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[personal profile] astaria_archives
This is actually reposted from the comments of Deeply Problematic, from several weeks ago now I believe, but it was long enough to be a post, and I figured I've been wanting to use this blog for actual blogging anyway.

The commenter writes,

Okay, I just found your blog from a Google search on "Thin Privilege".

As someone who's been overweight most of my life, I don't buy the idea of "thin privilege". Maybe for the people who can eat all day long and still be skinny, but not me. I busted my ass for a year, dieting hard and training hard, and I'm in great shape because of it. And yes, people (especially women) treat me very differently because of it. Does it suck that people weren't so nice to me before? Yes.

However, my main issue with this is that we (the royal we) are ultimately responsible for our weight, health, and self-esteem. Not anyone else. If being so overweight and everything that comes along with it is so bad, you can change that by dieting and exercising. No it sure as hell isn't easy, and unfortunately people feel as if it should be.

And yes I am aware that I have a very arrogantly-titled blog, and that you possibly might me off as a total douchebag because of it. But at least hear me out.


I replied
the thin privilege that is being referred to is exactly the reason you WANT to be thinner. People treat you differently; you get to walk through life without being judged by statements like this one,

If being so overweight and everything that comes along with it is so bad, you can change that by dieting and exercising

which is patently untrue, especially for women.

It's true, "busting your ass" for a year will make you lose weight, but for many people, diet and exercise can provide a body change for a while, but for a significant portion of the population, they will always trend back towards their average weight, their plateau. Even if they're eating healthy, moderate diets, many people are just heavy, just like those people you mention that can eat and eat and never gain a pound.

For women, this is enhanced because it is not seen as "feminine", particularly, to replace fat with muscle. For guys, getting leaner is a plus, but so is bulking up: they are admired for abs and biceps. For women, simply working out will not, in many cases, giving them the figure they want when they look at models and sex objects. It will certainly reduce their bust size, often make them gain weight (as muscle is heavier than fat) - which can be ego-damaging to people brought up on the idea that the scale is what matters - and, many times be an unsatisfying and unproductive path to tread.

Additionally, as long as one's health - here I'm talking about cardiac health, blood pressure, liver function, etc etc etc - is meeting benchmarks, it doesn't MATTER whether you're fat or thin. Why should someone look at you differently on the street or make false assumptions about your eating habits?


For example, I am a pescatarian. Most of my fat intake is composed of "good" fats like avocado, fish, etc; I do snack on junk food but limit it; I use whole wheat bread when possible. This diet has changed a bit lately because I'm BROKE and it's hard to buy anything healthy when you're poor - white, processed flour is what you have available - which is another tangent unconsidered by many people, the fact that the poor have no options but unhealthy food - but for most of my life I've eaten reasonably portioned meals, moderate on carbs, high on vegetables, like sushi, etc. I walk ~three miles a day with no problem, and enjoy exercise regularly.

We are responsible for our own health. That's true. That simply doesn't have to correlate with THINNESS.

For that matter, it isn't particularly socially acceptable to treat people who have been diagnosed with, for example, renal failure or lung cancer as disgusting and at fault for their problems. If I saw a man with a trach or bald from chemotherapy and went on a comment spree about how he should stop going out in public like that and he should have known better and controlled himself, I'd be flamed to death! But in some cases things like drinking and smoking, which ARE entirely under one's control, are partly or entirely to blame for these illnesses.

So I don't buy the health angle, either.

Fat people are simply being punished for an aesthetic which is not in style.

You, by insisting that you should be respected for having busted your ass, ARE respected more now that you're thin, and that everyone could have this respect if they just tried hard enough, are proving it.


What do you guys think? Is there such a thing as "thin privilege"? Am I completely wrong?
What about poverty? Why doesn't class privilege get discussed re: obesity and who gets considered beautiful more often?
And is it really more healthy to be thinner - no matter what? Or is this all just about what's beautiful?

Crossposted to LJ from Dreamwidth

Date: 2009-08-28 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] andrew-day.livejournal.com
Thin privilege exists because thin people DO get preferential treatment in our society. Thinness is the societal norm, although in reality, the 5'11 size two is several standard deviations away.

