Privilege… it’s something everyone has in some form or another*, but nobody wants to admit.
I have a lot of it in my personal situation.
I am a (lower) middle class cisgendered** straight white lady who lives in a medium sized city in the US.
That’s a whole passel of privilege right there, but anyone living that life might not notice it, because I was pretty much BORN INTO all of those things. And when something “is what it is”, it’s often not noticed as a privilege at all. Indoor plumbing… not too many people think of that as a “privilege” – but just ask someone who lives without it.
HOWEVER! There are some privileges that one DOES notice. Because they can come and go. And what I want to focus on today is a privilege that I have not always had, and that is the privilege of being thin in the United States.
I was a chubby kid (well, not really, but enough so that I was mocked by the skinny kids for not being skinny). I was a fat teen. I was an extremely fat young adult. I was a not-quite-deathfat-but-could-be-mistaken-for-it 27 year old.
Not getting into all of the issues behind that journey…
Anywho. The point is, I lived a long time without this thin privilege.
So now that I am identified in this society on sight as a thin, not fat person, I have found that there are an awful lot of things that I can do and take for granted now that I used to have to worry about and plan for as a fat person.
Things that thin people take for granted that are actually Thin Privilege…
- I can go into any restaurant and not worry about whether the seating will accommodate me.
- I can plan an airline trip without worrying about anything more than my carry-on fitting in the overhead bin.
- If I lose my luggage, as long as I have a credit card, I can pretty much go anywhere (even an airport gift shop!) and grab something to wear to replace what I packed.
- I can go into any store in the mall and pretty much be guaranteed that I could find something to wear.
- I can walk into “The Express” and the sales clerks will actually ask me if there is anything they can help me with and mean it. (Honestly… the first time I went into an Express and this happened to me, I really didn’t know what to think. I had NEVER had an Express employee politely ask if they could help me in all the years I had been going in there with thin friends and relatives. I had NEVER had one of them not either glaze over or actively sneer at me, as though I was sullying their fine store with my presence. Um, I don’t actually buy things there now any more than I used to… because they don’t make clothes for my personality, even though they will now fit my butt (and, also, I do try to steer my $ towards more fat-friendly places)… but I still go there with friends and relatives. The attitude difference is astounding.)
- I can stand right out on the street or in the middle of a mall, and eat a giant ice cream cone, or hot dog, or whatever other food item I chose, and NO ONE is going to stare, point, laugh, or whisper about my choice of comestible.
- I can wear form fitting clothing without people mocking me (at least within earshot).
- Nobody is going to complain to me if I choose to wear a bikini that I am somehow ruining their day.
- Nobody is examining the contents of my shopping cart at the grocery store and acting as the food police if I put some ice cream in it.
- I can walk through a crowded room and not worry if I might have to ask someone to move out of my way. In fact! I can walk through a crowded space and actually touch another person to make them aware of my passing WITHOUT it causing horrified complaints of how dare I displace them with my need to move through the area.
- I could go on, but I think I have made my point.
Going through life as a fat person means CONSTANTLY taking care to not impinge on others, lest you happen to impinge on one that is a shouter. It means that other people think you are fair game for hostile comments. It means that your very existence is fodder for nasty commentary – even by people who would otherwise consider themselves to be VERY NICE, COMPASSIONATE people.
While the absence of that might not seem like much to someone who has not lived with it… I can tell you that moving through the world without being noticed and called out, now that is a very big privilege indeed… and one that I hope one day can be an “everyone” privilege… not just thin.
*OK, there’s got to be some human out there in the world who has absolutely ZERO innate privileges based solely on who / what / where they are… but I don’t know who they are. I think any time two humans get together, ONE of them is going to have the upper hand based on something.
**And hey! I just found out what cisgendered means! (I identify as the gender that matches my outward appearance in this society)