Thin privilege, fat shaming and why it’s all bullshit.

Posted: June 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

There’s a word/concept that I see being thrown around every so often; thin privilege. Or, if not ‘thin privilege’ the ‘fat shaming’. It’s a curious concept and links in with the idea of ‘privilege’ as a whole. I’ve already done a blog on the concept of privilege, so hopefully won’t be re-treading old ground by going over this but, from what I assume, being thin automatically equals ‘privilege’.

I think it’s worth noting I’ve just ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut before writing this article. Irony abounds. I fucking love pizza!

I wasn’t going to write this blog, it’s not high up on my ‘to-do’ list of subjects I’d like to talk about, but within about ten minutes of typing ‘thin privilege’ into Google I couldn’t not write it. Some of the stuff I found during my research was so brilliant that loads and loads of previous experiences, both personal and not, came swimming into my brain and to not write them down would be a waste of a good topic.

Let’s get the word ‘privilege’ out the way first. I’ve already written about how I think the whole concept of ‘privilege’ is not as clear cut as it is presented. We are told that men are privilege, particularly white men, while women are not. I believe that to be untrue. The fact that women generally receive prison sentences that are about 30% lighter than men for the same crime is an example of female privilege. Privilege is not something that can be applied to entire demographic. Yes, it could be said that white men perhaps have an easier time when it comes to being subject to racist abuse, but I could also suggest that ‘black man privilege’ is the automatic assumption that black men have large cocks. Yes, it’s a crass and unnecessary comparison, but that’s the entire point. I, as a white man, have yet to feel any kind of benefit from my supposed inherent white male privilege.

Being thin is not to be inherently privileged; it is just one possible type in a long list of possible types of privilege. Do thin people get treated differently just for being thin? Is there a natural assumption that thin people are fit and healthy, while fat people are inherently lazy and unhealthy? It depends who you talk to. I’m not trying to say ‘get over yourselves fat people’, I understand what it’s like to be overweight and to feel like you’re being judged. I’m simply saying that thin people are not always healthy, and fat people aren’t always unhealthy.

However, that’s not me excusing poor lifestyles and diets as a reason to be overweight, just that I know there are certain conditions that are difficult to live with. Overactive thyroids for example. I also went to University with a woman who had celiac disease and she said it made it difficult for her to lose weight. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know, but the point is that there are certain instances where losing weight is difficult.

Perhaps before proceeding with the main bulk of this article I should give a little bit of background, lest you think I’m just another privileged person trying to ‘fatsplain’ how it is to be a ‘person of size’ (yes, that term seriously exists!)

I’m 27 years old. I have battled a lot with my weight since I was 15. Not nearly as badly as some people have, but my weight has fluctuated massively over the last 12 years. I’ve been thin(ner), I’ve been fat(ter). Currently I’m carrying too much weight. I haven’t trained or done any regular exercise since I started my new job in September 2013. Before that I’d had a solid period of 2 and a half years where I was on it pretty much every day. When I was 16 I was playing rugby twice a week, training twice a week and going to the gym whenever I wasn’t involved with rugby. I stopped playing rugby when I was 19 and gained a lot of weight. Between the ages of 19 and 27 my weight went up and down on a regular basis.

Why am I telling you this? One reason is because I don’t want people to think I don’t know what I’m talking about. The other reason is because I currently feel horrible about myself. I feel disappointed that I’ve let 2 years of work go to waste, I’m disappointed that I have to start almost at square one again and I’m sick of hiding myself away when I go outside because I’m ashamed of my body.

Yes, I’m ashamed of my body at the moment. Thing is, I don’t blame anyone else. It’s my fault I’m the weight I’m at. It’s my fault I’m unhappy, it’s my fault I stopped going to the gym. It’s nobody elses fault at all. To blame them for my feelings of discomfort and shame is to move the responsibility from me and onto them. By blaming other people for ‘fat-shaming’ or putting the strange looks, the sniggers, the disapproving glances down to ‘thin privilege’ only serves to blind me to the one true cause of my weight problems: me.

So where’s this all come from? Why have I decided to write a blog entry out of the blue on fat shaming and thin privilege? Well, it’s because of moronic shit like this:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/11/20-examples-of-thin-privilege/

and this:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/badknees_zpsb5f6f91b.png

and this:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/beinginvisisble_zps069103d3.png

and this:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/motherlylove_zps68c80c1c.png

and this:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/IMG_4002_zps050005a2.jpg

and this:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/IMG_4003_zps01a8d1db.jpg

 

There’s a whole other blog just waiting to be written on what the concept of ‘normal’ actually means, but the main thing I take away from all of the above links is the overinflated sense of victimhood. Yes, it’s horrible when you’re fat to have those looks from thin people. It’s horrible that people make assumptions about your lifestyle, it’s horrible that people make snap judgements about the exercise, or lack thereof, that you undertake.

