What Thin Privilege REALLY Means

The term “thin privilege” has been a hot topic lately, with some very vocal people claiming that it doesn’t exist.

These thin-privilege deniers argue that because some thin people get body-shamed for being *too* thin, and because people in smaller bodies also can (and often do) have body-image issues and insecurities, that being thin isn’t actually a form of unearned cultural privilege.

But here’s the truth: Having thin privilege doesn’t mean that you’ve never had any body-image issues, or that you’ve never struggled with disordered eating, or that you’ve never been bullied or shamed by individual assholes for your size. You can have thin privilege and also hate your body.

Hell, having thin privilege doesn’t even mean that you feel thin—and in fact I’d wager that the vast majority of people in diet culture NEVER feel thin, even those with thin privilege. As the anonymous writer Your Fat Friend brilliantly put it in a recent essay (CW: size and weight numbers, examples of weight stigma) “thinness is always distant, unattainable, a punishing standard that few feel they can meet.”

You can have thin privilege and also hate your body.
— Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN

I know it took me a while to get my head around the term “thin privilege” myself, because I always used to think “thin” was a word reserved for waiflike models, never for someone like me—even though I’ve always lived in a relatively small body.

But like any other kind of privilege, thin privilege actually just means that by virtue of some characteristic of your body—in this case, being below a certain size—you have greater access to resources and face less discrimination in society than people without that characteristic.

People in larger bodies (i.e. people who wear plus sizes) face consistent, systemic oppression—not just body-shaming by a few individual assholes, but an asshole culture that makes it difficult or impossible to find clothes and spaces that fit, healthcare that’s effective and non-discriminatory, equal access to employment, and all of the other basic human rights that we all deserve.

The term “thin privilege” is meant to highlight this systemic disparity, and to call out the fact that dignity and respect and equitable treatment shouldn’t be privileges reserved for smaller-bodied folks at ALL—they should be universal rights afforded to everyone, no matter their size.

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