Let’s have a chat about thin privilege shall we? Because thin privilege isn’t just some made-up term that doesn’t really mean anything. It’s real and it’s prevalent and it’s probably contributing to your anxiety and stress and the negative self-talk that goes on in your head at all hours of the day and night.
So what is it? Well, it’s complicated and far-reaching but, in a nutshell, thin privilege is when society rewards people with smaller bodies a better deal than those who have larger bodies. Everything from the variety and style of clothes you can buy, to the way you’re treated by medical professionals, and a whole heap of stuff in between.
If you have thin privilege, the chances are you won’t have noticed that you’re one of the gang enjoying it because being in receipt of privilege blinkers you to it. Just like white privilege or male privilege, it’s those who don’t get the same treatment, opportunities and choices that notice the inequality and the restrictions on their lives. Even then, not everyone who falls outside of the unspoken parameters realises they’re being discriminated against because our body obsessed, success obsessed culture has managed to convince people that if they don’t fit into the status quo, it’s their fault, i.e., if you want a better life, change the way you look.
Our culture has done a really great job of convincing people that larger bodies are out of the ordinary, that they’re atypical and are really a problem that needs to be fixed. People with larger bodies come to accept that they can’t go to certain places, do certain things, buy certain clothes in certain colours or styles because all of those things are conditioned on body size. You want access to all that stuff? Lose the weight!
Evidence of thin privilege is everywhere. In movies, on TV, online and in books and magazines, generally speaking, thin people get the relationship, the job, the salary, the lifestyle, the attention, the nice house and family, the success, the happy ever after. Fat people get laughed at, bullied, turned into the butt of the joke, portrayed as lazy, self-indulgent, stupid, poor, struggling, friendless and pitied. And right now, in your neighbourhood, thin people can see a medical or health practitioner and get assessed and treated for their symptoms not their weight; they can find adequate seating in any public space, airplanes, restaurants, theatres, classrooms; they can get clothes to fit them wherever they shop; they are much less likely to be harassed for their size and are heaps more likely to be positively perceived.
Thin privilege is real. If you were born into it (a thin body) you may have only become aware of it as you’ve read this blog. But if you’ve dieted and exercised your way into thin privilege you damn well know the difference. Staying thin and holding on to that privilege is a whole heap of pressure and another blog post.