Why My Fat Is Different From Your Fat: Some Thoughts On Thin Privilege At Different Sizes


(Image from Google Image Search/ Originally on a really annoying newspaper article I don’t want to link to.)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about fat identities, thin privilege, and smaller fats in the FA movement. This is just some musing on the subject; I am not any authority on it, and my information and ideas are of course cobbled together from dozens of different articles and blogs that I don’t specifically remember. This post is particularly inspired by some bits of and comments on Marianne Kirby’s article, “How Not To Be A Dick To Your Fat Friends” on xoJane.com (check it out if you haven’t already!), but if I’ve unwittingly borrowed from some other specific source that I haven’t cited, feel free to call me on it.

I understand that, in the right culture/circumstance/whatever, a lot of people might identify as fat, that I don’t think are actually fat. I know people have said that in Asian cultures, the threshold for “fat” is a lot lower. I know that people who have struggled with body image issues/body dysmorphia for a long time might identify as “fat” even when they are thin by society’s standards. And I understand that sometimes, people who are relatively thin are called fat, and they choose to embrace it and go full on fat acceptance, which as far as reactions to that situation go, is definitely a positive one.

It’s not my right to draw the line at who can and cannot identify as fat. I’m not the identity police. Although, most of us can agree that in a US American culture, someone who is a size 8 is not fat. Still, if they are identifying that way, there are obviously deeper issues at work here, and we don’t need to criticize them for it unless they insist on taking up a lot of vocal space in fat spaces, because then we run into a whole different issue. But if they just want to identify as “fat,” well, it’s not our place to judge where they’re coming from.

HOWEVER. You can’t deny that thin privilege works on a scale. A size 4 has privilege that a size 14 doesn’t, who in turn has privilege that a size 24 doesn’t, who yet again has privilege that a size 34 doesn’t, and so on. I’m definitely fat. But I’m not the only fat person in the world, or the fattest person in the world, and my experiences, while true for me, don’t make someone else’s conflicting experiences less true.

To go for an often-cited example,it’s true that off-the-rack clothes don’t fit anyone properly. However, there are even fewer and fewer options for us to try on as we go up in size. I have two stores in my local mall that I know I can find something at just to cover my body with relative ease. Not promising it’ll be cute or good quality or fit well, but it will physically cover my body. Were I a few sizes larger, I wouldn’t even find that.

It’s not all about clothes, of course. It’s about fitting into public spaces that were designed with thin people in mind: narrow aisles, flimsy chairs, restaurant booths, airplane seatbelts, and so on. Even if you “feel fat” at a size 10, you are alway going to fit into chairs and seats, wherever you go (except, like, a kindergarten class or something). Size 20? Maybe. Size 30? Doubtful.

It’s about being able to find positive representation of people who look like you in the media. I mean, we can all think of the handful of fat actresses out there who manage to get good roles, and they’re positive examples, sure, but for the most part, the largest of them are about a size 20. If we really want to see positive, diverse representation of fat bodies, we have to seek it out for ourselves, often through fat fashion blogs/tumblrs/social media. The fact that thinner people see positive representations of people who look somewhat like them everywhere they go is a privilege. We have to literally retrain our brains to see fat as not being automatically bad or gross or ugly (or at least I did, upon discovering fat acceptance).

It’s not a contest. It’s not a contest for who has it the hardest, and you don’t get some sort of prize for whining the loudest or ignoring other people’s truths. It’s just a fact of life that this is a sort of privilege that, to some extent, works on a sliding scale. We have to recognize other people’s lived experiences without getting defensive and thinking that they invalidate ours.  We have to respect and listen and, if we truly want fat acceptance for the world and not just for ourselves, we have to fight against even those problems that we don’t personally have. For example, I have never had a problem fitting in seats on airplanes. However, I will still fight for people who do, for the fact that they should not be shamed, humiliated, denied a seat, or made to pay extra just because they have larger bodies. It’s not about thinking “oh, it could be me one day;” sure, it could, but that’s not the point. The point is basic human dignity, and that all people deserve it.

