Friends, I am not commonly defined as a fat* lady. I am also not as thin as I am told I should be. I am, on the scale of Popularly Recognized Normal Person Body Types as Represented by the Apatow Canon (IIIIIIII CANNNNN’T STOPPPPPPPPPP) neither a Rudd nor a Rogen, but somewhere in the Segel-y center.
Of course, I am a lady, whereas these noted stars of film and television and sometimes my nightmares (HELLLLLLLP) are dudes. The reason I am using them as my examples here is that there is no scale of Popularly Recognized Normal Person Body Types as Represented by Currently Successful Female Actresses, because Currently Successful Female Actresses tend to be (a) skinny, or (b) somewhat skinnier. This is true for the same reason it is true that, when Seth Rogen dropped some pounds recently, people were like, “hey, why’d he lose weight for, we are bemused,” whereas when, say, Valerie Bertinelli lost weight, people were like, “amazing! Here is your magazine cover! You are now fit for our eyes to gaze upon you!” It is also the same reason that Seth Rogen has been subject to numerous profiles and reviews and blog commentaries focusing on his unconventional, real-guy sex appeal, whereas when Roseanne posed for an overtly sexual magazine cover, folks were like “OH MY EYYYYYYESSSS MY EYYYYYESSSSS I HAVE BEEN FORCED TO VIEW SOMEONE OF A LARGER SIZE IN A SEXUAL LIGHT I MAY NEVER RECOVER.” It is a very simple reason, my friends. Can you guess what it is? If not, look for the answer key at the end of this quiz!**
So, my question today is, What Kind of Privilege Do I Have? Answer: lots! (Have I also mentioned that I am white, and straight, and middle-class, and cis, and stuff?) Today, however, the Privilege that I am focusing on is thinness, or more accurately, not-fatness.
I am, amazingly, not the first person to recognize the astonishing fact of thin privilege! Normally I come up with everything in a vacuum, but in this case I have been learning about it gradually over the past few months and also thinking about it all day long specifically due to a substantial amount of ladytalk over at Jezebel over the concept.
This means it is time to talk about my own personal privilege, size-wise!
For example, no-one fears becoming me (unless they classify me as a fat lady). In the inevitable girls-having-dinner discussions about what we want to eat vs. what we maybe should eat w/r/t what we’ve been eating lately and how we can improve or “give ourselves a break” in re: what we will be eating now, the unspoken fear of the people involved is not that they will come to look like me (again: unless they think I’m fat). My weight is neutral in terms of my culturally accepted sex appeal: people generally believe that there can be hot girls of my size and non-hot girls of my size, and I don’t expect my weight to be the primary determining factor in whether people find me hot. My attempts to present myself as sexual are not found disgusting and/or comical due to my body shape. People do not determine me to be lazy on sight, although the fact is that I did not get out of bed on Monday except to buy more cigarettes and iced coffee. People also do not determine me to be unhealthy on sight, although the fact is that I did not get out of bed on Monday except to buy more cigarettes and iced coffee.
This is what I can list in ten minutes! There are lots more things: things of which I have been, until recently, shockingly unaware! This is because I am privileged, and therefore have the privilege of not thinking about all this stuff. I’m not constantly told that my body is The Thing That Should Not Be, because I am not fat.
I do, however, know a bit what it is like to be told I should be skinnier. If there is one constant and recurring beauty tip handed to me, an American Lady, it is: be skinnier than you are right now. How skinny are you? Skinnier than that, would be good. I know about freaking out about what I eat. I know about putting off birth control and Paxil and quitting cigarettes because the side effects for all three were THE DREADED WEIGHT GAIN, because apparently my thought process there was, “I have panic attacks and terrible periods and also maybe cancer, but hey, at least I have not gained five pounds, good for me.” I know about being nine years old and complaining to my Mom that my brother ALWAYS ate ALL THE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES before I got EVEN ONE, and being told that my ability to “delay gratification” was a good thing, because I wouldn’t be fat (like her, she thought) when I grew up.
(A word about this: every time my Mom and I go out to eat she offers me half her meal, because she always had a “big lunch” earlier, but I have spent whole days with my Mom where she does this for every meal, and I am coming to terms with the fact that the mythical “big lunch” that always precedes our time together does not exist, she just does not eat an entire plate of food, ever. She doesn’t just delay gratification in the food realm, she seems to actively flee it. It makes me sad.)
Now, a word: in a society where all women everywhere are told to be skinnier be skinnier also be more skinny, the women who are actually, by almost everyone’s standards, objectively very thin are subject to some hurtful commentary on their own bodies. It can be extremely uncool – like, it is not OK to assume a skinny person’s weight is a disease, and it is not OK to assume that a fat person’s weight is a disease, and did you know that many diseases can relate to either skinniness or weight, or even occur in a body regardless of its weight? Seemingly the only socially acceptable reason to ever look at a person and be like, “I believe you to be suffering from a terrible illness, which means you are a bad person, and also I have no evidence” is when you are commenting on that person’s weight, which: in my opinion, ew.
Here are some reasons why this might be: (a) in sexist society, every woman’s body is constantly considered fair grounds for public evaluation, and (b) women’s worth is primarily derived from their bodies, so devaluing a woman’s body is the most common and devastating way to attack her, (c) sometimes people get angry at the folks who are presented to them as the “ideal” rather than the existence of a hierarchy of body-based worth, and (d) no woman ever measures up, it’s divide and fucking conquer, have we not realized that? Let us not play this game. Let us get all ’90s together and, yes, love our bodies.
Let us also recognize and work to eradicate the privileges that adhere to those bodies! Let us acknowledge that not-fatness is indeed sometimes one of those! Like straight frat boys who are constantly encouraged to reaffirm their own maleness and straightness by calling each other “pussy” and “fag” and constantly giving each other feedback on precisely how womanish or gay they are being and whether they have surpassed acceptable levels of said womany/gay behavior, non-fat women (and I know there are dudes who experience fat-shaming, I’ve met those dudes, and care about their problems, but I can only speak most accurately and assuredly to my own ladybusiness) are constantly being fed and feeding each other the Fear of Fat, of becoming fat, of leaving the realm of acceptable bodies and entering the non-privileged world of Fat. The fact that we’re so goddamn worried about losing this privilege would seem to be proof that it exists.
Which makes me feel weird that I had to write a post about realizing that I had it.
Okay! Never mind!
*I am uncomfortable with this term because it is often used as an insult! However my understanding is that it is the preferred one, because, like, others are either outright pathologizing or euphemistic in a way that makes it seem like it’s something to be ashamed of. If I’m totally wrong let me know!
**ANSWER KEY: THE SEXISM, DUH. We would also accept, “Seth Rogen blows.”