Wait, that happens to me because I’m fat?


Melissa McEwan has a storify that’s well worth reading. It goes on to discuss a lot, but here’s how it begins:

Understand: I have poor hearing. I can follow conversations by concentrating on them, but voices that are distorted – like by a doppler effect – or unexpected are hard for me to make out.

So yeah, people yell stuff I can never understand at me from cars. Frequently. Not every time I’m out walking, but often enough so I don’t think twice about it when it does happen.

So I read these tweets and I’m like “wait, seriously? That doesn’t happen to everyone?”

Learn something new every day, I guess.

Although I don’t have any data, I would bet money that this sort of fat harassment happens more often to fat women than fat men, although clearly it happens to both.

UPDATE: Paul Campos relates a story a fat woman told him:

Let me tell you a story — just one of many. One summer, when my twins were about three, they were in a little wading pool in my front yard, and I was sitting on my front porch steps watching them and enjoying the beautiful day. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. A white pickup truck with several guys in it drove by. The truck circled the block, and on the second pass it slowed down and the man in the passenger seat hurled a bottle at me, shouting, “Go back inside where you belong, you fat fucking bitch!” The bottle shattered on the walk, sending glass flying everywhere. Fearing for my children I jumped up and grabbed them, rushing for the house. They were OK, but I cried for days thinking that someone was willing to endanger two babies just for the chance to humiliate me.


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20 Responses to Wait, that happens to me because I’m fat?

  1. 1
    standgale says:

    I may just not know how to use it, but I think the storify link is supposed to go here rather than to the one twitter post?

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Standgale. Fix made!

  3. 3
    Timothy says:

    It definitely does happen sometimes because of fat but it definitely also just happens. I am in Manhattan now so people don’t shout at pedestrians from cars very frequently without specific reason, but when I was in America I, never notably fat, would get screamed at at 40 mph from the 6 lane thoroughfare I walked alongside occasionally. I rarely understood. I think it was mostly assholes but at least once it was people I knew just trying to get my attention.

  4. 4
    Jake Squid says:

    It definitely does happen sometimes because of fat but it definitely also just happens.

    Ime, it happens when people want to scare you. Except, of course, when it’s friends/family trying to get your attention.

    I’ve been yelled at from cars:
    When I was being bullied.
    When I was walking with long hair.
    When cars/trucks coming from behind thought I was a woman.

    I have not yet been fat, so I haven’t been yelled at for that. But given the experiences I have had, being yelled at from a car for being fat is going to be just as scary and meant to be harassment.

    As the song goes, people are assholes.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    I don’t even…

    Just tell me who to stab.

  6. 6
    Grace Annam says:

    Wow. This is so totally outside my experience that it just made me blink and think “Wha…?”


    So I read these tweets and I’m like “wait, seriously? That doesn’t happen to everyone?”

    No, it doesn’t.

    I have never been fat, and until last January presented as male. In my lifetime, I’ve been yelled at from a car perhaps 4 times. The only time I could tell what they meant was the anonymous wolf-whistle I once got from a passing car while I was out running, which for a young (as I was then) apparent-man running along the local college ball fields is a very different thing than it is for, for instance, an apparent-woman running almost anywhere at all. Because, after all, what did I possibly have to fear?

    Now I know better (post on that partly-written). I had no clue.

    I’m sorry you and others have to put up with that, Amp. Argh.


  7. 7
    rimonim says:

    Damn, I have to confess I did not know this was a thing–this is horrible.

    People have yelled at me from cars many times, first for looking like a girl (beginning at a disturbingly young age, around the 5th grade) and then for looking queer (for example, some teenagers once yelled “Dyke!” as they drove by). Since looking like a guy, it never happens. (A woman did recently yell an incoherent string of curses at me as she drove by, but just as she passed me, she obviously realized she’d had the wrong person; she covered her mouth as looked at me in shock. I take no responsibility for the actions of my evil twin.) I know my fiancee gets yelled at, whistled at, and/or slowly, repeatedly driven by, nearly every day, for walking down the street as a young woman of color.

    But I did not know people got yelled at and randomly harassed by strangers for being fat in public. I second Grace–I am really sorry this is happening.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    I second Grace–I am really sorry this is happening.

    Although I’m grateful for all the supportive comments, I really wasn’t feeling very bummed about this (not for my own experiences, that is). It’s never bothered me – I usually just inwardly shrug and then forget that the people ever existed. I just thought it was sort of funny that this has been happening to me for a long time and I didn’t even realize it was an anti-fat thing.

