While you’ve probably heard of white privilege, a term acknowledging unearned advantages of skin colour that often people who have it aren’t aware of, but now there’s a debate on Twitter about the term ‘thin privilege’.
So is it a thing or not?
What does thin privilege mean?
Just like any kind of privilege, such as having white skin or being a man, it means that a slim person’s life isn’t made more difficult by their weight (or skin colour or gender).
The body positive movement may be growing but we’re still bombarded by images and attitudes about what a ‘normal’ or acceptable size is. There’s a real lack of representation in the media, in film and on TV, of people of all different sizes, and those roles that do exist for larger actors are usually centred around their weight (either trying to lose it or the butt of the joke about it).
If you’ve been naturally slim your whole life, you might not have ever really considered what the benefits are.
What kind of sizeism do people experience?
Something I've seen very few people talk about is #ThinPrivilege within the spoonie and medical community.
As an overweight individual with several chronic conditions, one that plays DIRECTLY into my weight, I am well aware that doctors treat me differently because of my weight.— sarina 🌻 (@sarinahoskins) July 23, 2018
If you’re slim, your size is probably not the first thing people notice about you, but often larger people find that that’s the case for them, and other people probably don’t make snap assumptions about your health based on how you look. When you sit down on a plane, you probably don’t feel self-conscious about what the person next to you thinks and you can most likely find your size quite easily in any clothing shop. You probably feel comfortable enough to eat in public without the fear of being shamed for it. You probably aren’t stereotypically judged for being lazy, greedy or lacking willpower (even though you might be one or all of those things, despite being slim).
There are many instances where being slim, or just in the realms of what’s considered a ‘normal’ size, just doesn’t have these sorts of disadvantages.
What if you don’t feel that thin?
Not all slim or averaged sized people are happy with their bodies though, so they don’t necessarily feel slim or that being the size they are has any advantage over being bigger.
Owner of underwear brand The Lingerie Addict sparked the conversation on Twitter when she posted that you don’t have to feel thin to have thin privilege.
Hey, you don’t have to “feel thin” to have thin privilege.
Thinness isn’t a feeling. If other people perceive you as thin, you are thin. If you are able to walk into any clothing store and expect to see a wide range of options in your size, you are thin.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
And many people jumped in to agree.
Have remind myself of this all the time! I have issues thanks to a dad who called me fat for most of my, not fat at all, childhood and I often have to stop myself from coming on here and fretting about how fat I’ve gotten in middle age. I am bigger but I’m still privileged.— Erika with a K (@imaginaryerika) July 22, 2018
This thread is something to think about. I don't often "feel thin," because I don't like the shape my body currently is, but I'm definitely thin, and I have a lot of privilege because of it. https://t.co/LNKbS9QdFr— Still Bi, Even in July 💗💜💙 (@QueenofTacos) July 22, 2018
Harrington goes on to point out that thin privilege doesn’t mean people don’t suffer as a result of other factors.
You can benefit from thin privilege and still be disadvantaged or inconvenienced on some other axis, like height or race. Thin privilege doesn’t encompass *every* privilege.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
Why do some people disagree?
Of course, this being the internet, not every agrees that thin privilege is a thing. Some argue that if you have “control over” something, it’s not a privilege, as opposed to the colour of your skin or how much money your family have.
This ignores the many possible factors that result in people having different body types though, and ironically, some of the tweets in response to the hashtag on Twitter are fat shaming – which proves the point entirely.
In response to the trending #ThinPrivilege discussion - there's no such thin privilege. Privilege is when you're rewarded for something you don't have control over, like where you're born, or race. Fat people can lose weight.
Stop trying to self-victimize. You look stupid.— Elizabeth (@colorsandfaith) July 23, 2018
Privilege only exists when someone has something that someone else cant naturally get. #thinprivilege is fake af. People work hard to take care of themselves to maintain good figure. It's not privilege just because someone else isnt willing to work as hard.— jaques (@SportsTalkBenny) July 23, 2018
My #ThinPrivilege is being able to walk into a gym and blast through an intense hour long workout 6 days a week - including hundreds of pull-ups and box jumps - and walk out feeling refreshed and stronger for my efforts. My sincerest apologies.— Robert F. Stokes (@RobertFStokes1) July 23, 2018
While some have an issue with the term because it doesn’t take eating disorders or people who have been shamed because they’re deemed ‘too thin’ into account. Other people are using the term ‘non-standard’ sizes instead.
It’s important to say that the thin privilege concept isn’t about shaming slim people or blaming them for anything, it’s just about recognising that society makes life easier for people who are deemed to be ‘of an acceptable weight’ compared to those who aren’t, whether you work hard to look a certain way or not.
- Press Association