Thin Privilege and Body Shaming

A few months ago, a post titled “You Attack My Size 0, But I Can’t Attack Your Size 16” started circulating around the Internet.

While I agree with the point I think the post was trying to get at but misses entirely – that body shaming in general is a problem and we as feminists should not be hypocritical about it – the post completely disregards the concept of thin privilege – which is a pretty important point that should be talked about, considering it’s the answer to the author’s question: while body shaming itself is problematic, thin privilege is why it’s less problematic to attack a size 0 and more problematic to attack a size 16. Let’s face it: a size 0 has thin privilege and a size 16 most likely suffers from fatphobia – and that’s the real issue we should try to break down and dismantle, rather than which type of body shaming is considered acceptable/unacceptable.

No type of body shaming should be considered acceptable, and that all begins with destroying thin privilege and fatphobia in our society.

So, what exactly is thin privilege? It’s the same concept as white privilege. Or male privilege. All things people with said privileges claim do not exist. Sadly, people with these privileges can easily use their privileges to help destroy the problems, but instead choose to deny their existences and perpetuate the problems.

If you type “thin privilege” into Google, a lot of sources come up explaining exactly what it is and why it’s a problem. A great place to start is Everyday Feminism’s article titled “22 Examples of Thin Privilege” – which highlights everything from problems in the workplace, clothing sizes, fetishization, and unsolicited dieting advice. “This is Thin Privilege” is a Tumblr worth checking out, including examples of thin privilege and frequently asked questions. Familiarizing yourself with the problem is always the first step if you want to be a part of the solution.

Even if someone tells you to eat a cheeseburger, you’re still more likely to be hired for that job you applied to than the fat person standing next to you. Someone can tell you real women have curves and you’re still more likely to get a promotion at that job – and when you go shopping for some new clothes for the new job, you’re still more likely to walk into a store and find a shirt that will fit you and flatter you. Basically, the body shaming you receive will never cancel out your thin privilege. And that’s the problem at hand that many (thin) people are ignoring.

Rather than getting angry at the body shaming thin people receive, we need to start at being angry at the thin privilege thin people receive and the fatphobia fat people deal with on a daily basis. Then we can tackle body shaming women as its own misogynistic problem. Together. But those with thin privilege need to use said privilege in a productive way to help end thin privilege and fatphobia. A good first step is letting fat people speak about their experiences and listening to them rather than perpetuating the body shaming of fat people like the article I mentioned above does. That’s not helping end body shaming. That’s participating in the body shaming of fat people and perpetuating the idea that thin people deserve more – ignoring the fact that skinny shaming is never going to affect the lives of thin people the same way that fat shaming affects the lives of fat people. While skinny shaming does not cancel out thin privilege, thin privilege arguably does cancel out skinny shaming.

So what can you do? Like I said before, learning and listening are a good place to start. Everyday Feminism’s article “5 Effective Ways People with Thin Privilege Can Fight Fatphobia” offers great tips, as well.

I commented about this on Twitter a while back.

(Below, I screw up the difference between “affect” and “effect” – even after four years studying English. 😉 Ironically, I get criticized for my weight rather than my grammar errors. I mean, priorities, right?)

I tweeted three times before some troll told me to “just cut some weight” –

Yawn. I myself have thin privilege and I was still told to lose weight, because I guess if you’re angry about thin privilege you must be overweight, right? Even if I was overweight, why is “just cut some weight” the response? Why is the answer to the problem for fat people to lose weight rather than the privilege and discrimination to be destroyed? Why does society focus on further oppressing those discriminated against rather than work towards equality, equal treatment, and equal opportunities?

Fat shaming as oppression is probably gonna have to be a separate blog post, but I’ll tackle that. Don’t worry. I know there’s probably a ton of people screaming “but being overweight is unhealthy!” and “body positivity is a movement that supports obesity and unhealthiness!”

Relax, guys. Your thin privilege is showing.

Further reading:

4 Reasons Why We Need to Stop Thinking of Skinny-Shaming as ‘Reverse Discrimination’

Yes, You Still Have Thin Privilege If You ‘Worked For’ Your Body – Here’s Why

Fatphobia: 5 Facts and a Guide for the Disbeliever

Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege

Bodies out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression

*If anything I post is ever problematic or ignorant, please call me out so I can learn from my mistakes.

Author: Melissa Martini

A 22 year old feminist writer exploring body image and eating disorder recovery through poetry and blog posts.

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