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Do Thin Women Have Privilege?


This is the first post in a 2 part series on thin privilege. We are looking at thin privilege from two different perspectives — from a thin perspective, and a not-so-thin one. Stay tuned to see part 2 next week!

My friends often say that I am “lucky” for how I look and assume my life is somehow easier for being thin, but people who are thin have insecurities just as well.

Whitney, size XS/S

A thin women’s perspective on thin privilege
Name: Whitney Featherson
Size: XS/S

Have you always been thin? 

I have been thin my whole life. My mom is thin, my brother is thin, my whole family is thin. When I was younger my friends would always comment on how skinny I was and say they wished they had a body like mine. They would also say how jealous they were about how I could eat everything and still not gain any weight. My genetics just give me faster metabolism so my body does not store as much fat as others.

How do you think you get treated differently?

I definitely think that I am seen as overall “better looking” for being thin, which in turn makes people like you more.

In job interviews or when meeting new people, I would be automatically judged as “healthy” because I don’t look overweight (in reality I do not exercise very often and my diet is very poor, as I am a broke recent graduate).

This isn’t bad for me, but it is unfair to other people who are not naturally thin. 

Additionally, though this is not specific to me, I can find clothes much easier than people who are bigger than I am. Any store I go into (unless it’s a plus sized store) will have something that fits me and I can usually tell what something will look like based on how it looks on the model. This is especially true for those weird online-only stores like Zaful. I can usually assume the smallest size will fit me, but bigger people cannot, which is very unfortunate considering Zaful does not let you return clothing. Therefore, I have an easier time shopping due to my thinness.

When did you become aware of your thin privilege? 

I became aware of my privilege on a trip to Disney World with my grandmother. We were going to get on a ride and had to go through the turnstiles, and she could not fit through. My grandmother is not obese, but she has a bit of a belly. The fact that she could not get through this showed me that Disneyland was not considering all of their customers. Even on the way there, the airplane seatbelt was pulled much tighter across her waist than mine, and she was more uncomfortable sitting on the plane than I was. 

It makes me wonder, how do the employees at Disney design their rides? Who is working on their team? Surely if there was an overweight person then the needs of that group of people would have been considered. Maybe their team is lacking diversity since nobody thought to consider that not everyone could fit through those turnstiles. 

What are some things that you think you can do but fat girls can’t (or can’t do as easily)?

Shop for clothing, eat out at a restaurant, sit on an airplane, sit comfortably in a car (sometimes), shop for shoes (it’s harder to find wide sole shoes), see myself represented in movies/books/TV/pop culture, ride rollercoasters, go to a gym without being judged. 

Have you ever tried shopping with a plus sized person? What are your thoughts around the plus size clothing category?

I have shopped with a plus size person, and I have noticed that there is less variety and “cuteness” in the clothes offered for plus size people. In lingerie, larger bras are mostly neutral colors and there are few if any cute options with lace/bright colors/fun designs. The clothes are also more plain and don’t follow regular fashion trends. 

Talk to us about some things that are hard for you as a thin person.

One thing that is frustrating is having people ask if you are anorexic or have an eating disorder. This happened much more often for me growing up than as an adult (I have gained a little weight throughout college, as is normal). It is annoying and insulting to be told that my weight is unhealthy when that person knows nothing about me. People would tell me that I needed to gain weight while my doctor would tell me that I was at a perfectly healthy weight. I can imagine that this is an equally frustrating problem for overweight people. 

Psychologically, it has made me somewhat afraid to gain weight. I know this is a problem for everybody, but being thin your whole life makes you afraid of what might happen if you aren’t thin? Will people still think I am attractive? How will people judge me? What assumptions will long term friends make about me if they notice me gaining weight?

How has being thin affected your relationships with others?

My friends often say that I am “lucky” for how I look and assume my life is somehow easier for being thin, but people who are thin have insecurities just as well. My friends who are bigger than me usually act like I don’t understand their shopping struggles when I really do empathize. It has also made me feel more careful about how I speak to my friends regarding weight and body-image issues. Because I do not know what it is like to have a bigger body, I don’t know what kinds of comments might strike a cord or be extra painful for someone. I feel like I have to hold my tongue sometimes. 

How do you think things should change based on your awareness of thin privilege?

First I think people need to be aware of the privilege that exists. This can be hard for privileged people to recognize. I read an essay in Roxanne Gay’s “Bad Feminist” that talked about privilege.

Being aware of your privilege does not mean you are claiming that things were not hard for you. It just means that you acknowledge the presence of extra struggles for other people. It doesn’t mean you worked any less hard than them, but that they have worked just as hard and are still falling behind/treated differently. It isn’t fair. 

There are many strides to be taken to lessen the societal burden that currently exists for bigger people. Making certain things more accessible, glorifying bigger bodies, increasing representation in media and workplaces, etc. will all help to level the playing field. 

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