This is Thin Privilege

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(tw: mentions of dieting, weight loss talk)

(Hey, can you please post this anonymously if you post it? I only use tumblr for roleplay and I don’t really want people coming onto my rp account to argue with me. Thanks!) 

(tw: mentions of dieting, weight loss talk, ableism)

Full disclosure, I’m a thin, able-bodied person, though neuroatypical and used to be fat. My dad has been fat for as long as I can remember and has a lot of internalized fatphobia, and has always been on some restrictive diet or another trying to lose weight, with none of them managing to get him down to his goal weight. My best friend is fat and disabled with scoliosis. In middle school she had to have surgery on her back and she was ordered by her doctor not to do any exercise for the rest of the school year, so she didn’t take P.E., even though she wanted to. At one point I was mentioning to my dad that I didn’t have any friends in my classes and I wished my friend could have taken P.E. with me, but she couldn’t. Then my dad started going into this rant about people making excuses about not exercising and how if people would exercise it would solve all their problems. I pointed out that she was ORDERED not to exercise, and she WANTED to exercise. But still he said “Well, sometimes the reason people have aches and pains is because they don’t exercise enough, and maybe if they did exercise it would get better.” I snapped “It’s not aches and pains, it’s scoliosis!” She was BORN with scoliosis. Exercising wouldn’t magically fix it. 

Anyway, a few years later, I made friends with another girl with a disability that made it difficult for her to walk for long periods of time and very difficult for her to go up stairs or run around. She was thin. The whole time I knew her people were very respectful of her disability; when we had to play tag for class and she had trouble tagging people they slowed down, when we were doing activities that required walking all day people didn’t mind taking breaks for her and things. As far as I heard no one ever said to her face or to me behind her back that she “just needed to exercise more and it would help her.” Which I’m not complaining about; obviously that was how it’s supposed to be. I just wish my fat friend had the same respect. 

Thin privilege is having your disability recognized as legitimate even if it makes it hard for you to exercise. 

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.

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.’ 

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.

An (Angry) Update, of sorts

Triggering warning: eating disorders, shitty doctors, weight talk

Roughly a year ago I submitted this post talking about my experiences of having an eating disorder as a fat person, specifically as a fat, japanese, young girl.

At the time of writing the post, the reality of the physical damage I’d done to my body was dragging me into a pretty dark depression. It is something that has taken - and is a process, and far from a completed one - me a long time to come to terms with: that this is the body I have now, that it will never function the way it maybe could have, had I not damaged it with starvation. The aches and pains and creaking bones that break far too easily, I often find it ironic that people will claim their hatred of fat people to be a concern for their “health”, when my path to thinness made me far more sick - horribly, painfully, irreversibly sick - than being fat ever did. 

But, I want to put all that aside, because that’s not the reason I’m submitting this.

I’m submitting this because yesterday I went to the doctors office. I saw a temp doctor because my regular doctor is away on vacation.

I was there to express concerns that I may be developing arthritis in my knees (I already have osteoporosis) because they have been causing me increasing pain over the last 6 months or so.

He asked there have been any significant changes to my health or body recently.

I said yes, I have gained 20lbs in the last 9 months.

He told me that perhaps that was the cause of my knee trouble. That perhaps I needed to exercise more and “lay off the cake”. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

This is a doctor with my entire medical file set out in front of him.

This is a doctor who has easy access to read about the eating disorder that literally almost killed me.

This is a doctor who decided to ignore all that because hey, maybe I’m a bit chubby for an asian girl my height.

(I’m 5’3” and 125lbs, by the way. Easily a “healthy weight” in the eyes of doctors).

This is a doctor who decided to tell someone who a few years ago literally tried to starve themselves to death that maybe I should eat less. Because gaining 20lbs could never be a good thing. Gaining 20lbs is obviously a bad thing. Gaining weight, unless you are unacceptably (read: unattractively) thin, is never a good thing.

I am clinging to my anger over this as a way to avoid spiraling back into the disordered behaviour that destroyed my teens. I am furious. I am raging.

And this incident with the doctor is not the first time. Everybody who knows me knows I had an eating disorder. Everybody who has known me since my teens has likely seen the extent of my eating disorder. And yet, the sly comments still come. The hints that perhaps I’ve gained too much weight now, that maybe I need to lose some again. Healthily of course. So healthily. Because aiming to lose weight is something anyone can ever do healthily.

It’s been a year and nothing has changed, in that respect. People don’t want you to be unattractively thin and will praise you from escaping that because you are “so much healthier now”, but the moment you begin to cross the line from “acceptably thin” into “a bit fat” again, suddenly they no longer care for your health. They no longer care that you are so much better off chubby than you are thin. They only care that you no longer look a way that appeals to them, and that’s a bad thing.

When I was 85lbs and I wanted another slice of cake I was praised for it.

Now I’m 125lbs and I want another slice of cake, I’m asked if I really “need” it.