Owning My Thin Privilege

youngfeministadventures's picture

Originially posted at Adventures of a Young Feminist

I'm having a hard time accepting my own thin privilege. RMJ at Deeply Problematic wrote a post a little bit ago about coming to accept her thin privilege. That was really the first time that I thought of myself as having thin privilege and it made me kind of uncomfortable. And I want to explore that uncomfortableness here.

So what is thin privilege exactly? Anji at Shut Up, Sit Down offers these examples:

For a start, the ‘thin’ in ‘thin privilege’ does not mean “size zero”. It means “of ‘normal’ weight”. Some examples: If you can walk into Top Shop, Miss Selfridge or any other high street fashion shop and know their size range includes your clothing size, you have thin privilege. If you can book a flight without fear that other passengers will hope like hell they’re not seated next to you or worse, that you will be refused entry to the flight because of your size, you have thin privilege. If you can happily travel by car or bus or train and know that the seat will be built to accommodate your arse, you have thin privilege. If you can visit your doctor without being constantly berated about losing weight and having every physical malady you suffer attributed to your size and nothing else, you have thin privilege.

So yes, I have thin privilege.

As a child, I was very slender. But then puberty hit and as I started growing, I started putting on weight around my middle. Now, I go between a size 12 and 14 in bottoms and between large and x-large in tops, depending on the store and style. I rarely ever have to be concerned about the fatphobic things that Anji lists above (depending on the store, I'm not always guaranteed clothes in my size range). But even without being subject to blatant fatphobia, I feel as if society judges me for being fat. I have started to come to terms a little bit with my body. I have started wearing shorts shorter than knee-length again. I try to dress for my body type instead of what's "in style."

I am, as some would say, a woman of "average"* weight and size...though you wouldn't know it by looking at the media and clothing stores. Because of this, I have thin privilege. So, why I am so uncomfortable at accepting this kind of privilege. Part of my interest in feminism is examining different kinds of privilege and my investments in them. So why is it so hard for me to accept this privilege?

Society tells us through the media, clothing stores, new reports, etc. that the "average" is, in fact, a size 4 - maybe even a size 2. Since puberty, I have not seen myself reflected in the media and as a result, have not thought of myself as having thin privilege. There are profits to me made to make women of all sizes feel bad about themselves, so that is what the media is going to do.

I try to be aware of fatphobic language and events, but maybe my denial of accepting my thin privilege contributes to a fatphobic society. Just because I am self-conscious about my body does not mean that I don't benefit from thin privilege. I have to start doing a better job at recognizing my investments in thin priviege.

Coming to terms with one's own thin privilege does not mean that you will not have any body image issues. Today's society thrives off of creating body image issues for women (and men). Owning one's thin privilege is more about realizing the ways that you are invested in the fatphobic tendencies of society.

*I dislike using the term "average" or "normal" to describe people's bodies. It implies that there is something abnormal or not average, when everybody's body is different. By using this term, I am simply using it statistically...my body is statistically average. But there really is no such thing as a "normal" body. Using the term "normal" just contributes to othering and oppression.

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great post and great to see you here!

arvan's picture

Thanks for bringing this conversation into the mix.  I have been enjoying your writing since I first encountered it, not long ago. 

This piece is particularly relevant because privilege is the payoff for all images driving us to look a certain way.  The privilege of being attractive, powerful and good.  The not-so-subtle subtext always being that if we do not achieve these images, then our privileges will be revoked.  That fear of being in the unprivileged class drives a lot of cruelty between the ranks of the privileged and the unprivileged.

Reading your piece, I am called to look where I am privileged.  The system exists, but I am the system and so is everyone else.  Which means that I am as responsible as anyone and everyone else as to whether or not the system of privilege is altered or not.

Thank you and welcome.


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