ONTD Political

Fat Woman Falls Through New York Sidewalk And It's HIGH COMEDY To A Bunch Of Jerks

5:58 pm - 01/15/2013
Why are we so freakin' stingy with our sympathy when it comes to "enormous" fat women? What the hell is wrong with us?


[A pic of the author. OP shrank this down. Original photo here.]

Over the weekend, a woman had the Manhattan sidewalk on which she was standing collapse underneath her, sending her falling seven feet into a restaurant basement.

This is a common fear amongst New Yorkers I’ve known, and it probably never would have occurred to me to worry about it if I hadn’t been privy to so many NYC-dwelling friends who refuse to walk on sidewalk grates for this reason.

In the case of Ulanda Williams, who found herself unexpectedly plummeting into the basement of Atomic Wings on the Upper East Side, she sought shelter from the rain under an awning and had the concrete sidewalk disintegrate a few seconds later.

The fact that she fell isn’t much news -- but apparently, the fact that she was very fat was, as her size is mentioned in virtually every headline on the story, which of course has led to lots of giggles and jokes on Twitter and in comment threads, especially since Williams had to be rescued from the hole she fell into with a “high angle rescue unit” -- in other words, an actual crane.

Even the eyewitness reports were explicit on this point:

“The woman was enormous. She had to be more than 300 pounds,” said Daniel Crumity, 44, of Queens, who watched in disbelief from a window inside the Blue Room. “The ground literally fell out from underneath her.

“It happened so fast she did not scream or anything. Everybody in the bar got up to look.”

The hilarity didn’t end when Williams was released from the hospital -- with a broken arm and a few cuts and bruises -- and mentioned to reporters that hospital staff credited her size with saving her life, saying the fall would likely have killed a thinner person. Of course, the idea that body fat could possibly have ANY beneficial effect is unthinkable to most, even though there is plenty of evidence -- both scientific and common sense -- that extra padding prevents serious injury in falls, especially in older people.

In a masterpiece of victim-blaming, the commenter response then moved to the argument that Williams’ being “saved” by her size didn’t really count because a thinner person probably wouldn’t have fallen through the sidewalk in the first place -- even though logic would dictate that any given bit of sidewalk should probably be capable of holding AT LEAST 400 pounds. I mean, for safety.

In the news coverage of the event, Williams’ weight is first estimated to be 300 pounds, then 350, then by the time of her release from the hospital, 400 pounds; she is also nearly six and a half feet tall. As was the case for the eyewitness who made the initial estimate, “300 pounds” is one of those numbers that we tend to throw out as being impossibly huge, in part because we honestly have no idea what 300 pounds looks like.

Indeed, many of us don’t even know what 200 pounds looks like, probably because women in particular are so conditioned to either refuse to share their weight or to fudge the real number. 300 has evolved as a random point at which fat-with-a-hope-of-salvation crosses over into FAT AND DOOMED FOREVER. 300 is generally the number where people start to say, well, that’s just GROSSLY OBESE and simply not okay.

(For reference, I weigh 300 pounds. 300! Pounds! I have never broken a sidewalk, at least not to my knowledge, and yes, I would blame the sidewalk if I did.)

There is an eagerness with which people have applied the blame for Williams’ fall to her size -- and not to what had to be a fragile bit of sidewalk, as a four foot by six foot expanse should be able to support a person of Williams’ weight as well as it should be able to hold three smaller people standing in the same space. But it’s much more gratifying to blame the fat lady -- the huge, way beyond the limits of what is acceptable fat lady -- for her misfortune.

Because fat people, and fat women especially, are such popular social scapegoats that we’re all but incapable of seeing them as full-fledged human beings who deserve the same dignity and respect as anyone else. Women that fat aren’t even PEOPLE anymore, culture tells us -- they’re just disgusting, gluttonous donut-eaters who suck up all the healthcare and taxes.

If this sort of thinking were exclusively a matter of just making fat women uncomfortable or socially unacceptable, it would be bad enough, but fat stigma has broader effects that are even scarier. Check out this recent study from a group of psychologists at Yale that looked at anti-fat biases in the justice system. The study assembled 471 participants to pretend to be jurors in a case of check fraud, and showed them one of four images to represent the defendant. The four images were of a slender man, a slender woman, a fat man, and a fat woman.

