Guest blogger volcanista: On thin privilege

FJ says: I felt like I’d been seeing a lot of “but it’s hard to be thin, too!” comments recently, not really here but from Jezzies and whatnot. I’ve taken on thin privilege in comments threads before (pet peeve: yes, okay, I know clothes don’t fit you perfectly, but at least most stores have things you can try on), but I wanted to get a thin ally’s take on what it means to be a thin ally. So I asked our resident skinny scientist, volcanista, if she would do the honors. She’s also cross-posted it on her blog, which you should visit because we all love volcanista.

So, Fillyjonk recently asked me to write a guest post about thin privilege.

What’s interesting is that at first, it was really hard for me to know what to say. My first, reflexive thought was that I could just tell my own story! I mean, I’m thin and all. But I quickly shot that down. Talking about my experiences as a thin person, on a FA blog, would be an excellent demonstration of thin privilege, but it wouldn’t accomplish much else. Fat acceptance is fundamentally not ABOUT the thin experience. It’s really not about me, at all. In fact, that’s really what I should be talking about.

But I’m going to take a minute to ward off as much of the anticipated defensiveness as I can right off the bat, even though I hate feeling like I’m placating the WATM-style whining (this time with Thin!). After all, it’s not like the FA community needs a lecture on thin privilege (HEY GUESS WHAT FATTIES I GET IT NOW CAN I HAVE A COOKIEDOUGHNUT): this is really for thin people out there who haven’t really considered their own privilege.

So, do some thin people get shit for being thin? Of course! People’s bodies – especially women’s bodies – are treated like public property all the time. And standing out in any way, especially in a physical way, often just seems to invite additional ridicule and mistreatment. Maybe that’s why some thin people posit that they are the same, the fat experience and the thin experience. Getting teased and bullied for the shape and even the existence of your body, something you fundamentally can’t change, and in many cases (for both the thin and the fat) something you might try to change about yourself in hopeless and self-damaging ways – well, that shit hurts, and it’s a deeply personal, formative experience. So I think that for some thin people, there’s resentment when they hear a fat person complaining, like the fat person is trying to invalidate or one-up their own painful, skinny past. For others, there can be this pull to try to identify with the painful experiences of a fat person: to think you understand, to find a comrade who was also pushed around by the kids on the playground. I admit that I think, at first, the latter is the perspective I came from more often when I would talk with my fat friends.

Both of those reactions are, I think, understandable. But they’re rooted in privilege for one major reason: those experiences were not the same. The similarities I listed above, well, that’s probably about where the commonality ends. (There are other similar, small details, like being sized out of some clothes, but I think that covers most of it.) Sure, the thin kid and the fat kid both got teased/beat up/ridiculed/targeted through school, and that’s horrible. Both probably still get at least occasional public insults as adults. But there is a fundamental difference in the way society as a whole treats, envisions, pictures those two types of bodies. That teasing didn’t happen in the same social context, so it didn’t have the same tone or impact. And if you haven’t lived in a fat body, you simply can’t know what that experience was, or how much worse it was than your own.

Again, don’t get me wrong; bodies in public and especially all women’s bodies face an impossible catch-22. The line between not-thin-enough and too-thin is impossibly narrow (ha!), and a moving target, besides. That size six is wayyyyy too fat to be a model, ew so gross, but OMG, did you see how disgustingly thin those runway models are??? You either have to diet (to finally become either that really hot thin person, or at least just incrementally less-fat and therefore more acceptable), or you’re far too thin. Everybody loses. But there’s a fundamental question of degree here. In social discourse there may be pretty frequent complaints about those women who are too skinny, but it simply does not compare to the scale of fat stigma. (And I think a great deal of that discourse comes from resentment, felt entirely fairly by the vast majority of the population that doesn’t have one of those idealized bodies and has been practically disappeared from the public eye. Blaming that on thin women is, however, misdirected.) When every image of a woman in every magazine, on every tv show, in every movie and billboard and annoying Facebook ad, is not only thin but impossibly-Photoshopped-thin; when half of the reality shows on TV these days seem to be weight-loss contests; when every women’s magazine cover is screaming about diets and weight loss; when the assumed audience for every news article about health issues is universally thin, and doctors are berating and even blatantly neglecting their patients because all they can see is their own fat-hatred – well, there’s simply no comparison.

Example: Last week, I finally got around to getting a physical at my new doctor’s office. I’m not crazy about her, but she was the only doctor in my area accepting new patients when I moved here, and she’s brusque but does the job. It bothered me from the beginning that there are ads for drugs literally papering the office walls, including distorted weight loss statistics on posters advertising weight loss drugs. There is even one of those hanging from the scale (I mean, seriously?? HEY FATTIES DON’T FORGET YOU’RE A FATTY). But as a very thin person, though I hate it, that really doesn’t impact me, and I need a doctor. So at this visit, my first physical there, they measured my waist circumference, I shit you not. The nurse took the measurement and then said, “Good girl!” while she wrote it down on the chart, like I had accomplished something by having thin parents (and deserved a doggie treat for it, no less). And then the doctor, when she looked at my chart, said she was concerned that I am underweight. I said, “Yes, and so is my whole family, and I couldn’t gain weight if I tried,” and she shrugged and said, “Okay!” Based on everything else that goes on in that office, I can pretty much guarantee that if I had been fat (hell, probably even a BMI of 26) I would have been walking out of there 1) with a prescription for WW (there were ads for that, too!), 2) with an admonition to cut out the cough drops, and 3) fighting back tears.

So apparently, if you’re “too thin?” (to live? Clearly not!) – oh well! We know there’s nothing you can do about it (because for some reason, THAT has entered public awareness, but the futility and harmfulness of weight loss programs have not), and at least you aren’t fat (because while my BMI category may have the highest mortality rate, at least the movies say I’m sexy!). And while “Put some meat on your bones!” may make me want to break a window with my bare hands, it doesn’t even compare with repeated, hateful catcalls of “Whale!” or “Cow!”

When FJ asked me to write this post, she mentioned that it might mean more for people to see a post about thin privilege written by a thin person. I don’t think she meant that for the SP community (hi, choir!), but the certainly for the broader, more fatphobic internet-public that might stumble in from Salon. It makes me angry (at the world, not FJ) that because I’m not one of those fat fat fatties, I can bring some cred to this whole FA thing: look, a skinny girl who cares about fat people!! hey, what was this post about, again? Yeah, I have automatic credibility on the subject of fat prejudice, despite never having experienced it firsthand, while actual fat people are just wrong/deluded/lying. THAT makes sense.

So that fucking sucks. But maybe if enough allies write posts like this one, people will just start listening to what fat people are saying about their own lives in the first place.

209 thoughts on “Guest blogger volcanista: On thin privilege

  1. This is a great post. For me, it’s been much harder to let go of “thin=good” than “fat=bad.” Progressives are supposed to be simultaneously tolerant and aspirational, so you get this thing where while I recognize my fat friends are gorgeous, I PERSONALLY, JUST ME would rather resemble my equally gorgeous friend, the size 2. (I resemble neither.) It’s nice to hear someone who the world sees as thin speaking about her body and saying things other than “Seriously you guys I eat whatever I want! I was ugly as a child! OMG it’s so hard to be so pretty!”

    Also, I appreciate the clarification, because often it seems Shapely Prose writers and commenters use “thin” as a synonym for “not fat”, and as someone who is not fat but has never in my life been accused of being thing (except when my mom looks at old pictures and goes “Look how skinny you were!”) I’ve always felt weird about that.

  2. Volcanista, I love you so much.

    Also, if someone tried to take my waist measurement at a doctor’s office, I would, in all seriousness, slap their hand away.

  3. Sometimes I think people at SP do use “thin” in a broader way than I’m discussing it here, because those definitions just depend on context. In the context of runway models, for instance, size 2-4 or smaller are probably the only things that qualify as “thin.” In the context of being able to buy clothes in mainstream stores, it’s a much bigger window.

  4. Other Kate, on “not fat but never accused of thin,” I think I understand… I’ve identified as “fat” for pretty much as long as I can remember, but if you were to look at photos of me as a little girl, a preteen, a teen… I was thin. At my thinnest adult weight I was a size 7, and my collarbones stuck out grotesquely. But I still thought I could stand to lose, and must be quite ugly, and didn’t deserve to wear clothes that showed my belly ever, because the natural shape of my stomach includes a kind of pouched-out area near the bottom.

    And this perception of myself, while strongly internalized, didn’t grow from a vacuum, and wasn’t even strictly the result of tv or magazines or movies (after all, a supportive peer group can deflect any number of negative influences). I actually got CALLED fat, by a lot of people. My mother and sister were always cajoling me to go on a diet, and when I finally did they LORDED it over me, gloating and teasing until I quit after week one.

    Of course now that I genuinely AM fat, (and even then I’m willing to bet I’m not as fat as I think I am, since that is now how my mental image of myself works… I’m working on it!) it’s really difficult for me to look at those pictures of myself, really triggering and it makes me feel awful about how much time I “wasted” because I could have easily “gotten away” with wearing all the clothes I wanted so badly to wear but knew I was too fat for, could have flirted with that guy, could have this that or the other, but didn’t because I was convinced I was a hideous cow.

    Anyhow, basically, according to the Powers That Be, NONE of us are good enough.

    Fuck them! I say, we’re fucking GREAT!

  5. I have had the opportunity of spending a very large portion of my life fat and a large portion of it thin. I was a fat, smart and unathletic child so I don’t need to tell you what grade school was like. Around the age of 13 due to dieting as well as a growth spurt I went from being a fat kid to looking just like all the other girls. Through high school and college I maintained an average weight and my size varied from an 8 to a 12 (US) but pretty much hung around a size 10 which with my larger frame looked pretty much ideal. I did diet during that time but my body was pretty close to its set point I think because I didn’t obsessively diet or exercise. I steadily gained weight after that and now at 35 I weight 240 pounds and am a size 18/20. Having experienced both ends of the scale (ha) to some degree (I have never been extremely skinny or extremely fat and I don’t suppose to speak for anyone else’s experience) my thoughts on thin and thin privilege fall into two categories.

    On the one hand, as a woman our bodies are under constant scrutiny. Maybe it is age or experience but I think I am less harsh on myself now than I was at 18. No bodies body looks “right” or “acceptable”. As a teen I bemoaned saggy breasts, large pores, a chin that was too small, skintone that wasn’t even, curly hair that frizzed, hips that weren’t proportionate..the list could go on forever. And of course I thought I was fat. To me a big part of FA is the fact that our bodies our beautifully imperfect and that self hatred that we feel and are learning to get rid of is practically universal in all western women due to the impossible beauty standard.

    On the other hand, frizzy hair and saggy boobs, while they can be fixed with surgery, styling products etc, are rarely considered our fault. To me the biggest different between being fat and the other “flaws” that prevent us from being the impossibly beautiful media doll is the personal stigma we receive. For instance, I don’t mind how my belly looks. I think it looks fine. What I do mind, what I have been working on dealing with, is what it says about me to other people. That I have no control, that I am lazy, that I let myself go. Fat, unlike a big nose, or eyes too close together, is ALL MY FAULT. And it isn’t just a hurting me (cuz you know fat is unhealthy). With the so-called obesity epidemic I am hurting everyone else with my strain on the health care system. That is a lot more societal punishment and stigma than my frizzy hair ever got. Being thin is hard, being a woman in our society is hard, combating the media and being who you are instead of what they think you should be is hard. But being fat is a different kind of hard.

  6. Yeah, puellapiscea, I think you’re right about that. To some extent growing up extremely skinny can teach you that your body translates as “unhealthy” to everyone else, but I think that’s as close as it gets.
    Otherwise, the stigma is much more severe on the fatter end of things – and not even the extremely fat end. So if some similarities exist, but only really exist between those very few who are naturally extremely skinny and the entire half of the population that is bigger than the mean, there is something wrong there. That says in and of itself that it’s not the same thing!

  7. Also, if someone tried to take my waist measurement at a doctor’s office, I would, in all seriousness, slap their hand away.

    There is a hypothesis that waist measurement is a better predictor of certain kinds of heart-disease risks than BMI. So although it sounds like this doctor has a lot of issues around weight and body shape, the waist-measurement thing might well have been done as a datapoint collected because of that hypothesis.

    And thanks, volcanista. I was envious to hear how little pushback you experienced when you were shown to be “underweight” by the BMI and you assured the doctor that this was your natural weight and one typical of your family, but I applaud your self-advocacy!

  8. Volcanista,

    Great post but could you say fuck a little more next time? I’m more comfortable that way :P

    Seriously, a very well done piece. Thanks.

  9. Thanks. I have a friend who’s thin and always goes on about how hard it is and how she doesn’t like the fat acceptance movement because of it. I’ve not been able to say why I find it so upsetting but this does it well. She complained, for instance, that a friend commented that she looked underweight, but then a random person stopped her on the street and told her she looked good which made her happy. Putting asside the fact that both of these commenters were men and the male privelage in their assumption that they can comment on her body, fat is like the first comment, only the second comment doesn’t come and, instead, one of your best friends tells you then hope you exercise more soon so you don’t die young.

  10. I have been thin, and I have been fat, which may be why thin people complaining about how HARD it is to be thin irk the hell out of me. Being thin is easy. So not all the clothes fit perfectly. At least there are attractive clothes that fit reasonably well, and clothes can be taken in. They can’t really be let out.

    As a thin person, you get better service, and not just in clothing stores.

    People tease you for being thin? It’s because they’re jealous. Some part of them, a large part or a small, tiny voice in the back of the head, wishes they could be thin, too.

    Fat girls get mocked and made fun of because people are horrified by us, and afraid that they are one mistake away from BECOMING us. It’s not the same thing at all.

  11. Hmm. I am considering this new info, JupiterPluvius. I don’t really think there’s any benefit to be gained in trying to find waist measurement OR bmi reading as an indicator of health-anything, because I don’t think either of those things can be a health indicator, there are too many variables to the human body and shape. Then again, I don’t deny them the opportunity to do their silly research either (maybe after years of being wrong or inconclusive they’ll start looking for something else and actually find out the true secret, which is that we need to stop hating people based on what they look like…)

    That still doesn’t mean I’d let them take my measurements, though… did they SAY anything? Did I say I’d be willing to help them with their data collection? Nope! Now, if they asked nicely first, I might or might not allow it (with the caveat that they keep their comments to themselves about the results), but if they’re just going to come at me with a tape measure they can find another guinea pig. RUDE.

    Then again, I am coming from a place of not-douchebaggy-doctor-privilege. I will readily admit that I am SPOILED. My doctor’s office not only keeps the number on the scale hidden from me EVERY TIME after being told ONCE that it’s really triggering for me into disordered eating, but I also get a hug when I leave.

    So, yeah. I would probably be considered a great big pain in the ass as a patient to anybody else, because I’d demand to be treated well. How dare I, a horrible fatass, ask to be informed of what’s going on! XD

  12. People tease you for being thin? It’s because they’re jealous.

    Well, I don’t think that’s the only thing going on — as volcanista pointed out, the public shaming of women’s bodies is a matter of misogyny as well. Women have to be kept in line, don’t you know. The impossibility of the beauty ideal is the whole point of the beauty ideal: even when you’re thin, you’re not free from disparagement. Otherwise, you might use your money on something other than beauty products, and you might use your energy to do something other than hate yourself.

  13. That said: People tease you for being thin? It’s at least conceivable, in some cases even likely that they’re jealous (still because of impossible beauty ideals, of course, but because they think you’re closer). People tease you for being fat? It’s pretty likely that they really think — because they’ve gotten this message from the media, their doctors, their peers, their parents — that you are out of control, sinful, unhygienic, unhealthy, unattractive, and an economic, environmental, and public health menace.

    This is a shitty society to live in if you’re a woman with a body. But JPlum (and volcanista) are right that the undertones are different.

  14. For others, there can be this pull to try to identify with the painful experiences of a fat person: to think you understand, to find a comrade who was also pushed around by the kids on the playground.

    It seems to me that this is where the majority of well-intended “It’s hard to be skinny too” comments come from. In fact, it’s where a lot of my (unfiltered, first impulse, in my head) responses come from when I read some discussions in the fatosphere and realize that the person/people involved in the discussion are fatter than I am. I’m an inbetweenie, and when I was young I was one of those “not fat but never accused of being thin” girls. I have my own stories of body image struggles, and my gut reaction when I read other people’s stories is to chime in with my own, to connect with people who I feel I share similar experiences with, to offer my own perspective BECAUSE I know it’s not exactly the same, but is similar. I’m looking for common ground. But having been lurking and posting in FA blogs for a while, I realize now how that response can feel belittling to other people. It can sound like I’m saying, “You think you had it hard? I was a size 10 and I thought I was fat too! Nevermind your feelings, look at me me ME!” Of course that is never my intention, but intentions only matter up to a point. At some point you have to accept responsibility for the impact of your words and actions, regardless of your intent. That’s the hard part for allies who really want to help and connect, but can’t figure out why their attempts seem to offend, and then they end up getting defensive because they want to say, “No really, I’m on your side! I’m a good person! Why are you picking on me?!” (Sorry if that’s coming off as another “Look at me and my problems!!” thing…)

    In social discourse there may be pretty frequent complaints about those women who are too skinny, but it simply does not compare to the scale of fat stigma. (And I think a great deal of that discourse comes from resentment, felt entirely fairly by the vast majority of the population that doesn’t have one of those idealized bodies and has been practically disappeared from the public eye.

