The Other

I Stumbled across this image in a fit of boredom today. I didn’t run across it in any particular context (though the URL seems to indicate it was part of a news article), so just looking at it straight up, what do you think of it?

On the one hand, I think it’s a great idea to have bigger seats available, to accommodate a wide range of sizes. On the other hand, why have just one? Why not make ALL the seats bigger? Having just one like that is awful othering. Plus, what if you want to sit in a bigger seat, but the only one in the row is already taken? I also find it interesting that it seems to be set at a lower height than the other chairs. I am not sure what the logic behind that would be.

Do you see this as a sign of progress? Or do you think it’s more like a finger-shaking, shaming thing?

Update: Commenter BamaGal notes that the chair is probably blue and lower to the ground because it is meant to be a handicap chair. I apologize for not considering that possibility before – that would be my able-bodied privilege, there.

I have now done what I should have done in the first place and gone to the source URL and searched The Sun’s website for the article for which the image is an accompaniment. Here is the article:

SPECIAL chairs for obese passengers have been installed in Brazil’s trains and stations to cope with the country’s soaring obesity rate.

The seats are nearly twice as wide and can support passengers weighing up to 40 STONE without breaking.


Priority ... for larger passengers

But Metro bosses in Sao Paulo say the chairs are being ignored by bigger passengers, possibly because they are too ashamed to use them.

A sign above each seat shows a cartoon of a bulky passenger that reads: “Priority chair for obese people.”

One manager said: “It may be that they don’t want to think of themselves as fat or that they resent being put in with pensioners and the disabled.”

Does this added context change how you feel about the chairs?


8 thoughts on “The Other

  1. This is not progress, this is fat shaming, pure and simple. Why is the fat seat blue? Why is there a fat seat at all? Why not just have a long bench? Gah!!

  2. that’s a handicap chair. that’s why it is blue and lower than the others. it is just the right height for transferring from a wheel chair.

    as for your question………it would be just like society to make a fat chair…they already make a “normal” size wheelchair and a larger size for bigger folks. why do they make 2 when making them all the larger size would be much easier.

    I personally think it is the shame thing going on.

  3. I’m torn on these kinds of things. It almost seems like its a loveseat type thing, but if its intended for one big butt, then I’d say lets welcome it for now. My wife would love a seat like that, and though it may draw more attention to her, her comfort would be of greater concern. The kind of people (like my wife) who would fit nicely in that chair already get no end of attention for their existence. I doubt this chair will add to it.

    And I don’t think all the seats need to be bigger. There should be options. I don’t think I’d like to sit in the big chair. I’d rather have the armrests nearer.

    I think the fact that some public works people were (possibly) considering fat people when designing this space. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.


  4. My first thought was that it was a double seat like in old-time theaters. I like to go to such theaters and have seen them used as restoration pieces on occasion.

    It could also be used by parents with small kids. I guess it is progress if a person who uses it gets to sit in comfort. My daughter’s school purchases extra wide chairs with some sort of greater support for a few of the larger teachers. Her school truly values its teachers so making sure they are physically comfortable is a given.

    In short – I don’t know. It would be interesting to know the actual intent of the people who installed it.

  5. Can anyone translate what the sign actually says in totality? It seems like an awful lot of text just to identify the chair as preferred seating for fat passengers.

  6. I speak Spanish, which is close enough to Portuguese that I can make out the sign. (I’d defer to an actual Portuguese speaker, obviously):

    Seating set aside for obese persons
    (city code number)

    Seats identified in green [??]

    Obese people and women in advanced stages of pregnancy have access [to these seats] as authorized by the department of transportation. [failure to comply = fines; I don’t understand this part well enough to translate word for word]

    In red: Your attitude makes a difference! [I think]

    The signage seems to be fairly similar to the signage at the front of buses and trains in the US indicating seating for elderly/disabled passengers. Fairly straightforward, as far as I can tell (again, I defer to someone with actual knowledge of Portuguese or Brazilian culture).

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