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33 thoughts on “Why My Fat Is Different From Your Fat: Some Thoughts On Thin Privilege At Different Sizes

  1. This post speaks to a subject that I have been thinking about for a while, and I’m loving that you’re writing, and writing well, about it!
    I absolutely do *not* want to get into identity policing, which makes this subject so complicated for me. Your point that privilege works on a scale is a good one, I just wonder if recognizing this fact is enough in a situation where someone who is, say, a US size 8, identifies as fat. As you know there is a difference between the systemic oppression of fat people, and the body shaming of slender people (I recently read a really good post on this subject, in case you’re interested, http://blog.nudemuse.org/2013/01/lets-do-thing.html). With this in mind, I wonder if there should be a sort of requirement for calling oneself fat. But then I’m back to identity policing, and the examples you list in your post are really good, and of course I too want to stand behind those hypothetical people.
    You wrote:
    “Although, most of us can agree that in a US American culture, someone who is a size 8 is not fat. Still, if they are identifying that way, there are obviously deeper issues at work here, and we don’t need to criticize them for it unless they insist on taking up a lot of vocal space in fat spaces, because then we run into a whole different issue. But if they just want to identify as “fat,” well, it’s not our place to judge where they’re coming from.”
    And while I absolutely agree with the sentiment behind this, I still can’t quite agree with your whole point. Because, is it really the right way to go, to say we are fine with more or less anyone identifying as fat, but then require them to not take up a lot of vocal space in fat spaces? If you are/identify as fat, shouldn’t you be “allowed” to behave just as other fat identifying folks do? I realize that there are spaces for fat people of color where I don’t belong, and that there are spaces for the superfats where the inbetweeners don’t belong etc, but generally we are all fat and can take up as much space as we like. (Not to say that everyone in Fat Acceptance is fat, of course). I would never go into a space where I belong only as an ally, and act the same way I do in spaces for people like me. This requires that I correctly identify myself as only an ally of course, but wouldn’t spaces where I don’t belong have a certain right to tell me I’m not one of them, but an ally? We say over and over again that “fat” has a spesific meaning, that it doesn’t mean any of these negative things that most people have come to associate with it, but if we think it is okay for people to identify as fat no matter what they look like, isn’t that wildly inconsistent (though, how high a price should one be willing to pay for consistency)?
    Again, I think it is extremely important for people to be allowed to define themselves, and I am honestly looking for a conversation here!

    • Okay, firstly, I love that you took the time to write such a thoughtful comment! I am definitely up for discussion 🙂

      You actually bring up a really good point that I wish I’d covered in the post a bit more thoroughly–the difference between body shaming and systematic oppression of fat people. But anyway, I do wish that it was easier to draw some cut and dried line for “fat,” but try as I might, I can’t come up with one that isn’t in some way problematic. I guess I’d say that if you look at your life experiences, if you have in some experienced societal oppression (*not* just body shaming) because of the size of your body (including but not limited to a majority of stores not carrying your size, not fitting into a chair/seat, being charged more for health insurance because of BMI cut-offs, being refused medical treatment/proper diagnosis due to fatness, etc.), then you are fat. If you haven’t–if what you’ve experienced is your mom telling you to cut down on the desserts or having a hard time finding jeans that fit *well*, then that’s not systematic oppression, that’s not existing in spaces designed exclusively for smaller bodies. If you haven’t had even one experience like that, I don’t think you can really identify yourself as “fat.” I’m personally not going to question your experiences, but it’s important for people who really believe in the movement to consider that question for themselves. If you are thin and taking up space in fat spaces (not just the size acceptance movement, which is for everyone, but, for example, submitting your photo to blogs based on fat fashion), it is intrusive, and I wish there was a better way to call people on it without being the identity police.