    Yes! I think that’s a key point: even “backlash” against thin women is based in fat hatred because it comes from resentment at the thin-bashing person’s “failure” to be as close to the thin ideal as the person they’re bashing.

  15. I just think the model of “jealousy” is often used to psychologize a systemic societal problem, you know?

    Oh, totally. It’s not enough to say “they’re just jealous” and think that this not only explains but excuses it — the question is why they’re jealous, and why they feel that the response to that jealousy should be hostility.

  16. Very well said. I think the whole root of the difference, in a nutshell, between how society at large criticizes thin bodies and fat bodies is that all of the criticism comes from a place of “thinner is better.” As long as the prevailing idea is that thinner is better, fat-criticism and thin-criticism will never be the same. As long as the idea floats in the air and in our collective consciousness, thin privilege will exist. And we don’t even need to personally believe that thinner is better for it to exist. All we have to do is know that the belief prevails among others.

  17. JPlum: “People tease you for being thin? It’s because they’re jealous. Some part of them, a large part or a small, tiny voice in the back of the head, wishes they could be thin, too.”

    Yup. I came here in tears one day because someone told me at the pool that they hated me for being thin, and I knew that *only in FA circles* was I guaranteed people who understood it wasn’t a compliment and that I truly have no reason at all to even slightly associate my being thin with health.

    Volcanista: You are fab. Like men who advocate for women’s rights, I suppose, but I didn’t think of that until you pointed it out.

  18. Kitty, I think there’s definitely a difference between your attempts at finding a common ground and trying to connect with people and other people’s Oppression Olympics competitions.

  19. Being thin may be easier than being fat, but I don’t think it’s all that easy by any means. The main thing I would wish for, I think, is for all bodies to be accepted as-is, and there not be any stigma for having a very thin body or a very fat body. That no one would ever be judged and found lacking just because they don’t have what someone considers an “ideal” body, that there would be no “ideal” body, just an accepted wide variety of body types/shapes/sizes. Yeah, I’m dreaming, but that’s what I want. I don’t want anyone’s worth to be based on something as superficial as how they look. Every person born into this world has something to offer, and they shouldn’t be ignored, taunted, marginalized, or hated just because they don’t meet some arbitrary “norm”.

  20. And fwiw, what I said in whatever-thread-it-was the other day, even if it is “because they’re jealous,” it still feels like everyone is policing my body, so it’s still not okay.

  21. I like this article, but I wanted to add to the “shit that thin people get” part. Not to say that it’s the same, but just another angle.

    I’ve always been really thin and the one thing that I’ve experienced that pisses me off to no end is the assumption everyone seems to make that I have an eating disorder. While on the one hand I can understand it coming from a physician (or in some cases a close friend or family member), I feel like it generally falls in line with the “you’re fat, you must be lazy/weak/etc.” response, in the sense that any deviation from a physical norm implies some defect.

  22. vesta44, I hope it didn’t sound like I was saying it’s all that easy to be very thin. I avoided telling my own history on purpose, but I definitely know that is NOT the case.

  23. it still feels like everyone is policing my body

    Even if they are just jealous, they are policing your body. The thinner-is-better-but-too-thin-isn’t-sexy-and-sexy-is-paramount, your-body-can-never-be-right paradigm is so vicious that it actually turns otherwise nice people into its own brutal enforcers. People internalize it and then take their dissatisfaction out on others — “I hate you because you’re thin” and “I disrespect you because you’re fat” are two sides of that coin.

  24. I have been thinking about what it must be like to be a thin woman. For example, there are certain things most people wouldn’t say to me, because I am fat, it would be an insult. At my old job I never had either of the two men I worked with make a comment about what food I was eating, or my appearance. However, my thin coworker would get this shit ALL THE TIME. Like, wow that is a lot of food. or, You eat so much! or, Girl you better work out, you’re getting a little tummy there. Or asking her about her exercise regimen.

    AND ON AND ON. It drove me fucking bananas. I have seen this before with thin friends I have. With older men constantly commenting on their bodies in a way they wouldn’t do to me because they realized it was rude for ME (since I’m fat) but that because someone was think they should take it as a compliment that her fucking BOSS is complimenting her for being skinny.

    UGH.

    Then again, maybe things are different for other fatties. I think I project a DON’T FUCK WITH ME BITCH attitude, so people I know don’t insult me, just people on the street do.

    But I could be flattering myself.

  25. I remember one time at a job I had in college, I worked with a math professor. A former student of his was coming back to work with us for the summer. She also happened to be one of my best friends. I mentioned “I’m excited for A. to come for the summer!” and then said something about how great I thought she was. And my boss said “and she’s so thin!” as if that was the greatest thing about her. She was (is) a brilliant math student, fine artist, talented athlete, funny and kind, and the first thing he can say about her is she’s thin?

    It made me sick. Still does.

  26. My step-sister, at a size 0, has a hard time finding clothes in many mainstream stores. Nonetheless, I think the experience of being excluded from stores is more prevalent for fat women, especially very fat women, as lots of stores (like FtF) stop at a smallish large size (like 24, I think).

    Just for shits & giggles, I’m looking at the website of my local mall. It is the 3rd-largest mall in the US. It has 3 large-size specialty shops (FtF, Torrid, and Lane). It has an additional 4 stores that carry some large sizes. Out of a total of 48 stores that carry women’s clothing at all. I think those percentages are actually kind of high, aren’t they?

  27. As a “thin” person who has found this site deeply liberating, challenging, eye-opening, just downright true, etc, I have tried to figure out how it would be best to support.

    The tricky thing about patriarchy/racism/classism/fatphobia(?), is that it is everywhere and no matter who you are, you know a part of it. So hearing all of these stories of oppression and liberation from you wonderful women, I am tempted to jump in with something stupid like “I know! I find myself doing stupid things like congratulating myself on missing meals, or congratulating myself on my thinness, or degrading myself when my body is bigger for any perfectly legitimate reason”

    I mean, these things are true, and I think they are from the same evil “women are bad, should disappear into slivers of themselves, thin is good, single view of beauty” thing. But I know it’s not the same.

    So here’s my hope that as a thin person I can join in with a “Oh that’s horrible” “Oh that’s inspiring” or a “Oh that’s bad-ass” without needing to add a “me too.”

  28. even silence can be intrusive

    In this case, it’s a silence I’m glad for. I don’t need people commenting on my body or eating habits in the workplace. Or anywhere, really, except for in bed when my boyfriend tells me my ass is hot.

  29. Wonderful post. It’s unfortunate that defensiveness about privilege stops people from realizing what a loving and beautiful thing FA and the message of this blog is for all of us.
    I don’t think I’m the only thin or not-fat person whose life has been changed by this blog – Whether by figuring out my own version of TFobT –
    Just that central idea “even if you fixed x, what would you choose to feel bad about yourself next – it was exactly what I needed.

  30. The thinner-is-better-but-too-thin-isn’t-sexy-and-sexy-is-paramount, your-body-can-never-be-right paradigm is so vicious that it actually turns otherwise nice people into its own brutal enforcers.

    This. Also, I have seen and heard people mock thin people not out of “jealousy” but because the thin people “failed” to meet the minimum body volume standard.

    “Girl, you’re a bag of bones! Better get some meat on you! Men don’t like that.” That’s not “jealousy” talking–that’s misogyny and disempowerment talking.

  31. On a derail; but it’s bothered me a couple times in the past, we need a word for people who are neither thin nor fat (I think of inbetweenie as the smaller end of fat). “Normal” doesn’t cut it because being fat or thin is normal too; average maybe?

  32. “She was (is) a brilliant math student, fine artist, talented athlete, funny and kind, and the first thing he can say about her is she’s thin?”

    I’m guilty of having used size as a conversation topic with people I’ve just met. Instead of talking about where I work, my interests, whatever, I just find it so much easier to talk about my body. I come across as vain, fishing for compliments, bitching about being thin, all that. But I honestly could care less. I use it because I know what I’m supposed to say about my body, I know what people expect to hear, and so it’s turned into my small-talk-about-the-weather.

    It sucks. A lot.

  33. “Normal” doesn’t cut it because being fat or thin is normal too; average maybe?

    I often say “non-fat” but that does kind of sound like a food designation. :)

  34. theplaiddress, the way you’ve chosen to contribute to this thread has been interesting. First you talk about shit you’ve gotten as a thin person and how much that sucks for you, then you talk about how much it sucks for you that you don’t challenge people’s expectations of how you should relate to your body. Did you notice that you’re doing this?

  35. fillyjonk: Yep, I do realize it. And I feel really crappy about it. I don’t buy into societal expectations internally, but I let it govern my external behaviors. I taught 7th grade for a while and found that to be a similar issue for quite a few of the 12- and 13-year-old girls I interacted with. They had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that they really did have respect for themselves (they were wonderful girls) while existing in an environment that encouraged disparaging female bodies on a variety of levels. I wish I’d known how to help them.

  36. Cannibals need to know which people they can eat and still stick to their diets, too, FJ.

    Oh man, I’ve been so insensitive to the cannibals! And the ground sloths.

  37. Yep, I do realize it. And I feel really crappy about it. I don’t buy into societal expectations internally, but I let it govern my external behaviors.

    I think there’s a chance you’ve misunderstood me. The behavior I meant was the one where you attempt to make the discussion all about you and your trials as a thin person. You are still doing it, which is ironic on this thread.

  38. privlege is one of those concepts i’m really working hard on. because i’m white, and have a middle class background, and live in a white middle/upper class area. and i’ve got a heteronormative relationship. so it’s been this concept for me to wrap my head around.

    at the same time, i’m in a power exchange relationship that is, by definition and request, not equal in many ways. and i work hard to avoid the cognative dissonance that could bing with it.

    but posts like this really help me wrap my head around it. so thank you. i’d also like to point out this article. yeah, it’s about male privilege in female space, but i think a lot of it applies no matter the group you’re an ally to. and again, from someone trying really hard to just undrstand her own privilege let alone get over it, thank you.

  39. It’s going to be a great day when women are just allowed to look like they look, are actually appreciated for who they are inside, and society as a whole realizes that beauty is a fluid, delightfully individual, complex and diverse thing, not something out of a Mattel box.

    Oh. As long as we’re fantasizing, I’d like a bagillion dollars.

  40. JupiterPluvius, i think in a way, that IS jealousy speaking… esp. if those words are coming from other women. It’s the height of envy – wanting to disparage and ruin for the person the thing which you yourself (the speaker) covet the most. As you say, it’s unequivocal misogyny, and it makes my skin crawl.
    Have been on both sides of the coin, both fat and thin, I can attest that thin privilege is very real, in my experience, to the point of being palpable. And although random strangers have felt the need to comment on my body in both sizes, the comments made on my thin form are far more praiseworthy and endorsing than those on my fat self, which were always deprecatory and loathsome. Even the other night i got “you’ve lost weight, i hate you”. To which i suggested that she should try it! – just have your lover of 7 years dump you and slip into a huge depression, it’s totally awesome and does wonders for your waist! UGH.

  41. JPlum: No, you didn’t, but I’m still seething with rage over the incident at the pool, so I probably sounded upset. It wasn’t with you. Thank you for apologising, and it wasn’t necessary :)

    (I was thin because I’d been ill; my four-year-old ended up worried enough by the whole thing that she was afraid I’d keep getting smaller all the time and eventually disappear. It was all Very Grim. Later, I realised that her fears were a large part of what “They” actually want, anyway. Which made me proud of her, but not happier).

  42. i think in a way, that IS jealousy speaking… esp. if those words are coming from other women

    I don’t see how telling someone else that their body size is unacceptable because it’s not sexy to men is “jealousy speaking” at all.

    And I’ve heard this from men and women, straight and gay.

  43. So I think that for some thin people, there’s resentment when they hear a fat person complaining, like the fat person is trying to invalidate or one-up their own painful, skinny past.

    I think for “some people”, period, anyone they think is better off than they are (or better off than they “should be”) complaining is an invitation to put that person down.

    I tend to think a fair percentage of the population has some serious hell in their past, and I am wary of offering specifics sometimes for fear of it coming off as a a “I got hurt worse than you” kind of thing (even though I also believe that all abuse is grounded in a lot of the same assumptions, and it’s intriguing to me to explore how these similar assumptions are manifested in various situations), but saying you’ve dealt with abuse without specifics can offend as well.

    For a long time I didn’t ever discuss similarities in my past, but then I discovered a sexual abuse survivor’s board.and discovered the power and support you can get from “I’m not the only one to have dealt with this!” and now I kind of regret times I haven’t offered my own experiences to people who told me of their own abuse. Emotional pain on either side can make things really tricky.

    All of us have times we can’t see past our own pain, I am sure, and I think some thin-to-average people who refuse to see thin privilege are blinded less by the privilege than by their own pain.

  44. “Being thin is hard, being a woman in our society is hard, combating the media and being who you are instead of what they think you should be is hard. But being fat is a different kind of hard.”

    Yes. I think there’s a lot of validity and food for thought in this statement. I hesitate a bit in making the jump that I think is implied here… being fat is a different kind of hard – qualitatively different from (and, perhaps, worse than?) the kind of hard experienced by any other identifiable group of people? It’s possible. I don’t rule it out, I just don’t know if.. well, if the absolutism of that idea may be ultimately harmful, in that it could reinforce the idea that we as fat people are ‘different’… No one who isn’t fat could possibly relate to our experience. Although, Volcanista has just expressed a great understanding of it – but still, from the outside. This feeling of ‘us and them’, which I think often naturally stems from a marginal or ‘other’ position, is.. a danger. I think. And yet, necessary as a stage of processing circumstances.

    Personally, I think I see fat discrimination as a link in an overall chain of (in some ways) similar discrimination – racism, homophobia – and yes, misogyny. The discourses are, or can be, different, yes. But the underlying hatred.. oh, I think it’s all part of the same pile of steaming crap.

    Re: the thin experience v. the fat experiences – there are so many layers, complexities, variations, and degrees of discrimination, acceptance, and priveleging.

    My daughter (almost 17) is thin. Like, model thin – a size 2 or 4. I’m a size 16. the way people react to us is.. interesting. Just on a personal, anecdotal level, it seems to me that she is the brunt of significantly more verbal negativity – most of it from women around my age (39) or older.

    My daughter.. I have to give her a pseudonym now… I’ll call her, um, Rachel … was a slightly chubby child, but when she started growing tall, she thinned out to her present form, which is totally willowy and utterly unlike mine. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have an eating disorder and isn’t trying to be thin on purpose, though I do think she enjoys it. She eats about the same amount as me. I guess the metabolism from her dad’s side of the family just kicked in. She is healthy, though occasionally I look at her and get scared. I think, one significant flu virus, and she would be totally emaciated. That’s just my inner European Mother talking.

    Okay, but.. when Rachel started to get skinny. Oh my Lord. The comments… from my friends, mostly… “Um, Rachel is getting really… um… THIN. Do you think she’s okay?”

    or… repeatedly, as a ‘joke’: “Someone needs to feed that girl!”; “That girl needs to EAT!” (Um… that girl DOES eat.)

    And then, from my (eating disordered) mother – heaps of cautious approval. Cautious because…. there is a clear and present danger that…. Rachel might not be able to STAY thin. Gasp! It’s like… it’s like she’s got this precious jewel that she needs to protect. Me? I don’t need to worry… I’ve already squandered my Jewel of Svelte Beauty… but Rachel has hers, and oh, what a shame shame shame it will be if she ever were to lose it! So she needs to be CAREFUL… she needs to protect her shape… her ‘line’, as they call it in the middle-European culture we come from.

    Okay, that part is just ridiculous… as my mother consistently tends to be, when it comes to weight issues… and all I do now is to try to convey to her in the strongest possible terms how angry I will be if she EVER says something like that in front of Rachel herself.

    But the comments from friends… and I noticed that, often, these were friends who were locked in a struggle with their own weight…ohh, they were… horrible. I mean, the persistance of that single, repeated comment… “That girl needs to EAT!”… I mean, good Christ, she DOES eat, the same as me, and that doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference in the fact that she’s a size 4 and I’m a 16! None!

    I’m possibly over-sensitive to this, because it links in to my own fears about my daughter, rational and irrational. But at the same time… I know this to be true… under that guise of concern, or .. joviality… there was and is real hostility. Comments like “Yeah, I guess SHE can get away with wearing those jeans”… yes, I feel it more intensely because it is my daughter, my baby, but … those comments are HOSTILE. A lot of women HATE skinny, sexy, young women… I don’t mean that they hate the young women themselves, outright, in a way that seeks to cause them harm… but I do mean that they… well, perhaps hate the sight of those society-sanctioned qualities that they themselves want but can’t have. And a lot of men… refuse to see those sexy young women. I mean, refuse to see the real THEM, underneath. It fucking sucks. Whether it sucks more or less than fat discrimination – I couldn’t say. It strikes me, however, that it might be two sides of the same coin. Just possibly.

    I found it quite interesting, too…. and this was before I discovered Fat Acceptance and what a load of crap the BMI is… I found it interesting that all of those people were expressing concern over Rachel’s health, but would have said, if asked… and some of them DID say… that I, in contrast to Rachel, look “healthy”. It was quite ironic, as I said to Rachel… because technically, her BMI is ‘healthy’… veering on underweight, but still ‘healthy’… and mine is NOT. And this might be a function of the community that I live in, but I think if I asked almost any one of our circle of friends and acquaintances which one of us – me or Rachel – looked more ‘healthy’, they would choose me.