But, do you know what? People are cunts. They really are.  By letting those comments affect you all you do is hand power to the people saying them. By being affected by people making crass and rude comments you’re proving that, somewhere deep inside, you crave acceptance. Acceptance that you aren’t getting. This is why I don’t really have a problem with offensive jokes. Words only hold as much power as we give them. By letting jokes, or insults, affect us we are giving those words the power that the speaker wants us to give them. In the same way, being fat is something you either like or dislike. IF you genuinely don’t give a shit then insults won’t bother you, if you’re genuinely happy then you don’t give the words the power that allows them to hurt you. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of this argument.

Perhaps, and this is a long shot, the ‘triggering’ you feel when someone gives a disapproving glance, or a mean comment, or a sly dig is simply because you agree with what they’re saying. Somewhere, deep down inside, you feel ashamed, you feel disappointed, you feel like a lesser person, and there’s some desire to change. By putting up the barrier of ‘being triggered’ you are allowing yourself to become victimised, you are giving those words the power to hurt you, which is exactly what the speaker of those words meant.

I get called out a lot for being ginger. I always have, whether it was morons at school who thought it was funny, or whether it’s my dad and his gentle ribbing, it’s always been part of my life. If I wanted to, I could let it affect me. I don’t for one simple reason: it’s true. Unfortunately, genetics played its part in my development and decided to give me ginger hair. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it (save dying my hair, which is ridiculous considering I have ginger eyebrows too) so to allow words to affect me becomes a pointless exercise, only resulting in a sense of entrenched victimhood.

“Oi, ginger pubes!” Well, you have brown hair and, I assume, brown pubes, why does it seem like such an unworldly concept that my pubes would be the same colour as my hair? My arm hair is ginger too. And my leg hair. Hell, if you’re that bothered I’ll friggin’ show them to you, it’s really not a problem.

All pube issues aside, there is, in my opinion, a sense of victimhood on some of the above examples of ‘thin privilege’. There’s also some pretty dangerous ways of thinking. Not dangerous in that they could hurt other people, dangerous in that they will hurt the people speaking them.

I don’t want to focus on every single one of the 22 ‘thin privilege’ points in the above article, but I do want to focus on a couple of them (the numbers below do not correspond to the numbers in the article). I also want to talk about the concept of feminism and how that plays its part:

  1. You’re not assumed to be unhealthy just because of your size.

I’m positive that in some cases this is 100% true. However, talking from personal experience I know that’s not always the case. As I’ve mentioned I used to play rugby. I’m never been skinny, I’ve always carried extra weight, but I used to be extremely fit. So fit that, one time, an ex-footballer joined our school rugby team because we were short on numbers. After one half of rugby he was, as the phrase goes, ‘blowing out his arse’. For anyone who hasn’t encountered that expression before, it means knackered. I remember him turning to me at half time (him being a skinny footballer, me being a chubby rugby player) and saying “thank God it’s half time, I don’t know how you do it!” The assumption that I shouldn’t be able to last 40 minutes of rugby due to my size is, I think, entirely plausible. I’m sorry, but generally speaking, overweight people aren’t healthy. Sure, there are some exceptions, but I’ve seen enough fat people blowing out their arse after walking up a set of stairs to know that their lifestyles aren’t beneficial.

On the flipside, there have been numerous times when my family and I have been watching professional rugby and mocked players due to their small size. Not in any derogatory way, but there’s a lot of “he needs to go and eat a hamburger” and “I hope he doesn’t get tackled by a fat lad, he’ll get broken in half.” Point is, assumptions about health are not reserved solely for fat people.

  1.  Your size is probably not the first thing people notice about you

Well I’ll be damned if you shame me for noticing someone who’s the size of 2 people combined.

  1. Your health insurance rates are not higher than everyone else’s.

I’m going to assume this is an American article because a) it’s on everydayfeminism.com and b) in the UK we have this wonderful thing called the NHS. The NHS gets a lot of bad press because it’s massively in debt and people seem to be constantly dying and shit but, personally, I’ve had a lot of dealings with the NHS in my life and they’ve been brilliant in every single one. This isn’t going to be about the benefits or hindrances of the NHS, so please don’t think I’m a paid spokesperson or anything.

Simple fact is, if you’re going to need more hospital treatment than the average person (average, not ‘normal’) then I don’t see why it’s a problem that the health insurance costs more. Like I say, we have the NHS in England, but even that isn’t without its problems. There have been cases recently where hospitals have had to spend money on resources to deal with super fat people. This ranges from reinforced CAT scanners, to double width wheelchairs. The point is, being fat does cost more when it comes to frequency and length of treatments.

There’s a lot of victimhood in the above points too:

  • You can expect to find your clothing size sold locally.