      When you say, “I would never go into a space where I belong only as an ally, and act the same way I do in spaces for people like me. This requires that I correctly identify myself as only an ally of course, but wouldn’t spaces where I don’t belong have a certain right to tell me I’m not one of them, but an ally?” that’s all very true. I wish that people were all correctly identifying themselves, and I guess that we should have the right to tell people when they are not truly one of us, but the problem is that, in any space, sometimes it’s hard to tell. White-passing POC are still POC. Women with an androgynous aesthetic are still women. Just being in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex doesn’t make you straight. And so on. So maybe I do call someone out and say they aren’t fat, and they tell me that they were raised in a culture where the line for “fat” is different, and they have totally experienced some of the systematic oppressions I listed above–then clearly, I’m wrong, I’m identity policing, and that person may not feel comfortable in FA spaces anymore, and that’s not okay.

      To conclude: I don’t know! And I’m rambling. But yeah, it’s all complicated, and it’s important to think about these issues and talk about them, but I don’t have any concrete solutions myself. If only people could all properly identify themselves, and our body shaming culture didn’t make every girl with any body fat at all “feel fat” at one time or another!

      • Having it be about the experiences you’ve had is something I’ve never actually considered before, and it’s such a good thought! Of course, I can see holes in this way of doing it too; if 99 out of 100 people with the same body size and shape have had the kind of experiences you’ve described, I would say it would be unreasonable to not call the 100th person fat. However, this way of doing it would be heaps better than saying something like, anyone below a US size 14 isn’t fat.
        Reading (and agreeing with) what you wrote about smaller people submitting photos to blogs on fat fashion, I’m thinking that the way to go about that particular issue might be to have the creators/owners/moderators clarify their rules on a space to space basis.
        Expanding on this thought, any time we want to create a space where we wish to only include some people, we already have to describe who are and aren’t welcome. Perhaps the solution is to just be a little more careful and thorough when we lay down these ground rules. Deliberately excluding people should, after all, already be something that is taken seriously.
        The more I think about it, the more I realize that your point about the scale of thin privilege is really what is important here. Because does it really affect me, apart from in a few instances like fatshion blogs, if someone who is a US size 8 identify themselves as fat, as long as they recognize that they enjoy many privileges that I don’t? I think the answer is that it doesn’t. If I want to create a space where the topic is poor treatment from the medical community towards fat people, I am after all at perfect liberty to specify that only people who have had those types of experiences are welcome to join the conversation.
        I’m sorry this comment turned into a conversation with myself. As you can see, your post and reply has really helped me clarify some things, and since I started this process by commenting I figured you might be interested in where I ended up. Thanks for replying, I really got what I wanted when I started writing the first comment!

        I also read your conversation with Timo below, and I wanted to tell you I found your reply a beautiful read! I’m not just saying it you know, I’m Norwegian, and we aren’t really prone to hyperbole. The first post I ever wrote on my blog was actually on this subject (http://musingsfromthesoapbox.blogspot.no/2010/04/why-charging-fat-passengers-double-is.html), but you have a different perspective, and I really hope you use your reply and turn those thoughts into a blog post (unless you already have).

        • True. I guess what we could say is, “if you have had one of these experiences *or* you know that the majority of people of your size have had these experiences, then you are probably fat. If neither of those things is true, probably not.” At least, that’s the best “rule” that I can come up with. But, yeah, you’re right also that it’s up to the individuals in charge of certain spaces to define who is welcome there and in what capacity.

          And you’re right, in most cases it doesn’t really affect us when people identify as fat, so I guess we just live and let live. If it’s a positive identification, I mean; if it’s “I feel fat” as a code for “I feel gross/ugly/etc.,” then clearly that’s another issue that needs to be dealt with.

          Your post is quite interesting, and it’s definitely a subject that comes up a lot! Thanks for the suggestion to turn it into a blog post; it’s a good idea, and I will probably do it.

          Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

    • Hi, much respect for taking on a difficult issue. After reading though I am going to have to disagree. Sugar and fat are addictive and harmful in large amounts. The over indulgence in them is addictive behavior no different then smoking, gambling, alcohol, drugs, etc. Just because it is a low level addiction that takes years to manifest life threatening results does not mean that it is anything other that substance abuse. The first step toward treating dependency is admission and ownership. I see this article as going in the exact opposite direction than what is needed. What this article cites as ‘thin privilege’ I would compare to an alcoholic claiming sober privilege when being chosen for employment. Beauty standards and physical appearance plays a huge role in the decision making process of society and I agree this is wrong. However those attributes are generally associated with things the individual has no control over; height, ethnicity, gender etc. Obesity is different in that it is within the realm of personal choice and an outward sign of dependency issues. These are just the conclusions I have come to through dispassionate observations, I’d welcome input on the issue. Obesity is skyrocketing in America particularly among youth and needs to be addressed in a rational way. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, I simply welcome the opportunity to discuss a spiraling problem.

      • ” Obesity is different in that it is within the realm of personal choice and an outward sign of dependency issues.” So you really don’t understand about how there are medical factors that cause or contribute to obesity, such as hypothyroidism, depression, Cushing’s syndrome, brain diseases, medication side effects etc.? I had a friend in grade school who was attacked for being “fat” when she was on steroids for Lupus (which took her life at age 20). Seriously, you really should be more educated on this topic if you are going to preach how others should look and live. Also, if you’ve ever had a beer you’re pretty much a hypocrite. If you’ve ever eaten anything that’s unhealthy you’re also a hypocrite. If you’ve ever done ANYTHING that could possibly harm your health you’re a hypocrite. Even if that thing might take years to become life threatening. According to your “logic.” Take the plank out of your eye before whining about the speck in someone else’s.

  2. I would like to know your reasoning regarding airline seats. As a fat person, I recognize that I need two seats. It’s not fair of me to “spill over” into someone else’s seat. If the flight is sold out, and I need two seats, why do you think we as fat people should not pay for a seat that would otherwise be sold? (Flights with open seats are another matter.)

    I had a similar situation in a Broadway theater. The person next to me could not sit comfortably in their seat located next to mine. They did not handle it well and their loud complaints to the usher were humiliating. I was moved to a different seat, worse than the one I paid for, but I was too embarrassed to complain. If I had known, I would have bought another seat, because it was inappropriate for the other person to not be able to use their full seat.

    Do you think a “fat section” in planes, theaters, etc would work and be beneficial?

    • The answer to this is best explained by an illustration I first saw floating around on Tumblr: http://ctworkingmoms.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/equality-vs-justice.jpg. Using the concepts there, we aren’t just fighting for equality for fat people: we are fighting for justice. We are fighting for the right of everyone, no matter what their size, to take up space and exist in a world designed to fit their bodies. Not everyone needs the same accommodations, but the outcome should be the same for everyone. What’s not fair is that the entire world is designed with thin bodies in mind, and our fat bodies are not allocated adequate space. It’s not fair, and it affects both us and the people around us in some cases (the theater and airplane examples). If I’m fat but unable to afford two seats, if I have to save up for a year to afford one seat on a plane (just like many thin people), should I be denied the right to fly at all just because of the size of my body? When I buy a plane ticket, I am buying transportation from one place to another, and the airline should provide that even if I am fat.

      I think that having some wider seats is entirely doable and easily solves the problem. For example, buses in my city all have 3-4 wider seats in the front of the bus. I mean, they aren’t just for fat people, as there aren’t always 3-4 people fat enough to need a wider seat on the bus at any given time, but if a person who does need a larger seat gets on the bus, there are accommodations there for them. It doesn’t inconvenience anyone else, it solves the problem, and there is no need to humiliate or body shame anyone.

  3. I agree with a lot of this. But I also think it’s a little more complicated.

    So I used to be about 340 lbs. I had a couple chronic medical conditions (PCOS, endometriosis), but I was relatively healthy, even at a high weight: good blood pressure/cholesterol (I was a vegan), stable sugar levels, etc. But my doctors convinced me that a) I needed to lose weight or I would die, and b) I could not lose weight without medical intervention. So I had a gastric bypass.

    Fast forward almost five years. I am now about 170 lbs (plus or minus 20 lbs), a size 12 instead of a size 28. Culturally, I am still considered “fat”, though I’m fairly comfortable with my size, and am actually where I wanted to be. I have an estimated twenty-five pounds of extra skin, mostly around my tummy, but also on my thighs and arms.