    This is because, I recognize, I enjoy a different sort of privelege. I’m on that fuzzy border between fat and… um, whatever the euphemism of the day is… and the benefits are quite unique. I’m considered attractive… enough. Not intimidatingly so, as I was when I was younger and thinner – as Rachel is now. Women like me. I think it’s because I’m a walking poster child for the fact that, even if the worst happens and they were to become fat, it still wouldn’t be THAT bad. And at the same time, I’m not a threat, I’m not going to steal anyone’s husband, I am … a watered-down, supremely unthreatening and relateable version of the feminine ideal.

    Okay, I know the above paragraph sounds possibly vaguely misogynistic and I’m taking a risk, posting it here. I don’t mean that women in general are like that, or even that I know any one woman who is exactly like that, or embraces exactly that thinking – especially, not consciously. What I AM saying is that elements of that sort of thinking DO exist and persist. Overall, I do feel accepted, and I feel and worry that my daughter is not.

    Now, if I were to set foot in a doctor’s office, like, ever, I recognize that I might not feel quite so accepted. My medical phobia prevents that at present, but I’ve given myself a deadline, my 40th birthday, to get over it already. :)

    Sorry if I’ve offended. This is just so interesting.

  45. Personally, I think I see fat discrimination as a link in an overall chain of (in some ways) similar discrimination – racism, homophobia – and yes, misogyny.

    And classism, don’t forget, and ablism (“OMG, being unhealthy is the worst thing in the world!”). Fatphobia exists at the overlap point of a bunch of other oppressions with much, much longer histories.

  46. “I don’t see how telling someone else that their body size is unacceptable because it’s not sexy to men is “jealousy speaking” at all.”

    It can be. When we do this to thin women, it’s about disarming our insecurity about being inferior.

    With fat women, it’s about reinforcing our superiority and our walls against something we hate and fear to be.

  47. This was a fantastic post, which clarified alot of things for me as a new visitor to this site. It got me thinking about other forms of privilege that might shed light on this dynamic. I’m drawing from personal experience, but this is no way intended to make the conversation “about me.”

    I was born into an economically privileged family. My father, who himself was from a very poor working class background, was a doctor who was able to provide myself and my sisters will more than the neccessities: used cars on our 16th birthdays, private school education, and no student debt in college. Once I left the suburban bubble, I quickly discovered that anyone who had the least knowledge of my background felt they had me pegged. “Doctor’s Daughter and North Dallas, TX and Private School” coded for “spoiled, entitled, Republican (!!!!), shallow, lazy,” and it was often left up to me to prove that I didn’t fit that stereotype. One male mission trip leader more or less hazed me during the first few days of training, singling me out from the other team members because he assumed that I had never known a hard day’s work.

    As frustrating as that was sometimes, until I was on my own (as a grad student married to a public school teacher), I never had to know what it was like to be denied an opportunity because of money. The challenges of being poor in this country, the social, political, and educational disenfranchisement, are extreme, and that was something I was sheltered from. I didn’t choose my parents any more than I chose my body, but freak chance gave me privilege that far outweighed the annoyance of being occasionally rejected by insensitive peers or being denied certain work study jobs, scholarships, whatever due to the inability to demonstrate “need” (something I wish those rich parents who grumble about the supposed advantages offered to poor or minority college applicants would take a minute to consider). I didn’t ask for it, but I benefit from economic privilege whether I like it or not.

    Coming from that background doesn’t mean that I can’t advocate for social justice and economic equality, but whining about “prejudice against the rich” while doing so would be pretty darn ridiculous.

  48. “I don’t see how telling someone else that their body size is unacceptable because it’s not sexy to men is “jealousy speaking” at all.”

    Yes, i regret having taken such a hard line in my previous comment. I suppose it all depends what the comment is steeped in. In my experience, those types of comments are said out of envy – the speaker wants to make the woman feel as though she’s not attractive to men, so she should gain weight in order to be so. But does the speaker REALLY want the friend/colleague/coworker etc. to be more attractive to men? or does the speaker simply want the woman to be less threatening, which they feel she would be if she was fatter?

    That’s where i was going with that…..

  49. One more thing, and then I promise I’ll shut up. This, I think, is really my two cents to add to the pot:

    A long time ago, on a different forum, I wrote that I think homophobia is essentially a rejection of sexuality, period. I didn’t quite know what I meant at the time, and I understand it a bit better, now, and, well, I stand by that statement.

    And I think, in the same way, fat phobia is a rejection of the body, period.

    There are, of course, various discourses within both of those broad rejections. But I think… well, a person who refuses to accept someone’s fat does not and cannot ultimately accept THE BODY. Any supposed acceptance becomes conditional. And conditional acceptance is an oxymoron.

    There, that’s what I really meant.

  50. Mia, I’ll certainly buy that it can be (with an internal thought process like, “You are very very thin like a fashion model and I wish I were very very thin so I will cling to the idea that not very men are attracted to women that thin in order to make myself feel better”) but I think that’s more the exception than the rule.

    And it certainly doesn’t explain the many, many comments to that effect that very thin women get from men.

  51. And my boss said “and she’s so thin!” as if that was the greatest thing about her. She was (is) a brilliant math student, fine artist, talented athlete, funny and kind, and the first thing he can say about her is she’s thin?

    A lot of women HATE skinny, sexy, young women… I don’t mean that they hate the young women themselves, outright, in a way that seeks to cause them harm… but I do mean that they… well, perhaps hate the sight of those society-sanctioned qualities that they themselves want but can’t have. And a lot of men… refuse to see those sexy young women. I mean, refuse to see the real THEM, underneath.

    I always feel slightly like a poser on FA boards, for a couple of reasons. First off, while I’ve never been skinny, I was never a “Fat Kid” either – my sister was, and I had a lot of friends who were, but my weight was solidly in the center of “average for height” until I was in my late twenties. And once I hit puberty, that average weight was curvy, so while it wasn’t fashionable it was a shape a lot of people find attractive. I did sometimes have someone try to put me down for being too fat, but I just laughed at them, because I was also getting sincere “you’re hot” feedback on a regular basis.

    As a side note, I think a lot of kids who get hassled for being fat aren’t necessarily that much fatter than average, it’s just that, as someone said elsewhere, “fat” is like “slut” in that its meaning is often according to context. Someone can be having less sex than the popular girls and still get labeled a slut because society doesn’t allow her the privilege of enjoying her own sexuality. Someone can be thinner than some of the popular girls and still get slammed for being fat because she’s somehow an offense to society and her size is a part of that, I dunno. But for some reason I could just kinda look past the “you’re fat” kinda attacks and give the bully a verbal slap down without feeling wounded (even though my dad getting on me about my weight burned deep).

    Secondly, there’s a sense where I “choose” to be fat in a way most people haven’t. I watched my sister diet and diet and diet, I watched my mom diet growing up, and I was absolutely convinced that dieting makes you fat (or at least it made people in my family fatter). I dieted, once, at sixteen, lost maybe ten pounds through enormous effort, regained them and more with no effort, and swore of dieting for life. And I suspect that, if I’d stuck to my guns, I’d be heavier than culturally acceptable but not pushing hard on the “morbidly obese” barrier.

    I got fat because I dieted, and I dieted knowing I’d get fatter. It was such a relief to read Fat is a Feminist Issue because she recognized that being fatter can be a (sort of) rational subconscious choice. I definitely got more benefits out of being thinner from most standpoints, bit for me, it didn’t work out that way. I was sexually abused as a child, and I gained the weight after my worst adult sexual abuse, and the weight gain has definitely changed the way guys interact with me.

    I much prefer being ignored (probably because few can ignore me if I decide I’m going to have my say :p) and being viewed as “non-sexual” to being viewed as someone to hit on, so for me, the “punishments” of being fat are actually better than the benefits of being thinner. Even though, as someone who has dealt with both, I know the cultural condemnation of fat is in a whole other league than what the skinny deal with.

    It makes me angry (at the world, not FJ) that because I’m not one of those fat fat fatties, I can bring some cred to this whole FA thing: look, a skinny girl who cares about fat people!!

    I wasn’t skinny, but I always felt I had way more credibility in supporting FA kinda ideas (not that I’d run across FA per se yet) back when my weight was well within the so-called healthy range than now. And you’re right – what’s with that? Maybe a quickie definition of sources of prejudice could be, “Any condition that outsiders understand better than those who’re actually dealing with it”?

  52. And a lot of men… refuse to see those sexy young women. I mean, refuse to see the real THEM, underneath. It fucking sucks.

    This was something I tossed around in my head a lot during my eating disorder days. My crazy-mind reasoned that all I had to do was be thin and men would be falling all over me, because of course this same phenomenon happens to fat women too. I listened to guys I crushed on bemoan the lack of girls who had the exact same qualities I had, and I screamed inside: “I AM RIGHT HERE! WHY DON’T YOU SEE ME!”

  53. Gah posted too early.

    But the point was that I realized that the reason they didn’t see me, so to speak, was because I wasn’t as thin/pretty as they hoped, even if I was all those other things. At the end of the day, I was a fat girl and that was it, so of course I longed to be a thin, hot girl.

    But as I lost weight it dawned on me, that what you said of your daughter was probably going to end up being true: that then I would be a hot girl, a thin girl, and it wouldn’t matter who I was underneath then either.

    This world really sucks sometimes.

  54. With regards to inbetween, average, normal – it’s such a question of relativity. Kate has captured this so eloquently time and again, but it continues to perplex me as being unanswerable.

    I get the “you’re not fat” business from most people, yet the difference in how I’m treated when I’m hovering around a 12 versus a 14 is striking. “Average” or “normal” are misnomers to me, because they imply acceptable. And even a size 14 is not in the acceptable category in the context of expected appearances or the BMI/obesity hysteria.

    And OMG, the tape measure? I too would slap a bitch and walk the fuck out, toot sweet. And then I would proceed post multiple negative reviews at yellow pages, google, ratemds, etc. I’m vindictive like that.

  55. I listened to guys I crushed on bemoan the lack of girls who had the exact same qualities I had, and I screamed inside: “I AM RIGHT HERE! WHY DON’T YOU SEE ME!”

    I suppose there are women who divide the world into “people” and “sex objects” too, but it does seem to be more of a guy thing. I haven’t dealt with it in guys I crushed on but I used to want to swat male friends with a clue bat when they kept ignoring perfectly reasonable (and interested) partners in favor of some fantasy they’d clothed with another lady’s body…

    I had a male friend whose girlfriend dumped him when he shaved his head and he was moaning about how she put too much on appearances; I pointed out that he did the same thing, that he had the world divided into “women” and “people”, and that his definition of “women” was completely physical, ridiculously narrow, and practically garunteed he’d end up dating someone shallow.

    A week or two later he suddenly kissed me and, after I dunno how many years of a lovely platonic friendship, suddenly wanted to shift it to romantic. “Glad you can learn, Dave, but that’s not what I meant.” :p

  56. It makes me angry (at the world, not FJ) that because I’m not one of those fat fat fatties, I can bring some cred to this whole FA thing: look, a skinny girl who cares about fat people!! hey, what was this post about, again? Yeah, I have automatic credibility on the subject of fat prejudice, despite never having experienced it firsthand, while actual fat people are just wrong/deluded/lying. THAT makes sense.

    Yes, this this this.

    It is in no way dissimilar to when OMG Men! speak up about “women’s issues” or claim to be feminists–when it’s women, it’s just blah blah whine whine, but when a man says family planning/rape/equal pay for equal work is important, by god we’d better listen.

    THAT SAID: Thanks for taking the time to say it, to be be the voice that people will take seriously. It sucks that we have to start here, but since we do, it’s nice that there are people like you willing to lend a hand.

  57. “even “backlash” against thin women is based in fat hatred”

    My own (former, I hope) backlash against thin women was based in fat hatred. I think it worked something like,

    1. people hate my fat and assume I’m functionally and morally a slug.

    2. I feel some vague sense of burning injustice about this.

    3. Thin women are held up as the paragon of what I will never be. Ergo, jealousy.

    4. The narrow line of acceptably thin is crossed and some chick starts showing rib-bones, which I KNOW is unhealthy because I’ve Read Articles Saying So, and yet she is still considered hotter than I am by leaps and bounds.

    5. I sneer at this sellout Tool of the Establishment who is sacrificing her health for vanity (and oh God, the irony now).

    6. The sneering spills over onto other thin people with less skeletal definition, because assumed moral superiority is like scratching the itch caused by the burning injustice in step 2.

    That mindset unfortunately represents most of my 20s (I’m 35 now). And the idea that thin women seriously took shit for their build and could be made as unhappy about their bodies as anyone else was not a concept I truly grokked until just 2-3 years ago.

    Now though, to demonstrate another example of thin privilege, consider “pro-ana” sites. Are there comparable sites dedicated to…

    … wait, is there a word for the opposite of anorexia? Deliberately cramming food in an effort to get as fat as possible? I know there are “feeder” fetishists, but I think they’re oriented to the male gaze (I may be wrong), rather than because the woman herself WANTS to be extremely fat.

    In any case, I don’t know of too many impressionable adolescents saying, “I’d rather kill myself than be really thin.”

  58. I don’t know of too many impressionable adolescents saying, “I’d rather kill myself than be really thin.”

    That kinda sums it up right there…

  59. “But thin people have it hard too!” is awfully similar to the “What about the menz???” type thing. I’m pretty sure no one here would ever say that a thin girl has no right to complain about jackasses insulting her body, but at the same time don’t use it as a derailing technique, whether intentionally or not. And check your privilege (this goes for me too, mind).

    Yes, I’ve gotten shit about my thin body, but I still am pretty privileged and I admit I sometimes don’t clearly recognize it.

    I think some people misunderstand the concept of privilege. Like, “My life is hard! And yet you say I’m privileged??” Privilege does not necessarily mean your life is instantly easy to live, it means that, because of some characteristic you can’t control, you may get treated better than the non-privileged in certain circumstances.

    I also agree with, “even “backlash” against thin women is based in fat hatred.”

  60. I feel like I have a strange perspective on this. I was one of those girls that was slightly overweight as a teen and young adult. People must have read through my body language that i had low self-esteem because I was called fat for years even by so-called strangers.

    My self confidence improved at least about my body in my mid-twenties and I was no longer called fat although my weight remained the same. I was nearly thirty the first time I was whispered at in the street. Not that I’m saying it’s a compliment. Now, I feel I have a very nice body. By the way, I’ve said before that my weight sits on the border of normal/overweight on the BMI chart.

  61. And just to add to my first paragraph, complain in your own space/relevant place. Just like “What about menz??” people should, if they honestly care about how men who are affected by x/y/z.

  62. I’m pretty sure no one here would ever say that a thin girl has no right to complain about jackasses insulting her body, but at the same time don’t use it as a derailing technique, whether intentionally or not. And check your privilege (this goes for me too, mind).

    I’m not thin.

    And calling things what they are isn’t “derailing”. It is ridiculous to dismiss all anti-thin comments to women as “jealousy”, even when we’re just talking about the anti-thin comments made by other women.

    I also agree with, “even “backlash” against thin women is based in fat hatred.”

    How is a man telling a woman that she has to gain weight or she won’t be sexy “based in fat hatred”? It’s not. It’s based in misogyny.

  63. “I think some people misunderstand the concept of privilege. Like, “My life is hard! And yet you say I’m privileged??” Privilege does not necessarily mean your life is instantly easy to live, it means that, because of some characteristic you can’t control, you may get treated better than the non-privileged in certain circumstances.” Word.

    Being encouraged to think about my own privileges (white, middle class, hetero, thin) has been a major benefit of the internet. Before I started reading FA blogs, I bought into the whole “OMG Americans are getting so fat!” thing, and was pissed off about clothing sizes shifting so that I had to keep buying smaller and smaller numbers even though I was the same weight or heavier. And some stores didn’t even have sizes that were small enough in some particular item, oh the humanity. Yeah, it was a pretty fucking shallow thing to resent fat people about. Also I think more of my clothing issues come from being short, really, but being a short woman is pretty low on the hardship scale. I don’t think it even makes the qualifying trials at the Oppression Olympics ;-).

    Uh, sorry if that was derailing. But anyway, enlightened by the power of the internet, I agree that thin privilege is real and that comments I get about my body, even if unwelcome, are usually meant positively rather than hostilely, which is a crucial difference.

  64. “1. people hate my fat and assume I’m functionally and morally a slug.

    2. I feel some vague sense of burning injustice about this.

    3. Thin women are held up as the paragon of what I will never be. Ergo, jealousy.

    4. The narrow line of acceptably thin is crossed and some chick starts showing rib-bones, which I KNOW is unhealthy because I’ve Read Articles Saying So, and yet she is still considered hotter than I am by leaps and bounds.

    5. I sneer at this sellout Tool of the Establishment who is sacrificing her health for vanity (and oh God, the irony now).

    6. The sneering spills over onto other thin people with less skeletal definition, because assumed moral superiority is like scratching the itch caused by the burning injustice in step 2.”

    Very well expressed and explained! I think, possibly, there is a variation of this that occurs among some slightly older women, based on or reacting to a combination of fat hatred and aging-hatred experienced. So it might be expressed as a derision of skinniness, yes, but also what a girl is wearing, or a generally sexy appearance. And it’s a bit pernicious, because it can be under the guise of concern or protection. And sometimes, of course, there IS a genuine expression of concern or protectiveness. But the thing is, we can all feel it when the hate creeps in, even if the discourse itself stays the same or similar.

    I just think… why can’t we just love everyone’s shape? Why can’t we love the body because it IS the body? Why?

