This is Thin Privilege

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Mean or Meaning well?

Thin privilege is not having to constantly dodge your uncle’s questions concerning your weight.

Let me first start by saying that I am avid reader and that this blog has really opened my eyes to the world around me. I am by no means ‘small’, though I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight over the last two years. Sadly some of the weight has returned thanks to PCOS and being placed on various medications to control my hormone imbalance.

Anways a few weeks ago I receive a call out of the blue from my uncle. He’s a Facebook friend of mine, but we never actually communicate online or in person for that matter, so I guessed the call could be a quick ‘hi-and-bye’. Boy was I ever mistaken. As soon as he got on the line, he blurts out, ‘So how much are you weighing these days? Because the last time I saw you, you were tiny but from that recent picture you posted, (my friend happened to snap a picture of me when we were working out at the gym and tagged me) you look like you’ve gained a bit. You’re getting pretty big these days’.

By this time I am absolutely floored. Unsure how to respond, I *foolishly* confess to having gained a little, but that I was working to return to my lowest weight of 170lb. Instead of leaving it at that, he THEN tells me that I should work to be 140lbs. He wasn’t considering my body makeup or my height——this was just a magical number that he pulled out of his ass! By this time I’m trying not to burst into tears, but he’s still going on about how he wants me to be skinny and how I should stop eating *insert foods* or *doing said workouts [he even told me that I should stop weightlifting and focus entirely on cardio]*. Oh and let’s not forget the best part…How quickly reminds me that his daughter has just lost a ton of weight by merely walking for thirty minutes every evening. Can you say nail in the coffin?

In retrospect I feel bad for not telling him to mind his own fucking business (I’m quite the passive-aggressive person). That things were going swell for me until he intervened and tore down what little confidence I HAD gained. I know that it was his way of ‘caring’ so says my brother, but c’mon.. really?

Thin privilege is being able to go on the rides at Cedar Point.

I went with my partner and some of her family to Cedar Point yesterday. 2/3 of the rides we wanted to go on, I had to sit out because the seats were too small in one or more dimensions (I’m also pretty tall with long legs). Of the ones where I fit in, all but one involved being crushed in a painful or uncomfortable way, often partially impeding my breathing. It is pretty good that they have “tester” seats at the entrance to the line of many of the rides so you can check and see whether you will fit, but also telling - they probably wouldn’t have them out front if there wasn’t a popular need for them. In fact, while I was waiting for the people I was with, I would often see several other people try out the tester seat within a few minutes and find that it was too small. I don’t expect that they will ever change this, because having more than one standardized size of seat would cost just a bit of extra money (which, let’s not fool ourselves, is entirely what this is about) but the fact that it won’t change doesn’t make it RIGHT. I had fun on the rides I could get into, despite being crushed, but I decided that I won’t be going back, because the experience was one of being excluded at every turn, and I don’t usually volunteer for that.

Thin privilege is not feeling pressured to lie about your weight at the age of 5. 

When I was 5, I knew that I weighed “too much,” though I didn’t really understand what that meant. I just knew that adults were happier with me when I lied about my weight and said I weighed less than I did. I started feeling ashamed of my body at 5 years old. 

bell hooks says that “[b]eing oppressed means the absence of choices.” As a fat person, I only have two choices: a life of subjugation or a life of resistance. The life of subjugation is that life where I believe that I am bad for being fat. I am expected to constantly be trying to lose weight at all costs. I am expected to be the good fatty and wear dark colors while I sit in the corner and try to hide. I should never stand up, never stand out, and always apologize for people having to look at me.

A life of resistance simply means living. If I choose to wear anything that stands out – bright colors, fun prints, anything with style or panache – I am pegged as a rebel. If I choose to have a career in the spotlight, I obviously do not know my place. If I have a good time in public, I’m shoving my fat in people’s faces. If I choose to stand out in any way, I am glorifying obesity.

As a fat person, I only have two choices: to die quietly in the shadows or to buck the system. This is an “absence of choices.” This is a lack of options. This is oppression.

TW: Eating disorder

 There have been far too many to count in my life who believe that their ‘concern’, even when I have asked them to NOT do it, is beneficial to my life. It isn’t.

It is hard enough to deal with a knowledge that I will be in pain from a serious spinal injury from now until the day I die, or to deal with how sometimes I literally cannot even clean and dress myself because the pain is that severe.

But every time someone glares at me for DARING to eat where they can see me, or starts going on about how dieting would cure my back problems - it doesn’t matter to me that this person is lecturing me based on their lack of knowledge - it rips another layer of hope off me and makes my life harder.

It also stops me from eating in front of other people. I nearly died from anorexia when I was 16 and relapsing is REALLY easy sometimes. Their ‘concern’ could tip me straight back into that hell.

So yeah, I swear a LOT at people who bang on about my weight like it’s my sole defining characteristic. I swear like Malcolm Tucker. But it’s my coping mechanism against a world that sometimes seems like it just wants me gone.

For the simple ‘crime’ of not being thin.

For all these folks that are tone-policing your responses: 

What people intenddoesn’t matter here, when they make comments that they think are innocuous. We live in a context where people use any number of health concerns to beat fat people up over their weight without ever thinking about the circumstances around their lives. Fat becomes the one thing that defines you, because that’s the thing that people keep bringing up around you. Of course fat people are touchy about it, and they have no obligation to be polite over what someone meant- there’s only so much judgmental bullshit any one person can take. 