 

  1. You’re not the brunt of jokes for countless numbers of comedians.
  • The media doesn’t describe your body shape as part of an “epidemic”.
  • You can choose to not be preoccupied with your size and shape because you have other priorities without being judged.

 

Do you know how you fix the problem of not being able to find clothing locally? Lose weight.

Want to wear the latest styles? Lose weight.

Don’t want to be the brunt of jokes for comedians? (because comedians only ever insult fat people) Lose weight.

Don’t want to be part of the ‘epidemic’ (you know, that epidemic that involves people fucking dying and shit)? Lose weight.

If that sounds like I’m being harsh, that I’m discounting those people with genuine medical conditions, then I’m sorry. I’m not discounting those people with genuine medical conditions. I know that they are out there, I know that people suffer from them. I’m talking about the people who would rather blame others for their situations than look at themselves and identify the problems within their own lives.

I’m talking about this kind of stuff:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/badknees_zpsb5f6f91b.png

My body is absolutely exhausted. I’m 27 and it’s truly in pieces. Yes, I played rugby for 9 years during the most sensitive period of physical development (even longer if you count recreationally) but I can’t lay the blame for my body solely on that. It hasn’t helped, anyone who’s played rugby at any level of competitiveness knows the toll it takes. It’s the sport of rugby coupled with my weight that has destroyed my body (ok, destroyed is rather hyperbolic).

My knees are gone, my ankles are gone (left one in particular), my back’s gone, my neck’s gone, I’ve had problems with my jaw, every now and then I have shoulder problems. Yes, rugby has played its part, but I honestly think my weight has caused more problems. The constant yo-yoing, losing weight then gaining weight, putting stress of my joints, then taking stress off my joints only to put it back on them again.

I’m not saying that the anecdote in the above picture never applies, I’m just saying that, once again, discounting the impact your weight has is just denying you yourself have to hold some responsibility.

However, that all paled into insignificance when I read this:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/IMG_4003_zps01a8d1db.jpg

This is where it gets really dangerous. Not only is this one of the biggest examples of outright victimhood and narcissism I’ve ever read, it’s also the type of thinking that will lead someone to an early grave. The suggestion that congratulating someone on their weight loss becomes is somehow ‘triggering’ is absolutely absurd. It falls right smack in the ‘my emotions’ section of the ‘stop being a fucking baby’ handbook.

There are a couple of key quotes:

made me feel awful about my size.”

As I’ve said, if that’s the case then maybe it’s not the people ‘triggering’ you that have the problem; maybe it’s you.

“See, by praising someone for losing weight, you’re indirectly fuelling fat phobia.”

No, by praising someone for losing weight you are congratulating and acknowledging their achievement, you are saying ‘well done’. It’s not a hard concept, the fact that this particular woman managed to twist the conversation to be about her when it really wasn’t shows how much of a victim she sees herself as.

Again, if you feel triggered because another person is congratulated on their weight loss then maybe the problem isn’t the person who’s lost the weight, maybe it’s the person staring back at you when you look in the mirror.

So, why am I writing this article, and what has it got to do with feminism? Well, the fact that the ‘thin privilege’ list was posted on everydayfeminism.com proves that they are furthering this idea that ‘big is beautiful’ and ‘you don’t have to be skinny to be healthy’. I disagree, I don’t necessarily think that ‘fat-shaming’ is a positive thing to do, but at the same time I can see why people do it. I’m fat, I hate my body,I hate what I’ve become, I hate what I’ve let happen to my once-fit body. I don’t like to be called names, I don’t like to be insulted, I don’t like the insinuation that I’m lazy because I’m fat, but I sure as hell don’t blame people for saying those things, I blame myself for giving them something to insult.

I do find motivation is a big factor as well. When I started my new job I lost mine, it’s a simple as that. I went without the gym for 2 weeks and just couldn’t get back into the routine.

Now, though? Now, I’m developing a crush on a girl across the pond. It doesn’t matter that we’ll probably never meet, it doesn’t matter that we come from different walks of life. All that matters is I want to do something with my life, I don’t want to feel this way anymore, I want to be like I was 2 years ago; fit and strong and happy.

Sob story over.

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Comments
  1. Chris says:

    *Slow Claps*

    This is perhaps the best blog article I have ever read. You nail each point, and have a great argument.

    I salute you, sir, and good luck with the weight loss.

  2. […] Thin privilege, fat shaming and why it’s all bullshit. June 8, 2014 […]

  3. mymanandme03 says:

    What a wonderful article. I couldn’t have put it any better! Hope you lose the weight and feel better about yourself soon : )

  4. mymanandme03 says:

    Couldn’t have put it any better. Hope you’ll lose the weight and feel better about yourself : )

  5. Jen says:

    THIS. Thank you.