  65. I don’t think anyone has pointed it out so: oppressions perpetrated against a majority group are usually individual in nature (example: “omg, a black person called me honky!”) whereas oppressions committed against a minority or marginalized group are systemic (example: employers who won’t hire non-whites).

    We recognize that individual oppressions against thin women are part of the larger systemic oppressive system of misogyny. We get that; the patriarchy sucks for everyone. What’s important to realize is that when you approach a minority space, the patriarchy might suck just a little bit harder for that group than you’re used to.

    For thin women it may be about people making unwelcome, even painful and destructive comments, but for a lot of fat women, it’s about employment opportunities being denied and unequal treatment in health care.

    And if you haven’t been over tekanji’s Check My What? list, I highly recommend it.

  66. I’m not thin.

    And calling things what they are isn’t “derailing”. It is ridiculous to dismiss all anti-thin comments to women as “jealousy”, even when we’re just talking about the anti-thin comments made by other women.

    Oh, goodness, I wasn’t talking about what you were saying! I was talking in general about the thin people who say “Being thin is hard too!” when fat people talk about their experiences with fat discrimination much like “But men are hurt by x/y/z thing too!” when a woman talks about her experience with x/y/z. I wasn’t really talking about responses to this particular thread. I fail at specifying things, apparently.

    How is a man telling a woman that she has to gain weight or she won’t be sexy “based in fat hatred”? It’s not. It’s based in misogyny.
    It’s possible that it may be both fat hatred and misogyny. I know many guys who would say such a thing also object to girls who are “too fat” in their eyes. I would say it’s ultimately rooted in misogyny though.

  67. Why can’t we love the body because it IS the body?

    This is a wonderful way of putting it, and it nicely sidesteps the ableism that often enters into “reclaiming our love for the body” rhetoric (e.g. “I love my body because it can do X, Y, and Z”). Why can’t we love the body because we’re humans, and humans are embodied?

  68. It’s possible that it may be both fat hatred and misogyny.

    A lot of fat hatred boils down to misogyny, so it can be hard to tease them apart.

  69. ““I think some people misunderstand the concept of privilege. Like, “My life is hard! And yet you say I’m privileged??” Privilege does not necessarily mean your life is instantly easy to live, it means that, because of some characteristic you can’t control, you may get treated better than the non-privileged in certain circumstances.” ”

    Yes. Absolutely. But what I think I need help understanding is … well, where the lines between privileged and non-privileged are. There are a lot of shades of grey. Economically – The fact that I’ve always had a roof over my head makes me privileged. The fact that I know what it’s like to scrounge around the house for loose change so that I can go to the store and get something to feed my small child with – um, non-priveleged. The fact that the above situation, for me, was a relative rarity – privileged. The fact that I was able to work at home and be home with my kid – very, very privileged.

    You see… it becomes almost like a scoreboard.Do I have more ‘privileged’ or more ‘non-privileged’? Most people I know are such a mix.

    With my level of fatness – the ‘scores’ are similarly mixed. It’s not like there’s a sharp dividing line where privilege ends and non-privilege begins. Plus, it shifts.. with time and place.

    That’s a good thing, I guess.

  70. My sister became actually angry and hostile towards me when I lost weight. I think she felt her identity threatened because I was no longer just a few pounds lighter than her, and she was mad because I hadn’t dieted down (I lost it due to an illness and the inability to actually buy food. I was a college student! I was poor!).

    Then I gained weight and I started getting shit from, well, pretty much the rest of my family.

  71. “Medium-sized”? “Middle-sized”?

    I have definitely seen women who were unhappy with their fat announce that younger, slimmer, perfectly-healthy and socially-acceptable-sized women were too thin and should eat more. To my ears, it was based in jealousy: it was an attempt to trick those other women into giving up their unfair advantage of slimness.

  72. “Why can’t we love the body because we’re humans, and humans are embodied?”

    Yes! I really would love for body love, and body acceptance, to be unconditional. I think that, and exactly that, is what we are all feeling the lack of.

    When I studied massage, working with people’s bodies was like… like being in nature, or looking at the ocean, or at a tree. I just stopped seeing things in terms of whether someone had a ‘good’ body or an attractive body, or not. It was just ‘The Body’. And that’s a beautiful thing… a miraculous thing.. all by itself. No conditions of any kind.

    I really feel… with every shred of my inherent pantheism… that this is how we’re ‘supposed to’ experience it… or, that this is the experience of the body that serves us best, and is most in line with what we need. I think we’re all just crying out from the lack of that awareness.

  73. Great post.

    I’d love to see a list of thin privileges articulated that are similar to the “invisible knapsack” list and other lists of privilege circulating out there. I have attempted to say to people who tell me “well it’s not easy for X or Y either; their bodies get commented on and they get asked intrusive things and etc. etc.” that this may be true but X or Y who are thin still have more social capital than me, but it doesn’t seem to penetrate.

  74. It’s interesting for me how many thin women frequent this site – I ‘ve seen a lot of the people identifying as thin here commenting on many other posts. I do read about race even though I’m white, and about other inequalities that don’t effect me, and I think I should be aware of my privileges. Still, I’m amazed at how attached many thin people are to Shapely Prose.

    Please don’t think I’m saying this is at all bad, but I am intrigued. I know for some people here, like SweetMachine, they may be thin now, but they have a fat history and possibly a fat future, but many of you say you have always been thin. Is the attraction because of the intersection with sexism and general social body hatred? Or just because its well written? As a fat woman I’ve found this blog really helpful to me in helping me take things less personally and be less defeatist, but as much as I enjoy it, I don’t think I’d be a regular reader if I was thin.

  75. This is because, I recognize, I enjoy a different sort of privelege. I’m on that fuzzy border between fat and… um, whatever the euphemism of the day is… and the benefits are quite unique. I’m considered attractive… enough. Not intimidatingly so, as I was when I was younger and thinner – as Rachel is now. Women like me. I think it’s because I’m a walking poster child for the fact that, even if the worst happens and they were to become fat, it still wouldn’t be THAT bad. And at the same time, I’m not a threat, I’m not going to steal anyone’s husband, I am … a watered-down, supremely unthreatening and relateable version of the feminine ideal.

    I can so completely relate to this. Honestly, I’ve probably had my weight be an issue ONE time–the first time a met an old doctor, about seven years ago. I actually weighed about 15-20 pounds less than I do now, but she mentioned I was overweight and told me what my “ideal” weight range was. As soon as she realized I was on an SSRI, and that my health was good, she never mentioned it again.

    I’ve been really fortunate. My current doctor laughed at me when I asked him if I should try to lose weight. Not one of the doctors I dealt with while pregnant had a word to say about my weight, except to say that what I was gaining was healthy and good. I can’t recall a single time when anybody has yelled a weight-related insult at me, or even made a “concerned” comment. The closest I can recall is a creepy older man telling me I was “a whole lot of woman” when I was walking through a parking lot to return a video, but I’m pretty sure he intended that as a compliment.

    And, I’m certainly fat. I’m 5’8,” about 200 lbs, and wear a size 16/18. I’m larger than the average American woman, and am one of those obese people that is destroying our nation. So I don’t know why I don’t get the same crap that a lot of people my size or smaller do often get. I think some of it is that I gain weight in my boobs and bottom, not my middle, so I’ve got that .7 waist-to-hip ratio that maybe reads as “big” more than “obese” or “unhealthy” to people. I have no idea. I do know that, while I absolutely hate the attitude that society has towards fat people, it’s not something I encounter personally, even though I feel like I should. I always fear I’m going to get lectured by the doctor, ridiculed by a stranger, told by a friend that I should lose weight for my health, but it hasn’t happened, thankfully.

    And, I’ve seen how absolutely crappy friends of mine who are significantly larger than me are treated, when they go to the doctor or go out to eat or in the workplace, and then how friends who are very thin have their bodies commented on all the time, and I do think there’s a certain privilege that goes with being “average” (as in pretty-close-to-the-norm), at least in terms of having your body be something that people, for the most part, don’t find remarkable, in the literal sense. People don’t generally feel the need to remark on my body, probably because it looks a lot like the bodies of their moms and sisters and girlfriends and coworkers, and so I’m able to just go about my life without dealing with outside commentary on my body.

  76. I love discussions like these, though as a thin person I hardly say much because I’m terrified that I’ll stick my foot in my mouth.

    I have to say, FA should really be an “everybody” movement. It’s helped me so much–I grew into my adult weight (which is still “thin” without being skinny) over the past few years, after a childhood of being stick-like and hypoglycemic. When my relatives started making “Oooh, if you keep on like this you’ll get fat” moments, it was only my time on FA blogs that let me snap back “And I’m sure that would be the WORST THING EVER. I like my weight.” and shut them up.

    I can’t connect to actual experiences of size discrimination, but I do identify, really strongly, with the sense that my body was always “wrong”, no matter what size I was. We as a society could do with a whole lot less of that.

  77. Oh, and just to clarify, I’m not saying that the situation of the very thin and very fat is exactly the same. It’s not. Obviously there is educational, medical, occupational, and social discrimination that fat people face that thin people, no matter how thin, do not face. I was just saying, at the level of an individual’s experience, people around average size (even if they are officially “overweight” or even “obese”) may not have to deal with their bodies being objects of curiosity the way the bodies of the extremely fat and extremely thin are.

  78. Morag, I think one of the reasons women in the willow-slim to middle-of-the-road size range read Shapely Prose is that we have practically ALL been called fat at some point. “You’re too fat” is an easy, reliably hurtful way to attack any woman. Being labelled unacceptable by reason of fatness is an ever-present threat.

    Plus, lots of women and girls think they’re fat even if they aren’t. I vividly remember, in tenth grade (that’s age 15 for non-USA readers), watching one of my classmates tell her friend, “Oh my god, I am like, so fat! I need to lose ten pounds by bathing suit season!” She was in the teen growth spurt. She had zero surplus fat. But she was convinced she was fat.

    So fat acceptance is an issue for all women. It’s just like how bigotry against homosexuality is an issue for all women, because as long as lesbianism is ‘bad’, any woman who isn’t gender-conforming enough can be attacked with “You’re a dyke!”

  79. Morag:

    As to why I’m a thin person on a FA site? As a child I sat around, read, watched TV, and stuffed my face with cookies, and watched my fat dad eat broccoli for dinner and sweat on a treadmill to no avail. I was underweight but knew I’d never be thin enough because my lordosis gives me a stomach. I watched my friends torture themselves to be thin and spend so much time hating themselves they never got to show people who they really were. I listened to all those “to be loved at all you have to look like X” messages, and noticed a ton of fat, happily-married relatives and family friends.

    Thin people can figure out that the beauty myth is a crock of shit, too, given enough smacks to the head, especially if the smacks get in early enough in life. And the only other people who seem to get it are the FA people, so I’ll hang around them. It’s good for my sanity.

  80. Morag:

    I can’t speak for the other thin folks here, but for me, I forget how I found Shapely Prose over a year ago, but I kept reading because I knew I needed to work on my attitude towards fat people. I grew up with a lot of casual fat hatred, plus the medicalization of fat in med school, and I came to realize as I started my clinical rotations that I needed to be less judgmental about this one aspect of my patients.

    Also, I just love the writing and the general spirit of feminism and inclusion. Once upon a time I used to think feminists weren’t funny.. yay internet for fixing that bias, too.

  81. Oh, and I’ve also never been into the diet culture of mainstream female culture. Which is another part of thin privilege, I guess — I never had anybody telling me I should be dieting. Made it a hell of a lot easier to basically fall into intuitive eating without knowing that it had a name.

  82. I’ve been up and down the weight spectrum and I can say that I was definitely treated with more respect and admiration when I was smaller. Of course, I was younger then, too, which may play into it. And I was always white and reasonably well educated. The contributing factors are legion. Despite coming from a family full of large women, some of whom gave me grief for being thin (and then lamented when I no longer was), I cannot say that I have encountered the sort of discrimination and hatred that my larger friends endure on a regular basis. I see it when I’m with them. I hear their stories. I read about it here. And it infuriates me that anyone would be maligned due to the completely subjective response to body shape. Heck, the fact that the reactions ARE subjective is rarely even acknowledged.

    Yes, I got told that I was too thin or needed to eat, etc. But no one ever spewed hatred at me as I crossed the street . I was not subjected to cruelty from complete strangers for being thin. I was not refused medical treatment until I gained weight. There were not hundreds of articles discussing how dangerous, expensive, burdensome, unattractive, or deadly my thinness was. Maybe my experience is unusual and all those things happen, but if the treatment of thin women is as awful as that of fat women, I have missed it.

    I would love to live in a world where it was widely recognized that anyone else’s body size/shape/ability/etc. is no one else’s business and that it is gauche to even mention it. Supporting FA is a good start.

  83. Morag: It wasn’t until I discovered fat acceptance that I had the courage to say that I wasn’t fat. Before I was afraid that if I described myself as anything but, someone else would call me fat. (You can never be thin enough, y’know.)

  84. Elusis,

    I really wish there was a list of privileges, cross-indexed, so we can all keep track of how privileged we are, or are not.

    Financial/social privilege derived from parents would be a separate chart, but attractiveness would be indexed in side-by-side categories, as in fatness and prettiness. Like, you can be fat, but if you rank high on prettiness, it cancels out X amount of fatness.

    Okay, it’s just one of my little fantasies, based on finding out, after I turned 40, that my friends always considered me ‘the pretty one’. Since I only had the fat index for reference, ( i.e. ‘fatty fatty fat fat on that particular scale) I had no idea that there was ALSO a separate ‘pretty’ index, and I actually rated quite highly on that. and NOBODY told me about it – they just assumed that I knew.

    I think it would be good for us all to know our social capital – for example, most of the people who post here would rank quite highly on the intelligence and loquaciousness scale, which are both valued factors in social capital.

  85. This thread is so refreshing right now. I have been stuck in old (and frankly, quite tired) disordered self talk for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure what it is about a discussion of privilege that is working for me right now but I can say that it is working. I am an in-betweener generally and right now, due to some seriously disordered behaviors, I’m not.

    I think, right now, just a civil discussion on the topic of fat and privilege is rocking my world.

  86. To Morag re: skinny woman hanging out at an FA site:
    Came for the feminism and stayed because the writing (and the comments!) are fantastic and witty and well-reasoned. And because body-shaming happens to women of all sizes (although in different ways, as people above have discussed).

  87. Great post. If somebody had asked me to write something like it, I would have done it all wrong. That’s why I keep reading. :)

    Is the attraction because of the intersection with sexism and general social body hatred?

    Ha, for me it was exactly the other way around, i.e. Fat Acceptance got me interested in sexism … which I had, for some reason, never really thought about before.

    I’m here because … my boyfriend gained weight, his doctor said he had to lose it, I didn’t trust his doctor because I knew from experience that naturally thin people existed, so I figured something fishy must be going on and did some googlin’ around.

    Proof that thin privilege is real: I cried my eyes out when I read of all the bad things that fat people all over the world seemed to be going through. I’d had no idea.

  88. This post has really smacked me in the face with something which I’d never considered. I have a friend who is a tiny, tiny woman. A few years ago, when we were all at university, a few of us *did* wonder if she had an eating disorder (because she was and is so thin), and made sure we kept an eye on how much she ate (because, yeah, we’re all total experts on eating-disordered behaviour). Yet … I have never thought to do the same for any other friend who doesn’t fit into the super-thin category. And basically until ten minutes ago I never realised that!

  89. I turned 33 today. In most of these 33 years, I spent a short time thin but most of it fat. Now, I’m in the “morbidly obese” range, in a spectrum of 330-340 lbs. To be quite honest, I got more shit and hateful comments while I was a younger, “stockier” fat (size 13-14) than at my current size. I never had garbage thrown at me, never been called a fat bitch on the street, etc. while at the weight I am now.

    After coming to FA, I always wondered why that was and I came to this conclusion: That being an inbetweenie could actually be WORSE than being supersized, because I think many people are under this assumption that it would take less time to become “physically acceptable” than someone who is size 22 and up, and inbetweenie’s aren’t just trying hard enough. I think there’s probably a lot more pressure in that respect.

    I’m not saying we supersized have it harder. When they show headless fatties on those scare-tactic news reports, they show us. 300 lbs to many means unable to get out of bed and ready to drop dead at any moment, when most of us aren’t filling those stereotypes.

    And that’s why we need our thinner allies. Size acceptance is crucial for fat people, but it’s not just for us. Sure, we can question why someone who is a size 4 or 6 or 8 wants to be a part of the movement, but when you browse the internet and see the increasing level of hostility for anyone that’s not a size 0-6, or someone that was a size 2 and had the audacity to go up to a size 8 (Jessica Simpson), that’s why. They’ll still have thin privilege, don’t get me wrong, but it’s proof anyone can hate on a body, double or single digits.

  90. “On the other hand, frizzy hair and saggy boobs, while they can be fixed with surgery, styling products etc, are rarely considered our fault.”

    Really? I got the assumption that both of those things were my fault from people pretty often…
    Fat’s still the one that’s considered a major moral failing though.
    I’m surprised but grateful that my doctor hasn’t been giving me shit about it recently…I have no insurance and it’s the first time I’ve been back to the doctor in years, supposedly going to have help finding financial help but I have no idea how that will go. I think he’s actually willing to consider the fact that I’m constantly terrified and thinking about death and dying, to the point where I cannot function in daily life, as a bigger problem than OMG I’m a FATTY. The fact that I’d lost a few pounds in a week just because I’ve barely been able to eat wasn’t viewed as a good thing either, fortunately.

