Thin Privilege and Fat Phobia

I spend a fair amount of time on tumblr, which means that I spend a fair amount of time hearing about thin privilege. At first I was kind of annoyed by this concept (as I think every privileged person is at each new iteration of their privilege), but I have come to understand that there are elements of being overweight that I will never understand, never experience, and that are difficult. I understand that it can affect your job prospects, and that it can affect the way that doctors treat you and diagnose you. I understand that there are difficulties being a fat person that a thin person will never experience.

But there is still something that rubs me the wrong way about many of the examples of thin privilege that people have provided to me. Partially this is because I have an eating disorder, and so it is INCREDIBLY difficult for me to view my size as a privilege, because it has come at the expense of my health, well-being, mental stability, and many of my relationships. But beyond that, many of the examples of “thin privilege” or “fatphobia” that I hear being thrown around seem to me simply to be examples of sexism. For example, many fat women have said that thin women can eat whatever they want without being judged for it. This is patently untrue, as I have been judged for eating anything that appears low-calorie, or as if I’m watching my weight as a thin woman. The problem seems to be that people feel they deserve any say over what women eat because they deserve a say in women’s health or beauty or appearance. I have rarely heard men complain about this same thing, and I have certainly seen thin women judged on their food choices, just like fat women.

I also have heard many fat people say that they have been denied medical treatment because of their size, and told that all they have to do is lose weight. Well even when I was underweight, even when I was severely damaging my health and really truly ill, doctors never looked any further because my size appeared “healthy”. Those standards of weight and size negatively affect everyone involved. They may come down more harshly on those who are fat, but many of those same problems can be traced back to expectations of women’s bodies. In one study, new healthcare professionals even professed more bias and judgment towards individuals with anorexia than they did towards individuals who were overweight or had diabetes. Each is considered a disease in its own way.

Now there absolutely are examples of fatphobia and thin privilege. The attempts to charge more to overweight individuals to fly, or the constant labeling of the “obesity epidemic” spring readily to mind. But I think that many of the problems that overweight individuals face overlap heavily with sexism and general expectations of women’s bodies, and that we should be willing to accept that some of these problems cut all ways and harm EVERYONE. 

(The featured image is me at one of my lowest weights. Lucky me, I got light-headedness and heart palpitations! Remembering that time it’s hard to view my weight as a privilege, but I’m doing my best)