In 2018, lingerie blogger Cora Harrington posted a viral twitter thread documenting the ins and outs of the deeply controversial concept of “thin privilege.” Followed by a subsequent BBC article, the idea has become a hot-button topic both inside and outside of the wellness community. Some argue over its existence on the premise that thin people experience body shame. Others, who claim to personally endure discrimination because of their body size, justify the very real consequences of the newly coined privilege.
This uproar in whether or not thin privilege exists remains a symptom of a larger societal construct. While we as a society are taught from childhood to strive for “thinness,” the fact remains that very few individuals ever truly feel thin, even when they are perceived as such. Because of this dramatic rift of perceptions, those who experience the perks of living in a perceived smaller body often never recognize the privilege they experience and lack thereof for those who live in larger bodies.
According to Harrington, thin privilege is not the same as feeling thin. Plenty of people who are considered thin experience a myriad of body image issues and even bullying. This being said, people who have relatively small bodies experience certain advantages when it comes to things like shopping for clothes, air travel, eating in public, searching for healthcare and even dating.
If one can walk into any clothing store and know there is going to be a size that fits relatively well, they experience thin privilege.
If one can get on a plane, bus or train and fit comfortably into the seats without anyone sneering, they experience thin privilege.
If one goes to the doctor and isn't immediately shamed into losing weight, they experience thin privilege.
In the words of intuitive eating expert and anti-diet blogger Christy Harrison, “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 individuals for your size. You can have thin privilege and also hate your body.”
This is because the idea of thinness within our society remains a distant unattainable concept weaponized by multiple industries. As someone who has dealt with various body perception issues, wrapping my head around the concept of thin privilege and how even I can benefit from it was challenging to say the least.
I used to think thinness was only a word reserved for the willowy builds of supermodels and sorority girls. In fact, I am embarrassed to say that for a period of time in my life, I hated those waiflike reminders of my own insecurities. However, now that I have made an effort to understand the effects of diet culture and how it creeps into so many aspects of one’s life, I understand that by societal standards, I too am considered thin and, therefore, experience the perks that go with it.
We live in a culture that scrutinizes every aspect of a person’s form, for both men and women. People are bullied and made to feel inadequate for being large, for being thin, for being waiflike or for being curvy. Thinness remains a societal construct, but like many societal constructs, it has very real consequences.
In my opinion, no one can be truly freed of this burdensome yoke of self-loathing until they realize that yoke was set in place by industries that profit off of our pain. One doesn’t have to crusade against diet culture and society, but simply acknowledge the beauty and wondrous abilities all bodies have.
No one should be made to feel inferior because of the body they have, no matter what that body is capable of. Body positivity and systematic privileges shouldn’t be something set aside for people in smaller bodies. Respect, dignity and the ability to find clothes and live comfortably is a right reserved for all body types.