    In the past pretty much every physical problem I’ve had, I got “you need to exercise more” with no other look at what might be wrong. Even back in middle and high school when I had gym class most days of the week, walked to school daily, and tended to bike and walk/hike on my own a lot. And even when the problems seemed to be allergies, or back pain that was making it harder to exercise. And I always thought they must be right, since I wasn’t actually doing a 2 hour structured workout plan or something daily…

    Sorry for incoherence/irrelevance. Kinda loopy on antianxiety meds.

  91. Bree, being about the same age as you (I’m 31), I also wonder how much age has to do with it. I haven’t changed size significantly since I was a teen (I was about a 14/16 then and, since having a baby in my mid-twenties, have been about a 16/18), but I can also remember having people say nasty things about my body when I was a teenager that I haven’t heard in years and years now.

    Maybe you hit 25, or 30, or motherhood, or whatever, and suddenly you’re just not a sex object anymore, anyway, so who cares if you’re fat? I don’t know.

  92. Morag: I am a thin person on a Fat Acceptance site because FA is closely related to Body Acceptance and Feminism, and I have two daughters. I’m thin, but in my family of five sisters I am The Fat One (me and my 26-inch waist, I kid you not), and my daughters are similarly differently sized, and I want to know… how to make sure I don’t fuck up any more than I have to. Clearly the world is very fucked up when sick, underweight girls are told they are either lucky or still too fat. Or both, sometimes.

    If we can save the world while we’re here, that’s good too.

  93. Maybe you hit 25, or 30, or motherhood, or whatever, and suddenly you’re just not a sex object anymore, anyway, so who cares if you’re fat?

    I think it’s partly that, and partly that people who’re past 25 are more likely to have the resources to blow off that sort of abuse, so it isn’t as satisfying for the abuser. Teenagers and people in their early twenties are most likely still trying to get themselves established as adults; people past 25 or 30 are more likely to have a job or career, a Significant Other, a stable group of friends with shared interests, etc. Abusers play the odds.

  94. Morag – I came because of the feminist angle on body acceptance. I grew up with a thin mother who was constantly dieting and berating my chubby childhood body. It wasn’t intentional and I love my mom, but the ensuing eating disorder and constant struggles with body image have made SP a really great haven to talk about lots of issues, including feminism and FA.

    Right now I’m in a strange place. I’m a very curvy size 6 and I still have a lot of body image issues. I was heavier as a kid (thinner as the result of an ED and a very fucked metabolism) and I carry around a lot of the baggage from that. I think I have a unique perspective because I WAS a fat kid and I’m now enjoying thin privilege.

    Plus, I love talking with a group of extremely intelligent, progressive women. You all are amazing and have challenged me to think in so many different ways.

  95. Morag – I come here because I have a history of ED, and when my brain is ramping up with those thoughts, I can come here and be reminded that my body size does not define my worth. Between that and the incredible education I’ve gotten from reading, I come here on a semi-regular basis.

  96. I know it was a million comments ago, but I just wanted to weigh in on the “they’re just jealous” mentality.
    NO. They’re not just jealous. Saying someone is just jealous makes what is a *societal problem* into a personal moral failure, and that’s not ok.

  97. Morag — a) the writing is splendid and funny and thought-provoking, but mainly b) it’s an idea that I hadn’t encountered before. I mean, I’m sure I need practice at checking my white privilege and my steady-income-and-well-educated privilege and my bi-but-dating-a-boy-and-living-in-Massachusetts-anyway privilege, but those were all things that I’d run into in college at the latest. I was lucky enough to more or less miss out on most of the teenage body-angst through coming from a family who almost all have “average” body types (i.e., thin but not strikingly so, though some of the men are kind of lanky) and greatly enjoy food, and then in school I was awkward enough that my peers found plenty to tease me with without having to find something to say about my utterly nondescript physical appearance. So it was a bit of a shock to actually examine the issue of body type/size/etc and realize that I have a lot of privilege there and a lot of negative assumptions about people at the other end of the bell curve. So yeah, educational.

  98. Morag:

    I’m here because the only time I ever liked my thighs, I was an addict, and I’m a size 2 now.

    And because I know too many beautiful, awesome, brilliant girls, of all sizes, who believe they’re somehow not good enough.

    And because, we’re all women, and until all of us are free to love ourselves, then none of us are.

  99. Morag, I have a question for you. If you did become thin (as opposed to simply thinner), would you know it? I know I didn’t recognize myself as thin even during the five minutes in my 20s when I wore a size 8 (and an 8 then is like a 4 or 6 now). I still had big thighs, a stomach that pooched out, flabby upper arms. Oh noooo, my work wasn’t done, not even close. People said I looked great, but did I believe them? Hah. Now that I’m a size 20 or thereabouts, it sounds bananas, but there you have it.

    When I hear/see thin women saying, “But it’s hard to be thin, too!”, what I usually respond with is something like, “So what you’re saying is, it’s hard to be a woman. You’re darn tootin’ it is, that’s why there’s feminism.”

  100. I’m doubly prejudiced because I’m neither fat enough nor thin enough to get nasty remarks about my weight, and I read SP every day. I can’t remember how I got here, but I stayed for the awesome writing, the fabulous (often hilarious) comments, the critical looks at popular “science,” the feeling of community, and of course, the cursing! And the fact that it’s helped me see my massive amount of prejudice is just a bonus…a big fucking bonus, I should say, since I hadn’t dropped an F bomb yet.

    And although weight in particular is not my issue and I hope this is not perceived as an attempt to threadjack or make it all about me, I’ve had a major Fantasy of Being “Beautiful” (in the most conventional, media-driven definition of the word) for most of my life and this site has really helped me see beyond it. Thanks all!

  101. That came out wrong, I meant “privilege” the first time and “prejudice” the second time, as I was prejudiced in the sense that I pre-judged people who were fat.

  102. Oh, and Volcanista: Thank you. Especially for this:

    Yeah, I have automatic credibility on the subject of fat prejudice, despite never having experienced it firsthand, while actual fat people are just wrong/deluded/lying. THAT makes sense.

    I guess “nothing about us without us” doesn’t apply if most people don’t see you as part of a stigmatized group in the first place, right? (That’s not the same thing as “last acceptable prejudice”; you can recognize someone as belonging to a stigmatized group and be prejudiced against them simultaneously.) We’re just people who voluntarily and stupidly made ourselves ugly and untouchable and marked ourselves for an early and agonizing death. We can’t be believed when we write about ourselves, because we’re just looking for any possible excuse not to have to give up the daily gallons of soda and bathtubs full of fries we’re all psychologically addicted to. (It never occurs to people who think like this that the few people who DO really have a problem with gallons of soda and bathtubs full of fries, people for whom eating actually HAS taken over their lives completely, mostly find this fact really fucking painful and are NOT looking for an excuse not to have to give it up.) Most of the public discourse about us has long been taken over by cranky people on diets.

    So yeah, you’d better believe we need people like you, Volcanista. Thank you for being there for us.

  103. since I hadn’t dropped an F bomb yet.

    It is a requirement for 50% of any commenter’s contributions, so you’re in the clear for today. ;-)

    Meowser, “recognizing yourself as thin” is a great way of putting that concept. I think I’m going to have to write a post about that soon.

  104. Morag:

    but many of you say you have always been thin. Is the attraction because of the intersection with sexism and general social body hatred? Or just because its well written?

    I read SP because if the intersection with sexism and general social body hatred.

    More personally, if I, as someone who is thin (officially “overweight” now, but I don’t look much different, although people seem to assume I’m an adult more often now; I still figure I’m thin, although thankfully not scrawny like I was when I was a kid) and reasonably pretty have had so much trouble convincing myself to love my body, and that gaining 20 pounds is not the end of the world, how much harder is it for people who are further off the societal beauty idea? I want to understand that as well as I can; I want to be aware of pitfalls so as not to contribute to other people’s negative experiences.

    Also, y’all are frequently hilarious (giant sloths! cavemen! colossal squid!).

  105. Morag: I’m thin, and I found Shapely Prose about April 2007 through a link on a feminist website, but I can’t remember which one.

    I stayed because:

    1) Kate writes well. I just love her. She’s also damn funny. The addition of fillyjonk and Sweet Machine only increased the love for this site in my heart.

    2) I want to spread the message. I want to learn how to eloquently express myself about fat-acceptance. I could just link to SP all the time, but I think I will make a bigger impact if I am speaking for myself. (And yeah, my thin body gives me more credibility in other people’s eyes, as fucked as that is.)

    I’m not at the point where I feel strong in my ability to talk about this issue with others. It feels like such a huge cement wall to go up against, and it is really. Just as I don’t like being the sole atheist talking about religion in a group of theists, I don’t want to feel ganged up on when talking about fat-acceptance. But tough cookies – I’ve forced myself to speak up about my atheism, to make sure my side is represented accurately in the god/no god debates, to speak out for my rights, so I must do the same for fat-acceptance (and feminism).

    3) Reading Shapely Prose caused me to stop hating my body. I can never thank Kate, FJ, and SM enough for this. I never knew life could be so wonderful, and I think this site, and a few others, prevented me from slipping back into my depression. This is my safe place, my sane place. I come here to feel rejuvenated, to refill my Hope for Humanity tank after its been emptied by assholes in the rest of the world (99% of it).

    I say all that fully recognizing that I very quickly embraced fat-acceptance largely due to not having much fat on my body to embrace. It was an easy hurdle to overcome. So the struggle for people who are fat is beyond my scope of understanding, whether they are size 10 or size 30.

    Which leads to reason 4): I want to learn about those experiences and understand them as much as is possible. I need to be reminded of how life can suck and work against you if you’re not thin. I need to get angry to be motivated to speak out against fat hatred and oppression. Again, I have the privilege to be able to ignore the fat experience, and I do most of the time, sadly. SP helps knock me off my high horse. (Is that the right term?)

    I purposely keep my trap shut here to make sure I listen. While I say it’s my safe place, it still really belongs to people with more fat than me.
    The bloggers are accommodating and kind to thin people, even though they don’t have to be.
    That’s probably reason 5)…
    I don’t think Kate, FJ, or SM hand out cookies to us thin people, but I could very well be wrong about that, as seen from the eyes of a fat person. (What do you, everyone, think?)
    I feel welcomed here and therefore don’t run away. If I were a better person, I would spend less time looking at pictures of kittens and talking with internet friends, and instead read more FA blogs that step on my toes, or stomp on the whole foot, as it were. Thin privilege (and others) right there in action.

    Good post, volcanista.

  106. I love how I can read a comment thread on SP and feel like my brain has just run a marathon. It really can be an intellectual workout, in a good way.

    I think some people misunderstand the concept of privilege. Like, “My life is hard! And yet you say I’m privileged??” Privilege does not necessarily mean your life is instantly easy to live, it means that, because of some characteristic you can’t control, you may get treated better than the non-privileged in certain circumstances.

    Somewhere (quite likely here, but not sure) I once read a post/article about how privilege is not a “Check yes or no” box but a sliding scale, and it was such a “DING!” moment in my head. Being privileged doesn’t mean your life is easy, because I don’t think anyone’s really is. But you can be privileged in a dozen ways while simultaneously lacking privilege in a dozen other ways, and all those levels of privilege or lack thereof can intersect and impact each other and…and I’m still new to the concept so it makes my brain hurt, but it’s fascinating. In a painful, “This is something I wish I didn’t have to learn about ’cause it would be nice if it didn’t exist” type of way.

    Why can’t we love the body because it IS the body?

    Word.

  107. I think those signs in your doctor’s office DO affect you, as they affect your friends and those you love. Frankly, I’d mention this to the good ol’ doc.

  108. These comments are so great, thanks guys! My first high-visibility post ever, and I was a bit nervous. :)

    I do want to say that the discussion about women shaming other women (in this case, shaming thinner women for “jealousy” or other reasons) is important and interesting, but that’s not the only source of or reason for unfair and marginilizing treatment of thin bodies. The most hurtful comments are still the truly abusive ones that come from both men and women, and do not seem to come from a place of resentment.

    I bring this up not to make it sound like it’s just soooo hard to be thin, but because this is all about mysogyny, and not just because that’s the root of how women sometimes treat each other. When I said that thin women might compare the social damage they experienced to that experienced by fat women, I wasn’t exactly talking about mistreatment by other, resentful women.

  109. Morag: FA is about the only place I know of that consistently and convincingly debunks diet culture and the beauty myth, which are things that affect all of us, even the non-fat. After a post of Kate’s, I think of “fat acceptance for the non-fat” as You-Do-Not-Have-To-Be-Pretty-Ism.

    There’s the other side of altering your own behavior and attitudes towards the fat, and I’m impressed at the altruism of commenters above who came here primarily for that reason. I come here every day because I used to spend so damn much of my mental energy worrying about what I ate–without ever having an ED or really even disordered eating, just that lovely cultural background noise–and wishing to be smaller. I don’t believe I ever had particularly discriminatory attitudes toward the fat–I have plenty of fat loved ones, and never really saw myself as outside of that camp until I came here, anyway. FA has been helpful in terms of a few issues like sensitivity to shopping and how to praise other people without commenting on their size (you really almost need scripts for that, in this culture.) But it’s been infinitely more helpful to me in the messages of:
    – You do not have to be pretty.
    – Diets don’t work, really, really, really, really.
    – Other people do not have a right to comment on your body.
    – You do not have a right to comment on other people’s bodies.
    – You CAN and SHOULD do and wear whatever you want at any size or shape.
    – Debunking the Fantasy of Being Thin as a catch-all for normal human fears that happens to tap into cultural destructive forces around our bodies, and keeps us from achieving our full potential and happiness.
    – Nothing bad will happen if you eat whatever you feel like
    – Exercise should be enjoyable

    There are probably more, but none of these are messages solely for fat people, and none of them are messages you get many other places in our culture besides here (certainly not if they’re decoupled from other diet / negative body talk.) Honestly, they are life giving lessons.

  110. Morag- Like so many comments have already pointed out, I read Shapely Prose for the body positivity, feminism, critical examination of science and the media, hilarious and thought-provoking comment threads, and the sense of community with smart and strong women.

    The family issue is interesting for me, too. Most of the people in my family are fat. So although I am not fat, and I know I can’t know what it’s like to experience fat hatred, I think I still take it quite personally. By which I mean, any judgements or insults or meanness or discrimination directed towards fat people, are directed towards my family. And THAT PISSES ME OFF. (The surest way to get me angry is to upset my little sister!!)

    I think there may be a lot of people here (like Mara and her daughter?) who have a family connection that, while not the same as actually experiencing a different body type, can make you love it and want to defend it. (Although I guess there are also a lot of people here with more negative family experiences around size and eating.)

    Although I like to think that even if my family wasn’t fat, the injustice of it all would still have led me to FA.

    This site has helped empower me as an ally, be more accepting of my own body, and learn about thin privilege. Also I love the word douchehound.

    Thanks Shapely Prose!

  111. Another thin FA supporter chiming in. I’ve been reading this blog for over a year for several reasons:

    1. The quality of the writing
    2. As a scientist I’m interested in tracking the progress of research and support for FA arguments (I did a multivariate analysis of statistics from the BMI project because I’m that much of a nerd.)
    3. The excellent comment moderation.
    4. Aunt Fattie (I miss Aunt Fattie!)
    5. Because it really has made me more cognizant of the meaning of privilege and how it affects people’s behavior.
    6. Really a corollary to 5, but this blog has helped me become a generally more empathetic person.
    7. Y’all are Teh Funny!
    8. In contradiction of 6, I exalt in the unadulterated schadenfreude of watching you rip apart trolls.

    So, yeah, all those reasons.

  112. (Addressing an earlier comment regarding the frequent assumption that “too thin” women have eating disorders)

    I find that I have a habit of jumping to that conclusion myself and even commenting to other people about it, though I’d insist that my “awareness” is more acute due to my sister’s near fatal struggle with anorexia and bulimia.

    That said, it’s a complete and utter fallacy that only stick-thin, emaciated waifs have those two disorders. My sister was at serious risk for a sudden cardiac event, due to the catastrophic depletion of heart muscle, and may have compromised her ability to have children even though she was never technically underweight. At her thinnest, she was 118 lbs, which for her height was the high end of normal. Only someone who had been able to watch her sudden, precipitous weight loss and notice the other visible signs (sallow skin, fine hair on her face) would probably have guessed she was malnourished. In fact, the “normalness” of her weight was one of the reasons why our insurance company wanted to stop paying for her therapy, even if doing so might have been a death sentence.

    I’ve heard of plenty of other women in the overweight and even obese BMI categories on the brink of starvation as well.

  113. Thanks, volcanista, for a great post. I have been reading SP for a year now and this is the first time I’m commenting, because, while I’m so interested in and moved by what you all have to say, I haven’t felt it was the “place” for me.

    But Morag’s question prompted me to reply … as an average-sized person, why am I here? Guess what, it is the place for me! Here I find intelligent discussion that is helping me change my behaviours, both in terms of FA and in terms of addressing my own food/eating/dieting headfuckery. Becoming more FA-accepting and facing my own body image-related issues is part of my feminist growth, even more important since I have two daughters and I deeply don’t want to pass on any of this to them.

    So thanks to the SP-ers for making this an inclusive forum where all shapes and sizes can learn and grow and change attitudes. You girls rock!

  114. OT: What time is this blog set to? It’s not even Eastern time because my comment is timestamped 1:43am on the 30th, but I wrote it sometime this evening, the 29th, Central time.

