This is Thin Privilege

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Fat in America, Canada, and everywhere else?

To what extent is the fight against “thin privilege” a uniquely American one? I don’t mean that fat shaming only exists in America, but when I try to explain it to friends in Europe, particularly Northern Europe, I’m met with puzzled looks. Of course fat is bad, they say, and anyone can not be fat; being thin and healthy is good for the whole community. They also ridicule the suggestion that most obesity is genetic rather than cultural, pointing out how obesity rates correlate with poverty and other negative lifestyle factors. While I don’t agree with them on everything, I was struck at how uniform they were in their feelings, and I began to wonder about how fat activism is different outside of North America. Do any of the academic mods know about this?


Your friends are making the exact same arguments that people in the US make, so it really shows how a thin ideology is incredibly pervasive but also that it isn’t something that just happens in the US. Thin ideology is more prominent in industrialized nations because prevalence of neo-liberal thought, which emphasizes free market capitalism and increased pressure on taking personal responsibility. Also, expanding outside of that there are many activists within Norther Europe particularly, but also throughout Europe as a whole.

When I read your message I first thought of Sigrún Daníelsdóttir who I’ve interacted with before. Most of her work is with eating disorder treatment using Health at Every Size as a framework but also includes fighting the “war on obesity” within Iceland. She has also been involved within fat positive groups as well. She has written about the issues in Iceland via this link, The Obesity War in Iceland.

Most fat activism is very US-centric but there are activists all over the world. I wouldn’t say that activism is different, but most activism regardless of the topic molds itself to the major issues that come up within their country. As far as I know there hasn’t been research on how fat activism or fat politics changes between counties, but that would be a really good project for someone to take on.