This is Thin Privilege

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Fatness & disability: exposing the myth of control

Not strictly about thin privilege, but I thought this would be of interest.

The parallels and overlaps between disability and fatness are striking. Both fatness and disability are highly pathologized, viewed as medical and/or health issues located primarily in the failed body/mind/desire/behavior of the individual. Within disability studies this framework is referred to as the medical model. An aspect of the medical model which also applies to fatness is the representation of disability and fatness as medical/health problems which ought to be “fixed” or “cured” even if such “fixing” goes against the wishes of the person and/or does not improve overall health. As April Herndon (2011) notes, “there is very little compelling evidence that losing weight equals a step toward health or that losing weight is even really possible for the vast majority of folks” (p. 250). Additionally, even if weight loss is attainable, in order to achieve or maintain weight loss many people resort to dieting and disordered eating practices that can have negative long-term health effects (Lyons, 2009). In terms of disability, the medical 13 push for cochlear implants for Deaf/deaf people or limb-lengthening for little people as well as the general societal pressure for people with disabilities to perform as much able-ness as possible, even when the strain and fatigue of such effort causes health problems, all represent aspects of the medical/social obligation to be as close to the norm as possible at any cost.

There are also a number of other social conditions that connect fatness and disability. Both terms are highly contextual and socially constructed. Recognition as fat or disabled varies depending on where, when and with whom one is located. This understanding of fatness and disability falls under the social model of disability that locates problems not within bodies/minds/desires/behaviors, but in the social attitudes and the environment. Both disability and fatness are terms without consistent definitions, either in terms of social or medical understandings. This is illustrated by the open-ended wording of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the continually expansive way it has been legally applied to include categories such as drug and alcohol addiction (Herndon, 2011, pp. 248-49; Vade & Solovay, 2009, pp. 169-70). Similarly, notions of fatness include a wide range of bodies and body parts. Socially “‘fat’ can mark any woman, referencing body size in general, a jiggle of a thigh, or the slight swell of a tummy,” while medical and professional definitions of and perspectives on fatness are also quite varied (Herndon, 2011, 258, 50). 14 For example, at my current weight I am “obese” according to the most common measurement, the body mass index (BMI); however, I am also “acceptable” according to my body fat percentage and “low risk” according to my waist to hip ratio. 15 According to these standards, I am somehow extremely, moderately, and mildly fat all at the same time.

These various medical, legal, and cultural perspectives all contribute to the social construction of disability and fatness. America is a particularly fatphobic place in which many people “believe that fat is unhealthy, immoral, and often downright disgusting” (Herndon, 2011, p. 250) and thus fat people are often subject to hateful verbal, emotional and physical abuse (Herndon, 2011; Prohaska & Gailey, 2009; Royce, 2009). People with disabilities also face attitudes of hatred and contempt, especially in the form of microaggressions: indirect, non-physical interactions which communicate hostility, negativity, and insult toward a marginalized individual. 16 People with disabilities additionally encounter attitudes of pity and infantalization. As Herndon (2011) notes, however, discourses of both “weight and disability seem perpetually freighted with issues of choice and frivolity” (pp. 249-250), notions which stem from what Joyce L. Huff (2009) calls our cultural “fiction of absolute corporeal control” (p. 176). In terms of environment, stairs, heavy doors, poor signage, inaccessible bathrooms, and other barriers prevent people with physical disabilities specifically from fully accessing certain spaces. In a related way, the design of airline seats, classroom desks, seatbelts, and more prevent fat people from fully accessing some spaces, at least not without discomfort or shame (Hetrick & Attig, 2009; Huff, 2009).

Sami Schalk (2013) Coming to Claim Crip: Disidentification with/in Disability Studies, DSQ 33(2),

Stop using fat disabled people as “proof” that “fat is bad.”

Objectifying and fictionalizing a drawing of a fat disabled person only proves how much of an asshole you are. It says nothing, NOTHING about actual fat disabled people, or fat people, or ANYONE except YOU.

You are NOT allowed to use a picture of a fat disabled person to feel better about yourself, or to justify your wrong-headed ideas. It’s even more absurd considering it’s a fucking drawing, yet fatphobes just HAVE to mythologize it. They can’t let a picture of a fat disabled person exist uncommented on. What would they have to make them feel better about their pointless pathetic lives if there weren’t fat disabled people to scorn? 

