Thin Privilege And Its Place In The Body Positivity Movement

Thin Privilege And Its Place In The Body Positivity Movement

Advocating doesn’t end with conventionality.

Let’s play a game. Go to the store and look through the magazine section. Pick a magazine with a woman on the front cover. What does she look like? Is she beautiful? What is she wearing? Is she thin?

In the past decade, a movement was sparked; one calling for body positivity. This movement has been praised by people of an unconventional shape or those considered to be overweight as a source of empowerment and normalizing different body types. It has also been criticized for glamourizing certain body types and lifestyles perceived to be unhealthy.

The body positivity movement has grown quickly, especially in the past few years and especially through the use of social media. This movement is massive and largely encompassing of all body types, meaning sometimes things can get a little grey, and messy. That being said, here we go:

Thin people retain a certain amount of privilege because of their body type. Obviously, other intersections need to be taken into account (race, class, gender, etc.), but for the sake of discussion and education, people who are thin have privilege. Now, Cait, what does this mean? How much privilege really comes with being thin? And why are you shaming me for my body type?

Wonderful questions! First of all, let’s get this out of the way: I am not shaming you for your body type. I am not shaming anyone for their body type. I am simply explaining that people who are thin maintain privilege based on that. Having that privilege does not make you a bad person, or make it your fault. It simply means that it’s something you should be aware of when discussing your experiences within the body positivity movement.

A simple google search of the world privilege will yield this definition: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted to available only to a particular person or group of people.” This concept, in the case of this article, will be discussed in regard to thinness. Encompassed in this privilege are little things that probably don’t think twice about. For example, you are probably able to buy your clothing locally and at a reasonable price, and you can probably eat whatever you want in public without others judging you for it.

I’ve seen and heard many discussions where people who are fat are describing their experiences and someone who is thin chimes in to empathize with stories about how they were bullied and told to “eat a sandwich.” While it is not okay to make fun of someone for their body, this comment is much different than a fat person being told to “lose some weight.” Why the double standard, you may ask? Because fatphobia is wildly present in our society and many others. And moreover, it is systematic.

Fat people experience extreme discrimination across many different facets. Studies have shown that fat people are less likely to get hired, less likely to get married, make less money per year, etc. The difference is vastly institutionalized and even more so, heavily ingrained in our language. People who are fat are constantly dehumanized and played for laughs, even by those close to them.

According to Deborah Rhode: “in multiple surveys, close to 90 percent of obese individuals reported humiliating comments from friends, family, or coworkers.” Because there is such a systematic and pervasive bias towards fat people, the insults geared towards body weight take on a different meaning than when directed at thin individuals.

With fatphobia ingrained in everyday conversation and “comedy,” and the prevalent discrimination fat people face in our society, the body positivity movement is more than just a feel-good revolution. This movement also stands as a social movement, created to challenge preconceived notions, problematic behavior, and alter the idea of what it means to be beautiful.

Now, what does this have to do with thin people? Until recent years, plus-sized individuals have received little to no representation celebrating their body or even normalizing their body type, while thin people have had this luxury for many years. Skinny shaming isn’t as problematic because it does not affect one’s employment or the way in which people view them (i.e. lazy). If people who are thin want to feel good about their body, they can look at basically any magazine cover, or on any televised advertisement.

I’m not insinuating that people who are thin do not also struggle with being comfortable in their skin. I’m simply stating that people’s biases towards fat people run much deeper and there are many struggles that come with it that aren’t discussed. Thinness has a definite place in the body positivity movement, as long as there is an acknowledgment of the privilege that comes with it.

Everyone exists in a physical entity, and as such, we have to find some sort of comfort in it. And certain institutions make this harder for certain body types than others. This movement is encompassing of all body types. So celebrate your body, and be body positive, as long as you’re cognizant of the root of the problem.

Love yourself, but be mindful; ensure you’re not actively or unconsciously taking safe spaces and conversations away from the stories and experiences of those who have been hurt by systematic and casual fatphobia. Advocating doesn’t end with conventionality. Be aware, listen, and inform.

Cover Image Credit: Luella Rockerfella

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Lose the one who wanted cause he's taking you for granted.

a letter I'll never send to the one I can't seem to let go of.
kaytee
kaytee

 My relationship of almost two years has been a beautiful whirlwind of spontaneous adventure, passion, and growth. My boyfriend and I spent months (previous to the relationship) becoming friends over our shared interest in music, binge-drinking, wandering, and adventure. Inevitably, this led to us falling in love by the time we started dating. The exciting period of experiencing new things together was incredible. Even as those experiences have turned into comfortable nights cuddled up together, things have developed in a way that has changed us both and made us understand how to care about someone else's happiness so much that it becomes in sync with your own. Add in stress of him dropping out of college to pursue his dreams of music, bills, full-time job, exhaustion and whatever else is in there and any request of mine to spend time together leads to an explosion of stress. I know that he wants to continue to be my boyfriend and he makes beautiful promises to me and thanks me for my patience and understanding. But I cannot remember the last time one of the promises came true and my sleep-deprived eyes can't seem to anticipate the disappointment anymore and not enough wine and adderall in the world can keep me from feeling hurt. The other night, after another failed attempt at re-sparking the passion, I lie next to him staring at the ceiling lost in my own thoughts. And even though it would stress him out too much to hear this and I would suddenly become the bad guy, I am hoping to feel some sort of relief from posting this letter/poem. 

Baby you don’t want me 

We don’t end up together 

I still love you I still want you 

But I’m so tired of putting forth all the effort and you still being to exhausted to even talk to me

Touch me 

Love me 

You can share your burden but now you share defensiveness and blame me for your reality.

I have done nothing but help you 

I cannot say the same for you.

Every beautiful lie you tell me doesn’t start out that way. You mean it when you say it and I can feel that and I fall for it every time 

But I am so tired of being disappointed

unwanted 

I am so tired of being a prop in your life that you can pick up when you want or store away. 

You are a person you have dreams you have needs you have wants 

I am a person I have dreams I have needs I have wants 

I have understanding I have love 

you pretend not to know how well I understand you because it is easier to blame me. 

Blame the crazy girlfriend with unrealistic expectations.

I have no expectations

You plant expectations with your words and promises and I get blamed for wishing them to be true. 

I still want to be in love with you 

There has never been a more fun time in my life than being love with you 

But do we inevitably end up apart? 

Can we rewrite what is “supposed to happen”? 

Maybe if it’s what we both want but I can’t want you into loving me 

Maybe I’ll just have to accept the feelings

 

kaytee
kaytee

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To the “people pleaser” 

You need to stop living in this never ending cycle of despair.


To the person who needs this,

Stop pleasing people, you don’t always have to be happy, or always have to be “on”. Eventually you will reach a breaking point. People aren’t going to not like you or not want to be around you if you don’t do something for them.

I too have fallen victim to this awful never ending cycle of despair. These past two years I’ve acted happy when in reality I just want to stay home and cry because I can’t please those people. To be quite honest with you I’ve lost myself these past two years.

I’ve asked myself “Why do people try so hard to please people?”, and it has never been answered. It’s like the meaning of life no one knows the answer to that, but we have a few theories. Everyone is different so that answer will be determined by that individual; as humans we like to give insight on things no one asked for our insight on. (like I am now)

So if you’re struggling with this, just remember people will judge you, break you down, and burn your life to the ground. Don’t look at it as you letting that person down or giving up, think of it as giving them a chance to take this as a learning opportunity. They have to learn how to problem solve and use tools they have to do so. 

Speak loudly, live boldly, love entirely!

~Chey


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