    Because of the gastic bypass, I nearly died. My intestines ruptured. I have had 15 surgeries and countless medical procedures over the last couple years. I spent about 52% of the time in various hospitals from Dec. 2010-Dec. 2012. I only have 75 cm of small intestine remaining, connected to a very damaged stomach. I will never function normally again. I am permently disabled, collecting disability benefits, actually. I have chronic pain, chronic exhaustion, and have not gone a day without vomitting since Dec. 3 2010.

    I’ve written a lot about my body issues. (Here is one of the more comprehensive posts. Warning for a picture of a messed up abdomen.”) I may be objectively thinner, closer to what society wants, but I had far less body hatred and shame before the surgery. I would give a lot to be able to go back and reverse what happened, to have never had that gastic bypass, to still be 300+ pounds. Unfortunately, I just have to go forward and make the best of a bad decision. And while I may have some things that I get now as a result of being smaller–I can shop off-the-rack at more clothing stores (certainly not all, though, as any “inbetweenie” knows), I can fit into more chairs, I no longer have to deal with so many comments about my weight, the societal hatred I experienced at 340 lbs–there are a lot of things that I’ve lost. I do not feel comfortable going on dates or meeting people. I am terrified of intimacy, of someone seeing my body. I can’t get a job, and I may never be healthy enough to hold a job (while I worked a lot, did a lot of volunteer work, and went to school before). If a place doesn’t have services for people with disabilities–like chairs, elevators, etc.–I often cannot go. Even if there are sevices, I can say that as a thinner person using a scooter at a store, I get a lot more hostility than I ever got as a fat person at that same store. And there are many, many things I can’t do because I no longer have the energy or ability to do them.

    As I said, I like what you wrote. Just wanted to point out that it can get…complicated.

      • Thank you for taking the time to leave such a well thought out comment. I read your blog post as well, and you’re brave to post all of those personal struggles on the internet. I definitely admire that.

        You are absolutely right, it is complicated. I think we have to keep in mind the separation between the political side of fat activism, and the personal side of body issues that can affect anyone of any size.

        The political side is that doctors should not have convinced you to get the procedure in the first place. I don’t want to assume anything about your personal experiences that isn’t correct, so please tell me if I’m overstepping here. You were reasonably healthy, and this is a procedure that left your body and health destroyed. It’s sad and it’s terrible that you were coerced into this decision.

        Body positivity is all about the personal side of things: it’s about loving yourself and feeling good and all of that. But fat activism is about the society that impedes so much body positivity in the first place. It’s not as much about how you feel, as it is about a society that pushes certain norms on us, that discriminates against fat bodies in every possible sphere of life (medical, media representation, accommodation in public spaces). This is where privilege comes in. Thin privilege doesn’t mean you necessarily feel great about your body. It just means that you don’t suffer from this objective sort of fat discrimination. You have more thin privilege now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your life is better; this does not exist in a vacuum. It interacts with personal body acceptance issues, and in your case with disability issues as well. You used to have privilege for being able-bodied, and now you don’t. But not being able to love your body doesn’t mean not being able to fight against oppression (of whatever kind).

        It’s the whole idea of intersectionality. I focus here on oppression of fat people, but we can’t focus on just one sort of oppression. If I want to fight against fat discrimination, I have to also fight against discrimination towards disabled people, towards people of color, towards women, towards LGBT people — because in all of those categories, there are fat people, and if all we do is get rid of the discrimination towards fat people, we have not magically fixed the lives of people facing other oppressions as well.

        Thanks for bringing this up! I think it’s an interesting discussion, and one that’s important to have.

      • Not sure if this is useful to you, but as someone who also has an invisible physical disability that makes using the store scooters super useful, and is an in-betweener (16) — I started using a cane just as support system for walking (I don’t need it constantly), and I instantly noticed people calmed down a lot around me (most canes you buy at a convenience store [around 20 dollars — I got mine at a Goodwill for 5, but I don’t see them there often] can be collapsed and stored in the basket part of the scooter). Like, I suddenly “deserved” the right to use the scooter/park in disabled parking.

