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Too Much.

June 1, 2010

A Carleton student writes about her relationship with gender, body image and the spaces we are allotted.

Gawker, April 8, 2010: “13 Things Not to Do on a Plane”
9. Occupy more space than your seat.

Earlier this year the feminist blogosphere broke into an enormous controversy: Kevin Smith, director of Dogma and Clerks had been kicked off Southwest Airlines because he did not properly fit into his seat. While Fat Acceptance bloggers were in an outrage, many more wrote about their own rights to not have to sit next to someone who was too big for their seat. They wrote horror stories about that time they had to sit next to a fat person once and it was just awful. How dare Kevin Smith take up more space than his body was allotted on the plane?

I hung onto every word of this controversy, as if I myself were on trial. It spoke to my twenty two years of insecurity about my body. Gawker sums it up precisely: never take up more space than you are allotted.

And that’s just it.  I’ve always been innately afraid of being too much.

Particularly as a woman, I’m told to be small; to diet and workout and contort until I can fit into the tiniest amount of space possible. (Control-top tights help.) Otherwise, I might take up too much space on airline seats, not fit into the size 12 jeans, not curl up perfectly in a man’s arms, might just take up too much space.

I used to take inventory of my body: if I could only change one part what would it be? Maybe just removing that pooch of fat that can slip out over the side of my bra would be the key to body satisfaction and acceptance.  I tried to pick practical, even achievable goals in a society that invalidated my body.

But in the end, the solution was never cellulite-free thighs or slenderized hips, but attacking the system was trying to force my body to be less that it is. It is about believing that my body is allowed to be the size that it is. That it has the right to take up space. That I can never be Too Much.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    June 1, 2010 9:18 PM

    This is such an awesome and spot-on piece. Thank you.

  2. Emily permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:04 PM

    Thanks so much for this. I think that this pressure to be small also extends to having a small presence. Women are often encouraged to talk softly, to not argue or offer contradictory opinions and to dress in a certain (non attention-seeking) way–all things that result in women taking up less mental/social/political space.

  3. adam permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:26 PM

    Hear, hear! The social norms of body size represented by the plane seats are way out of whack. Why is it so wrong to be bigger than average when it’s fine to be skinnier than average (no matter how much)?

    As for planes, what is UP with those seats? I’m a good bit skinnier than average, and I think they’re cramped. It is no fair to judge people’s size on the standards plane companies make to save money on seating!!

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