Ulanda Williams, a social worker in New York City, fell into a hole when the sidewalk beneath her collapsed last week. Ms. Williams was waiting for a bus and sought shelter under an awning when it began to rain when the ground gave way seconds later. Not falling straight through to the cellar below, she wound up wedged in the hole instead, it took special FDNY equipment to pull her out. She was taken to a hospital and was released the next day. Ms. Williams was extremely fortunate that her injuries were limited to a broken arm, cuts, scrapes and bruises. Apparently EMS and FDNY concurred that a smaller person may have died from the drop. It is Ulanda’s size that likely saved her life.
And that (her size), as they say, is the rub.
Granted, in each article I’ve read, the news sources have taken care to mention that upon inspection it was determined by the NYC Department of Buildings that defective steel doors and a loose staircase were partially responsible for the four- by-six-foot slab of concrete’s collapse. However, that part of the story is almost seems a side-note to the main article. Why?
Because in each of the sources that I’ve read, the story was not that a woman nearly fell to her possible death due to a poorly maintained structure. The immediate focus for each of them was that the woman in question was nearly six and a half feet tall and weighed 400 pounds, according to the New York Post. Yes, Ms. Williams is in one word fat. Journalisms presumed penchant for being unbiased (yeah I know), went out the freaking window once her size was known. Don’t believe me?
Here is the lead-in line for the Huffington Post article? “Looks like she got her big break.”
The New York Post’s opening salvo? “Size does matter!”
Oh, and my personal favorite, the first sentence from RoadRunner: “Whoever says good things come in small packages hasn’t met Ulanda Williams. Williams, who is 32 years old and tips the scales at 400 pounds, claims she owes her life to her trailer-truck physique.”
Oh, look they so funny! So why the hell am I not laughing?
Why is it when something happens to a person of size in the news it becomes all about the fat?
Even in their headlines, headers and web links, the view is already skewed to immediately blame the victim.
*Woman who fell through sidewalk says her ‘girth’ saved her
*Ulanda Williams, 400-lb Woman, Falls Through Sidewalk In New York City
I am not saying that her weight did not contribute to the incident. My complaint is how the media specifically and the public at large focused mainly on her weight as the culprit. Fellow blogger and someone I’m lucky to call friend, TheNatural54 rightly notes that if this were two men of average size who had fallen, or even a tackle for the Jets or Giants football team (because we know tackles are rarely small guys), the focus would be more on the badly maintained property and not their weight.
I generally do not read the comments on such stories unless I just want to be pissed off and appalled at a bunch of strangers who are never worth the energy spent in the ensuing foul mood that will then color my day. Unfortunately, because this story came to my attention from various fronts, I wound up reading quite a few comments and yes, I was pissed. From their view it seems the concrete collapsing would never have happened to someone of a smaller size and that just is not accurate. But for the sake of devil’s advocacy let’s just say it really was all about the poundage. What is it about being over a very subjective number that a person is no longer considered worthy of basic decency and respect anyway? The mocking bullshit tweeted by Rupert Murdock before issuing a not even half-assed retraction (because it damn sure was not an apology), notwithstanding – the general public is absolutely vicious and loves using the mask of the internet to spew its fat hating vitriol, especially fat women.
If it had been a smaller woman who fell there would be much sympathy for her and anger against the building owners/managers. Ulanda Williams has cuts, scrapes, bruises and an arm broken in not just one, but two places from her ordeal, why does her weight not entitle her to such?
Judge not, lest ye…