        I often just use it to reduce nasty looks, tbh, though it’s actually also been way more useful than I thought it was going to be — I never thought my disability was “severe enough” to benefit from a cane but it actually helps (for me! I have cerebral palsy + later brain damage, though, not surgical complications, so I realize it may not be as useful for you) both physically and in the eyes of society as a whole.

        All the best w/haters, etc. 🙂

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  6. Whilst I understand your message and appreciate that there is a serious issue within our society that deems us imperfect if we aren’t 5ft9 and 110lbs. However, you are also ignoring the fact that we shouldn’t encourage obesity. Human beings’ bodies have changed drastically in the last 100 years, due to the lack of exercise and wide availability of unhealthy foods. Surely we should be promoting ‘healthy’. By this I mean a body that doesn’t prevent you from doing what you want or affecting your ability to live a life without health problems such as diabetes. This should be considered when looking at anorexia and other diseases on the other end of the spectrum. We seem to go from extreme to extreme in the hopes of making everyone feel comfortable. We have clothes that range from a size 00 to a size 30. We are looking at the problem incorrectly; it isn’t about society’s treatment of ‘imperfect’ people but the importance of healthy eating and exercise. Surely if you can’t fit in to an airplane seat, it isn’t society’s problem but a warning that you are seriously harming yourself.

    • Actually, you should be doing what’s right for you, not “encouraging” anything negative in others, including the notion that weight and health are the same thing. I’m someone who eats healthy, in what society would consider “normal” portions, who exercises daily, and who is still healthy. I get that you’re “health” trolling, and will probs disagree, but that IS the reality for a lot of folks.

      What we should NOT be promoting is body hatred and really fucked-up relationships with food. STOP TROLLING and pretending it’s as concern for anyone’s “health”. Being thought of as Public Health Enemy Number 1 is extremely damaging to mental health.

    • “However, you are also ignoring the fact that we shouldn’t encourage obesity.”
      What we should not be doing is telling other people what to do with their bodies, period. Would you like to be told what you can and can’t do, what kind of sex you can have, what kind of stuff you can eat, what *I* think is healthy for you? If you have ever eaten or done anything that could in any way bring harm to your body then you’re a raging hypocrite.

  7. I agree with this so much.
    I’ve pretty much always been overweight, however I am relativly healthy and don’t have any major health problems. I am dyspraxic but that is not related to my weight. (As a simple explanation its a condition that’s in the same family as dyslexia but it’s mostly coordination, and also affects memory, organisation and emotions amongst various other little things) But I am able to do things like walk for miles without really needing to stop, no I can’t run but that’s because I’m dyspraxic and have flat feet, I couldn’t run when I was a kid and I was much smaller then.

    In some ways I am lucky as I stand at 5ft10 so I don’t look ‘that’ heavy.

    I can buy off the rack clothes for the most part but I am limited to mostly buying stuff from my local supermarkets and sometimes end up having to buy men’s clothes. (Mainly t-shirts as the typical ‘woman’s’ cut is often way too snug). Want to buy stuff from a mainstream ‘trendy’ shop? forget it.

    And of course how dare I even think of wearing something that’s ‘not’ completely covering me up, and something that is not basically a tent? Even in the height of summer when it’s boling hot I should be covered as ‘no one wants to see that’

    I can fit in a fair amount of seats with little trouble so I know I have some privileges as I can ‘pass’ as a ‘normal’ person.

    I still face that constant pressure that I have to ‘watch what I eat’ and that me deciding to eat something junky is a horrible, terrible thing. That I must ‘watch my weight’ as I am at risk of many horrible things even though I have had little health issues, and those I’ve had are not weight related. That if I want to buy my lunch I must be ‘extra careful’ looking at the nutritonal information as I might eat something ‘too fatty’ or ‘too calorific’ even if it’s the first proper thing I’ve eaten all day, or I know I’ll have a long gap between meals, Or I haven’t eaten something like that for quite a while, or I just want to indulge in something a bit ‘junky’.

