Thin privilege according to Urban Dictionary:
The concept where…Those too lazy to change themselves will instead blame society for the fact that they're missing out on all the best parts of life.
In theory, this is the "privilege" that thin people earn for being thin…it misconstrues the definition of privilege. Privileges are given, not earned, and the recipients and those without them can do nothing to change them. Thin privilege…is often worked for by people who would otherwise be fat but instead eat right and exercise. Therefore, thin privilege doesn't actually exist.
While these definitions fail to reveal the complexities of how weight and health fit into our societal view, many people would agree with them wholeheartedly. In a society where the word “thin” has become (incorrectly) synonymous with “healthy," being fat is thought to be a choice that lazy people make, while being thin is the result of hard work and healthy choices.
A comment on an article called “Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege”, agreed with Urban Dictionary. The commenter, who we will call John, received 72 likes for saying, “I am not going to acknowledge ‘thin privilege’, when I CHOOSE a lifestyle that is scientifically proven to lead to a longer, healthier life with less disease and health issues. I acknowledge my white privilege, but I had no choice over that. I DO have a choice on if I don't exercise, eat poorly, become obese, and then have negative health consequences.”
John’s remark follows the standard argument against the existence of thin privilege; thin people deserve better treatment from society, because they make the conscious effort to live an active and healthy lifestyle.
Except this isn’t always the case.
John may choose to be healthy, but not every thin person does. Thin people are absolutely capable of being unhealthy. With fast metabolisms, it is possible to be unhealthy without significant weight gain. And I often find that, despite the claims of people like John, thin people are, in reality, excused from needing to be fit.
When someone thin acknowledges how unhealthy they’ve been, a common response is, "but you’re tiny, you don't need worry about it!” When mentioning to a coworker that I wanted to start running again, since I hadn’t exercised at all in months, she said, "you don't need to run, you're so skinny!" This woman also points out how sad it is to see “heavy” children.
I wasn’t receiving privilege because I worked so hard to stay healthy. I was explicitly stating that I hadn’t been making healthy decisions. But, since my body still looked like what society views as healthy, I was excused from needing to put in the work. Unless I started gaining weight, of course.
Just like not all thin people are hardworking and healthy, not all fat people are lazy and unhealthy. There are many factors involved in weight gain that go beyond our own choices. While being fat can be a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, it can also be due to genetics, pre-existing conditions, and disease. People who are overweight, regardless of the reason, are discriminated against in multiple ways, and this discrimination forces them to “miss out” on parts of life that have nothing to do with activity or health.
People of a certain weight often have their medical issues taken less seriously or are considered less qualified for a job. They often have to buy their clothes online since most stores don’t carry their sizes. They have little to no (or largely negative) media representation of their body type. People of a certain weight receive constant judgment and criticism from those who know them and those who don’t.
Putting all facts aside, let’s pretend for a second that health could always be determined by weight. Let's pretend that we are all born with the same body type and metabolism and that weight could only be affected by nutrition and physical activity. Let's pretend that everyone has equal access to healthy resources. Even then, why should one’s weight make them more or less worthy of jobs, friends, easy access to clothes, media representation, and so on? Ultimately, one’s health is one’s personal choice. People can drink, and even smoke to a certain degree, without facing constant social discrimination, despite the health risks involved. So why should someone’s decision to eat what she wants or to not exercise be held against her in nearly all aspects of society?
Of course, there are potential risks with living an unhealthy lifestyle, and so I think that health information and resources should be easily accessible to all members of society, regardless of class. And this information should be targeted at people of all sizes, not just overweight people, as people of any size are capable of being unhealthy.
In the end, what you decide to do with this information is your choice. The amount of space we claim in this world does not define us, it does not say anything about our personalities, and it certainly does not make us any more or less worthy of bearing the title of human being.
Sarah Cummings is sophomore creative writing major from New York. She has an obsession with all things cats, an addiction to her Netflix account, a love for Disney Channel Original Movies, and a bad habit of thinking up stories much more often than she writes them down. You can find Sarah on Facebook.
Images: everydayfeminism.com, saradelgrossi.files.wordpress.com