Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apparently, We Forfeit Our Right to Respect and Love

**Trigger Warning**

One of things I notice most, while living as a fat girl, is how often I am invisible until people want to express their disgust/pity or marvel at how ____________ I am (for a fat chick, of course). That blank has been filled by all sorts of adjectives during my life--smart, happy, well-dressed, pretty. But backhanded compliments like that are the flipside of the expressions of disgust/pity. Both are rooted in my perceived lack of self-respect. How can I have any respect for myself if I've "let myself get like this?" And, more importantly, how can I expect anyone else to have respect for me?

So, I witness disrespect expressed towards fat people in this life almost daily. For me, the cost of living under and resisting the disrespect, the disgust, the dehumanization is so high sometimes.

Especially when I realize the hatefulness follows us after death.

Teresa Smith died Tuesday in Indianapolis. Because she was a large woman, the police and the coroner did not feel the need to treat her with respect.
The Marion County Coroner's Office has come under fire after it was revealed that an obese woman was dragged from her home and hauled away on a trailer in front of family members following her death.


[T]he deputy coroner made the decision to call a towing service to remove the body from the home.

"We debated for quite a while about how we were going to get her out of there and so we finally decided, since we didn't have a van that was large enough to carry her, it was decided between (the police) department and the coroner's office to use (the truck)," said Detective Marcus Kennedy.

Smith's boyfriend and the couple's 13-year-old son, along with several neighbors, watched as Smith's body, still on her mattress, was dragged across the courtyard of the apartment complex, strapped down on the wrecker and covered with a piece of carpet.
Lest you have sympathy for the supposed dilemma faced by the police department and the coroner's office:
Former Chief Deputy Coroner John Linehan said he was shocked and dismayed that appropriate steps weren't taken to remove the woman from her home.

He said that fire and medical personnel have equipment available for handling patients up to 1,000 pounds and that moving obese individuals is not all that rare of an occurrence.

"When they scoop up dead dogs off of the street they don't treat them that way," he said. "It's just not the way to treat a human being."
But therein lies the rub, Mr. Linehan! She forfeited her humanity because she was fat.

I usually avoid comment sections at most places, but because I thought I knew how these would be, I peeked. I don't advise you to. One commenter argued that she forfeited her right to respect because, obviously, she did not have self-rspect. Another opined that her boyfriend was there just for rent--so much embedded there. How could he find a fat woman attractive? How could he have sex with her? How could he love her?

That last assumption brought me back to one of her neighbors' comments about the dirty carpet slung across her body: "I would have never let them throw that on my loved one."

It would not surprise me one bit if officials from the police department and the coroner's office treated Teresa Smith this way, in part, because they could not fathom that she was someone's loved one.

H/T to my cousin, Tren, via e-mail and to Laurie.



ZIRGAR said...

As a younger man it never occured to me that when I made fun of an overweight person, that I was doing harm. Now that I'm older I regret any and all of it. I'm still far from perfect, but I came to realize that the things I was doing were keeping me from seeing certain people fully as human beings and when you do that you do a greater violence to them and yourself than is readily apparent. If it goes unchecked it will become a disease and will warp you as a person. Maybe it's just part of growing up, maturing, but now I understand the pain and hurt I caused and if I could I would take it all back. It was for me, and still is for society, one of the last openly acceptable prejudices and it must stop. This story in your post is heartbreaking and it shouldn't have to happen to anyone. Also, beauty comes in all forms and we should not belittle those who have the sensitivity to see it where some of us may not.

RageyOne said...

Oh, that just makes me so sad. :(

wrigleyfield said...

Yes, the dehumanizing of fat women is really despicable. And to do that in front of her family... in some ways I think it's less specifically about her being fat (even though that was the immediate impetus for the cops' action) than about the general way that cops disregard blacks' humanity, and sometimes poor people's humanity generally. I mean, they certainly weren't being compassionate to her 13-year-old son or her boyfriend, here.

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