Recognizing Thin Privilege

As a kid, I CRAVED to be thin. Until I enter the later years of college, I was never considered “thin.” Athletic, toned, and, especially when I was a little kid, overweight– but never thin. I would always look at the covers of the magazines my mom would give me and wonder how, even at the age of 6, I was not given the gift of a flat stomach, toned arms, and a fit waist. I glamorized these bodies, even from a young age. They were a ticket to a life that I could only dream about.

I always think that, in the back of my head, I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that perfect body. Especially as a dancer, I was so self conscious about whether my body was toned and not flabby. I even remember my teacher grabbing my lower belly fat, telling me I had to get rid of THAT. Yet, despite all of my attempts to mold my body to how society thought it should look, nothing worked. Slowly, the methods of my fellow dancers to try to maintain their lean figures — usually with casual disdain, withholding from all kinds of food groups — began to seep into me, a porous, chubby little thing. At the pool, I became more and more aware of my rounded face and my definitely not flat stomach. Psychologically, I became so angry at my sister and my cousins, both of whom had the body type I was desperate for. They all looked so cute in their bikinis while I usually looked uncomfortable in surf shirt.

While I did not have the words to describe it, I could never understand why I felt so much shame at my body and how people looked at it, particularly my dance teachers and other girls at school. That shame I felt forced me to abuse every aspect of myself, to try and mold the flesh, the fleshy thighs, and the swollen belly into a societal ideal.

Thinness offers privileges no one speaks of because have to admit we have all bought into it. How many times have you tried something on in a dressing room and have gotten depressed because the item of clothing is too snug? Think about how crazy that is? The fact that you need a bigger size is in no way a judgement of your self worth. Even as a kid, I was so disappointed that I could not fit into the clothing that all of the other girls could. My friends would come to school in Abercrombie, but the pants were too tight, the shirts stretched so thin that they failed to keep their shape, and the dresses barely covered my bum. I could only fit in OshKosh, which was HECK of a lot more comfortable, but was not nearly as cool. As a 10 year old just trying to fit in, it was mortifying.

Even now, I try to talk myself into wearing as little clothing as possible or into as small a size as I can. Now, I have been a 00 before, but for my body type, it was incredibly unnatural for me to be that size. Yet, as disgusting as it is, I have to admit that having a 00 on my tag made me somewhat proud.

I am the first to admit that I am one of the greatest purveyors of body privledge. White and thin, I notice how, especially on social media, I am often viewed as beautiful. And yet, I still have the worst body insecurity.  Every summer, when I try on cute tank tops and short shorts, I find myself grabbing my “rolls” or point to the wrinkles in my thighs. And guys, people say I am tiny, but I still feel this shame I scroll through Instagram and see how my body is DEFINITELY not as toned as everyone else’s.Just a few days ago I walked into Madewell, desperate for some new clothes having not bought any in such a long time. I was feeling fly with a pile of clothes in hand. In the dressing room, with the lighting almost made to shame you, I felt destroyed with my and thick thighs, the glaring light assaulting everything about me. Nothing hung quite right and I walked out wanting to purchase none of the items that I had been eager to buy. None of them fit, I felt weary with my body’s limitations.

Thinking back on this, it bothers me that we connote thinness with a certain brand of easy, carefree beauty, one that is reliably attainable without force or coercion. It bothers me that assumptions about women are viewed solely by her body composition. We have all been brainwashed to think that THINNER EQUALS HEALTHIER. Thinner equals more popular. Thinner equals happier. I can tell you that this is not the case. Looking at the girl in the photo above, she was definitely not happier than the girl writing this post, just because she was thinner.

And yet, society time and again misjudges our friends in marginalized bodies. I can’t tell you how many times I went to a diner and my curvier friend was given a look of disgust for ordering a side of fries or a shake. Or when we went shopping and the shame when my friend would have to ask where the plus sized section was. I cannot blame the waitress or the sales clerk, because thin privilege has permeated the walls of our society. Growing up, I would mimic the television shows I watched. I was captivated by the everyday charm of Phoebe or Rachel, the way they could wield a pizza with such ease, without disclosing their weight concerns or fear of gluten. The Monica fat jokes permeated Friends like a seventh character, perpetuating an idea that Monica’s late-fatness was an accident of her youth. One that she knew better to carry into her adulthood. And while we have characters like Kate Person on This Is Us or Molly from Mike and Molly, the stereotyping still remains.

That chicness is inherent, not calculated, or primed to perfection. Femme bodies are anthologized, fetishized, and glorified, but they are never embraced with a totality of their existence. Or the realities of their quirks, or clumsiness. Let’s be clear, I’m not asking to vilify thinness (as I understand that, for people like me,  it’s their natural bodies, and that should be honored, too). I’m just asking for us, as a society, to talk about thinness as a concept, with transparency. I want all of us to understand that, while Instagram and influencers views thinness as the norm, we have to understand that beauty, fitness, and influence come in all shapes. Just because you don’t have a six pack does not make you less of a person. Especially when for so many of us, our healthiest bodies exist in different shapes. Society’s views of thinness is an imposition. And sometimes a life-threatening one.

It’s also OK if you choose to take certain steps to maintain a certain standard. However,  it’s important to challenge why that standard has been established, and then enforced. Why have we settled on thinness as a main attribute of beauty? And why are thin women given more opportunities than our sisters in marginalized bodies? We all are victims of fat-phobia and societal “ideals” and expectations, regardless of what bodies we choose to live in. We all stand to benefit from taking a look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and the message society gives to us about our bodies and self worth.

One comment

  1. super great...... loved it

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