This is Thin Privilege

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Thin privilege is structural, it doesn’t care why people are thin. Getting called names for being thin isn’t comparable to what fat people have to face. At the very least, being very thin isn’t seen as some kind of moral failing. Being very fat…

This is honestly my problem with the conversations surrounding this privilege.

You treat the issue like racism or sexism or ableism or heterosexism or classism. You treat it like one group is privileged and not hurt by the objectification, and the other group is totally oppressed.

You don’t treat it like the double-sided sword that it is.

Hold the phone. All oppression is a double-sided sword. Oppression is bad for society, in a direct and profound way for oppressed groups, and an indirect way for privileged groups. For example, thin privilege intersects with male privilege, equivalently, fat discrimination intersects with sexism. That’s a huge part of what was shown in the poster that placed women side-by-side who on the one hand spent their time helping others or creating things, and on the other hand spent their time being professionally or personally objectified.

The patriarchy is bad for everyone: men are told they need to objectify women and that their worth lies in acquiring the highest status trophy woman (or number of trophy women), that they can’t emulate so-called ‘feminine’ traits, and so on. Yet, male privilege exists, and women are oppressed. 

Fat discrimination is bad for everyone: thinner people are objectified and policed to stay as thin as possible, and told that if they ‘slip up’ or ‘let themselves go’ at any time they will lose their humanity. Also, there’s a competitive, nasty aspect of being thin which means thin people get lashback for embodying the ideal the rest of us are told to strive for at any cost (much like the a large-breasted, white, blonde, thin-waisted, young female gets lashback for being the ‘attraction ideal’ that the rest of us are told to strive for at any cost). Yet, thin privilege exists, and fat people are oppressed. 

What is it going to take to convincingly argue that fat people are oppressed? Our children are getting taken away from us. We’re being barred from organ transplants, joint surgeries, fertility treatments, adoption, immigration. We’re being discriminated against in pregnancy and subject to high-risk surgeries at much higher rates than thinner women. We’re being sold dangerous, deadly, long-term ineffective body-mutilating services by our own doctors. There’s a ‘fat tax’ on health insurance, flying, clothing oneself, furniture and athletic equipment. There are social barriers to us dating, joining clubs, going out dancing, going to restaurants, going outside. We’re subject to damaging messages about people like us when we consume nearly any kind of media at all (in a very media-pervasive age). And it’s only getting worse and will continue to get worse as the ailments and expense of an aging population are increasingly blamed on fat people (like they have been for the past decade, at least). (some references!)

Yes, other groups have it worse (and historically much, much worse). But since when does talking about one form of oppression cancel out another? Why shouldn’t we try to understand the entire system of oppression and privilege, being activists where we see fit and respecting the activism we don’t participate in directly? Why does saying ‘thin privilege isn’t like classism’ mean that thin privilege is therefore not a thing, or that people who talk about thin privilege aren’t also talking about class privileges in another forum (or even the same forum, since there’s intersectionality)? 

Fat discrimination, and hence thin privilege, are real. Oppression is a double-sided sword: it’s directly very bad for the oppressed, and indirectly bad for the society as a whole, and has side effects that can mean bad outcomes for the privileged.