This is Thin Privilege

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Thin privilege is having your boundaries respected at the gym.

Thin privilege is being able to go to the gym without people feeling the right to disrupt your workouts with patronizing and demoralizing commentary in the name of “encouragement”.

Today at the gym I’d already swum half a mile when a woman got in the lane next to me. I had stopped for a moment at the wall to readjust my goggles, and she said, very “nicely” but very aggressively, “So how many laps have you done?” in a syrupy, like you’d talk to a five-year-old, voice.

I kind of looked at her funny, because I get in my headspace when I’m working out and this startled me more than anything, and said, “22?” I didn’t see why it was her business but in a situation like that you can’t just say “Butt out, lady!” (Or at least I can’t. I’m shy.)

She smiled at me, and I can’t describe this well, but the patronizing was coming off her in waves. “Good for you!!!” she said, in such an over-the-top, “look at the fattie trying to swim I have to encourage her” kind of tone. Still talking like I was 5, instead of a grown woman like her. Then she pushed off the wall and started swimming with her snorkel, content at having done her good deed for the day, no doubt.

I was just frozen for a second, boggling.

I wish I could say this is the first time this sort of thing has happened to me. Women pass me on the elliptical while I’m pouring sweat (thanks, nature, for making me a sweat machine) and say “Good girl!” Men see me lifting weights and say “Keep it up!” in an almost threatening tone. People suntanning beside the pool see me get out dripping after swimming for 90 minutes and say, “You should come here more often, it’s really nice!”

Thanks, gym people, I’m sure at least some of you mean well. But you’re disrupting my workouts, and making me feel that everyone at the gym who doesn’t look at me with thinly-veiled disgust is thinking how best to “encourage” me so I’ll come back (because obviously I couldn’t possibly come here every day - as I do - or else I’d be thin, of course!) And some of you quite frankly make me feel threatened, as you startle me and force your unsolicited “encouragement” on me whether I want it or not.

You want to encourage me? Wait until I make eye contact, and then say hi with a real smile or make a comment about the weather or how you can’t wait until the weekend. And if I don’t make eye contact? Leave me alone. Simple as that.

Thin privilege is not having people at the gym feel that they can – no, should! -  transgress your boundaries willy-nilly and disrupt your workouts in order to encourage/threaten/push you into altering your body to suit them, because obviously you’re not doing it fast enough and need a shove.


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