Let’s Talk About Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines Just a Little More
Yes, I know that most, if not all, of you out there have heard quite a bit already about the whole Southwest Airlines telling Kevin Smith he’s too fat to fly thing. I also know that you all have also seen and participated in discussions on the real issue behind this one incident and have also probably gone off on those who had picked up their close-minded asshole cards declaring that all every fat person in the world has to do is go on a diet and their lives will instantly be awesome–because it’s just that simple, of course. I had originally posted about Kevin Smith being deemed too fat to fly by Southwest Airlines on another website, before I saw his SModcast go up (#106), which he recorded after returning home from the flight from Southwest Hell, before every media outlet opened discussion on Kevin Smith’s level of fatness and before Larry King asked him to go on his show (which, just for the record, he did not–he opted to record videos and post them to his YouTube account instead because he is just that awesome.)
I have watched this entire incident-turned-media-circus turned-fat-shaming-brigade unfold throughout the past few days and regardless of what platform is being used to discuss this topic or how seemingly open-minded you are used to a discussion being on a particular website, including very well-known progressive websites, the discussion always, always, always comes back to one thing–fat shaming.
If you have yet to hear about this incident, here is the Reader’s Digest version.
Kevin Smith boarded a Southwest Airlines flight last night from Oakland to Burbank, California. After his bag was up and he was seated (with the arm rests down), he was deemed a “safety risk” and thrown off the flight–as about 200 people who had already boarded the same flight had IDed him as “Silent Bob” and after he had explained to the flight attendant that he could indeed put the arm rests on both sides of his seat down and could also buckle his seat belt, basically pleading the flight attendant to let him stay on the flight and not take the “walk of shame” out of the airplane.
The flight attendant told him that the pilot of the flight had deemed him to be a “safety risk” and it was not something that she had control over. When being ejected from the flight, he started tweeting and it all started with this:
“Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?”
Through the course of the past few days, as Kevin Smith has told and retold his story of this event and we were given the chance to learn the whole truth of the story, it turns out that the pilot did not see Kevin Smith and instruct the other Southwest Airlines employee to throw him off of his flight; this was one or two employees of Southwest booting a man who they deemed as too fat to fit into one seat on their airplane, put the arm rests down and give the other passengers he was sitting with their personal space. In other words, he was booted off a flight for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
While Kevin Smith was deemed to be a “safety risk” for this flight, he did end up boarding another flight, using two seats he had purchased. It has been noted by many, many media outlets that he usually buys two seats and that obviously he needs those two seats in order to fit on a flight and using that as the excuse as to why he was ejected from the plane. This, however, is absolutely false. While it’s true that he does often purchase two seats for one flight, he does this because he merely doesn’t want to sit by a stranger because there always seems to be that person, the same kind of person you often find at movie theaters, who have many other seating options, but choose to sit next to a stranger and when you’re on an airplane, these creepy folks can often be very chatty and not everyone really wants to deal with that, either.
Obviously just because he was able to board a later flight he didn’t stop tweeting about the incredible lack of compassion and courtesy not just human beings, but paying customers deserve from any business they are making money off of, and he even tweeted a picture of himself making the “fatty face” while sitting on his flight.
“Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off! http://twitpic.com/1340gw”
Anyone who knows of Kevin Smith and his work knows that he’s a pretty humorous dude and that he injects humor into all of life’s little “fuck you’s,” but this does not mean that this entire experience he was forced to go through wasn’t humiliating, because it very much was and no person, regardless of their size, deserves to be treated in the manner in which Southwest Airlines treated Kevin Smith. But this wasn’t just a one-time occurrence as far as Southwest Airline’s blatant fat shaming goes. On his later flight, Kevin Smith sat by a woman named Natali who was also a bigger person. Natali was taken aside by a member of Southwest’s customer service and told that she would have to purchase a second seat if Kevin Smith didn’t say it was okay for her to sit next to him, with his purchased, unused seat between them. After a number of people started to speculate about the validity of Smith’s story of Natali, claiming that he made her up in order to truly drive home his point that he was being discriminated against or that Southwest Airlines was comprised of a bunch of thin, fat-shaming, fat-phobic assholes. To prove that Natali is indeed a real person who also faced very real discrimination by the airline, Smith had her as a guest on his SModcast (#107).
