This Is What It’s Really Like To Fly While Fat

Travel is awesome, but the actual act of traveling — especially via air — can test even the most patient among us. And if the plane doesn't physically accommodate your body type, flying can turn from an uncomfortable experience into a humiliating one. (If you've seen that recent episode of This Is Us, you know what we're talking about.) That's why London-based artist Stacy Bias made the new documentary Flying While Fat: to get to the heart of what it's really like to fly on a plane as a fat passenger. The documentary, which combines animations and voiceovers to illustrate the experiences of fat passengers, was made in part to encourage people to empathize with their fellow passengers — instead of getting angry or annoyed at a person over something they can't control. "It's like I have this hyper-awareness of my body at all times, and other people don't have to think about it, and don't have to think about their space or how much or little they're taking up," says one interviewee whose voice is heard on the documentary. "I'm always trying not to burden someone else with my body." Another interviewee described sitting next to someone who was "openly hostile" to her presence, even though she didn't actually bump into him. "The first thing he did was put down the arm [of the seat], and he saw that doing that was excruciating for me, and he kept pushing the arm down, which was pushing into my belly and my thigh." she said. These kinds of experiences aren't unique, unfortunately: "Fat people are disparaged and mocked regularly in the media and in popular culture, and the airplane is one of the places where that hostility hits a climax," Bias said in a press release. "Society still sees fatness as a choice," she continued. "That narrative serves the airlines quite well. [They] can leverage that stigma to shift the blame for the growing discomfort of all passengers away from their decisions to shrink seats and onto the backs of the passengers whose bodies fall outside the median." Bias hopes that Flying While Fat will help impact changing policies that will protect flight passengers of all sizes. "The animation is a humanizing narrative, encouraging people to empathize with fat people as fellow passengers and human beings, and to think about the political and economic relations that contribute to this exclusion," she said. So the next time you want to get angry at someone who you think is taking up your space on a plane, just remember that they have the right to fly, just as you do. It's not their fault that plane seats seem to keep shrinking — have some compassion and respect for your fellow passenger. Like you, they're also just trying to get to their destination without being harassed or abused.

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