The news that spurred this blog post came out earlier in the month, but I had to wait until now so that I calmed down enough to write a sensible reply instead of an emotional response.
I’m sure you can guess, but I’m talking about the news that Samoa Air is implementing a pay-by-weight system where the price of an airplane ticket is directly correlated with your weight. In the name of “fairness”, this airline will be weighing passengers to make sure they are honest in their reporting and to know exactly how much to charge.
I have a problem with this (make that many problems). I think the main point is that this is weight discrimination by any other name. The society already is disgusted with overweight but especially obese people, and I see this as a way of punishing them for their repulsive size. It’s a way for them to slap these people (on the hand, across the face) and say “Shame on you!” and bring actual public shame and humiliation on them as they step on the scale. What’s more, they are either hoping this will be a good enough reprimand that all of these people will lose weight before they think of flying again or they are hoping people don’t lose weight since they get to make extra money off of the obese’ tickets.
I am continually troubled by the norm of praising and rewarding thinness and condemning and criticizing fatness, especially as it plays into eating disorder. Clearly the person with anorexia will have her eating disorder “fed” through the lower fare that s/he will pay. It justifies the starvation, the restriction, the excessive exercise. It only makes sense. Sadly, the obese person will encounter a greater financial burden and be inflicted with discomfort and embarrassment of weighing in public. (Don’t tell me that the process of weighing is going to maintain their respect and dignity, lest we recall the horror stories of how people have been treated at the security check).
Lastly, though I really could go on, I am sad that as a culture, we choose people and groups of people that in some way go against our communal standards, and we don’t just judge them, but we take it a step further and take action, make regulations, and show our obvious offense, disgust, and (is this too strong a word?) hatred for them. I’m not just talking about fat people. I’m also talking about people who smoke, people with addictions, people with a questionable lifestyle. Are shame, financial penalties, and looks of displeasure helpful in any way? Would these things help you lose weight or stop smoking or quit gambling?
You may think I’m blowing this one airline’s decision out of proportion, but in it I see the approval of one of the last remaining socially acceptable prejudices…and it breaks my heart.