Unpacking Thin Privilege

I want to talk about the existence of thin privilege, the special rights and advantages that are made available specifically to thin people.  To start, I do not speak for all heavy people.   I am aware I am writing this from a position of privilege and I hope to not offend anyone.

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via everdayfeminist.com

Let me start out by outlining my personal bias.  Most of my life I have been average sized.  I was never subjected to fat-shaming even at my heaviest because average is still considered to be “normal.”  When I dropped from a size 10 to a size 2, however, I felt the world change around me.  I had no idea the level of comfort and generosity that a thin person receives every day until I experienced it firsthand.  Strangers were much nicer to me; Not just the creepy dudes at bars who wanted my number, even visitors to the university information desk where I worked were far less snarky to me.  While my relationship with food was admittedly fucked up, when I was recovering and indulging in ice cream, pad thai, and whole pizzas I didn’t have any fear of other people commenting on my diet as if it were there place to police my personal choices.  I could go to the boutique stores that only sold “one size fits all” and know that everything would fit me.  I didn’t have to cherry pick my outfits for flattering cuts and angles or worry that nothing would fit me.

I’m outlining my experiences only to say that, until I lived as a thin person (and was ironically in the worst health of my life), I never fully understood the privilege because it is easy to miss and take for granted.  Now that I’m back to average a lot of these perks have gone away, but I’m still lucky and privileged not to face most of the oppression that an overweight person does.

The reality is that we live in a thin-centric world and fatphobia is built into the foundation of our society.  Airplanes, sports stadiums, roller coasters, subway cars and other public spaces were designed for thin people and often do not accommodate bigger bodies.  Unless you are thin you are expected to pay more, be physically uncomfortable, or are flat out not welcome into these spaces.

Clothing stores do not always carry plus size clothing.  A fat person has limited options that are more expensive and harder to find.  They are told by society that only certain patterns and styles look okay on them which is only a way to minimize their identity.  Often times plus size options are positioned in an entirely different section causing not-thin people to feel ostracized, or they don’t exist in stores at all.

There is less representation of heavy people in television and movies, and when they are present they are often portrayed as something broken to be fixed or in a negative way.  Fat people are denied fertility treatments and lifesaving surgeries unless they promise to change themselves first because of a bias in the medical industry.  Fat people are heckled with insults about how they are lazy, immoral, or unhealthy on a daily basis.  There is an employment and promotion bias against overweight people.  They exist in a world in which it has become a normal narrative to have conversations and campaigns about getting rid of people like them.

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Via everydayfeminist.com

Now, a lot of people justify all of this fatphobic bullshit by saying that fat people are unhealthy and shouldn’t have their bodies catered to or glorified.  This argument is based solely in the fat=unhealthy argument, which has been proven to be untrue.  Weight is an inaccurate measure of health despite what you may have been told by doctors (the same ones who are making this judgement based off the inaccurate BMI).  There are actually many studies of overweight and obese people having a lower mortality rate and being better able to survive cardiac arrest.  Despite what you may think, correlation is not causation – so while people who are overweight have cardiac issues and diabetes, their fat is not the direct cause of the illness, and thin people have these problems too.  Thin people however, are not judged the same way.  Being fat is not always unhealthy and without fully knowing a human being it is impossible to tell their specific conditions behind their weight.  When people thought I was at my “fittest” I was literally dying, so I know these people aren’t really concerned about health – they are just fatphobic.  It’s not anyone’s place to pass judgement on another person because of their appearance.  What is more, you simply cannot judge someone’s health simply by looking at them – that is a gross misconception.  However, because of that misconception blatant fatphobia continues to be rooted into the everyday workings of our life.

To be fat in this society is to be oppressed and that is exactly why thin privilege exists.  Not to say that all thin people have amazing and easy lives, but thin people do have the social supremacy.  To those of privilege who don’t like hearing about their privilege I am not trying to invalidate your struggles.  Skinny-shaming is definitely a problem and something that happens regularly.  It’s never okay for any woman to hear that their body isn’t good enough.  If you read this blog about eating disorder recovery I hope it is clear that I am not invalidating the struggles of thin people at all.  However, although a thin person might have negative body issues, they still get to enjoy the advantages that have been constructed into our civilization.  Fat people have been disenfranchised by a world that seeks to minimize and villainize them.

So, thin privilege exists.  Like with any privilege you may be blessed to live with take this knowledge and make sure that as you navigate life you view all people with the same amount of respect and empathy that you expect for yourself.  This was one of the biggest lessons that shook me during recovery.  Despite what culture may try and dictate, every person no matter their size, color, ability, or nationality deserves understanding.  Check your privilege before making assumptions and be kind to one another

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Rachel, 25, Badass feminist, Kitchen mess maker, Spanish speaking television buff, Bikram yoga junkie, Buffy Summers wannabe, ED Recovery warrior.

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