There was no evidence of weight bias on the part of the female participants who judged the guilt of either the images of the women, nor was there bias from either the male or female particpants when looking at the images of of either the fat or thin male defendants. However:

Not only did the male pretend jurors prove “significantly more likely” to find the obese female defendants—rather than the slim ones—guilty, but the trim male participants were worst of all, frequently labeling the fat women “repeat offenders” with “awareness” of their crimes. And because the effect disappeared when the photographs depicted a man, the hypothesis that subjects were simply layering class-based assumptions—such as “poor people are more often overweight” and “poor people commit more crime”—on top of one another falls a bit short.

The study’s conclusion is that specifically slender men are more inclined to hand a guilty verdict to a fat woman than to a fat man, or to a slender person of either of the tested genders, just because she is fat and female. There are lots of possible intersecting reasons for why this could be so, but it’s likely the primary one is our pervasive disdain and distrust of fat women, as mustn’t there be something terribly wrong with a woman who “allows” herself to get so fat as to become a social outcast -- and thereby to demonstrate a disregard, however accidental or unintentional, for the sexual attention of fit men?

I mean, if we’re not working our asses to the bone to ensure that the mens are into us, what is the POINT of living? Am I right, ladies?

The circus freakshow vibe of Ulanda Williams’ story illustrates the way we are culturally so willing to ignore the humanity of fat people, especially fat people whom we believe to be lazy or poor. In Williams’ case, racism is also an obvious factor in how so many people have responded to her accident with so little sympathy, as a woman of color who is also fat ticks all our comfortable little assumption boxes for a person who is poor, uneducated and a leech on society.

Worse yet, several comment threads have actually debated Williams’ ability to do her job -- she is employed as a social worker -- exclusively on the basis of her size; as one commenter observed, “How can she possibly advise others when she is in such a state?”

I suppose the clear solution is that women of Williams’ size should not be allowed out of the house, and should not have jobs and should not stand on sidewalks while waiting for a bus. Except, y’know, for that being utter bullshit. Williams is a person, a person with friends and family who love her, and clients who depend on her, and hopes and dreams of her own. She deserves our sympathy, not our derision, and not our blame. I don’t care how fat she is.


Source.

Sorry, I never bring super fun stuff, do I :| Actually, though, I really like this piece. Lesley is spot-on in her analysis and brings the facts.
mollywobbles867 15th-Jan-2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
Can she sue the city for medical bills? The sidewalk should be able to hold a whole hell of a lot of weight considering how many people walk across it and stand on it every day.

I feel so bad for her. Hopefully, she hasn't seen all the cruel reactions. If she has, hopefully she reacted like the author of this piece.

Also, I didn't realize that being skinny was a requirement for being a social worker, but then I forget that society acts like a person's weight is a measurement of their morality and intelligence.

Also, the point here about people not actually knowing what 300lbs looks like is so spot on; especially skinny people. I weigh 290 and used to weigh over 300, but any time I told someone that, they were shocked. "You don't look that big!" It's not like I'm especially tall either; I'm 5'6". People just hear that number and expect you to be unable to move or wear anything but a mumu.
skellington1 15th-Jan-2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
So true -- our idea of what various weights look like is really skewed, even without accounting for the huge variation in body types, how people carry fat, muscle development, etc.

There are some cool projects to help with that, tho.
Photographic Height/Weight Chart: User submitted photos in a great big graph of height versus weight (more photos for given combinations if you click on one).
The athletic women height/weight pictures -- all super athletes, obv, but it shows how differently people build muscle. There's newer a color version somewhere, but I can't find it.

I think I have more somewhere, but they're all bookmarked at home with the rest of my art reference stuff.
miriamele 15th-Jan-2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
UH OH! I might be out of a job! I'm 5'8" and my highest weight was 303 and I'm currently at 263. Guess what! I'm a social worker. IN FACT, I have a co-worker who does much more intense medicaid social work than I do and I'd wager she's nearly 400 lbs herself. But you know what? She's damn good at her job.

