Dress: Goodwill (J. Crew) — Flats: 6pm.com (Frye) — Earrings: Gift — Bracelet: Flea market
Last week, I had an experience that made me think about thin privilege and body policing, and I’m in the mood to talk about it here. (Trigger warning for talk about fatphobia.)
Specifically, an acquaintance asked me (somewhat aggressively) how I “stay thin” while eating the kind of food I do–that week I had been bringing chili and leftover pasta for my lunches, and I guess she felt compelled to say something. I know that this sort of language is often intended to be a coded compliment, because we’re taught to value thinness and to believe that thin people somehow have more value than fat ones. I don’t blame her for asking, because this is one of the ways in which women are encouraged to interact with each other, and it’s true that fitting a particular beauty ideal–which includes thinness–gives one privilege within our society.
I do wish I could say that I had been completely honest with her–“I actually have gained some weight in the past couple years, and I probably will gain some more weight in the next couple years, and I’m okay with that!”–but I felt so uncomfortable that I just laughed awkwardly and mumbled something unintelligible. I do try to speak up in a positive way when I can, like when folks say that I can wear my hair as short as I do because I’m “small enough,” but being directly confrontational about anything is something I have trouble with.
I’m working on it, though, because when I don’t speak up I feel complicit in the unspoken message that my relative thinness gives me value over people who aren’t thin, which is absolutely not something that I subscribe to. I don’t intend for my voice to be heard in place of or over fat folks who want to speak up about their experiences with body policing and fatphobia, but the thin privilege that I do benefit from means I should be honest and open when the occasion presents itself.
I also believe that everybody should take steps to keep themselves safe, even if that means holding one’s tongue sometimes, but I really think it’s worth examining such situations afterwards to see if keeping quiet was really a consideration of safety, or just of comfort. Uncomfortable situations often paralyze me, but I want to work on being, well, comfortable with being uncomfortable. Calling people out on their language isn’t often fun or easy, even if one does it gently, but it’s important.