Fran started the series while on a family vacation to point out how the hotel she stayed at was clearly unequipped to serve anyone with a large body.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 25, 2021. It has since been updated.
A 27-year-old teacher and body positivity advocate's hilarious TikTok series is highlighting the obstacles fat people face while traveling. Mary Fran Donnelly, a social studies teacher who has been spreading her body-positive message on the app for a year, seems to have won the hearts of the internet with her "Traveling as a Fat Person" series. Fran started the series—which has gained over 6.7 million collective views on the platform—while on a family vacation to point out how the hotel she stayed at was clearly unequipped to serve anyone with a large body.
In one video, Fran gave a tour of her hotel bathroom, which had barely enough wiggle room for her to sit on the toilet and nothing more. Moving from the toilet to the shower, she showed off the towels provided which—surprise, surprise—were clearly designed for people with small bodies and wasn't long enough to even wrap around Fran's body.
In episode two of the series, Fran showed how although pool towels offer a bit more coverage, they're still not enough to adequately cover one's body unless they're a size zero. The wearer is left having to pick between covering their back, their front, or a side of their body. "After a swim, maybe you want to go sit on the balcony," she says next, hoping to make use of another amenity that came with her hotel room. "Oh look, a lovely table with a chair. Will it house me? I'm not too sure."
Although it's hard not to laugh along with Fran's sister—who can be heard wheezing behind the camera while filming—the TikTok user told BuzzFeed that in reality, such things make traveling even more stressful for fat people. "I cope through humor... I was making light of a situation that is a very real stress for fat, plus-size people... my sister and I could only laugh at how absurd it was," she said. Each seemingly tiny issue she demonstrates in her videos shines a light on the real challenges that she and many others face during everyday tasks and actions while trying to relax on vacation.
Fran admitted that sometimes, these obstacles play a big part in her travel decisions. "I don't travel alone because I worry about strangers being upset about sitting next to me on a plane. [I also wonder,] will the seat be uncomfortable? Will the seat belt fit? Will the towel fit at the hotel? Will the chairs at the pool hold me? Will the tables at the hotel restaurant be comfortable?" she said. Fran's videos have struck a chord with many netizens who related hard with what she tries to highlight through them.
"People [are] commenting about [how] these little things, like hotel towels, lounge chairs, and toilet placement, aren't an isolated worry for one person; there is a whole community of people that feels the same way. And those people [are] giving thousands of recommendations on how to alleviate some of that stress," she said. Some of the suggestions in her comment section include: buying seat belt extenders online, bringing towels from home, and researching hotel room measurements beforehand. While these are helpful, Fran points out that it shouldn't have to be this way.
"I don't think [the challenges I pointed out] cross the minds of most," Fran said. "But I think that it's time that [they] do. Body shapes and image has become so relevant in recent years that there isn't any excuse as to why the hotel and travel industries cannot begin to reevaluate their practices. Fat, plus-size people deserve to be seen as valid human beings in an industry that should cater to everyone's size and physical needs."