    Yes, I like ‘sweet’ stuff, I like candy, I like cake. However as I’m a ‘fat’ person its wrong as I must have a ‘food addiction’ and I can’t just genuinely enjoy eating sweet food from time to time. Yet if a ‘skinny’ person has a sweet tooth it’s ‘cute’.

    I noticed once in the aisle next to till a gossip magazine. It had two celebrities on the cover. On one side it was ‘Oh I love my new curves’ so it was praising her for gaining weight, and on the other side it was someone else’s one stating ‘Oh, look at how I lost all my baby weight’ so it was praising her for loosing weight.
    No wonder people have such scewed perceptions. And people don’t know which way to jump.

    And I remember during the Olympics someone claiming that a female olympian was ‘too fat’ even though in all honesty she was still quite slim, but rather toned. But apparently someone had deemed she was ‘fat’.
    Yet again, our perceptions are scewed as someone who is condsidered at a high level of physical fitness is apparently ‘fat’ as this stupid bias of ‘thin is healthy!’

    Just yesterday I was waiting for a bus, a shop window had an advert for a ‘herbal supplements’ company. And guess what they were advertising?
    A ‘weight loss challenge’ where if you followed their plan and lost a certain amount of weight, you’d win money.
    So now it’s a good thing to encourage gambling? And to do so to people who are likely already in a vulnerable state?

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You’re totally right about most of it, however, when talking about the Olympic athlete, you implied that there is an inherent contradiction in being fat and being at a high level of physical fitness–untrue! There are totally amazing athletes, even Olympians, who are genuinely fat. Ever heard of Holley Mangold? Google her, she’s an awesome fat athlete. Totally fat, totally fit–it’s very possible! Fat is not a bad thing, just an adjective, and it does not mean “out of shape,” “unhealthy,” “lazy,” or any number of other negative things that are so commonly associated with being fat.

      • Ah yes, sorry I don’t think I worded that quite right.

        I wasn’t trying to say ‘there are no fat athletes’ I had noticed that even when people are at that level people still scrutenize their bodytypes. Since the Olympics are based on sporting ability so the apperance and therefore weight of the atheles competing shouldn’t be a factor.

        • Right, sorry for the misunderstanding, then! Completely true. Of course, I can’t think of many activities where the appearance and weight of those participating should really be a factor, and yet, unfortunately, it always seems like it is.

          • No worries.

            Exactly.
            Only one I can think of is equestrian sports but that’s a bit of a unique one since you have another living being involved.

            It wasn’t just weight I noticed either. I saw plenty of articles digging into other aspects of their apperances like clothing. Like bemoning them for not being ‘fashionable’ enough. When that really isn’t their job.

            And that when there was adverts with said athletes the women were being used to bill ‘beauty’ products. I remember some male Olympians had a Subway deal, and then if they were promoting something like a deoderant it is billed more as ‘Look how well this works whilst I’m doing my sports’

            I think it goes into that thing that ‘well being a female athlete doesn’t mean you can’t be feminine’ but then of course that means it has to be constantly pushed which is rather shaming in it’s own right as screaming ‘Not all female athletes look and act like men!’ still puts a lot of pressure on people.

            • People never understand that a woman’s job isn’t always to look pretty. I remember an interview with Hillary Clinton where someone asked her about what fashion designers she liked or something like that, and she responded by asking them if they’d ask a man that question. Of course not. And that seems to be the way things are in sports, in politics, for any woman in the public eye–people want her to talk about fashion and look pretty. They don’t want her to be powerful and talented and serious.

              Talking about endorsements, the fat female olympians don’t even get endorsement deals. They can be Olympic athletes living in poverty. Because who wants a fat woman to sell their product, even when that fat woman is the strongest woman in America?

              But the last point, well, it comes down to the same fight that feminists have been fighting for way too long: choices for women. It’s not unfeminist for women, athletes or otherwise, to make traditionally feminine choices. We need to be careful to actually fight for women’s rights to make whatever choices they want, rather than just imposing a new cultural standard on them. This ties in really closely with that, I think.