Classism doesn't get discussed because this is Amurrica where if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can succeed. Fat poor people are extra lazy because all they do is sit around and eat instead of going to school or getting a real job. And they have kids so that they can get more welfare money, so they never lose the pregnancy weight. Seriously, Faye--didn't you already know this?? </ sarcasm>

Even in a perfect world where everyone ate organic vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins, and we had government sponsored fitness classes, so everyone exercised for an hour every day, the average weight of the population would probably go down, and the average fitness level of the population would go up. But there would still be 250-lb people who run six miles every morning.

Honestly, I would not have a problem if the societal norm was "active people" of all body shapes and sizes. But it isn't.

Date: 2009-08-28 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wellowned.livejournal.com
i hate being one of those people, but i'm going to have to be at this point. so i was watching oprah during the very very beginning of her "your best life" run (january?). so she has 2 women on there running through an obstacle course to prove a point. one is about 200 lbs and fleshy, the other is maybe 130, if that. so they have to do things like jumping jacks, push ups, run in place, etc. you know who did the best?? the fleshy chick, who would seem to be the least healthy. it's not about the weight, it's about what you do with yourself. if you're not the 'ideal' thin, that doesn't mean that you're unhealthy, per se.


that aside, thin privilege does exist. it's part of the failings of humans (ever heard of the invisible knapsack theory?). society has trained us to think that every woman, at least, should be 5' 10", 120 lbs max, blonde, blue-eyed and a D cup. not bloody likely. possible, but genes don't always work out that way. with the invisible knapsack, it's not technically institutionalized discrimination, but it's still privilege. someone closer to those characteristics will get better treatment, better pay, and be looked at more as someone acceptable. which is why the other end of the spectrum always gets held down.

it's possible to be poor and thin. not always likely in america, what with our lack of gardening and emphasis on getting everything done in the minimal amount of time. did you know that there's more fast food in my area of town than there are grocery stores? and they hike up the prices at the store for lower quality produce. we can't afford the produce at farmer's markets and driving out to a store that sells organic is almost a waste of time because we really really don't have the money for that. and me?? i'm still middle class.
growing up, my meals tended to be carb laden just so that we wouldn't be hungry later. some of my happiest memories are of sitting around the table eating homemade yeast rolls with butter and jam. we used the heat from the oven to warm the house when the furnace wasn't enough, and that was basically our meal for the day because we still live from check to check, just trying to make sure we can pay for medication and gas and whatever else. so, yeah. i could be healthier. but since america charges more for you to be healthy, it's a hard road.

anyway. thin privilege exists... thin folks just try to downplay it. and it's dandy to say "work hard, and you'll get thin." bullshit.


hey, you remember this argument back from bosemer's class? i got up there and basically said that society has made us believe that thin is the thing. almost everyone was all like "eat less, exercise more and you won't be fat." it doesn't matter how much you eat, or how much you exercise. it's not enough because society makes even the thinnest folks think they're imperfect.
we clearly belong to the wrong generation. the renaissance knew what it meant when a woman was pleasantly rounded.
fuck being society's version of thin. i'm built for comfort, not speed.

Date: 2009-08-28 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] so-patriarchal.livejournal.com
As I said at the thread, full of win and awesome.

Date: 2009-08-28 02:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beatpropx.livejournal.com
Random point pulled out of the whole thing that I wanted to comment on that might help the pocket book and the mind- There's no actual nutritional benefit to organic produce. It's not 'healthier'. There are flavor differences (not always for the better, but sometimes, sure) and differences in production, but not nutritionally better for you.

Date: 2009-08-28 06:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] astaria51.livejournal.com
To be fair, I was trying to say I ate any vegetables, not organic vegetables (although I do try to pick up stuff at farmer's markets, because they often ARE cheaper even when they are organic) - and veggies have some crucial vitamins and minerals like B and C and iron.

The secondary problem to this is that the cheapest kind of veggies, canned vegetables, are really sapped of a lot of their vitamins, so they're losing a lot of their worth in a diet, especially since it's unlikely someone's going to throw canned peas and carrots in a salad and cooking doesn't help with the vitamins.

