“Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege”

I was on facebook yesterday and a friend of mine shared this article, “Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege” by Melissa A. Fabello. In the article, Melissa A. Fabello makes it clear that she is writing from the privileged perspective of being thin. The following are excerpts from the article,

Grievances vs. Oppression

personal emotional impacts simply are not the same as oppression.

…oppression is a special kind of problem.

 

1.It is pervasive.

It is woven throughout social institutions, as well as embedded within individual consciousness.

2.It is restricting.

Structural limits significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility in ways beyond the individual’s control.

3. It is hierarchical.

Dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.

4. The dominant group has the power to define and name reality.

That is, they determine the status quo: what is “normal,” “real,” or “correct.”

 

But Thin People Can Hate Their Bodies

But the difference between these negative feelings and fatphobia is this: The only person worrying about whether or not I’m meeting beauty standards is me.

And that’s not the same for fat folk.

When you’re not thin, other people on the beach actually do take offense. When you’re not thin, people really do think that you shouldn’t be in a bathing suit. When you’re not thin, people really do make your body their moral obligation.

And while your internal struggle is real and significant, the point is: You might hate your body, but society doesn’t.

That’s thin privilege.

 

But—But—But—Skinny-Shaming!

As horrible as skinny-shaming is (and it is!),what makes it different is that it does not involve a pervasive fear or hatred of thin bodies.

 

1. Skinny-Shaming as a Response to Fat-Shaming

Have you ever heard the supposed-to-be-empowering phrase “Real Women Have Curves?” What about the cringe-worthy assertion that “Only Dogs Want Bones?”

 

But these types of reclamations of fat pride wouldn’t need to exist if fat-shaming wasn’t a thing.

 

2. Skinny-Shaming as Rooted in Sexism

It’s absolutely true that regardless of what our bodies look like, society polices them.

And that’s because patriarchal structuresbenefit from this policing.

And arguably, skinny-shaming is rooted in this type of sexism.

Society wants you to recognize that being thin is “in” – but not too thin, not that thin – because the goal is to keep you insecure.

 

But the difference is that the discrimination that fat people experience is at theintersection of sexism and fatphobia.

That is, there’s another layer to it.

 

Well, I Have an Eating Disorder, So ‘Privilege’ Doesn’t Apply to Me

A Man of Color can experience racism and still benefit from his male privilege. An able-bodied woman can experience sexism andstill benefit from her able-bodied privilege. A poor white farmer can experience classism and still benefit from his white privilege.

A person with an eating disorder can experience ableism and still benefit from their thin privilege.

Being marginalized in one area doesn’t negate your privilege in another.

 

_

 

Privilege can be a difficult thing to talk about. It’s easy to feel defensive when you mistake someone’s asking you to check your privilege for their making assumptions about your life.

But the bottom line that we have to remember is this: Are my negative experiences related to my body grievances, or are they pervasive issues on a societal level?

 

Before reading this article, I never thought of body types as ideologies or privilege. I thought it was just something that was. Reading this article also make it clear how difficult it is to talk about women’s bodies. In order to defend one groups oppression, at every step Fabello needs to reassure the other group that they are not under attack. But I also found it interesting that a person that has “thin privilege” is able to write on the behalf on those who do not have this privilege. This occurs in every instance where one group has privilege and another one does not, for example, white abolitionists during slavery or even men talking about sexual violence towards women. I think the main take away from this article is understanding that privilege exists every where and it is up to us to be more perceptive to the instances when we are perpetuating such privileges. Women’s bodies are something to be cherished no matter what size or color. I encourage you all to read the article. I have only included fragments of the article in this post.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on ““Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege”

  1. I went ahead and read the article as well. I have to admit, it was a completely different perspective from what I’m used to. I think the most powerful sentence was: “Society wants you to recognize that being thin is “in” – but not too thin, not that thin – because the goal is to keep you insecure.” That actually scared me a great deal. It almost seems to say that society’s ideologies are there to keep people from being too sure of themselves and challenging these ideas. Challenging the system is bad, I assume, according to what we’re seeing in society. Either way, I’m glad I got to read another perspective, and see everything from a new point of view.
    Thank you for sharing, it was a fascinating read.

  2. Ok, this really opened my eyes and I agree with a lot of it- I still think thin-shaming is a problem (as do the author and reblogger). But I hadn’t thought about the distinction between societal imposition of values vs. individual grievances. The point stills stands that women of all body types need to act with solidarity, but those of us who face insecurity as opposed to oppression have to check our privilege and act in solidarity with women we see marginalized for their bodies.
    An absolute must-read.

  3. Great post, Cora! I saw this being posted on Facebook but I didn’t look at it until I saw that you posted about it. 🙂
    I have read about thin privilege before, but I do like how Fabello breaks it down for people. She’s very careful about how she approaches the topic, which I think can be good in terms of not turning people off and making them interested in learning more about the issue, but I do agree with you about how it can be problematic that people are more willing to listen to someone who has privilege speaking about an experience that they don’t have, as opposed to listening to someone without that particular privilege talk about the experiences of their lives.

  4. Pingback: Body Shaming | Girlpower

  5. I read this article a few weeks ago and I’m so happy that you shared it because it is really important.
    I really appreciate that you pointed out that the author of this article is writing about oppression from a position of power/privilege because, for some reason, I didn’t make the connection that her speaking for people who are victims of fatphobia is the same as when white people try to speak about the oppression of POCs (and other more commonly discussed groups). It really bothers me that I didn’t realize it on my own, especially after reading the comments section of the article about cellulite that was referenced in the recent body shaming post (https://girlpower1.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/body-shaming/). It’s pretty disturbing that the explanation of how fat-shaming is harmful in so many ways is seen as an “excuse” when people who actually suffer because of it try to explain it, but then becomes more legitimate when an outside party recognizes that it is harmful.

Comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment now, don't worry. It's in the pipe!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s