  115. The last time I went to the doctor, someone typed up my weight as 117 instead of 171. I noticed while I was in the dr’s office talking to the dr but I didn’t mention anything because one of the bulletin boards was filled with BMI stuff. My overall cholesterol and triglycerides were high and I didn’t want to be lectured on how I need to lose weight. I don’t even know for sure whether my doctor would have done that, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

  116. I am a member of a LiveJournal community for women with small band sizes and large cup sizes. I was reprimanded and ordered to delete a comment (which I couldn’t do, not having a paid account–LiveJournal is weird) for saying I had been a twig growing up. Apparently thin people now have it so hard that I can’t call myself a twig when I totally was one. News to me.

    And yeah, I did have some problems; there were a couple of girls in my seventh-grade class who constantly ridiculed me for being anorexic, when I wasn’t. But those girls made fun of every damn thing about me, and they did it because I was the weird kid, which was because I was genuinely weird (still am) and not because I was thin. Fat girls are the weird kid because they are fat. It’s a totally different thing.

  117. This is an old comment but…

    I don’t see how telling someone else that their body size is unacceptable because it’s not sexy to men is “jealousy speaking” at all.

    It definitely can be. I’ve never said that to somebody’s face because I’m not a rude or cruel person, but I’ve said it about actresses and such. And it was based out of jealousy. Not because I wanted to look like that, but because I was envious of the social capital that came from looking like that. I was resentful that their bodies were acceptable and mine wasn’t so I tore them down to make myself feel better. Now, that doesn’t mean it didn’t also come from a place of sexism – of course it did. But I don’t think you can separate out the resentment factor when it comes to those kinds of comments.

    On the general topic of thin privilege – I’ve been very thin and I’ve been moderately fat. I’ve been lucky enough not to get any rude comments in either state, so the big difference for me is the message I get from the media. When I was thin, the message I got about my body was mostly neutral. (The thin part was good, my proportionately big hips and thighs and saggy boobs not good. Mostly it balanced out). Now that I’m fat, the message I get about my body is that it’s horrible, ugly, disgusting. I struggle with so much loathing for my body that I didn’t really when I was thin. To me, you can’t really compare the two.

  118. what an interesting post! it really got me thinking. i think my biggest problem related to the subject of this post is what you said about ‘women’s bodies being public property’. i see it all the time on the subway in new york-some man leering at a girl who’s clearly uncomfortable. she doesn’t know where to look, and he won’t look away, and it always makes me sad and angry all at once (i’ve also been this girl many times).
    for me, i feel like i’m pretty privileged, even though i definitely qualify as ‘fat’. i don’t think anyone’s mentioned the difference in fat bodies, though i did just skim the comments, and that’s always stuck out to me. i’ve never been the ‘thin’ girl-though i’ve been thinNER-but i’ve also hardly ever been made fun of or called names for my size. i wonder if it’s because i am a typical hourglass shape, with a defined waist, which is more acceptable on the spectrum of fat body shapes. like, i’m closer to what’s socially acceptable-especially to men, since i think biologically speaking a small waist and curvy hips are supposed to be signs of fertility. i’m rambling. anyway, great post.

  119. and ashley, you’re totally right. there’s a documentary about eating disorders-’thin’, i believe, is the name-where one girl weighs around 100 lbs, which isn’t that thin by the standards of anorexic girls who end up in hospitals or inpatient treatment centers, but the important thing to look at is that she’d dropped from 180 lbs to 100 in about the past year. i know bulimic girls get this all the time, too-i’ve definitely gotten it, having been on the higher end of the ‘normal weight’ spectrum-the “you’re not thin so you can’t be sick” syndrome. it’s ridiculous.

  120. Morag:
    (I wish I knew how to do italics so I could quote your question. Anyone wanna help me out?)
    I’m one of the “thin” people that reads this site religiously. I’ve never been overweight, I don’t think. In fact, I was anorexic as a child and young teenager, so I guess I’m pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum with respect to physical size history and/or genetics than a lot of readers. In any case, I think you really nailed it when you said (suggested, perhaps) that Shapely Prose draws a lot of readers because of its stance against any kind of policing of the body.

    And here’s my somewhat long and not very precise reasoning:
    You’ll notice that I put the word thin in scare quotes; people often call me “curvy” and I guess that’s true. However, I’m not as thin as it seems volcanista is (and I’m certainly no longer underweight), but I’m also not big enough to land on the overweight side of a BMI chart. I feel incredibly uncomfortable identifying myself as thin (for obvious reasons–helloooo recovered anorexic) but it would be incredibly disingenuous to call myself fat.

    Clearly, I’m not trying to be all “woe is me for having to call myself thin!” because that’s just absurd. I read this post and I agree with every word– I guess I just really love what Kate Harding and all the other FA bloggers are doing because they really get it. No one should have to define him/herself by body size or appearance, yet everyone struggles with that very issue every time he/she runs into someone with eyes and an opinion. I realize how much fat hatred exists in the world, and I realize that if I ever want to make progress toward eliminating sexism/racism/classism/abilism/lookism/etc. then it’s crucial that I demand that everyone is treated with respect. I don’t want my body judged, and I don’t want anyone to judge yours either. I guess I just see FA as an extension of feminism, so I’ve never really seen it as strange that I’m not-fat and read Shapely Prose like it’s blog-crack. I know that my experiences will be different than fat women’s, but I want to be an ally because I think it’s really important for this not to be a fringe movement. It ultimately affects everyone in some way.

    /sorry for the rambling

  121. Love this thread!

    @Mara, re: comment WAY upstream:

    I was really struck, in one of those vague but deep “aha” moments that I’ll now have to un-vaguify, by your comment about fatphobia being a rejection of the body (just as homophobia is a rejection of sexuality). YES.

    I think it’s resonating with my sense that our culture is terrified of the body, because it’s terrified of the inescapable realities of illness, aging, and death, and the body is the undeniable, ever-present reminder of these truths. Age-ism, able-ism, look-ism, all tie into this as well.

    (I’d hazard perhaps sexism, too, since women could be said to be more associated with the body, the earthiness of bleeding and birth, warmth, nurture, etc; so rejection of “the Feminine” could be seen as a rejection and suppression of body versus Masculine Mind. But I’m just riffing there. I’d even guess that homophobia – i.e. sex-phobia – is another side of this; Fear of the life-force being merely the flip-side of fear of death, fear of being fully embodied in a body that will die.)

    Anyway, the underlying current of all these “ism”s, our obsession with youth and thinness and “normalness” and health, seems to me to really be about an obsession with control (obviously) and, to put it bluntly, eternal, unchanging life. The old “if I figure out to be thin and healthy and youthful forever (and if I have enough stuff) then I will NEVER DIE.”

    There’s a hardness that comes from insisting on holding so tightly to something so clearly false, something that’s so clearly being refuted in front of your eyes every single day; and that hardness has to go somewhere, has to be directed at something to sustain it, needs something to fight. *Of course* fat bodies, sick bodies, old bodies, dead bodies will bear the brunt of this hardness, this hatred; they need to be pushed out of the way to maintain the illusion.

    So, our culture is actually really good at hiding most of these – we hide (and stigmatize, blame, make other) our sick, isolate, de-humanize and tuck away our elderly, and taboo-ify our dead in a way no other culture does or ever has before, as far as I know. we hide and distance ourselves from all these bodies so we never have to look at them or imagine that they might be connected to *our* body in any way.

    But Teh Fatties, sadly, are everywhere, and not as easily put aside as the sick, the old and the dead, what with many of them inconveniently being fully functioning humans. This must be the root of enormous resentment. How dare they walk around with all that BODY-ness? From there it is such a short leap to “you have not right to exist/be seen/be loved” etc.

    um, ok. Didn’t know that was going there. I’m feeling that this is a little raw and long and possibly not completely thought-through, and also only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Apologies… it feels really important to me, somehow, and I’m curious for feedback, but moderators, I’ll understand if you think this doesn’t fit here.

    Thank y’all for rockin so hard!

  122. i wonder if it’s because i am a typical hourglass shape, with a defined waist, which is more acceptable on the spectrum of fat body shapes. like, i’m closer to what’s socially acceptable-especially to men

    Ali,

    I think that’s absolutely true, and I said something similar up thread. I’m also definitely fat but hourglass-shaped, and I do think that’s a big part of why I don’t get comments about my weight, even from doctors. The representative body of the “obesity epidemic” is always or at least nearly always one that has a large belly. I can’t remember too many times when I’ve seen an hourglass-shaped headless fatty.

  123. Morag, I’m a thin woman who reads SP because I can use the body acceptance theory, and the jokes. It’s useful to me as a person who takes up more space than is acceptable in other ways. I don’t comment much because this is not my space and honestly this place makes me crazy sometimes, with the problems that I can’t relate to and I’m, frankly, jealous of (imagine being able to afford to go to a gym, or on a plane, imagine being able to have a job, or have a public identity at all!!), but I’m grateful for the education and ideas so freely given to me here.

  124. Volcanista, you’re a few hundred types of awesome.

    I really think you hit it with this:

    Both probably still get at least occasional public insults as adults. But there is a fundamental difference in the way society as a whole treats, envisions, pictures those two types of bodies.

    No matter what may happen on an occasion personally, there’s still the issue of, well, my size-16 ass could go to a restaurant with a size-2 friend and we could order the exact same thing but no one would looks twice at her yet I’d get the “are you sure you really need that?” look.

    Or worse, someone could actually say that to me. Not that it’s any of your goddamned business, douchehound, but yes, I do need it, otherwise I wouldn’t have fucking ordered it.

    Also, can I just say, I love reading Feed Me on the subway. I’ve noticed some interested and prolonged looks. I don’t normally read on the train often, so I don’t know if it always happens, but it seems like a lot of people were trying to read the back or figure out what the book was about.

  125. No matter what may happen on an occasion personally, there’s still the issue of, well, my size-16 ass could go to a restaurant with a size-2 friend and we could order the exact same thing but no one would looks twice at her yet I’d get the “are you sure you really need that?” look.

    But, if a size 2 friend wasn’t hungry that day, and just wanted water and soup, or water and salad, it’s possible she’d get some “She must have an eating disorder…she needs to eat a burger” looks/comments.

    I’m not saying that, on a societal level, thin people experience discrimination the way fat people do. And, I’m not saying that the very thin are treated to the same horrible treatment, on a personal level, that the very fat are treated to. But, I’m just not sure that fat women who are close to “average”–women in the 14/16 to 18/20 range–are actually subjected, on a personal level, to more criticism and scrutiny of their bodies than extremely thin women. I do think there’s a certain amount of “privilege” that comes with being near the center of the weight bell-curve, which many women in the 14-18ish range will be, and that people on both ends of the bell curve are probably going to be subject to more public commentary on their bodies than those in the middle.

  126. But, if a size 2 friend wasn’t hungry that day, and just wanted water and soup, or water and salad, it’s possible she’d get some “She must have an eating disorder…she needs to eat a burger” looks/comments.

    And if the fatter friend ordered the same, she’d probably get “Good for you!” looks and comments as well.

  127. About 500 people have said this already, but it can’t hurt to say it again: the reason I read this site despite not being fat is that Kate, SP and FJ are the smartest, funniest feminist writers around.

    And you know, the fact that Kate found a readership for this blog, and has become such a successful writer as a result of it kind of makes me believe a little more that there’s justice in this universe!

    I also read it when I’m feeling down, and to try to learn how to better support and be an ally for friends & family members struggling with this stuff.

  128. I’ve heard of plenty of other women in the overweight and even obese BMI categories on the brink of starvation as well.

    Not to hijack the thread, but I just had my teeth cleaned for the first time since I was 16. The last time they were cleaned, I remember them feeling “loose” for days afterwards, and I didn’t get that this time. I must have been extremely malnourished at the time! (And yes, I was “morbidly obese” then, too.)

  129. I just wanted to say that I feel really lucky to be able to read all of these smart / snarky / honest / occasionally-heartbreaking / sometimes-breathtakingly-insightful comments. What an extraordinary space this is.

    So, thanks.

  130. The doctor’s office bit really rang true with me, as girl who used to be “thin” I guess (I mean that in the sense of “not fat”, but in the “skinny” way. Of course, I never thought so at the time…). I was told by my doctor at my most recent physical that “If you ever plan in getting pregnant [which I do] you’ve gotta get this weight off now or you’ll be stuck FAT for the rest of your life.” Yes, I fought back tears then and cried in the car on the way home. It wasn’t just what he said, but the way he said it. How DARE YOU consider getting pregnant when you’re FAT.

    I’m a relatively new reader to this blog, and am really struggling with body acceptance. Who isn’t, right? I’ve gained 20-30lbs in the past few years, and often allow myself to feel like a failure because of it. I try and try to accept how I am now and truly live healthy without worrying about my weight. I try to eat healthy foods, but not “diet” in the sense that if I’m hungry, I eat! I’m trying to listen to my body better, and I have learned that eating junk food makes me feel sluggish. I’ve also learned that exercising a few times a week makes me feel energized and generally better about myself. If only I could internalize all of that and remind myself that I want to be healthy, no some weird ideal of “thin”. I have a naturally very curvy body, and I’ll never be “thin.” And that’s ok.

    If my brain gets that, why can’t my emotions?

  131. And if the fatter friend ordered the same, she’d probably get “Good for you!” looks and comments as well.

    That could definitely happen, as well. Like I said, I’m just not convinced that, not at the level of what the media or medical community is telling us, but at the level of everyday interactions, that middle-of-the-bell-curve people who are in the “overweight” or “obese” categories are subjected to more unwelcome comments than those at the underweight end of that curve.

    This discussion has also made me realize that, just like health isn’t a moral issue for fat people, it shouldn’t be an issue for thin people, either. I was trying, in my head, to come up with a justification for why commenting on the size or eating habits of a very thin person who showed signs of anorexia might be acceptable, but commenting on the size or eating habits of a fat person who showed signs of a compulsive or binge eating problem wouldn’t be. And, I tried things like “Well, people are just worried that the anorexic might drop dead next week!” but, honestly, that’s what people think about very fat people, too. They think, “OMG, they’re going to die of a heart attack at 30!” And, while the anorexic might have more of an immediate risk to their health, if health isn’t a moral issue and isn’t anybody’s business but the person who’s body it is, that has to hold true for very thing anorexics as well.

    I’m not saying anybody here was doing that. I’m talking more about my own reactions. I don’t think I ever made the connection between somebody’s health, eating, and exercise habits being their own business and neither a public nor moral issue, and that being just as true for thin people (regardless of why they’re thin) as it is for fat people (regardless of why they’re fat). Being extremely thin because of an eating disorder is no more of a moral failing or invitation for others to start monitoring a person’s habits or commenting on their body size than being extremely fat because of an eating disorder is.

  132. Great post! I’m another thin Shapeling. I came for a long-overdue sane, safe place to read about feminism and body issues in our fucked-up country, I stayed for the great writing and humor. I’ve learned so much here.

    I feel that my lifelong struggle with being emaciated (which I am now working very hard to change – which is making me feel conflicted, because I am not accepting my body or eating intuitively to do so. I am ‘dieting’ in my own way and honestly, it’s 90% for vanity as I am in excellent health at my former very low set point. I just don’t look good) is what led me directly to fat acceptance. My whole life there’s been a lot of focus on my body, despite my actions having so little do with how I looked.The utterly bipolar reactions I have gotten over the years – sometimes from the same person – have really brought home to me that we have a collective mental illness in our society about everything to do with women’s bodies.. I escaped the indoctrination in a lot of ways – I knew when I was 9 that my best friend, who was rather fat (and was tortured nearly her whole life for it, by her peers, family, doctors..), ate around the same amount as me, was nearly as hyper, and was also very athletic. Of course it didn’t make sense to say she ‘ate too much’ or that she was unhealthy, just because she had more soft tissue (including lots of muscle) than most kids we knew.

    I do benefit from thin privilege every day, and I try not to be a victim. Yeah, I deal with negativity about my weight/shape/looks from people but so does EVERYONE, no matter what they look like, and fat people are faced with a level of venom I think those of us who are an ‘acceptable’ size ( and I include myself in that 100%, no matter how much everyone talks about how sick/sad Lindsey Lohan looks – bonyness is everywhere we look, it is absolutely considered normal by most people, we’ve internalized it) would be absolutely shocked to experience.

  133. muz said:

    it feels really important to me, somehow, and I’m curious for feedback,

    I got nothin’ to add, per se, but my feedback is a whole lotta “yes!” to the entire post. I tend to think that people who are deliberately abusive and rejecting are generally acting out of fear, that sometimes their very arrogance is driven by fear (they despise those “lesser” because they fear, in their hearts, that they are those lesser beings), and you’ve laid out the fear I think most motivates fat hatred.

  134. I do think there’s a certain amount of “privilege” that comes with being near the center of the weight bell-curve, which many women in the 14-18ish range will be, and that people on both ends of the bell curve are probably going to be subject to more public commentary on their bodies than those in the middle.

    but lori, you do realize that those”average” women in the 14-18/20 range are the ones the media means when they talk about the obesity epidemic. right? that those are the women (and men of similar size) that are killing the cost of health care, causing all kinds of environmental issues, and going to drop dead any moment from a diabetic heart atack.

    but beyond that, there are pleanty of women here who are in that range and higher who i’m pretty sure will tell you that their experience is not what you percive it to be. that size may be the national average, but it most certainly is not an acceptable size in terms of both main stream beauty standards or in the minds of those people who hate.

    i know you probably didn’t mean to, but the way in which you phrased your comment is very much the thing we’re talking about here. unintentionally, and i’m sure as a way to connect with what others are saying, you negate other women’s experiences (you average fatties have privleges thin and super-sized fatties don’t have) and very much focus on the coments/stares that only a thin woman will get.

    i don’t know you, and i really don’t want you to think i’m picking on you. but, i do think it’s important, in a discussion of privilege, to point out those actions that show a person is acting from a place of privilege.