This accusation kills me. As does all the rest. : (

ebay313 15th-Jan-2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
Whoo, more fat social workers! (as stated below I am also a fat social worker :) )
shipperx 15th-Jan-2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
I would say that a sidewalk that can't carry 300lbs would be dangerously unsafe, not only due to the high likelihood of multiple occupancy of a covered space of sidewalk but also due to the likelihood of impact which would multiply the force of any weight hitting a sidewalk.
fm_gatekeeper 15th-Jan-2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
mte
skellington1 15th-Jan-2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
Sidewalks in New York City collapse often enough that it's a common fear? And there isn't huge outrage over the giant public safety issue? Having that happen would be terrifying -- it's the kind of thing we (almost all of us, I think; fear of falling is one of the innate ones) have nightmares about.

Most codes require building to greater stress tolerances than the construction is expected to ever actually see (to give you some safety wiggle room; to allow for things falling from great height, or natural disasters, etc). I'd think a section of NYC sidewalk should be reasonably expected to hold up not just a crowd of people, but all the various supplies common to doing business. Remodeling the restaurant? A pallet of concrete weighs over 3000 pounds, and no one would look twice at a worker using a jack to move a pallet of concrete over a sidewalk. 400-800 pound motorcycles are often parked on sidewalks (not nes. in NYC; but commonly enough I'd say it's an 'expected load' for the sidewalk). 300 pounds is just not that much when we're talking about structural weight bearing.

Hell, back in high school drama I used to build 8x4 platforms that held four or five people -- that's 500-425 pounds even if you figure they were all pretty scrawny.

(I know that the awful treatment of Williams is really the subject, here -- but it's easier to wrap my mind around the engineering angle. I can't quite cope with thinking about people being awful head-on at the moment.)

Edited at 2013-01-15 11:38 pm (UTC)
ebay313 15th-Jan-2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I pretty horrified that this happens often.
ebay313 15th-Jan-2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
This shit makes me so angry -_- Especially being a fat social worker myself!
Though I am not 300 or more lbs, I am also only 5ft. I remember once hearing folks on the internet describe a hypothetical fat person when making the distinction between ok fat and gross fat, using the example of a woman who was 5ft and 200lbs as gross fat. A woman that fat, it was proposed, would no longer even have definable arms and legs, she would be basically just a ball of fat at that immense a weight. I've now passed 200. And shockingly I do still have definable arms and legs.
wesleysgirl 15th-Jan-2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
The general population honestly has little clue what a 200 lb person, or a 300 lb person, looks like. The example you provided (5 ft 200 lbs, or really even an example of 5'5" 300 lbs) makes people think of the blueberry girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or something, needing to be rolled around because as you said that person would just be a ball of fat. The general population is ignorant.
crossfire 15th-Jan-2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
ngl I'm scared of those damn grates for exactly this reason. I avoid them whenever I can.

Once when I did some nice passerby made a "cattle guard" joke because lol fatties, you know.
iolarah 16th-Jan-2013 05:10 am (UTC)
What a gross asshole, to say something like that to you >:(
vulturoso 15th-Jan-2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
Not only did the male pretend jurors prove “significantly more likely” to find the obese female defendants—rather than the slim ones—guilty, but the trim male participants were worst of all, frequently labeling the fat women “repeat offenders” with “awareness” of their crimes. And because the effect disappeared when the photographs depicted a man, the hypothesis that subjects were simply layering class-based assumptions—such as “poor people are more often overweight” and “poor people commit more crime”—on top of one another falls a bit short.

Explains this casting choice (though she is extremely funny). Rude.



vulturoso 15th-Jan-2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
Whoops, sorry this picture takes up the whole screen. :(
kaelstra 16th-Jan-2013 12:00 am (UTC)
...but it’s likely the primary one is our pervasive disdain and distrust of fat women, as mustn’t there be something terribly wrong with a woman who “allows” herself to get so fat as to become a social outcast -- and thereby to demonstrate a disregard, however accidental or unintentional, for the sexual attention of fit men?

WHAT

WHAT

WE CAN'T EVEN BE FAT NOW, OR WE'RE HURTING MEN'S FEELINGS SINCE WE AREN'T SEXY FOR THEM?

SOMEONE THINK OF THE MEN!

