Tag Archives: Southwest Airlines

New Tools to Fight Persistent Enemies

Lynne Murray says:

A young woman’s humiliation at the hands of Southwest airlines recently set me to thinking  about the new tools we have to fight oppression. Some of the words used to “helpfully”  batter Athia into giving up her seat remind me of a situation from the 1960s when my father, who used to confront unjust situations whenever possible, was forced to walk away.

The incident began when Athia was singled out by a Southwest Airline gate attendant on the return flight of her round trip ticket. The first part of her flight went smoothly with no problems, but the return flight was overbooked and the gate attendant approached Athia demanding that she buy a second seat, “for your safety and comfort.”

Marilyn Wann describes Athia’s subsequent public humiliation and dissects some of the issues in an SF Weekly blog.

I was impressed with Athia’s analysis of the situation immediately afterward and her self-possession in going home and sharing her experience on YouTube.

The flight attendant’s mantra – “for your safety and comfort” – rang a bell with me.

My father, who was a psychologist, explained to me what to do when someone was acting in an offensive manner or targeting another for abuse. The situation I asked him about was in the restaurant where one of the people at our table who had multiple sclerosis was in a wheelchair, which made her a target for concern trolling. Despite all of our polite attempts to change the subject, another woman at the table insisted on describing people she had known who had terrible outcomes from MS.

My father told me that you need to call someone out immediately and clearly on this type of behavior, tell them it’s unacceptable and they need to stop.  After that he suggested firmly moving to another topic and verbally shutting down the bully as often as necessary if she tried to continue — enlisting other horrified bystanders if necessary by stressing that the bully’s words were unacceptable will not be tolerated.

I have seen and heard of many instances where my father intervened with words and action.  He was particularly good at involving several total strangers in forming impromptu problem solving groups — I once saw him start a spur-of-the-moment therapy group on a Muni bus.

One time when he did not act on his own advice took place in Texas in the 1960s, and I know it always bothered him not to have been able to help.  A white female parking attendant stopped a Latino man from parking in the lot where my father, on an aerospace business trip, had just parked his rental car. “You’ll be more comfortable in that other lot,” the attendant told the man, pointing to a more remote lot where all the drivers parking were black or Latino. My father assessed the situation and decided that a businessman from out-of-state could not realistically challenge a local woman who was simply enforcing her employer’s prejudice.

But the words, “you’ll be more comfortable,” echoed into the next millennium and are still being used by Southwest airlines employees to give their prejudice an air of hostile “politeness” or even concern for “safety.”

In Athia’s situation, the prejudice directed at her body size and whipped up by Southwest employees opened the door to allow covert racism to be freely expressed, witness a fellow passenger’s comment: “That girl took that gentleman’s seat.”

The YouTube piece is long, but worth listening to in its entirety. Lara Frater, at Fat Chicks Rule blog, quotes from Athia’s lovely conclusion:

“I call for a revolution of hearts.  By sharing this story, I hope that we can understand how people and policies inform each other.  If we direct care and compassion towards one another, we can then begin creating a more beautiful world to live in.”

I admire Athia’s courage, intelligence and stand-up-for-herself attitude, and I am very proud of her and the many other fat activists who are using state-of-the-art networking to respond to oppressive treatment.  I have no evidence-based way to prove that people continue in another realm after death with personalities intact, but that part of my father that lives on in me to fight injustice is cheering for Athia.

Kevin Smith: Too Fat to Fly

Lynne Murray says:

On the NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) mailing list, I learned from Esther Filderman about how filmmaker/director Kevin Smith was thrown off a Southwest Airlines plane in which he was already seated, with armrests down. The Flight Captain deemed him a “safety risk.”

“Thank God I don’t embarrass easily (bless you,
Jersey Girl training),” he continued. “But I don’t sulk off either …” So he promised more tweets zinging the airline in the coming days for telling him “I’m too wide for the sky.”

Smith said he refused a $100 voucher offered by Southwest and eventually got on another Southwest flight. He then tweeted a photo of himself on the plane with his cheeks puffed out, writing, “Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!”

One thing I love about Twitter (speaking as a novice) is the breaking-news quality of some tweets. I love that Kevin Smith was getting the word out AS he was in the process of being thrown off the plane.

Meredith Galman, also on the NAAFA mailing list, pointed out an excellent report on the event from Kate Harding at Shapely Prose.

I am really happy that Kevin Smith, human being, is on his way home, but I also hope Kevin Smith, Famous Person With 1.6 Million Twitter Followers keeps up the righteous indignation on behalf of all the fat people who aren’t in a position to say, “WELCOME TO YOUR PR NIGHTMARE, ASSHOLES.” And even though he is, and he did, and he doesn’t embarrass easily, and a whole lot of us thank him for all of that, his last tweet tonight says it all:

The @SouthwestAir Diet. How it works: you’re publicly shamed into a slimmer figure. Crying the weight right off has never been easier!

I confess to being a hopeless fan of Clerks and Clerks 2, so I enjoyed listening to Kevin Smith ramble on in his Smodcast #106

I was also interested that he happened to be returning to Southern California from a San Francisco Bear Nation event.

I couldn’t help but imagine a contingent of big, take-no-nonsense Bears surrounding the ticket counter!