    But that was when I thought it was a random thing that happened to anyone. Now, next time it happens, I’m going to wonder if it was an anti-fat thing. I wonder if that means it’ll start bugging me?

  9. 9
    kate says:

    I am really amazed that there are women out there who don’t know that yelling at fat people from cars is a thing, just because, in my experience, a woman can be very thin and still be fat shamed. With me, it was mostly mooing and being ordered to put on a bra. So, obviously it was the boobs. Even if these women drive everywhere, and aren’t getting yelled at for that reason, don’t they get fat shamed at the supermarket (“you don’t need that butter sweet-hart”) or coffee shop (“the skim milk is here” …as I was reaching for the cream)? My mom always told me that these things happen to me because I expect them to happen. But, there seems to be strong regional variation – medium in NYC, really bad in southern CA (like the worst), basically nothing now that I’m in Auz. Also, when really thin, it was always men who did the fat shaming. Women only joined in as I gained weight with age. YMMV.

  10. 10
    Grace Annam says:

    Amp, in your case could it also be what Jake has experienced, that people see your long hair and take you for a woman? Which would make it anti-fat and/or misogyny. Not that that makes it any better, but in case you’re attempting precision…


  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    That’s a good point, Grace.

  12. 12
    rimonim says:

    Ampersand–I’m glad to hear it isn’t much of a bummer, and I hope this discussion doesn’t create a problem where there was none before! Ha.

    I think there’s a major gender component in how threatening vs bemusing this kind of experience is. I’ve noticed that since transition, I respond to weird incidents with strangers (e.g., intoxicated people getting in my personal space at the bus stop) much like you described. I may feel a bit confused, irritated or even amused; in any case I shrug it off easily. Similar to Grace’s description of getting catcalled many years ago–what do I really have to fear?

    I see in this in sharp contrast to the story you quote from Campos and to the stories I often hear from women I know. It seems there’s a level of contempt and actual threat that is mainly directed at women–and an entirely different answer to the question, “What do I have to fear?”

  13. 13
    Harlequin says:

    don’t they get fat shamed at the supermarket (“you don’t need that butter sweet-hart”) or coffee shop (“the skim milk is here” …as I was reaching for the cream)? My mom always told me that these things happen to me because I expect them to happen.

    The one I sometimes get is servers who will “accidentally” bring me diet soda instead of regular–I’ve never seen that happen to anybody else I’ve been dining with, and it happens to me maybe once or twice a year. (I can taste both aspartame & Splenda-type sweeteners, so I always know.)

    But your mom’s theory is definitely out, because I do expect these things to happen to me, and they hardly ever do. (I’ve been shouted at from cars maybe…4 times in my life, and I’ve been primarily a pedestrian since age 21.)

  14. 14
    closetpuritan says:

    I think Kate must be right that there is quite a bit of regional variation. Living in rural New England, I haven’t had anyone yell out of a car at me, other than I think there was a time or two when I couldn’t tell if they were yelling at me or someone else. I also get almost no street harassment. IIRC, Living400lbs has said that she doesn’t get much harassment in her area, either.

    It probably helps that the places I usually walk/jog/hike are either quiet residential streets or carless trails. Maybe the fact that I usually have a largish and unusual-looking dog with me helps distract people, too.

  15. 15
    kate says:

    That’s been my experience in New England (where I grew up and frequently visit family) as well. I think all of my early experiences with street harassment occurred after I moved to New York.

  16. 16
    brian says:

    Perhaps we should pity these poor trolls that can’t afford internet access? If only they could access the youtube comments section they would feel so much better.

  17. 17
    closetpuritan says:

    Indeed, brian.

  18. 18
    Ruchama says:

    Of all the places I’ve lived, the place where street harassment was absolutely the worst was DC.

  19. 19
    Living 400lbs says:

    Since ClosetPuritan mentioned me – yeah, I don’t get a lot of street harassment. I think it’s partly living in Cul-de-sac World, partly Seattle reserve, partly that I usually drive or carpool to work.

  20. 20
    GeekGirlsRule says:

    Harlequin @13 I get really nasty with servers who bring me diet instead of regular soda, because aspartame is a migraine trigger for me. So, their passive-aggressive fat-shaming could mean several hours in a dark room trying not to throw up.

    I have no idea if people yell things at me anymore because I almost always have earbuds in if I’m outside. But I do have people make comments about stuff in my grocery cart from time to time. Some nasty piece of work once congratulated me on buying the “Skinny Cow” ice cream, and I was floored, I just stared at her, my jaw dropped.