  135. also, i don’t think anyone here is saying it’s ok to make health related comments toward thin women. or vice verse. in fact, what i think most people are saying is it is not ok to “health police” other people’s bodies. be they strangers, loved ones, or co-workers.

  136. I want to clarify that I’m saying this as a fat woman. I’m a size 16/18. And, I’ve always found it useful, as a feminist, to focus on my own privilege. I’d be lying to say that I don’t feel that I do indeed experience a privilege that people at both extremes of the body-size spectrum don’t enjoy. I’m not talking about the media or the medical community: I’m fully aware that, in their discourse, I’m the problem. I’m the “obesity epidemic.” But, honestly, while I’m always afraid my doctors will criticize my weight, they haven’t. Many of my doctors and nurses are actually about my size. They don’t see me as having a particularly odd or remarkable body. When I compare that to the experiences that much larger women I know have had, I can only conclude that there is a privilege that comes with looking like most people.

    I never have random strangers comment on my body, except for the very occasional man making a comment about my breast size or something like that, which they probably thing is a compliment. I know people much thinner than me, as well as much larger, who gets comments quite frequently. In the case of much larger people, they’re always negative, while in the case of much thinner people they’re mixed, but they still have to deal with total strangers talking about their bodies in a way that I personally don’t.

    I guess I just have to admit that, personally, while I feel like “society” is telling me my body is wrong–and it is!–I don’t get individuals telling me that, ever. If I were much larger I definitely would, and I do think that if I were much smaller I likely would, as well.

    I’m not meaning to negate anybody’s experiences: as I said, certainly many women my size *do* experience negativity. But, as other posters here have shown, I’m not the only woman in my size range (especially among those who are more hourglass-shaped) who doesn’t deal with negative comments from other people. Maybe part of it is age, maybe part of it is location: I’m sure that’s the case. But, there are a lot of places where I, as a size 16/18 woman, can go and live and do my thing where my body will be entirely unremarkable, whereas I’m not sure a much larger or much smaller person can ever have that be the case.

    That’s not to say that all of the stupid, wrong, and misguided messages about fat aren’t out there and don’t hurt people: they are, and they do. I’m simply talking about the messages we get from other individuals, rather than from society as a whole or the media or the medical community, and at that level I do feel that, as an average-sized person (and I consider being a size 16/18 to be average-sized, since it’s pretty close to the size of the average woman), I have privilege that people at either extreme of the size spectrum don’t have.

  137. Lori, I just think that being extremely thin, like myself, while it can bring fierce ridicule, is fundamentally different from the ridicule that fatter people face (even people whose body sizes are in fact “average”), because of the context. You can’t separate it from that. When it carries the weight (ha!) of such severe social stigma with it, it’s a much different message that gets internalized.

    And I tried to say before that there IS a nasty message that people like me have internalized about our bodies and health and attractiveness and worthiness of affection (namely, that if you’re thin enough that everyone is questioning your health, you are completely unattactive, etc. etc.). But then there’s a weird disconnect, because everyone in magazines still looks more or less like me (but taller, and bustier, and with their ribs air-brushed out, so those are parts I can go hate on). And like FJ said in the intro, I’m sized out of loads of clothing lines and stores, but there is usually at least something to try on, even if I’m not crazy about it. It’s just NOT the same.

  138. also, i don’t think anyone here is saying it’s ok to make health related comments toward thin women.

    That’s why I said, “I don’t mean to say that anybody here is doing that.” ;)

    I was simply talking about my thought process. Because, again, I’m privileged here: I’m not big enough that anybody thinks I’m going to drop dead of a heart attack or lost my limbs to diabetes before my son grows up, and I’m certainly not thin enough that anybody is worried about my being anorexic. I don’t have to deal with “concerned” comments about my size. And, I have to admit that the whole concept of health not being a moral issue took me a while to really internalize, and particularly the idea that, even if a person doesn’t exercise and doesn’t eat well and is still unhealthy, it’s still not a moral issue. Then I got it, and it made a lot of sense to me. But, I never associated it with thin people as well as fat people. I had two categories in my head: there are very fat people whose weight and lifestyle are their own business, and very thin people who I should be concerned about if they seem to have an eating disorder. Of course, I never thought of it that explicitly, but that’s sort of how I was thinking. And I was just noting that this got me thinking in a way that led me to conclude that if health isn’t a moral issue, if what somebody eats or doesn’t eat or how much they do or don’t exercise isn’t anybody’s business, that’s true no matter what size they are.

    I’m very grateful for opportunities to be made aware of my own privilege. And, while I don’t benefit from thin privilege–the media doesn’t present my body as the ideal of both beauty and health, I don’t get some immediate bonus points in some people’s minds because of how my body looks, if I have high blood pressure or high blood sugar my doctor isn’t going to assume those problems originate outside of my habits–I do think I benefit from some “average privilege.” I can go about my day without anybody commenting, negatively or positively, about my body; my body is pretty similar to the bodies of most people around me, so people don’t feel the need to gawk at me; I’m not seen as either an embodiment of people’s worst fears about fat (“OMG, if I stop dieting I’ll balloon up to 300 pounds!”) or seen as somehow threatening them by meeting an ideal they can’t meet. There are benefits to blending in.

  139. And like FJ said in the intro, I’m sized out of loads of clothing lines and stores, but there is usually at least something to try on, even if I’m not crazy about it. It’s just NOT the same.

    I always feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds, because I can wear the upper size ranges of many “regular” clothing lines and the lower size ranges of many “plus” clothing lines. I know there are stores and brands that stop at a size 12 or 14, but I have neither the money nor inclination to shop at them ;), so for the places I do shop, I can usually shop in two departments.

    It’s apparently been coming across like I’m saying the situation of the very fat and very thin are identical, but I don’t think that’s the case. Obviously there is real prejudice and discrimination, beyond catty comments somebody might make, that fat people suffer and thin people don’t. I just know that, for me, most of the negativity I’ve ever experienced about my body, once I turn off the TV and stop close the damn magazines, comes from me. It’s not coming from my doctor, my family, my friends, or strangers; it’s me. And part of that is no doubt that I am extremely fortunate to know the people I know, but I’m not convinced that my experience is that much of an aberration. The message that the media and the medical community sends to overweight and obese people is terrible and wrong and needs to be challenged; that’s why I am interested in FA. And, those messages do indeed affect all fat women, regardless of how fat they are.

  140. “Anyway, the underlying current of all these “ism”s, our obsession with youth and thinness and “normalness” and health, seems to me to really be about an obsession with control (obviously) and, to put it bluntly, eternal, unchanging life. The old “if I figure out to be thin and healthy and youthful forever (and if I have enough stuff) then I will NEVER DIE.””

    I definitely agree with the underlying control issue, but I think it also has to do with the extreme competiveness in our society….everyone always thinks the grass is greener, and will do anything to get to that pasture. In and of itself, it’s a sickness at best.

  141. iheartchocolat, you’ll notice that the theme of wanting to be thin, healthy, and beautiful forever, is a major them in vampire stories. So, that obsession has been going on for a very long time.

  142. Jackie, I was chatting with a friend of mine about that particular trope, and we are considering writing a story in which you actually DO turn beautiful/thin, etc. when you turn into a vampire – but the cost is hundreds of years (and possibly eternity) of servitude bordering on slavery, unfulfilled longing, and frequent pain. Sadly, I’m fairly sure people would still opt in if that were the case.

  143. Firstly, this thread rocks hard.

    Secondly…whoo. Unpacking privilege intersections is very hard work. I’m fat, but I’m also white, I also have good skin, I also have “good hair”, with a long terminal length, and I’m smart and talented, and I’m bi and since I’m married to a man I pass for straight.

    I had to decide at a certain point that the quest to fit society’s ruling on shape was just bullshit. Part of what did it was getting a chronic illness where I needed my energy for more important things. Part of it was seeing a young cousin hit sixteen and see the body I would have had if I hadn’t had a fucked-up metabolism…. Sixteen, big bust, solid torso, hips, and a whole lotta butt and a tiny outcurve of belly. That’s no size six. It’s never going to be, any more than my hair is going to grow out of my head with the pretty spiral curls of my Italian-American best friend. Of course, she envies me the long, straight, sleek hair worn back in a chignon.

    I think what some of it is going to take is all of us, in all our glorious variety, calling bullshit on the deal in daily life. That’s how I deal with my presumed het privilege…I say, “…and her wife” or …”and his husband”, and call people on jokes and homophobic attitudes. Is it huge? No. But we’re not, any of us, going to get anywhere with this unless we just change the attitudes of those around us….and those around us change the attitudes of those around them….etc.

  144. I haven’t had time to read every comments here, so my apologies if this repeats what anyone else said:

    As someone who was fat up until age 20, and thin from ages 20-26 (I’m 26 now), I am very familiar with how differently people are treated based on their size. When I visit with my boyfriend’s family (thin father, inbetweenie mother, fat sisters, thin brother, inbetweenie sister-in-law), I always take note of how the women in his family treat me, particularly his forever-dieting mother. She encourages the other women to eat healthy, or to follow whatever diet she is following. She doesn’t do this with me, however, and instead constantly comments on how thin I am, and is constantly trying to feed me. (I don’t dislike her at all for this, because I 100% empathize.) She very obviously hates her body. So I think a lot of what drives her behavior is “I hate my body for being fat, and if you are thin you probably don’t hate your body so I’m going to hate it for you, and if you are fat then horray! we can hate our bodies together.” It’s depressing, and I wish everyone could be free from the compulsion to compare our bodies to everyone else.

    I saw a post way high up in the thread that made me think of this, so sorry if it’s completely unrelated to what’s being discussed now…

  145. I forgot to say (and this was my whole point with the post) – it’s like every woman’s body is not worthy, no matter what it looks like, and everyone woman’s body is deserving of hate in some form of another, and that is part of what drives my boyfriend’s mother’s behavior.

    Sorry, I’m a bitter scattered from too much coffee today…

  146. “I hate my body for being fat, and if you are thin you probably don’t hate your body so I’m going to hate it for you, and if you are fat then horray! we can hate our bodies together.”

    Damn, that is pithy!

    This is a perfect articulation of how “it’s all about jealousy” and “it’s all about misogyny” are actually two sides of the same coin.

  147. Hey, I just want to say, the reason I read this blog even though I’m not fat? Is because fat acceptance is important. It’s the same reason I try to be an anti-racist ally. The struggle is important, it’s worthwhile.

    Here’s a thought about thin privilege, just a tidbit. Thin privilege means that when my possibly-bulimic sister calls my weight “enormous” and talks about how she’d throw herself off a cliff if she weighed as much as I do, I know she’s delusional for thinking I’m fat. I don’t have that little voice at the back of my mind going “maybe she’s right”.

  148. Lori, you know how incredibly lucky you are to have escaped the experiences many women who wear the same size clothing have had, right?

    I got the ‘you’ll have diabetes before you’re 30′ and go blind and die, etc. or die from a heart attack talk when I was a size 18/20. Just saying, it’s out there. I’ve also had doctors attribute every ailment to either my imagination or my weight at that size, too.

    And I got stupid comments from strangers on the street at that size, too.

  149. the thing i find interesting lori is the way in which your post reads so very much like thin privlege and the usual, “but it’s hard being thin too…” whine. i appriciate what you’re saying about the ways in which being fat is percived differently based on size and location. and it has given me some interesting things to think about. but part of that is the idea of internalized thin privlege. like, somehow you have to make sure mean things aren’t said about thin people, because you percive their hardships as more than your own in terms of body spesific comments. and it’s taken me a while to be able to articulate that much, so i’m not sure where it going other than into my pile of hummmm…

  150. It makes me feel weird seeing so many non-fat commenters popping up, even though I am one. Maybe because there are times when I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of offending someone, or traipsing in other people’s space by being here and commenting when I have not had it hard at all.

    I think I initially found Shapely Prose when I was recovering from my period of disordered eating (in which I was the most awful of food-as-morality ascetics – must be why I hate that attitude so much now). Posts on intuitive eating and the fallacy of weight = health and calories in – calories out helped me immensely in getting over that. Sometimes as a thin person, I feel kind of guilty that fat acceptance played such a big role in my recovery. My Jewish grandmother must have trained me well. Aside from what I took for myself from FA and SP, though, what I’ve read here has made me someone who speaks out against stupid fat jokes, who yells at diet ads on TV, who fights vigorously those vestiges of stereotypes and prejudices that are so insidious. It drives me nuts to think that these arguments are more valid when they come from me because of what I look like than they are when they come from someone with a different body type. They’re the same points and they make way more sense than hating everyone’s body and fighting your own!

    I also think that there’s a flip side of The Fantasy of Being Thin – The Terror of Getting Fat. Maybe it’s not as prevalent, but I definitely feel like fear of fat is used to sell useless crap to people of all sizes. It’s certainly used to sell news articles. Things like fat causing viruses and BMI scans showing how people with low BMIs have fat-covered organs are posited as showing how just because you follow the rules, you might still get fat. Just because you’re thin, you might still be fat. In which case, you too will need to engage in diet and exercise. If it doesn’t work, you will need Moar diet and exercise or because you’re doing it wrong. Or else you will be a terrible person.

    It’s all a load of crap. And I read this blog and the comments (oh I spend way too much time reading through those) because it’s very satisfying (not to mention healthy) to take down the industries built around demeaning and diminishing others’ bodies.

  151. I came to Shapely Prose for the snark and stayed for the baby doughnuts. I’ve been wanting to say that all day but didn’t get a chance to finish reading the thread.

    This blog is one I check every day and if I’m feeling anxious or depressed, I check it over and over. I’ve come to love not only the wonderful women who write here, but the regular commenters too. Especially A Sarah and Meowser.

    There is no way on god’s green earth I’d ever have met any of you, stuck on the East Coast as I am, but I love you and wish you well. My husband thinks I’m nuts when I quote you, “Oh, Kate said that….” but why wouldn’t I quote the people I talk with every day?

    It’s a place where I can confront my privileges with people that mean me only good so I can feel safe enough to learn.

  152. Morag: Pretty much what Lis said – I’ve seen too many friends and relatives hurt themselves in pursuit of a socially acceptable body. That they feel they have to torture themselves to look similar to me inspires a kind of survivors’ guilt – my friends suffer, but I benefit from the system that is slowly killing them.

    Makes me nauseous that I’m considered a better person than my friends because I can’t get a BMI above 18.

    Apart from radfem sites, FA blogs seem to be the only other ones out there that criticize the beauty myth – and that’s invaluable to everyone.

  153. Lori, I wear the same clothing size as you and I don’t get many nasty comments either – but I also didn’t when I wore a size 2. I think we’re both just lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are too polite to comment on our bodies. But if you read enough comment threads on FA sites, you’ll realise lots of women in the size 14-20 range get nasty comments on their weight. (Hell, Jessica Simpson surely doesn’t even wear a size 14 and she’s been getting all kinds of horrible comments spewed at her by the media and nasty internet commenters). Be careful of generalizing your experiences to everyone.

  154. Whoa…when did I get a twin? lol

    I was reading back and saw the Liza on 1/29 and was like, wait, I didn’t write that. I just wrote the one. Not alleviating confusion would be the fact that I changed my website. lol

  155. I do think there’s a certain amount of “privilege” that comes with being near the center of the weight bell-curve, which many women in the 14-18ish range will be, and that people on both ends of the bell curve are probably going to be subject to more public commentary on their bodies than those in the middle.

    I can’t completely agree with this.

    I used to wear a size 24, I now wear a size 16. I went from someone that could potentially be photographed from the neck down for an article about the “obesity epidemic” to someone that is statistically in the “normal” clothing size range but is still the target of much of the fat hate. So I guess I could say I have some perspective on how treatment changes.

    It could be coming from inside, I also happen to be much less self loathing than I used to be (which is tied to many different things, the change in size being only part of that) and probably project a more confident image. But yes, I get fewer seemingly disgusted looks and generally I get treated slightly better than I used to.

    *acknowledges the privilege that came with the physical changes*

    That’s in daily life. And yeah, I’m not going to lie, it’s nice to be treated better. But it also pisses me off. Because:

    A. Fundamentally nothing is different about me than the way I look, yet the world responds to me differently.
    B. The message spread by the world at large – and by that I mean commercial advertisements and reality TV – is that I am still disgusting. The women that are cast in weight-loss-product commercials are my size or slightly smaller. They are playing the sad fatties that need the newest get thin gimmick.

    Now I’m inspired to post about this at my blog and not monopolize. So I’ll continue there if anyone cares to join me. *shameless self promotion* lol

  156. Sorry Liza, I forgot you were a regular here :D I did not mean to impersonate you!

    It’s weird to read the comments to this post and watch people go down the “who’s got it hardest” path. Isn’t the point of FA that all bodies are “acceptable” and nobody’s business anyway? I’m not sure we benefit by spending this much energy trying to determine who gets the most punishment for having a body while female.

