NEW VLOG. Thin Privilege.
By Melissa A. Fabello
For Miss Representation
This month, Melissa A. Fabello for Miss Representation, discusses thin privilege — what it IS, but also what it ISN’T. So what are some examples of thin privilege? And how can being thin be used against you? Find out.
First off: the genetic basis of body size (77% hereditary) is totally ignored. Most fat people are “born fat” just as most tall people are “born tall.” Thanks.
I also find it annoying that the vlogger gets irritated by people pointing out her thin privilege. That’s what happens when you have privilege. Deal with it, or don’t claim to be an ally. Acknowledging your thin privilege doesn’t mean from then on you’ll be perfect at recognizing every instance of your privilege. When a fat person is saying, “Hey, why are you, a thin person, talking about fat oppression/thin privilege without acknowledging all the work done by fat people on the subject?” then you flubbed, and you need to deal with it or stop talking about this shit and expect to be respected by the fat rights community. And if you don’t care about being respected by the fat rights community? Then you aren’t a fat ally, and you aren’t “body positive.” So there’s that.
Further: I’m sick of thin people being the spokespeople for my fat issues. It bothers the fuck out of me that thin people are taken more seriously than fat people regarding fat issues, especially if we dare to talk about our own fucking health or our own experiences of discrimination. Don’t believe me? Read this (and soak up some delicious irony while you do).
So yeah, if you haven’t guessed already, I’m taking serious umbrage to this video. But continuing on.
The vlogger goes on to conflate thin privilege with beauty privilege.
No. Hell no. They’re two separate things. “Ugly” thin people are still privileged over fat people in general. There isn’t a UI (Ugly Index) used to deny medical procedures and immigration to “ugly” people. There isn’t an explicit “War on Ugliness.” There isn’t a “Let’s Get Beautiful!” program being run by the White House. Airlines don’t have “Person of Ugly Appearance” policies. “Ugly” people aren’t being blamed for world hunger, global warming, and the collapse of the global economy. Yes, beauty privilege is a thing. But thin privilege is not a subset of beauty privilege.
Yes, modern beauty standards have conflated being fat with being ugly. But that’s a side effect of fat discrimination and oppression, not its main driver.
And no, the “tables” are not “being turned” against thin people. Guess what tiny percentage of the population still dominates the entire fucking media, including movies, magazines, tv shows? If you answered “The thinnest percentage of the population!” you’re right! Gold star. And you know what? That state of affairs isn’t changing yet, and it’s not going to change any time soon, if ever. So come back when the tables have actually “turned.”
Also — “Bitch, slut, spoiled” — are thrown around with respect to fat bodies, too. Google “fat bitch,” “fat slut,” and “greedy fat chick” for me. I’ll wait.
Fat people are seen as universally mean, “easy”/desperate, and greedy/lazy/overindulged. I’ve heard of the “mean girls” phenomenon in high school, and we can get into a deep conversation about this, but IMHO sexism (namely, the rank objectification of women, in this case being acted out in the exaggerated way teens often employ as they’re learning to navigate their world) is what drives this phenomenon. Not “thin-shaming.”
Further, further: You mention two “thin-shaming” phrases I’ve heard: “real women have curves” (which is, again, backlash, not thin-shaming in a vacuum), and “only dogs like bones” (which seems like backlash from folks who like women who are routinely policed to only find thin women attractive). I hear these talked about a lot by proponents of skinny-shaming theory.
Do you know how many fat-shaming phrases there are out there? I’ll give you a hint: When I was a kid some relative of mine had an ENTIRE BOOK of fat jokes. An entire book. An. Entire. Book. That was before the so-called “obesity epidemic.” I mean, for fuck’s sake, there’s like an infinite number of “Your mama’s so fat” jokes ALONE.
These “thin-shaming” phrases are a drop in the fucking ocean of what fat people (and other marginalized groups) experience. Yeah, they suck, and let’s talk about where skinny-shaming comes from: Fat oppression and the privileging of thinness produces envy of thin privilege, which (regrettably) can be expressed as jealousy and misplaced blame of random thin people for fat hate and oppression. But let me be clear: “thin-shaming” is a product of thinness being privileged.“Thin-shaming” — in modern times and especially in the Western context — doesn’t exist without fat hate.
(as an aside: shaming needs to have some kind of cultural stigma associated with it, some societal OOMPH to move out of the realm of “insult” to “shame.” That is, “shame” isn’t defined by the reaction, it’s defined by the action. Being thin, even extremely thin, isn’t culturally stigmatized. So insulting someone’s thin body is many things, and can result in a thin person justifiably feeling bad, but “thin-shaming” is not a standalone phenomenon and thus does not merit a phrase that compares it to societal discrimination)
Continuing on: the last two minutes of the 6 1/2 minute video are dedicated to this whole overblown concept of “thin-shaming,” with thinly (ha!) veiled blame being placed on fat acceptance blogs being too zealous or something. Which, as explained above, is not where “thin-shaming” comes from.
I’m really uncomfortable with how this feels like the victims of oppression — in this case, fat people — are being blamed for reacting to the hatred they endure all the fucking time. “Thin-shaming” — to the extent that it exists — is not the fault of fat acceptance or body positivity blogs. Also: VENTING IS NOT SKINNY-SHAMING. You don’t have a whole fucking culture pointing the dogs of fat war at you. Yes, thin people get shit, especially thin women. But while thin and fat women are both subject to sexism, fat women have an intersecting point of marginalization which greatly exacerbates the sexism they endure. I would love for thin people to acknowledge this more generally, but I think the universe will go inert before that happens.
In conclusion (tldr;) — This video annoys the fuck out of me. I take umbrage to its defensive tone, and especially that it’s a thin person talking about thin privilege without acknowledging that fat people who experience the lack of thin privilege every minute of their damn day are much better equipped to talk about thin privilege than she is.* A thin vlogger takes it upon herself to define HER OWN PRIVILEGE, set its boundaries, then go on a “thin-shaming” spiel for 30% of the video. I’m not impressed.
In short: This video is thin privilege.
*A marginalized group, by its lack of privilege, is always better educated on privilege than a privileged group, who regardless of how hard and long they ally aren’t entirely aware of just how much of their life is made easier by their privilege. This is why marginalized folks tell privileged folks to shut the hell up and let them speak. Not because we hate you. But because 1) your voice is already too damn loud anyway, and 2) we know more about this shit than you do.
ATL laying the truth down.