Yes, You Do Have Thin Privilege
A recent post of Twitter prompted my thoughts on fatphobia, thin privilege, and body positivity. The tweet was of a young woman sitting on the bed and taking a picture of themselves with the caption “skinny girls matter too.” The post generated a lot of arguments and discussions. Reading the responses to the tweet and having been a part of a few conversations regarding the tweet, I’ve come to realize that there seems to be a lot of confusion about fat oppression, thin privilege, fatphobia and body positivity. As a fat woman, I’m going to explain few things as we unpack some significant dynamics. Before we begin, let me warn you, I am not here as a fat Black woman to coddle the feelings of non-fat people. To non-fat people, this article may be uncomfortable for you because confronting privilege is uncomfortable yet necessary, to dismantle systems of oppression. So if this makes you upset maybe its because it confronts your privilege.
There are a few things we must get out the way before we discuss anything and that is: thin/skinny phobia doesn't exist, the body positivity movement was made for, and by fat and disabled people; thin/non-fat people do have privilege, fat people are oppressed.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way let's discuss the problem with the caption “skinny girls matter too,” it is just as problematic as saying “ white lives matter too.” It makes the assumptions that a privileged group is somehow oppressed or in need of recognition “too.” Non-fat/thin people have never been oppressed systemically for their size. Thin/non-fat people are praised, given platforms, and are desirable in society. None of this means thin/non-fat people aren't allowed to love or not love their bodies, of course, they can. But it does not change the fact that their bodies have privilege. This personal yet political dynamic is one of the reasons why so many non-fat people become confused. They believe that their privilege is canceled out because of the way they feel about their bodies, and to reiterate, it does not. Sadly this is the hard truth; just as much as fat people can or cannot love their bodies they are still oppressed. Thin/non-fat people do experience body shaming, and that is horrible, nobody should be shamed or have their body talked about, period. But you cannot compare this to the institutional oppression that fat people face; I will say it again, you cannot compare being thin to the oppression fat people face. “I was called a bag of bones when I was five, so there's no way I have privilege, and I experience shaming.” Stop! Stop telling fat people these things and/or derailing the conversation about fatphobia and thin privilege. Fatphobia is more than just being called names and your experience as a thin/non-fat person is not the same as fat peoples' experience. Your trauma is valid but, do not use it to silence fat people.
I've mentioned thin privilege a lot, and I think it is time that I explain what it is, privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. Here are some examples of thin privilege: being able to walk into most or all stores and find your size, not being charged more because of your size clothing; doctors actually examining you and not blaming everything on your weight (even when it isn't weight related), airlines not charging you extra; being able to eat in public without worrying about people staring at you, increased likelihood for raises and/or promotions before your fat coworkers; lower health insurance rates, your body not being labeled an “epidemic”; sexual assault victimhood is taken more seriously, people not assuming you're unhealthy because of your weight; you are not considered to be sloppy, dating is easier, representation in pop culture, and the list goes on.
There are everyday privileges that you may not notice you have but accept that you do have them. The last confusion is about body positivity; you probably think it is a movement for people to post pictures of themselves in bathing suits with the hashtag #bodypos. However, this is not the reason for the campaign. The body positivity movement was created for and by fat and disabled people. It was a movement to fight against the system that oppresses us. The body positivity was never about 'self-love' or the self-esteem of privileged bodies. Instead, it was about the fight against a system that oppresses marginalized bodies. The same bodies that are now silenced and pushed out of body positivity. If you want to help dismantle this system this is what you can do: acknowledge your privilege, stop making assumptions about people's health (it isn't your place); be empathetic, stop speaking over people; stop trying to save fat people from fatness, learn about health (like the BMI chart and why it's inaccurate); promote fat people, and finally stop demonizing fatness and projecting your fear of fatness.
You cannot help dismantle oppression until you stop thinking of fatness as a negative thing, also, get over your own fear of getting fat. So to remind you of a few things, thin privilege is real, and regardless of if you like or dislike your body you still have privilege. Body positivity should be for marginalized bodies. Stop comparing your body shaming experiences to fatphobia, and yes you may be privileged in this system and oppressed in another.