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I was publicly fat shamed on a flight. I didn’t give my bully the satisfaction

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It is clear that so many in society lack empathy for fat people (Picture: Kirsty Leanne)

‘I can’t sit next to this person anymore!’

I looked up to see the woman in the chair next to me had got up in her seat, turned around and leant on the headrest, signalling her friend’s attention a few rows back, in order to exclaim this.

I turned my music up and pretended I couldn’t hear what was happening. 

At that moment, I wanted the whole world to swallow me up

It was my worst nightmare as a fat person. So I can imagine just how the man sat next to LibsofTikTok found Chaya Raichik felt when she publicly shamed him to her 500k followers. 

‘I’m sitting on a flight squished into the corner because this massive obese guy is taking up half my seat.’ She wrote. ‘I paid for a full seat, not 1/2 a seat. This isn’t normal or fair.’

She went on to add that the ‘dude’ next to her was ‘stuffing cheeseburgers and fries down his throat and threw his trash on the floor’. All this before labelling him a ‘disgusting fat slob’.

He experienced an online pile on; I was fat shamed in front of everyone else on my flight

It was 2019 and I was travelling to Spain on a budget airline. I was unaware of how much space I’d have on the plane, and as the flight had been booked for me by a work client, I had very little control over where I was sitting. 

I was in a window seat, which was much better than being in the middle, but unfortunately it was a little tight once everyone had boarded.

When a woman sat down next to me, I immediately apologised about the lack of space, letting her know I’d do what I could to make sure she was comfortable. 

She didn’t respond how I expected – in fact, she sneered, looked me up and down and made a slight ‘grunt’ noise in my direction, barely acknowledging what I’d said. 

Throughout the first hour or so of the flight she kept huffing and puffing and although the armrest went down 95% of the way, she purposely kept digging that last bit into me so that I was fully aware she was not happy. 

I kept apologising, but she refused to acknowledge my apologies and continued.

That’s when she turned on her seat and yelled her disdain at her friend.

Kirsty in Singapore (Picture: Kirsty Leanne)

Of course, as it was fully booked, she had to awkwardly remain next to me for the duration of the flight. 

It is clear that so many in society lack empathy for fat people

This was proven by the viral tweet Chaya Raichik posted this week.

Personally, I find that if you’re in a situation like this, the solution is to speak to the flight attendants before boarding is complete. This is the only time that changes to seating arrangements can realistically be made. 

Taking to X to shame plus size people only garners more hate.

Looking at Raichik’s account, however, you can clearly see her engagement is based on sharing things that will get a reaction, regardless of who it hurts.

I still think about my unimpressed seat neighbour regularly and how she changed my perspective when it comes to taking up space. She may have wanted me to be embarrassed; to be so ashamed I refused to get on a plane again. 

Her actions, however, had the opposite effect. 

Upon landing, I felt the excitement of exploring a new city and was reminded of why I love to travel. I refused to let her affect my mood.

I’ve had people tell me that they’ve taken their first flight in 20 years because of my content (Picture: Kirsty Leanne)

Now I don’t apologise for my body but instead the lack of room in the space I’m in. A fat person existing in a place that wasn’t built for them is not a reason to apologise. 

But not everyone will be like me. Some people will hold these experiences with them for a long time to come. 

I know public shaming is a big fear for plus size people who are thinking of travelling overseas. We’re very aware of how much space we take up and with most airlines making it difficult to purchase a second seat – often having to buy two full price seats and call customer service – frequently we will end up in a situation that is out of our control.

This is one of the main reasons I created Plus Size Travel Too, as I wanted to create a safe space for people who have these worries as well as a platform that shared tips and tricks to help avoid these situations.

For example, when flying economy I will always board as soon as I can, asking if when boarding is complete I could move to a row with empty seats next to each other. For the last 30+ flights I’ve taken, this has worked and I’ve not been seated next to anyone. 

I wanted to create a safe space for people (Picture: Kirsty Leanne)

I also like to share encouragement for those that may feel like they don’t belong. While some have strong opinions about fat people, it doesn’t mean we’re not worthy of adventure and travel experiences. 

Since I started Plus Size Travel Too, I’ve received so many comments and messages from my community, and it makes it all worth it. 

I’ve had people tell me that they’ve taken their first flight in 20 years because of my content or that they weren’t afraid to ask for a seat belt extender for the first time ever. 

While I know it will take some time, I really hope those that are not in fat bodies also see my content and realise that we’re people too. It can be hard living in a world that does not cater to your size and we’re all just existing, trying to do our best. 

Of course I know that comments like these are not going to stop but I’m not going to stop travelling the world and sharing my stories. 

I hope in doing that, others will follow their dreams of adventure too. 

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Share your views in the comments below.


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