  8. You don’t know the experience of someone that might look thin to you. They might have been put on diets by health professionals, called fat by friends, family, strangers, etc. They might have always been the ‘fattest’ girl in the room. Some women that are small on the fat continuum might have experienced more abuse than someone larger. Even women that are in the normal BMI range can be pressured to be thinner by doctors, bosses, strangers, family members, etc. I’m currently thin, but I’ve been the victim of much fat bashing although I have never been bigger than size 14.

    • You’re right, I don’t. However, I think you may have missed the point a little bit. Body policing, body image problems, and so on, are huge problems in our society, and you have definitely experienced that, as have all women, I think. That’s different from systematic oppression. And while it’s true that there are individual anomalies, that doesn’t invalidate the fact that being a size 14 in our society closer to the norm and thus faces less oppression than a size 24 or 34 or whatever. The problem, the reason it’s hard to see the difference, is that hateful people use “fat” as a multipurpose insult, not just the descriptor it is. A woman who is not fat can still be called fat by assholes. That doesn’t make her “fat,” when I’m using that as an adjective describing people of a size to have suffered from the systematic oppression of non-normative bodies in our society. It’s not the oppression olympics; I’m not saying smaller fats don’t have problems, only that, taken as a group and not just on an individual case-by-case basis, larger fats have more problems in our society related to their body size.

  9. Unpopular opinion: I feel a bit differently about this. I’m personally sick of self-identified fatties who are sized 8/10/12 taking up so space and identifying as such. Yes, ALL people in a fat-phobic society have to deal with fat-phobia, but I don’t agree that everyone gets to self-identify and get a free pass for it, unchallenged. If a straight man identifies as “queer” just to gain some cred, or because his friends are queer, or because he was attracted to a man once, while never having to deal with the BS involved in ACTUALLY being queer, that’s problematic. If a white-passing (or white) person identifies as a POC, yet has all of the privileges associated with whiteness, that’s also problematic. And while the dynamic, and realities, of those things are definitely not the same, I find that a lot of not-at-all-fat folks are both co-opting the movement, and in doing so, are re-defining what fat actually means/is seen as, and silencing the voices of actual fat folks, who can’t find clothes/access romantic relationships/fit into plane seats, etc.

    It’s something I’m working on, and I realize it comes from a place of resentment born of oppression, but yeah. I wanted to share that unpopular opinion.

  10. Hi, much respect for taking on a difficult issue. After reading though I am going to have to disagree. Sugar and fat are addictive and harmful in large amounts. The over indulgence in them is addictive behavior no different then smoking, gambling, alcohol, drugs, etc. Just because it is a low level addiction that takes years to manifest life threatening results does not mean that it is anything other that substance abuse. The first step toward treating dependency is admission and ownership. I see this article as going in the exact opposite direction than what is needed. What this article cites as ‘thin privilege’ I would compare to an alcoholic claiming sober privilege when being chosen for employment. Beauty standards and physical appearance plays a huge role in the decision making process of society and I agree this is wrong. However those attributes are generally associated with things the individual has no control over; height, ethnicity, gender etc. Obesity is different in that it is within the realm of personal choice and an outward sign of dependency issues. These are just the conclusions I have come to through dispassionate observations, I’d welcome input on the issue. Obesity is skyrocketing in America particularly among youth and needs to be addressed in a rational way. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, I simply welcome the opportunity to discuss a spiraling problem.

  11. Let’s look at height as well. As someone four foot nine and size 8, I have “fat midget” yelled at me regularly from passing cars, and my body is regularly cited as the antithesis of the ideal, which is super thin and super tall. I’ve even heard “poor thing, it’s so hard to lose any weight when you’re that short, and it’s not like stretching machines exist to improve that problem.” Height privilege is a thing too, and when it intersects with fatphobia the results are disastrous. I hate even leaving my house at this point.

  12. Pingback: Don’t tell me I’m not fat. | sraedoes

  13. Pingback: Checking My “Small Fat” Privilege – Love It and Lose It

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