  6. mymanandme03 says:

    What is alarming is the mentality nowadays concerning anything mentioning fat or weight. Nobody wants to own up to anything. In this way, they deny themselves help when people are willing to lend them that helping hand.
    .

  7. Chris Holt says:

    This is an old article but it still shows up on google search so….

    It seems a little unfair to ask people to just not be bothered by hurtful shit that people say about them. I agree that we should all strive to be less tethered to other people’s attitudes about ourselves, but it’s not just a switch people can turn on and off. And some people are ostracized because of their weight, so that creates a catch 22, doesn’t it? And I’m sorry to armchair quarterback here, but you call the people who teased you for being a ginger in high school, 9 years before the time you wrote this article, “morons.” I’m guessing you might be underselling how much their teasing bothered you.

    Also, you ask people to just “try harder” when it comes to losing weight, but you make an exception for people who have a “real medical condition”. I think part of the point of the body shaming concept is that, just like you point out, fat people can be healthy, so most of the time people try to lose weight to fit an aesthetic standard. Health is often a secondary goal. This is, I think, another motivation of the body shaming idea is that if there was more acceptance of people of different shapes and sizes then people wouldn’t need to work themselves silly just to look a certain way. Some people need to work hard to gain weight, some people need to work hard to lose weight. It’s only because of societal attitudes that we force the people who are naturally heavier to work their asses off or face ridicule.

    You end your article by acknowledging that you are bothered by the treatment you get when you are fat, but you think it’s okay for people to make those jokes that bother you? That seems so bizarre. Some people are born handsome or pretty, some people are born ugly; but wouldn’t you agree that it’s fucked up to tease someone for having buck teeth or a recessed chin, or eyes that are too close together? And yet it sounds like you are excusing people to treat others like shit simply because they are genetically predisposed to hang onto fat, because they could try harder to be thinner. Should people with ugly faces be teased until they’ve tried hard enough to save money for plastic surgery? Can you see the parallels?

    Anyways, thanks for your time. Sorry to blow up your shit.

    • johnsalmon86 says:

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. What you have to take into account is that this blog entry is over 2 years old. Potentially, my views will change as I encounter more and more people, contrasting opinions and new research.

      I still stand by a lot of what I say in this article. I can think you’re a moron without it being some deeper sense of torment, I don’t necessarily agree that I’m still harbouring any deep hurt or anything.

      The whole ‘try harder’ thing is for those who use excuse after excuse not to lose weight. ‘It’s too hard’, ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I have a child/children’, ‘It’s too expensive’. I thought it was clear I’m not talking about those who are a few pounds overweight but those who are excessively overweight (like I was when I wrote this) and want everybody else to censor themselves so as not to hurt any feelings. If that wasn’t clear then I apologise.

      Yes, I don’t like it when I get called names or when my weight becomes the butt of a joke, but you also failed to acknowledge the bit where I explain why I don’t believe in censoring their comments – because it’s my fault for letting them hurt me. Since writing this blog, I’ve lost over 4 stone in weight. So no, I don’t think others should be censored from their comments. That doesn’t mean I agree with them, or that I don’t think they’re cunts, just that me being hurt by their comments is as much on me as it is them. Being fat and being ugly are two different things. I can do something about being fat, being ugly is a bit harder to fix on your own.

      Thanks for the comment, I don’t check this blog every day so I apologise that this reply is late.

      • shepd says:

        That’s reasonable, but isn’t it equally reasonable to expect that people don’t blurt out every rude thought that comes to mind? And, on the same topic, those throwing out those insults should be prepared to have some handed back at them. I’ve yet to meet someone perfect!

        Overall, insults just make the world a negative place. Nobody should expect false praise for being fat, but nobody needs taunting about their issues, either.

        I think the fat shaming movement is really just a bunch of lazy folks. Rather than putting in the effort of encouraging improved habits through positive methods, they take the lazy way out and throw out a quick insult. Rather hilarious when the insult is that fat people are lazy and don’t put in effort! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

      • johnsalmon86 says:

        You’re absolutely right, there should be a modicum of respect within each of us that stops us from saying stupid, nasty shit.

        I guess my point is that, while that would be an ideal situation, people are morons who are going to throw around insults to try and get you down. As much as we should be telling people not to behave like cunts, I also think it’s our own prerogative to try and develop a thicker skin when dealing with those types of people.

        It’s a lot easier said than done, I’m aware of that.

        I think fat people can genuinely have issues. Not issues that have caused them to gain the weight, but issues that stop them getting it off. I know, for me, it was because I knew I had a huge journey ahead of me that seemed impossible. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at times: you think you can’t do it so you sabotage yourself in order to prove it. I totally get that. At the same time, there aren’t many others who can break you out of that mindset apart from yourself.

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