How many people in the US are fat? Since I talk about how fat people are oppressed, you might think I’m talking about a numerical minority.
It turns out that 35% of Americas are classified as obese. 34% are classified as overweight. Take your weight in pounds, divide by your height in inches squared, then multiply by 703. If the resulting number is greater than 24, you are overweight or obese. You are one of the 67%.
67% is a lot of people. It’s a majority. It’s most.
I mean, yes, you hear about the obeeesity epidemic, and epidemic ususally means OMG too many people. But on the other hand fat people are talked about like we’re some kind of freakish anomaly. 67% is not an anomaly. It’s just the way things are.
When I think about disability and the ways that social and institutional systems shape our perception of disability, I always come back to glasses. 75% of the US population uses corrective lenses of some kind.
But we don’t think of needing glasses as a very big deal.
Why is that?
Needing glasses is seen as pretty normal. Everyone gets tested now and then, there are optometrists and eyeglass stores everywhere you look. Even gas stations sell reading glasses sometimes. It’s perfectly commonplace and perfectly simple to manage this disability.
I am not trying to say that being fat is a disability – it’s not, although it frequently intersects with disability. But being fat is certainly unaccommodated.
What if every single room with chairs had sturdy, wide, and/or armless options? What if seatbelt extenders were sold at Walmart? What if the most common clothing size was US 16 (the average women’s size) and the availability averages spread out from there? What if for every store that only sold straight sizes there was a store that only sold plus sizes?
Let’s keep coming back to that number.
What if 67% of retail products were made with fat people in mind?
Have you heard the idea that in America, middle class people believe themselves to be temporarily embarrassed millionaires? This idea is presented as an explanation for why middle class America isn’t more up in arms about economic equliaty.
The same idea holds for fat people, too. Many fat people believe that they are juuuuuust on the verge of being skinny people. Any minute now they are going to join the hallowed ranks. This belief holds even though science tells us that there’s no known way to turn a fat person into a skinny person. This belief holds even for fat people who are not trying to become not-fat.
When 67% of the population believes that they should not exist, and that the market certainly should not cater to them, it’s no surprise that the market doesn’t.
Now, what does all this have to do with fat zombies?
One of the things that affects our perception about ourselves as “normal” is the portrayal of people like us in the media. Or lack of portrayal.
Any time you see a crowd scene in a movie, a third of them should be portrayed as fat, and another third as at least fat-ish. This isn’t usually what we see, though. When you see a crowd scene, you see mostly skinny people. This contributes to our impression of fat people as an unusual anomaly.
The first time I had this thought I was watching a zombie movie. Zombie movies always show hordes of zombies closing in on the place where the heroes are ensconced. If these zombies are a month into the horror and are all literally wasting away from starvation, then sure, I expect them to be thin. But if it’s the crowd of zombies in the initial horrible rush of zombies taking over the world… well, 67% of them should be fat.
Where are all the fat zombies? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single one.
Obeeeeeesity epidemic people want to have it both ways. They want to be afraid of our growing numbers, while pretending that we’re a freak occurrence.
We’re actually neither.
The percent of our population diagnosed as overweight or obese is stable – that number isn’t going up and hasn’t been for over a decade.
And guess what? We’re not an errant phenomena. We’re just normal. We’re 67% of the population.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were treated like what we are? People. Most people.
Additional Reading: Here’s a tiny selection of some of the great books about living a great life as a fat person. (These are affiliate links. If you buy, thanks for your support!)