Its not okay to discriminate against people because they have a disability.  Its not okay to make fun of people who have an alcohol or drug addiction.  Why is it still okay to make fun of someone who has an endocrine disorder or a food addiction?  Food addiction is the same as a drug or alcohol addiction.  People overeat to soothe emotional pain.  If you make fun of an overweight person or lecture them about their weight, all that happens is that they turn to eating to soothe the emotional pain they are feeling.  It is my opinion that a food addiction may be worse than a drug or alcohol addiction.  With drugs and alcohol, you can quit them completely.  You can't just quit eating.  Imagine being a drug addict and someone telling you to only take 3 hits a day.  Could you stop at 3?  Well, that is what a compulsive over eater has to deal with.  A compulsive over eater can't just stop eating completely.  They have to try and limit themselves to 3 small meals a day.  If you factor in a thyroid disease like hypothyroidism, which slows down your metabolism (which I have), and an endocrine disorder like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which makes your metabolism almost non-existent and turns food directly into fat (which I also have), and then you add in someone who eats to soothe pain, then you have an obese person.  As an adult, I've learned to eat healthier foods in small portions, but because of my thyroid disease and PCOS, it still makes losing weight very difficult for me.  Please take a moment and click on the links above about these diseases and educate yourself about what other conditions may factor into keeping someone obese. 

Please stop making fun of or telling jokes about overweight or obese people.  It is hurtful and humiliating to them.  It is just another form of bullying and discrimination.  We are people too.  We deserve the respect that everyone else is afforded. 

I know that there are people who are discriminated against because of their race or sexual orientation despite the existing laws to protect them, but it is generally not socially acceptable to do these types of things.  People frown on it and therefore it doesn't happen as often.  However, it seems that it is still socially acceptable to make fun of fat people because its their own fault, right?  Well, it isn't always their fault.  And even if they are overweight because of a food addiction, you don't know what has happened in their lives to cause them to turn to food to soothe the emotional pain they feel.  Don't just assume that obese people are lazy and eat all day.  That may not be the case at all.  And even if it is, they may be depressed or emotionally hurting and that is the reason why they eat.  Help them, don't hurt them by making fun of them, cracking jokes about fat people, or singling them out in front of hundreds of people in a crowded room.


Butterfly Feeding on a Flower

Somewhere inside the cocoon of weight there is a butterfly waiting to emerge in every obese person.  Please help them to find that butterfly. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my 36th birthday.  This morning I woke up, took a shower, and got ready for work as usual.  As I was getting ready to leave to go to work, I stepped in the bathroom to grab my glasses and took a glance in the mirror.  I've been pretty fortunate in that I've escaped the crows feet around the eyes that plague my family (so far, anyway), but there are two visible signs that I am aging:  1) Random gray hairs are appearing on my head; and 2) I seem to be losing collagen under my eyes so they look sunken in.  Its pretty depressing overall.  I was lamenting the fact that I was losing collagen under my eyes this morning and Cameron replies, "Well you should have went to COLLEGE N you wouldn't have that problem."  Ha ha, very funny honey.  Then he suggested that if it bothered me I should get Botox.  I'm just not an artificial kind of girl and I can't see myself getting injections of Botchulism in my face.  It just doesn't seem like a good idea. 

I know that aging is going to happen and I think in the scheme of things, the bags under my eyes should be the thing about my body that worries me the least.  However, having been an overweight person for most of my life, I always felt like my only presentable bodily asset was my face.  So, of course you can understand my displeasure at seeing my youth fade away.  I have learned to accept myself as I am as I've gotten older, but I still always want to look my best.  Oh well, vanity is pointless, I guess.  I should concentrate on more important things like family, friends, Jesus, and serving others.  Those are the really important things in life.  Not the silly bags under my eyes or my graying hair. 

It's been a crazy couple of months for me.  There have been family birthdays, the Kentucky Derby, parties, showers, and a wedding.  Last weekend I photographed my 2nd wedding.  I was very nervous because I always want to get the best photos possible.  I took over 1400 photos, which is a bit excessive, but that's what I do.  I always want to make sure I have multiple shots of the same pose in case someone blinks or frowns or moves or something.  The mother of the bride and I took a preliminary look at the photos on Saturday and they look good.  I'm pleased with how they turned out.  I hope to put up a few of the shots once I have finished sorting and editing the photos, which may be in a week or two.

In the mean time, I'm going to post a few photos from my road trip last summer.  These are photos I took in the great state of Arizona. 

Fire-damaged Tree in the Catalina Mountains
In 2003 or 2004 (I can't remember for sure), there was a very large fire in the Catalina Mountains that burned acres and acres of forest and completely destroyed the little town of Summerhaven on top of Mount Lemmon.  Summerhaven is beginning to rebound and the trees are growing again, but here and there you still see these trees that were ravaged by that devastating fire.

Wet Plant after a Rain Shower in Madera Canyon

Ski Valley on Mount Lemmon

Mountain Stream in Madera Canyon

Stream in Madera Canyon

Rocky Waterfall on Mount Lemmon

These photos were taken in Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains to the south of Tucson and in Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains to the north of Tucson.  Tucson is generally pretty dry and you don't see many running streams or rivers unless there is a pretty heavy monsoon rain.  However, you can often find running streams in the mountain ranges surrounding Tucson.  When I lived there, going into the Catalina Mountains was almost like going back to Kentucky for a little while.  It always made me homesick, but I love every moment up in the mountains.  Cameron and I used to go up the Catalina Mountain Highway and stop at look-out vistas and have picnics at different scenic views.  We still do that when we go back to visit every year.  I have lots of fond memories of Arizona.  You should visit Arizona if you ever get a chance.  It's beautiful there!

Until we meet again, thanks for visiting and leave a comment.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Yes, I'm Still Alive

I've been crazy-busy lately, but I'm hoping to post some photos in the next few days.  I just photographed a wedding over the weekend and as soon as I sort through them all, I'll get some up here.

Right now I'm reading a new book suggested by my friend, Lauren.  It's called "It Sucked and then I Cried."  I just started reading it today, but its a memoir from a fellow blogger, Heather B. Armstrong.  I'll let you know how it is after I've finished reading it.

Please stand by for new photos and more of my meaningless rambling coming soon to a blog near you ....