Fatphobes and other human shitstains, you are NOT what I’m talking about when I reference the inherent good of humankind. You are the depressing exception.


Thin privilege is having your disability treated, and not your weight.

I have a progressive, hereditary disability that, over the last year, has put me in a wheelchair.  Doctors push stationary bikes as important to recovery, even though they cause debilitating pain.  It took my uncle (a retired doc himself, and married to the other woman in my family who inherited this disorder) to tell me the truth: Cycling has absolutely zero therapeutic benefits for this condition.  Doctors simply order it so sufferers don’t gain weight from our new immobility.

I’m barely able to walk even short distances, I’m in constant agony, and the only thing doctors care about is that I’m fat.

Thin privilege is never being denied entry to public transport due to your body type.

Thin privilege is being able to read a book, watch a film, and see a TV series that has people of your weight as main characters.

Thin privilege is being able to assume everyone has your body type unless specified otherwise.

Thin privilege is not cringing when you hear the words “uniform” or “free shirts” because you know they won’t have one in your size.

Thin privilege is being able to go swimming without people overtly ridiculing you due to your body type.

Thin privilege is never having your body be automatically associated with sexual deviancy.

Thin privilege is seeing characters in fiction whose body type is not their defining characteristic.

Thin privilege is not having others see you being hurt as humorous due to your body size.

Thin privilege is not having others assume you’re sickly.

Thin privilege is not seeing advertisements telling people to avoid anything possible to stop their body looking anything like yours.

Thin privilege is seeing your body type depicted as sexy without it being niche fetish material, or being accused of “promoting unhealthy lifestyles”.

Thin privilege is not having people act like your partner is being charitable or making a sacrifice by dating you.

Thin privilege is being able to go to a restaurant, café or other eatery without being overtly ridiculed due to your body type.

Thin privilege is not having clothes stores charge you extra due to your body type.

Thin privilege is being able to call yourself fat without anybody thinking anything of it.

Thin privilege is not having you liking your body being seen as something bad.

Thin privilege is not having strangers believe your medical history is public domain.

Thin privilege is being able to talk about fat-shaming and having your opinion valued more than those who actually experience it.

Thin privilege is having people be likely to believe you are disabled, as opposed to “just being lazy” or assuming the disability has to be caused by your body type.

Thin privilege is not having people disbelieve you’ve been sexually harassed because they think no one would ever sexualise your body type.

Thin privilege is being able to have impromptu clothes shopping, purely for leisure.

Thin privilege is not having all your successes ignored because “fat” is synonymous with “unsuccessful”.

Thin privilege is not being accused of abusing your child due to your, or their, body type.

Thin privilege is, if you are another minority, having that minority’s equal rights groups include members of your body type.

Thin privilege is not being fired from your job due to your body type. And if you are, thin privilege is having it be recognised as illegal.

Thin privilege is not having people grab your body parts and telling you to “lose all that”.

Thin privilege is having long-lost friends be interested in your life, as opposed to whether you have or haven’t lost weight since they last saw you.

(submitted by modsquare)

(blog author’s note: there are a couple points in here I find problematic. I just wanted to point out that you can have your children taken away from you if they are too thin, that very thin people are often seen as sickly, and that body/body type should be ‘body size’ in all cases. However, I still thought the submission made a lot of fantastic points and wanted to publish it)

Thin privilege and disability

Thin privilege is being able to reveal your invisible disability in public without people assuming you are disabled because of your body shape.

Thin privilege means not having to forge on through pain and sickness because you are too ashamed to reveal that you have an invisible disability.

Thin privilege is knowing that people are not assuming that you choose to be disabled.

Thin privilege means never having angry people accuse you of not having a real disability.

Thin privilege means not having people deny you use of a wheelchair because they are only for ‘real disabled people’, roll their eyes or mutter loudly if you use a mobility aid in public, or yell at/threaten you when you use facilities for disabled people because ‘if you weren’t fat and lazy you wouldn’t need this!’

Thin privilege means finding a wheelchair that you can fit into.

Thin privilege means never having your nearest and dearest delicately suggest that your disability might be made worse by your size, even though they already know a) it wasn’t caused by your size in the first place, b) your disability makes it practically impossible to lose weight, even temporarily.

Thin privilege means not having medical people refuse treatment for your non-weight-related disability because your inability to lose weight makes them brand you as ‘non-compliant’.

(submitted by Len)