And I realize after typing all of that that I truly missed the mark on that whole “Reader’s Digest version” thing.
The way that Southwest Airlines treated Kevin Smith, Natali, and the way that they have and will most likely continue to treat “people of size,” as they put it, is an absolute disgrace. This is truly a case of fat shaming and while most, if not all, airlines have very size-ist policies, Southwest Airlines obviously enforces theirs to the fullest.
It is an absolute tragedy that we live in the World of Thinicism (word originally coined by Kevin Smith and the title of his SModcast with Natali, but how cool is that word?) where while two out of three Americans are “obese” yet those same two out of three people are so often discriminated against in our world where thinness trumps all. As Kate Harding has previously mentioned, the fact that Kevin Smith, the human being, had to go through that is absolutely horrible, but it’s okay to be really happy that Kevin Smith, Famous Person with 1.6 Million Twitter Followers, got really pissed off and knew very well that they way he was treated was not even close to being okay and had the courage to speak up for himself and not just sulk away and let Southwest Airlines get away with what they did.
Everyone has been discussing this incident since Kevin Smith’s first tweet to @SouthwestAir and while a bulk of what has been said about it has been sentiments of how wrong it was for him to be ejected from a flight he had every right to be on and did indeed fit on, some of the remarks that have been made and continue to pop up all over the place have been from aforementioned close-minded, holier than thou assholes who believe that fat people are fat because they want to be and just need to go on a diet and lose weight and cease being drains on society. While I expected a great number of these comments I’ve seen, where I did not expect to see close-minded comments was from well-known feminist media–and I don’t mean in the comments section.
Bitch Magazine recently started a discussion on their Facebook page that I was very surprised to see:
So we get that Kevin Smith is pissed at Southwest Airlines, and with good reason. But does anyone else think it’s weird that he’s spent more than a decade in one of the most inhospitable environments for fat people ever – that’d be Hollywood – and apparently never had issues with that? Discuss.
The first thing that went through my head upon being confronted with this post was Are you fucking kidding me? Do you even know who Kevin Smith is? Anyone who has seen just one Kevin Smith movie gets the gist of what he is all about. Sure, he built a career making films and plays a role in Hollywood to some degree, but he makes comedies and according to Kevin Smith himself, he has made a career out of repeatedly cracking dick and fart jokes and during his appearances at colleges, he pokes fun at himself for being fat and never once, throughout this entire incident, has said he wasn’t fat; he just isn’t too fat to fly. He is just one of those people who has excelled at making a career out of seeing the humor in every single situation a person can possibly be confronted with and when it comes to Hollywood, it’s pretty hard to make fun of or attempt to shame a person for being fat, or for any other reason, if they are already making fun of themselves and owning what could possibly be said about them. Secondly, while men as a whole do very often scrutinize themselves because of their bodies and do feel the same pressures women do when it comes to body image issues, Hollywood doesn’t cast such a discriminatory light on overweight men, as opposed to overweight women.
To ask if it is weird that someone who is fat to find a career within Hollywood is exactly the same as asking why a woman director has the audacity to make porn when the sex industry makes a living off of objectifying women. It is very much saying You do not belong there, so why try? and to me, that is just about the most un-feminist you can get. Feminism is not about enforcing double standards; if a woman of any background at all faced this exact situation, feminists would be expressing their deepest outrage over size-ist policies and for ejecting that person off a flight for absolutely no reason whatsoever, but when a man goes through a humiliating walk of shame off of a flight, we are allowed to compare the situation to his career? It does not work that way and we really do not need feminist media making comments that just make feminism look judgmental and uninviting. I have said it so many times, but I believe people really do need to be reminded that feminism is not a woman’s issues only clique; we must speak out and raise awareness when we see inequality being played out against human beings, regardless of their genitalia or gender identity. I have had many people challenge me in some pretty great, intelligent debates on feminism and I have always said that when I see men being treated or being represented unfairly, I would be raising awareness about it and that is what makes a truly fabulous feminist.