Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Examples of Thin Privilege

How Thin and Average-Sized People are afforded privileges in a fatphobic society:

1. If I walk slow or choose to take the elevator/escalator people assume I might be tired/have had a bad day and not that it’s because I am unfit & unhealthy.
2. Doctors don’t chalk up every symptom I have to my size and present weight loss as a panacea.
3. I won’t pay more for health insurance because of my size.
4.If I am in a romantic relationship with a person of the same sex it’s not assumed that it’s because I “can’t get a man” or “can’t get a woman.”
5. I can eat in public without people judging my food choices. Likewise I can be pretty assured that no one behind me at the grocery store is looking at what I buy to “see what makes me so fat.”
6. If I have a fat child people don’t immediately blame me for foisting my “bad eating habits” off on him/her.
7. I am paid more than a fat employee doing the same job.
8. I can be assured of seeing people my size in popular media (tv, magazines, etc.) If I am an actor I can usually be up for meaningful lead roles rather than the “comical sidekick” or be otherwise unrestricted in terms of what parts I’m allowed to play.
9. My size is not a consideration in my hiring process. I don’t have to fear being fired due to my size. I do not have to worry about being told that my size constitutes having an “unprofessional appearance.”
10. I can shop in most stores and find clothes in my size.
11. I don’t pay extra for my clothes because of my size.
12. I can be fit or pretty or healthy or a vegetarian or smell nice or keep a clean home and not be looked at some wacky exception to some rule about what people my size are “supposed to be like.”
13. I am never asked to speak for people “my size.”
14. When a person flirts with me I don’t have to worry that they’re doing it to have “good politics” and can genuinely assume it’s because they find me attractive.
15. I do not have to deal with people who fetishize me because of my size.
16. I am not asked to pay for two airplane seats. Or two train seats. Or two bus seats. Though often cramped, I generally fit into most places.
17. If I sit down on a crowded subway train, I do not get sneers from fellow passengers.
18. My size communicates very little to most people and is value neutral. That is, most people don’t assume anything about my values, morals, etc. because of my size.
19. When I go to an amusement park I don’t have to worry about fitting into rides. When I book a hotel room I don’t immediately think about how big the bathroom is. When I go to a restaurant or movie theatre or concert hall I can be reasonably sure that I’ll fit & be comfortable in their seats.
20. I am not used as a medical scapegoat because of my size. Medical professionals generally treat me with respect and believe me when I say that I eat healthy and exercise. Furthermore, if I require immediate medical attention I can be reasonably sure that an ambulance, an operating table, a gurney, an MRI chamber and other critical pieces of medical equipment will accommodate someone of my size.


  1. I don't know if you wanted us to post on this but reading this made me think about my personal life. I used to be a size zero and weighed at most 110lbs. I then went on a medicine that made me gain weight rapidly and am now a size 8 and weigh 150lbs, no more then 3 months later. I never realized how privileged I was by my size until I didn't have it anymore. I have people ask me if I am pregnant or due soon, I have lost my self confidence, and I find it difficult to find clothes that fit. I think we often forget about our fat phobia.

  2. Miranda: yes, indeed! It is one of the forgotten forms of prejudice. It has really impacted my life as well, as I have gained weight in my 30s. Although I like the anthology we will be reading next week, I wish there was a whole section on sizeism/weightism/fatphobia because it is becoming a bigger and bigger social problem in American culture.

  3. i like this article. I never gave much thought what the perfect size really mean to me. Never thought how privileged i am. I am not over weight so i think i have an advantage in a sense and well also according to this article.

  4. I was watching Taboo on the National Geographic Channel. I agree that people who are considered to be fat are mistreated in this society. In Taboo they don't suggest or blame but they say that maybe the reason for our continued obesity epidemic is the fact that people constantly nag and belittle those they consider to be fat. I am a big person. Let's just say I wish I was a size 12...and I get crap almost every day. Its not always words, sometimes it is looks or policies that tell me I am too big and could use a good work out routine. I laugh at a lot of it but some of it is hurtful. Men, mostly teen to late twenties, are not that nice to "fat" people. Not always because of what they say, they give looks and glares like I have offended them. It's like young men want to see women they want to be with sexually and thats it. Now that is not true for all. Just to clarify.

  5. I actually have mixed feelings about this section- and at risk of throwing myself under the bus- there is a scientific basis connecting weight and medical risk.

    I've never been anything but living in the obesity category since I was in grade school and I'm comfortable with that, but I also understand that lifestyle choices I make will impact my life and health insurance rates just like the car and driving choices I make influence my car insurance rates.

    Being a 16 year old boy warrants higher car insurance rates than a 16 year old girl, and it isn't because Geico is passing judgement on your son it is because statistically young men result in more high cost claims. Likewise, obesity is linked to increased medical expenses therefore the healthcare organization as a whole isn't passing judgement on you.

    I agree that sizeism/weightism/fatphobia is becoming a greater social problem and that people of size are the largest growing oppressed demographic but it is important to differentiate between thin privilege and health risk. Arguably one fuels the other and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Invariably it will be an uncomfortable struggle as the healthcare debate rages on.

    My point is I agree that prejudicial decision making based on weight absolutely impacts power and privilege. But if Passenger A and passenger B both pay the same amount for a seat on the plane but Passenger B can't sit in his because of the size of Passenger A...who has the power and privilege?

    Must also consider that the uncommonly thin population would argue weightism too!

  6. It's too bad that weight is such a prevelant fear/issue for pretty much ever girl i know. Especially us girls in college, dreading that we might gain the 'freshmen fifteen'. Most people i know gained weight during college, and most girls I know are at least somewhat insecure about their weight. Even my mother, who recently had back surgery and can no longer work out which caused her to gain weight, constantly worries about weight gain, even though her and my dad have been married for 25 years. I always say to her as long as he loves you who cares, you're still beautiful, but I think it goes deeper than that, which is sad. Nobody should be defined by their physical appearance.