    And then… when I was in high school, I was a size 12, and I was still called “fat” and still took a huge amount of shit for it. In fact, I can remember being teased for being fat as far back as *kindergarten.* (For the record, I wasn’t fat, I was FIVE.) It’s nice that you didn’t experience a lot of fat hate at size 16/18, Lori, but that is by no means universal–or even typical–and I think it IS important to recognize that.

  157. lol, it’s cool. :) I just didn’t want people to think we were one in the same.

    (it’s like on Scrubs…”hey number 2″ “hey number 1″)

  158. It’s weird to read the comments to this post and watch people go down the “who’s got it hardest” path. Isn’t the point of FA that all bodies are “acceptable” and nobody’s business anyway? I’m not sure we benefit by spending this much energy trying to determine who gets the most punishment for having a body while female.

    Thank you for saying this.

  159. And yes, I am here and not at the Philly meet-up right now, because I am a dumbass and messed up using public transit. Again. I also did that last night (apparently the train schedules changed drastically on jan. 11, so my schedule was all wrong). OOPS!

  160. I’m actually skinny. I never wanted to eat as a kid and was on growth hormone for Turner Syndrome which I think kept me skinnier. Then they put me on Ritalin from 5-9th grade and that took away what little appetite I had. I liked some food – as a little child I loved the fresh tomatoes and avocados my Grandmother got from the farmers market when I visited just for me and during my first ritalin time the one thing I did eat was sweets, I developed a sweet tooth. I just wasn’t usually hungry. I don’t think I ate lunch the whole time I was on ritalin, I forced down breakfast and was hungry enough at dinner to eat something but I never ate lunch at school. I’d buy school lunch, throw the whole thing away, and not think it was wierd. I wasn’t anorexic, I thought it was wierd to not get food during lunch like everyone else, but I just wasn’t hungry and didn’t think twice about it.

    When I got off ritalin, ended my growth hormone and got on birth control pills (for the Turner Syndrome, I can’t get pregnant but the hormones in the pills make up for what I lack…) I was hungry for the first time. I couldn’t wait for lunch because I was starving. I grew to like food a lot more. And I got curvier. Not much, I’m short and small framed and my curves were similar, but they were there. I liked my body for the first time – I never even realized I didn’t like it before, but liking it made me realized what I was missing.

    I’m in trouble again. I don’t feel healthy. I’m lazy with what I eat, don’t cook a lot, and I know I need to pay more attention to my health. I am back on ritalin and my appetite is gone, I am thinking of taking a lower dose. I naturally wanted healthier foods and would make more effort to eat right when I was hungry. I never was tought portion control as a kid because I didn’t eat enough, and I was getting to a point where I needed to learn to stop eating when I was full. But I was never unhealthy, I ate a good variety of foods and exercised and slept, which are all important for health.
    Right now, because I have to force myself to eat, I don’t fix myself good food as much and don’t crave the variety I used to, which I think is much more unhealthy. The ritalin is helping a little (I am out of college and looking for a job and I need it) but if my health keeps getting worse eventually it will be a detriment. Besides lowering the ritalin dose, I am also looking at the birth control I take, maybe my body needs a different amount of hormones now.

    I can’t ever go 100% back to how I felt when I was a teenager, I know what it was like when I enjoyed food. But I am slipping backwards. You SP people realize that fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy, and so logically it would follow that skinny doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Not everyone gets that and I appreciate healthy at any size because that’s truly what I want to be and what is important.

    And on top of that, a lot of TS women ARE larger. I know doctors say a lot about losing weight and etc. etc. But only when you grow to love yourself will you want to do something for yourself and your health and for the right reasons, not to please everyone else. And I heard from a lot of TS women, larger ones included, that they felt healthier than a lot of their friends with no medical problems because their medical problem forced them to learn about their bodies and face certain parts of their health. If they know they’re healthy and feel healthy, and when they get checkups their heart is fine, etc., then they need to know they can celebrate that enjoy their body and not let their size hinder that. Life is too short and continued health for anyone isn’t a guarantee, why waste time feeling bad when you have no reason to? That is one reason I’m an ally.

    I don’t think I ever have been discriminated against for being skinny. I do hate people pointing out how skinny I am, it’s annoying. But any discrimination has been for being short and looking younger than I am, I think if I was taller and looked my age but was still skinny, my weight wouldn’t close any doors to me like being fat often has for fat people. But I can relate to firsthand knowledge that health doesn’t have to do with size and how hard size is to change. I ate before, I don’t eat as much now, no one can really see the difference. I have a bigger friend who became a great exercise fanatic, and she lost like…2 pounds. She stood up straighter, had more muscle, more endurance, was stronger, but her weight was the same. Like me, she could feel the difference in her body and knew it but unless you looked really closely she looked the same…still big. I know from my own experience you can’t tell how healthy someone is by looking at them. That’s reason #2 I am a SP/fat/HAES ally.

  161. MA, I don’t know your situation, but that sounds like the kind of thing a doctor might be able to discuss with you? Because it sounds like this side effect of the ritalin affects your quality of life (completely independent of any effects on your appearance it sounds like you don’t feel as good when it changes your eating habits). Maybe the benefits outweigh that, though, and you’d be the best judge of that.

    A bit of an aside about the other part of your comment: I’m a bit of an IUD evangelist for people looking for long-term birth control, but I know they aren’t for everyone. But if it works for you it can be fantastic. (I had recurring health problems with oral contraceptives after a while, and most of the other hormonal treatments were too strong for me and I had unpleasant side effects, so this was the solution, and I wish I’d done it sooner.)

  162. yeah it is hard to determine when there are so many different factors what’s the problem. And no doctor has ever mentioned an IUD as one of the options for me. I don’t take the pill for birth control reasons, that makes my case a bit different. I assumed an IUD was never mentioned to me as an option because it didn’t provide what I needed but I’ll def. ask. It’s never best to just assume. Thanks for the advice.

    The main reason I mentioned the eating thing is it seems to go with the intuitive eating that I’ve heard – when I was actually hungry I ate more than just junk. It really was like my body knew certain foods it needed, and I had more incentive to try and cook them/get them because I was hungry. It’s just one thing I think I naturally knew that I saw reflected here on SP and relates to me as a skinny person as much as a big person.

  163. @Entangled, re: “The Terror of Being Fat”

    I don’t think I’d verbalized this part of the FoBT before in such great words. What a mental enslavement…”I’d better be thankful for how thin/good/nice/pretty/acceptable I am now, because you never know, I might get FAT and all of that will get TAKEN AWAY.”

    What fucking bullshit.

  164. Oh, if it’s not for birth control then I misread (sorry!), and yeah, it might not do anything for you! It releases local hormones but I don’t know how much they would do for other issues. Sorry!

  165. Hey guys, my blog is getting hit with lots of new readers, which is awesome. And I’m filtering out the blatant trolls. But I don’t want to block people who just don’t get it, in part because it’s not principally an FA blog, in part because the science blogging community is not the best at social justice issues and I kind of want to help educate that community, and in part because it kind of feels like thin privilege to be super strict about commenting. So far there is one not-quite-troll that I’ve let through who is insisting weight loss is possible (and good), and I’m arguing with her but I’m getting tired!

    So another voice in there besides my own might be helpful. I think I’m explaining things pretty well and patiently, but I’m not always articulate or great at citing examples in debates :) If anyone else isn’t watching the Superbowl, that is.

  166. you’ll notice that the theme of wanting to be thin, healthy, and beautiful forever, is a major them in vampire stories. So, that obsession has been going on for a very long time.

    Modern vampire stories, anyway. Go back a little bit and you have ‘vampire as sexual dysfunction’ – this is what happens when you let your WOMEN have DESIRES! they turn into vampires on you! Go back further than that and you slowly start returning to the tales of hideous monsters with bad breath and hairy palms.

  167. It’s like the wonderful BMI project: it’s not what weight you are, or what clothes size you are, it’s overall body shape and confidence and class and race and all kinds of other factors that determine how much direct fat prejudice you’re subjected to.

    I think of myself as an in-betweenie, really. I’m “obese” according to BMI, and my dress size is just a little higher than the median. I happen to be curvy, though, so people perceive me as acceptably average. Another woman with the same BMI but a more apple-shaped body, or with clothes and accent that came across less middle-class, might well be the target of a lot of fat prejudice.

    So I guess I have, not thin privilege, but passing privilege? I’m a fat-ish woman who reads as a thin-ish woman. But even if I were the thinnest person around I’d still be interested in fat acceptance and reading the intelligent insights at Shapely Prose. I am concerned about healthism and orthorexia, and as a scientist I am worried that real research is being clouded by erroneous assumptions that fat=unhealthy, the obesity epidemic, etc. But mainly it’s a matter of justice, it’s like being anti-racist even if you yourself are white.

  168. I’m not thin, but what the hell: SP is my new home on the internet, and the one place get withdrawal from if I’m too busy to be online for a while. And then I get to come here and check what the smart, amazing women have been saying and get my reminders that I am more than what I look like and my body is my own, and that there are a pile of other women out there who can see that this whole society is bullshit and are muddling through together.

    This place makes me happy, and empowered (though I hate that word), whether I’m on here reading or out there in the world Being Fat At People. And I pass that on, which makes other people in my life feel safer and free-er around me — they know there’s at least one person in their lives who genuinely likes/loves them for who they are and doesn’t give a shit what they look like/eat today. And I get to tell peeople making casually fatphobic remarks to get fucked. SP is a force of good in the world, man. *waves incense sticks*

    muz, your comment made me think and think, and think and think. I’m sure the point that homophobia comes from a rejection of sexuality has been made before, but it’s new to me. And that plus fatphobia as a rejection of the body is blowing my mind. Thank you.

    (I come here for the constant education, too.)

  169. Great conversation!

    I’m really glad everyone’s here. Just as I appreciate men who care about sexism, and straight people who care about homophobia, its great to see thin people care about fat stuff. And I do think it makes for a better world in the end for them too.

    I’m just impressed though, by how much thin supporters there are here – it is an interesting and funny blog of course. Maybe I’m feeling a bit guilty. Taking another type of privilege – I’m white, and I do care about racism. I’ve challenged it when it happens in front of me, and I’ve gone on marches against racist groups in the UK. I also feel that a non-racist society would also be a better society for me. But as I don’t experience racism directed against me its not a daily concern and I don’t think about it so much as it might deserve.

    So when I asked why thin people are here regularly I am trying to be welcoming. Its just I like to know what keeps the solidarity so strong. I think the answers mostly support what I guessed, that the arguments of fat acceptance are also useful for general self acceptance and sticking up for yourself when society wants to judge you and your body.

  170. My major worry re: being a thin woman on an FA website (which I found via random linkage and am in awe of, btw) is the suspicion that only a couple of dress sizes stand between me and a constant state of gibbering self-hatred. It makes me worry that I’m actually a horrifying hypocrite to come on here with my body-dysmorphic tendencies and my general depressive self-loathing and behave as though I’m an Ally instead of a dismal failure to myself and womankind. Thank you all for the enormously welcoming, inclusive air of the whole site and hope I can learn not to add a mental “except me” to every positive statement here, and avoid being too much of an attention whore.

    Incidentally, as a woman who has been both stare-and-speculate thin and point-and-laugh ugly, I have noticed that (with some charming exceptions, naturally) people don’t feel quite such a right to tell thin ugly women that they’re unfuckable. Fat seems to be categorised as its own special form of unattractive that requires more reminding. I’m not sure whether it’s just the world trying to shame people into thinness, and ties in with the assumption of responsibility, but it’s definitely there. The pretty/fat exchange rate is clearly a complex beast which will require explanation by rich men in suits before I can wrap my unpretty little head around it.

  171. Being thin *is* a privilege. When I starved myself into fainting episodes and size two shorts at the tender age of 13, I still had the pouchy tummy that I’ve always had. My parents still maintained that my stomach wasn’t “flat enough” to wear a two-piece. I thought I was the fattest piece of crap to walk the planet.

    But I’ll be entirely honest here: buying clothes at a size 2, a size 4, and later a size 6 was a hell of a lot easier than buying clothes at my present size of 12-16 depending on the store. A killer combination of lack of height, disproportionate breasts and shoulders, and a pouchy tummy means that *every single thing* was designed for a woman a foot taller and 50 pounds lighter than me.

    When I was a size 2, I worried about being fat, but I didn’t worry about my boobs popping out of my shirt or my stomach fat sticking out from the strained seams of a shirt that fit my waist but not my hips and stomach or pants that keep falling down because the widest part of me is *not* my freaking hips but my stupid stomach.

    At best, I can pull off the “potato sack” look and bolt my boobs to my chest with the tightest bra known to man in order to meet the social guidelines of “acceptable cleavage”, but 98% of clothes still make me look like an oompa loompa. Even though I’m far from the social idea of “hot”, I look better naked than in clothes designed to fit people that look absolutely nothing like me.

    I felt like crap on the inside, but when I was thin nobody told me that I shouldn’t be “wearing that” and all the clothes fit me without my bits falling out and seams ripping and cloth wearing out from too much friction and enough cleavage to outdo Pamela Anderson.

    I seriously want to take every stupid designer that refuses to construct clothing for anybody other than tall thin people and rake them over hot coals. Maybe run them over with something heavy.

  172. Jenn, you should look into the archives here, because there have been a lot of discussions of clothing retailers for people of different sizes! I can’t guarantee there would be line of clothes that are perfect for you, but it might be worth a look.

    And yeah, while it can be hard to find clothes that fit you as an extremely thin person (especially since most thin people are different from fit models in some way besides simply thinness), it’s a question of degree. As FJ pointed out, I can at least find clothes to try on, even if I often end up leaving stores empty-handed. That’s worlds better than what fatter people have to go through.

  173. Jenn, you sound like you’re built a lot like me, and about the same size. I’m slowly – slowly starting to find clothes that work, but I have yet to find pants that are better than barely passable. I have found that a combination of (a) bras from bravissimo, (b) v-neck (almost always jersey) dresses and tops, and (c) camisoles underneath work pretty well. I’ve also found that skirts that are worn higher up on the waist above the biggest builge of my stomach (and with tops covering where they hit and not tucked in) are my best bet for separates.

  174. (And of course, I”m just babbling about my style which maybe nothing like yours – sorry about that. It’s so frustrating not to have more options.)

  175. Re Why thinner women might want to hang out here, what everyone else said, plus the fact that the scale in terms of what’s currently considered fat is shifting downwards so rapidly that honestly, you could be considered thin today and fat next Tuesday. A woman would have to be stupid to not see what’s going on and how crucial it is to stop pathologising fatness, because the inevitable end result of that kind of thinking is people screaming in outrage because Jessica Simpson gained 10 pounds. Dunno how many years it’s been since Fat is a Feminist Issue came out, but she was right then and she’s still right now.

    Also in my particular case I think one of the triggers was the constant equivocation of fatness with omg obesity epidemic with the idea that this is the reason why the American healthcare system is fucked up. Um, no – I’m a socialist and happen to think that our healthcare system is fucked up because we lack the nationalised healthcare that every other first world nation has. Blaming the mess American healthcare is in and it’s rising costs on fat people is just such a transparent attempt at shifting the focus that it makes me want to throw things.

    Also, for women of any size who’ve ever suffered from eating disorders this place feels like a rare safe haven. The internet spaces where it isn’t just assumed that all women should be a size 2 or die trying are few and far between. Plus the commentariat is smart and funny and generally awesome.

  176. I’ve lurked here for quite a while, and I like to think of myself as a “thin ally”. I’ve really enjoyed reading the posts and comments here (as opposed to the other FA sites that I’ve come across) because I’ve noticed a real lack of the pervasive “health at all sizes…unless you’re gross and skinny” and “real women have curves” bullshit that simply shifts the hate and prejudice onto another group of human beings. I actually feel welcome here, in a way that I haven’t since my teenage pro-ana forum days. Not to mention how amazingly funny and, above all, LITERATE everyone is here. I love that. :)

  177. I just wrote an impassioned explanation of why I lurk here without being fat. But then I noticed Cassandra says said it better.
    I can only add that I feel considerable rage and despair over fate hate.
    And that my mother and aunts who came of age in the sixties are all obsessive watchers of their own and other women’s weight.

  178. omg it would be so hilarious how stupid these doctors were if it weren’t so very sad. I mean like you said “Too thin (to live well clearly not) well because you aren’t dead but if you are overweight and you say I cant change it is in my DNA they will go into a long lecture about how you need to exercise and not eat any ‘bad’ food or teh fat will kill you and you will just end up in the clutches of fat satan MWAHAHA but if you eat only fat free jello and lettuce and exercise four hours a day like the contestants on The Biggest Loser before a weigh in, you will not die- come on this is about your HEALTH! And think of the children what if you aren’t there for there college graduation or even high school graduation. How would they feel about you not being there JUST BECAUSE YOU WOULDN’T STOP EATING ALL THE BABY-FLAVORED DONUTS you self control lacking fatty.
    “But” you want to protest, ” eating and exercising like that is what anorexics do and don’t many of them die of heart failure?” But you dont because if you did that would mean YOU ARE QUESTIONING THE DOCTOR AND WHETHER DOING ALL THAT STUFF TO BE THIN IS ‘HEALTHY’
    Because then others might hear and realize that DIETING IS UNHEALTHY and that THERE IS NO OBESITY EPIDEMIC! And then all those “health” experts would go broke and wouldn’t have the money to buy their fat free organic 10 calorie mush on which they attempt to sustain themselves- so instead off eating food from a fast food chain which is all they can afford they starve- and eventually collapse dead of heart failure.

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