Fat Isn't Contagious, So Why Doesn't Anyone Want To Sit Next To This Woman?

Kim Brittingham appeared on the Today show this morning because she made a fake book called Fat Is Contagious: How Sitting Next To A Fat Person Can Make YOU Fat and "read" it on New York City subways and buses (see clip, above). Kim claims that reactions varied: "a lot of people appeared to be jotting down the title and author" of the faux tome, she says, and one guy "bolted for the back of the bus." Uh, really? A New Yorker fled because of a phony self-help book? Anyway, her point, though she doesn't really say it, seems to be that people treat her like she's got leprosy, since she's overweight. And when it comes to the F word — fat — just when is it "OK" to say it?

The Utne Reader reports that the summer issue of food and culture publication Gastronomica, a writer found that the more money you make, the less likely you are to be called fat: A Google search for "portly" resulted in descriptions of doctors, lawyers, and professors, but rarely for janitors and plumbers. Plus! Bonus race/gender discrepancies:

Although "white man," "white woman," "black man," and "black woman" all got around the same number of hits when the phrases stood alone, adding "fat" skewed the results. The phrase "fat black woman" got eight times as many hits as "fat white woman," while "fat white man" got 12 times as many hits as "fat black man." And black women were dubbed fat, obese, and overweight at far higher rates than the others.


Is there inherent disrespect in the word fat? Is it "better" to say rotund, Rubenesque, portly? Also: Did Ms. Brittingham have a good idea, or is she wallowing in negative attention? What would the reactions have been if she'd made a fake book called Fat Isn't Contagious, But Happy Is and "read" it with a wide smile on her face?

Your Momma's So Portly... [Utne]



@RosemaryF: Yeah sometimes you just hear these women and it makes me sad. Embrace teh fat and if you really, really can't deal with it, at least try and lose it. I've learned to love my chunk, at times it's a pain in the ass and I know I'm not as healthy as I should be but if I spent time dwelling on that I would be a reallllllly unhappy person.