diving into the topic of thin privilege – from what it is, to who holds it and why we need to work to dismantle it.
Continuing to share some of my favorite newsletters from this past year while I’m on maternity leave! If you want to subscribe for more content like this, sign up here!
Despite having always held thin privilege throughout my life, it was not something I had ever heard of. It wasn’t until I began unlearning the weight-normative approach of our cultural landscape (also the landscape in which I was trained in as an RD), that I understood just how unjust this world is for larger bodies.
Thin privilege is, like any other privilege, an unearned cultural privilege bestowed upon someone simply due to their body size.
To be clear, thin privilege is not something you necessarily parade around and rub in people’s faces. It comes in more subtle forms like being able to easily walk down an aisle in a grocery store, fit in a waiting room chair at a doctor’s office or the DMV, having to purchase just one airplane seat because it can accommodate you, avoiding eye rolls on a train for taking up more space than just one seat, being given the benefit of the doubt that you take care of your health by peers and healthcare professionals at just a glance because your body fits what we’ve come to deem ‘healthy.’
There is very compelling evidence to show that those in larger bodies suffer the most as a result of this construct. It creates situations in which their larger size alone causes them to be denied equal opportunity in the job market, being treated fairly in a healthcare setting, being represented in mainstream media and in general, being provided with care, dignity, respect and compassion in many other areas of life.
This unjust treatment of individuals in larger bodies paves the way for unearned thin privilege. Because society elevates individuals simply for living in thinner bodies, it means they automatically receive less competition in the job market, preferential treatment in a healthcare setting, increased representation in mainstream media and an enhanced sense of acceptance & entitlement – all just by being in the bodies our culture has deemed ‘socially acceptable.’
That is not at all to say that a person in a smaller body can’t suffer in their own right. Body image issues and dissatisfaction with body at any size comes with its trials. In addition, there is plenty of criticism and body-shaming for individuals in bodies deemed ‘too thin’ as well. Holding thin privilege does not mean you don’t have your own body struggles. It means that, by simply existing in a body that our culture has come to deem ‘acceptable’ (not necessarily one you love), you not only hold thin privilege, but you’re much more likely than a person in a larger body to reap certain benefits.
As Christy Harrison so expertly puts it, “The term “thin privilege” is meant to highlight this systemic disparity, and to call out the fact that dignity and respect and equitable treatment shouldn’t be privileges reserved for smaller-bodied folks at ALL—they should be universal rights afforded to everyone, no matter their size.”
Given all of this, it’s no wonder, living in our current society, weight gain or simply embracing our body’s natural size can feel so difficult. However, the solution to overcoming this is not to continue to give into this ridiculous standard by trying to make your body fit some idealized size, but help fight for justice and respect for bodies of all size.
At the end of the day, our physical body is simply what carries us through this world and has nothing to do with our worth or value. It’s time to shift the thinking away from the idea that the way our physical body looks should determine the amount of care, compassion and respect we deserve in this world.
I hope that helps give you a better understanding (or first introduction!) to this topic! As always, if you have questions – feel free to comment below!
- Bacon, L. & Aphramor, L. (2014). Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight. Dallas, TX. BenBella Books, p. 8-10.
- Harrison, C. (2019). Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating. Great Britain. Yellow Kite
disclaimer: the content that I share in this space should be used for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for medical or mental health advice and does not constitute a client/practitioner relationship.0