On Thin Privilege
About a month ago, I applied to speak at the Body Love Conference. This is a conference founded by one of my absolute heros, Jes Baker, and I just narrowly missed it last year. I was determined to attend in 2015, and since I’ve been kind of on a role with the whole public speaking thing, I thought I’d just apply to speak at it. Fuck it, I thought. Why not?
I applied to talk about body image and self-esteem and how blogging and social media can both positively and negatively affect how we feel about ourselves. Much to my delight, the proposal was accepted to go on to the next level of applications. The next step was to make a video, essentially explaining what I want to do and why and send it in. Easy. No problem.
The deadline was awhile away, and so I procrastinated. I procrastinated a little and then I procrastinated a lot, for many weeks, to the point where I had to ask myself why the heck I was procrastinating at all. Sure, everyone puts things off now and again, but I’m a go-getter. If I’m really putting something off for a long time, there is a reason aside from general laziness. I know myself.
After one conversation about it with a friend, I realized I was procrastinating because I was uncomfortable.
I was uncomfortable because in the past few months I have been thinking a lot about thin privilege- How I have it, how I benefit from it, how it is inherently EASIER to love a body that certainly isn’t going to be on a billboard but absolutely is considered publicly “acceptable”. The Body Love conference is an incredible thing with fat identified people and fat activists at the helm. I am a body love activist. Super Strength Health believes in health at every single possible size. But I am not fat.
If I know one thing about privilege, it’s that sometimes it makes sense to sit down and listen every once in awhile instead of talking all the damn time. If I know another thing about privilege, it’s that if I am going to talk, I should talk directly about the thing that scares me (my privilege, in this instance) and not something that matters much, much less (blogging and social media.) When I finally did make my video, I said that I only really wanted to speak if I could talk about body image, thin privilege, and positive alliances across body types. Because I have doubts that my proposal will be accepted (I did entirely change my topic at the last minute, which I imagine looks kind of flaky) I wanted to talk a little bit about thin privilege HERE. Because I don’t think I have directly addressed it before, and because that doesn’t feel fair to me.
I benefit from thin privilege every single day.
I have struggled so much to love the body I have. I have starved, I have thrown up and I have over exercised to change my form to something I might feel better about. I have lost 10, 20, 30, 40 pounds in an effort to feel small and light “enough”. I have gone to over a decade of talk therapy, fucked a bunch of people, tried to focus on how strong I can get. All in an effort to feel my body is good enough, and all with thin privilege. It seems paradoxical to me that I have feared my body so viscerally while moving through the world with relative grace and ease BECAUSE of my size (and education level, and skin color, and on and on.)
Of course wanting to physically cut parts of my body away was painful and difficult, and I have ultimate compassion for myself and everyone else who has been at war with their appearance. But for me, I know I must dig deeper. First I had to dig past the shame of my body and into the real reasons behind the shame (you know, the shit that has nothing to do with my appearance.) From there, it seems IMPERATIVE to contextualize myself with the rest of the world. I am privileged as shit. I can’t go on fighting the fight to have positive body image and self esteem without adding a healthy asterisk to my goal.
I AM FIGHTING EVERY DAY TO FEEL LIKE MY BODY IS OKAY*
*with the acknowledgment that my body is perceived as normative and society will likely sanction it whether I like it or not.
Thin privilege is being able to safely assume that people are not judging my food choices.
Thin privilege is fitting into most clothes, easily finding work uniforms and outfits for fun.
Thin privilege is never having people suggest I pay more for the space I take up. (ahem, airplanes.)
Thin privilege is my doctor telling me I look great.
Thin privilege is no one assuming that I am lazy or that I don’t take care of myself.
Thin privilege is fighting the fight to love my body, posting pictures of my form, and getting nothing but accolades.
Thin privilege likely allows me the space to do my work with Super Strength Health, for people to believe my opinions about what foods are healthy.
Thin privilege means I am not bullied because of my body.
These are just a few examples of thin privilege.
Having thin privilege doesn’t make me an asshole, but it does become a thing that I find necessary to be accountable to.
And now, the real question: how can we (not necessarily you and me, but folks with societally sanctioned “normative” bodies) use our privilege in powerful ways that affect real change across the body positive movement and the world? I have some ideas, but certainly not all of the answers. More than anything, I know this is a discussion that HAS to happen within the body love movement, specifically coming from thin people. The time is totally now, and I’m ready to get the ball rolling (or roll with the already-rolling ball if this discussion is happening elsewhere).
What are your thoughts?