SOMEONEEEEEEE
tabaqui 16th-Jan-2013 12:49 am (UTC)
I think i just threw up a little.
idemandjustice 16th-Jan-2013 12:01 am (UTC)
There is something wrong there for someone to fall through the sidewalk. With the sidewalk, I mean, not the person. What if someone had come down there with a cart load of heavy books? Never mind that cars often drive over them to go into parking lots, etc. They're meant to take a hell of a lot more weight than one person, no matter how overweight, would be putting on it. That poor woman.
bord_du_rasoir 16th-Jan-2013 12:04 am (UTC)
I looked this up because part of my job is to conduct building inspections & I recently inspected the basement of an Atomic Wings on the Upper East Side. (Turns out this Atomic Wings is on 60th; I inspected the one on 95th.)

What this article doesn't mention that others do: She's 6' 5".

Edited at 2013-01-16 12:05 am (UTC)
chaya 16th-Jan-2013 01:15 am (UTC)
she is also nearly six and a half feet tall

it's even bolded
otana 16th-Jan-2013 12:16 am (UTC)
Wow this is not okay on so many levels.
ladylothwen 16th-Jan-2013 12:41 am (UTC)
As a woman who does weigh over 300lbs and has been over weight their entire lives I'm hardly surprised by the reaction. That sidewalk should've been able to support her weight as much as it should support three peoples weight. This is disgusting and wrong on so many levels.
tabaqui 16th-Jan-2013 12:50 am (UTC)
For fuck's sake. I don't actually have any faith in humanity left to lose. I'm glad she wasn't, i dunno, KILLED or paralyzed or something.

Fuck the haters.
blackheart 16th-Jan-2013 12:53 am (UTC)
I fucking hate walking on grates and will make myself look like an idiot prancing around them if it keeps me from stepping on the things. I haven't heard of the things collapsing here but oh hell no. Man. That poor girl! Eesh. Agreeing with the above: someone doesn't have to be fat to fall through the grate. I've worked with some tall men who spent most of their free time in the gym and I don't think they'd appreciate their hard work being called 'fat'.
chaya 16th-Jan-2013 01:24 am (UTC)
had the concrete sidewalk disintegrate a few seconds later.

No grate. Just sidewalk.
gloraelin 16th-Jan-2013 01:10 am (UTC)
FUCK EVERYTHING

all I have energy for right now but yeah... all of it
jennilee 16th-Jan-2013 01:42 am (UTC)
this pisses me off so fucking much

especially the end where someone wonders how she could possible be doing her job as a social worker

as someone else who is pretty close to 300 pounds now (280) and who fucking literally saves lives every time she goes into work at a hospital, i can say that YES, someone who weighs that much can be effective at their job. like other people in this post has said, these fuckers have no clue what 300 pounds looks like.

also, i'm fucking awesome. and i'm fat. deal with it fuckers, i'll probably save your ass one day because it's my job.
angelofdeath275 16th-Jan-2013 04:12 am (UTC)
....its possible to fall through a sidewalk????
teacoat 16th-Jan-2013 04:20 am (UTC)
Did you read the article?
daut 16th-Jan-2013 10:32 am (UTC)
moussaka_thief 16th-Jan-2013 11:12 am (UTC)
Riiiiiiiiight. So much stupid.
lolahead 16th-Jan-2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
It's so sad how obsessed our culture has become with judging others. I've recently come to the conclusion that all stress begins with judgment, judgment of ourselves and of others. The sad thing is, most of us judge ourselves harshly as it is, to have strangers on the street, on twitter and all over the internet throwing judgment at this lady just throws salt on the wound of her own judgment.

I send her thoughst of loving kindness.
peace_piper 16th-Jan-2013 06:48 pm (UTC)
This is a common fear amongst New Yorkers I’ve known, and it probably never would have occurred to me to worry about it if I hadn’t been privy to so many NYC-dwelling friends who refuse to walk on sidewalk grates for this reason.

Having lived a majority of my life on Hawaii or on the west coast is this a THING?? I'm actually surprised about this.
hey_kayla_jay 16th-Jan-2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
If the woman is SIX AND A HALF FEET TALL, being three hundred pounds would not make her absurdly overweight. What if an athlete of that height and weight due to muscle mass had fell through? They'd get a lot more sympathy, I bet. I hope she sues the hell out of someone.
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