What's Thin Privilege? Who Has it and Why Does it Matter?
Thin privilege is real.
Have you heard of the term “thin privilege” before?
The idea of “privilege” might be an uncomfortable topic for you. If you’re ready to dismiss the idea of privilege, remember that there’s a lot of growth on the other side of discomfort.
So, why am I bringing this up?
I don’t think it’s marginalized folks’ responsibility to educate me. In fact, it can be traumatizing for them to shoulder the burden.
I want to share what I’ve learned about thin privilege as a jumping off point for you.
While it’s my mission as a Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach to take guilt and shame away from what you eat, I also want to use my privilege to help amplify the voices of marginalized folks and 👊 weight stigma in nutrition circles.
What’s thin privilege?
Thin privilege is a systemic privilege that comes along with having a body that conforms to society’s arbitrary beauty standards.
Thin privilege means that your life isn’t made more difficult because of your body size.
The “thin” in thin privilege isn’t about being supermodel-skinny, but being at a weight that means you’re not constantly judged, harassed, or oppressed. For this reason, sometimes the term “straight-sized” is used instead of thin. Straight-sized refers to people who fall within the “standard” size ranges at most clothing stores, about 00-12.
BTW, you don’t have to “feel” thin to enjoy thin privilege.
Our society is structured around the needs of people in smaller bodies. And as a result, people in larger bodies face weight stigma, weight discrimination, and fatphobia.
As someone in a smaller body, I navigate the world in a different way. I don’t experience a lot of things that someone in a larger body experiences on a daily basis.
Thin privilege, and its sidekicks weight stigma, weight discrimination, and fatphobia, shows up in workplaces, medical offices, and educational institutions. It’s pervasive.
Life is easier in a smaller body.
It’s easier to travel.
It’s easier to buy clothes off the rack.
It’s easier to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s office.
It’s easier to eat out alone.
Strangers don’t approach you to tell you that they’re “concerned about your health.” Or roll their eyes when you sit next to them.
No wonder people fear being fat* in our society. Because you don’t have to deal with this when you’re thin.
Thin privilege isn’t skinny shaming.
Thin privilege doesn’t mean that no one has ever made fun of your appearance, or that you don’t feel self-conscious. You can still hate your stretch marks, thighs, or stomach and have thin privilege.
(P.S. All those experiences and feelings are totally valid.)
Instead, it means you don’t experience social discrimination or prejudice for being thin.
Skinny shaming isn’t the same as fat shaming. It happens. But it’s not systemic.
Check your privilege.
I get it. Owning your privilege is hard.
Calling this out isn’t meant to make you defensive.
I’m not saying that you have something that you don’t deserve. I’m also not taking it away.
I want everyone to have the same amount of privilege. Everyone deserves to feel safe, be free of stigma, and have equal access to spaces and experiences.
Privilege isn’t about whether you’re a good or bad person. Just because you have privilege, it doesn’t mean you haven’t struggled with anything.
Aside from my body size, I navigate the world with a lot of privilege.
I’m able-bodied. I’m white. I’m cis-gendered. I’m straight. I have a post-secondary education. I live in a middle-class neighbourhood.
What about you? Can you identify any privilege that you have?
What it means to have privilege.
When you have privilege, you can choose whether to engage with an issue or not.
Someone who doesn’t have the privilege, whether it’s body size, ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, education level, or economic status, can’t opt out.
Fat bodies aren’t a problem to fix.
You’re taught by society that you can constantly “improve” your body. Right?
If you don’t, you supposedly lack willpower or are lazy. But to attain certain thin ideals, it often means going against your body’s intuition.
If you’re a health and wellness practitioner, I urge you not to see a fat body as something to be changed. Like it needs to be fixed somehow.
No body is more deserving of respect than another.
TL;DR: it’s never okay for you to comment on the size of someone’s body. No judgment. No assumptions. No unsolicited advice.
What do you think? Can you identify any ways that thin privilege impacts you in your life?
* I use the term “fat” as a descriptive word, not as an insult or synonym for “lazy” or “unattractive.” With the same neutrality as the word “thin.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meet Ellen Kaross (she/her), the Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach behind The Good Yolk.
Ellen helps women-identifying folks uncover what their emotional eating can teach them, and find joy and balance in their relationship with food.
Her passion for advocacy informs her compassionate, non-judgmental approach.