But you do make a good point that the superexpensive veggies to get don't have to be the ones you buy.

Date: 2009-08-28 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lunamorgan.livejournal.com
That actually depends on the fruit/vegetable in question. Studies have shown that some foods, such as strawberries, produce more antioxidants and other beneficial chemicals and proteins when they are grown organically because while they are good for us, they also fend off certain types of insects and parasites. So, actually, some organic products are nutritionally better because the produce has been forced to fight attacking creatures themselves rather than having it done for them with pesticides.

Date: 2009-08-28 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lovesongwriter.livejournal.com
There's multiple studies done in the psychology community about preferential treatment of thin vs fat. It even comes across in when choosing for job applicants and when to decide who moves up in the job ladder.

It's everywhere and there's totally thin privileged. Plus, bonus classism! Cheapest foods are usually the unhealthiest. If you're living on EBT, health food seems out of reach. Plus how much HFCS we pump into everything.

Date: 2009-08-29 03:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nathan-is.livejournal.com
That was a wonderful response, very articulate and intelligent. I hope the original poster learned something from it.

Date: 2009-08-29 07:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] acroamatica.livejournal.com
From mostly the other end of the bell curve - there is absolutely such a thing as thin privilege, up until the point where you start to look like a lawnchair, and then most right-thinking humans recoil and ask you if you wouldn't like some whipped cream. Unfortunately, the only people who aren't punished for their natural looks are those 5'10, 120lb, D-cup women you mentioned above (and heaven forbid that 120lbs includes actual muscle bulk, like what I acquire by riding a bike, or that those D-cups should ever need to be shoved into a sports bra). I object to the fact that I cannot escape punishment for my body type without constant low-grade starvation. But I guess I should consider myself lucky that if I'm willing to endure living on spinach salads and black tea, I actually can pass for "fashionably thin"... if that's luck. I think, if it is, I'd rather have chocolate.

Date: 2009-08-29 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] astaria51.livejournal.com
This is a really good point, and thanks for making it. You're right, being "too thin" or not the right kind of thin, or thin but proportioned in a non-stereotypical manner, is punishable as well.

Wow, our society is messed up.

Chocolate fixes all evils? :P Unless you ask my roommmates. Both my beffie and my girlfriend were somehow born without the chocolate gene.

Date: 2009-08-31 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] techieratwtape.livejournal.com
And is it really more healthy to be thinner - no matter what? Or is this all just about what's beautiful?

In some cases yes and some case no. It depends on the individual's body. Personally, my weight tends to fluxuate around a ten pound mark over the course of a year. Much of that depends on my physical activity, diet and mood. If I'm on my feet for eight hours a day, I devolop more muscle and burn more calories than I do at my current desk job.
So yes, in some cases it is healthier to be thin, but that depends upon what is thin for your body. Currently I weigh 130 at 5'6", I used to be 120. I realize I can't go back down to that weight because it causes health problems for me. In the opposite side of the specturum there are certin diseases that are associated with obesity such as heart disease, Type II Diabetes and so on. Mind you corrolation does not cause causation.

As a classics major, your mention of thiness being a current fad rang true. Ancient cultures liked their women plump and pale. It showed that your family had enough $$ to where you could stay inside and have leisure activities. Tan and thin were signs of poverty.

That's all for now, lunch break is over.

Date: 2009-09-10 09:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] portiaeins.livejournal.com
Can vegetables, a dozen packs of ramen noodles and a pack of processed bologna with the cheapest bread on the shelf (not whole wheat, most often) last a whole lot longer and cost a whole lot less than fresh food and meats, and you get more of it when you are trying to scrape the barrel between pay checks. And I don't know how many smug "just eat healthy food!" proponents have been shocked when I've told them that it's damn hard for poor people to afford healthy food. And all these examples of "you can do it too!" people would be a lot more convincing if most of them didn't gain it all back after a year or two. I don't keep up with Oprah or have anything against her, but if that wealthy and motivated chick can't help but yo-yo again and again over all of these years, try to tell me that success at weight loss isn't a crap shoot and that everyone can do it "if they just try hard enough!" -- sheesh.
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