If you don’t like how fat people react, maybe do something about the bullshit in society that’s driven them to act that way, instead of blaming them for reacting the way human beings do under pressure.

Re: The knee problems thing.
I was chubby for all of my young life, then moved quickly in to fat as I left adolescence. I swam often as a child, slowed in my adolescence and stopped as an adult, because I cannot afford access to a swimming pool. 
I had difficulty with my knees from the age of about 9. When I went to a doctor at about 13, their professional opinion was that my knee problems, which included pain, cracking sounds and a tendency to give way, was caused by my swimming. The regularity and ways in which I swam had caused the muscles in my outer thigh to be considerably stronger than those in my inner thigh. This muscular imbalance slowly dragged my kneecaps round to the outside of my legs, and bending or moving in certain way would cause them to snap back into their proper position at the front. This has caused a lifelong weakness in my knees that makes exercising outside of the water really damn difficult. 
So that’s a thing, not even that the cause and effect are the wrong way round, but that weight is sometimes (shock! surprise!) totally unrelated to health problems, in any way. 

*sorry if this should have been an ask, I’m still not excellent at how to communicate with other blogs. :/

Thin privilege is going to an allergist and being told to lose weight. I am a small fat, a size 18, about 215 pounds, 5’6”. I have an hour glass figure, so i still have a relatively small waist. I’ve always had allergy issues my entire life. Sinus infections, colds, etc. all year long. About two years ago, i started getting intense sinus infections every four weeks or so. I went to an immediate care facility and they suggested i get allergy tested. I go to this doctor and he does a blood test. The blood test comes back negative. He’s explaining to me the results, and *politely* tells me losing weight would help my breathing problems….. so I go to another allergist who actually does a skin test, and lo and behold, i’m allergic to everything under the sun. He gives me a treatment plan, and never once even mentions that i should lose weight. most people wouldn’t consider me fat, even though i am ‘overweight.’ 

I’m curious and I’d like to get your opinion on it, but if it’s not relevant to you or you don’t have any feelings about it, no big deal. I was wondering how you feel about Rob McElhenney’s rapid weight gain (and later, weight loss at an equally rapid and likely unhealthy pace), how he himself addressed it in such a negative light on Its Always Sunny, and if you think the fat-shaming is justified or ok if he’s the one making such inflammatory jokes and references about weight? Like do you think he’s allowed to fat-shame himself for the sake of comedy? Thanks.


Mod response:

I have never seen It’s Always Sunny, and don’t know who Rob McElhenny is. His rapid weight gain and loss might be due to any number of things. The gain may have been caused by a health problem, and the loss by treating that problem, and indeed that’s a fairly likely scenario. But I would not care to guess what his actual health status is, now is it my business.

Fat-shaming is never, ever justified, even when one employs it against oneself. Any fat shaming implies that fat is always a bad thing to be, and saying to others that fat is a bad thing to be has the effect of fat-shaming them, too, no matter how it’s intended to be directed.

Fat-shaming is not good comedy. Good comedy punches up, not down, and shaming or insulting a disprivileged group is always punching down. When you laugh at punching-down, you are participating in oppression (and we all participate in oppression sometimes, our own or someone else’s, voluntarily or not; all we can do is try to avoid it as much as possible, and the first step to doing that is to be aware of how it happens).


Questions I Wish I Could Ask My Boss

1) How come you always make a big deal of me using the elevator, even though we’re on the third floor of the building?

2) How come you make comments about what I eat and when I eat?

3) Why do you think it’s a good idea to ‘inspect’ my lunch whenever I order out to eat?

4) Why did you reduce my performance review marks based on my ‘indifference’ to how I look? In the thirteen months since I got this job, my weight has never ever hindered my work in any way. 

5) Why should my weight be part of my appraisal at all? Why isn’t it enough to be judged on how well I perform on the job and all the ideas I’ve brought in so far?

6) Why do you think it’s appropriate to email me links on the latest fad diets during the day?

7) Why did you think that drawing up a contract for me losing weight was a good idea? And worse, saying that you were going to email it to the head of Human Resources to be part of my employee profile?

8) Why aren’t any of the other young women on our floor - all of whom are at a ‘socially acceptable’ weight - being treated like this? How come it’s okay for them to use the elevator, and eat what they like and be judged on their job performance and not have their personal appearance being brought into it at all?

Oh, wait.  I think I know the answer.

I joined the high school drama club because they did not have enough women in the cast to perform the play they had selected. A friend in the drama club suggested I come into the group to play the role of an attractive psychiatrist. I agreed that I would check the drama club out, and decide from there. To be clear, I had been in another play (and a few since this happened), and had been praised for my performance, so I’m not a terrible actress.

I enjoyed the club, so I did join. I was so excited to final get a role so exciting and different from the characters I get cast as.

My hopes were crushed when the director of the play decided that I wasn’t pretty enough to play the role. The director stated that the other woman in the group (a thin, conventionally attractive woman) could play multiple roles (despite the need for both characters to interact with each other), and that she would be fine. She then cast me as the mother, who had only two lines shouted from backstage; I’m guessing I was given this out of pity.

Thin privilege is being seen as a desirable woman, and being allowed to let your hard work and talent speak for itself.