Fat, Fat Blogs, Fillyjonk

My friends are smart. Please read their bloggings.

Two of my more exceptionally brilliant Internets Friends have recently published must-read posts on Fatshionista.com, and even though they’ve showed up in the feed, I simply couldn’t risk the possibility that anyone hadn’t read them yet.

First, Stitchtowhere (who you’ll remember from this post) offers an excellent exploration of internalized shame and also tiny ponies:

I stepped on a scale recently (with the idea of writing this post in mind) and I am about 245 pounds these days. My measurements – 48-42-55 at 5′3 – put me (in theory) in all sorts of size ranges depending on the clothing company & size chart. In practice, however, I’m wearing a 20/22 on bottom & a 18 on top. I’ve learned through different posts on a variety of blogs in the fatosphere that this (rather arbitrarily) is considered too fat to do things like tan in a tanning bed, go skydiving, & ride one of those teeny tiny miniature ponies. (None of which really feels all that regrettable to me, except for maybe that last part because small ponies – especially the ones that wear sneaker shoes – are very adorable, and I think I’d look most marvelous wearing some sort of cape & crown & riding one throughout my town). I’ve learned, from fat-hating society & industry, that I’m not supposed to feel angry or frustrated about arbitrary manufacture weight limits (or weak-ass ponies… kidding) but rather, that I’m supposed to shame myself & body into submission & slowly disappear until I’m considered a reigned-in & obedient & thin enough person to merit things like a fake bake & a safe jump from an airplane & a bedazzled saddle on a tiny horse. In the aforementioned situations, I know & feel pretty strongly that it isn’t the fault of MY body. While I might feel the pang of increased want brought about in situations of (perceived) deprivation, I realize that (being as we are, entrenched in capitalism and its attending ideologies of privation/saturation) it’s that & mostly only that.

Then, Eve writes an amazing takedown of a hateful piece of tripe that I didn’t have the gumption to take on. The article itself is nothing new, just another caricaturish screed by some attention-monger, but Eve takes it apart with a precision and vigor that should not be missed:

Let me see if I understand this correctly: Ms. Fowler thinks it is ridiculous that people make broad pronouncements about a much-maligned group (of which she is a member) and back those statements up with some seriously sketchy pseudo-research. She feels objectified and humiliated when yet another article appears, written by someone who has never lived through the experience she has had, yet presumes to understand what she and everyone like her is all about.

Then she goes and writes an article about how fat people are “just wrong.” She explains that the kind of fat achieved by people who weigh 16 stone (a number she claims to be shockingly gargantuan) can only be achieved through “the consumption, python-like, of about six whole rotisserie chickens a day washed down with 16 pints of double cream, half a cow and probably the entire produce of Ireland’s potato farms, deep-fried and with a coating of beer batter.”

Read them both!

And while I’ve got you looking at Fatshionista, Amy Mendoza is (to the best of my knowledge) not someone with whom I’m Internet Friends, but I’ve been meaning to link to her reworking of the privilege list from “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Amy has expertly delineated the signs of thin privilege, in a way that should make people stop and think. The comments, of course, almost instantly show evidence of the defensiveness people feel when they’re made aware of privilege. In particular, several thin commenters take issue with item 10, “I can shop in most stores and find clothes in my size.” They argue that it’s hard for most women to find clothes that fit properly — ignoring the fact that they have the supreme privilege of easily finding something they can even try on. This is frustrating (the commentary, not the clothes shopping), but it means the piece is working; lists like this are not supposed to make people comfortable. And I recommend you read the comments anyway, because there are also some incisive suggestions for additional list items. I love this list and I hope Amy keeps editing it and publishes a finalized version somewhere that we can link to it frequently and prominently.

61 thoughts on “My friends are smart. Please read their bloggings.”

  1. Dear Fellow Commentors — No tiny ponies (or pictures of tiny ponies) were harmed in the creation of these awesome posts.

    And, also, Ms. Fowler (who linked to Kate’s BMI Project) is really dense.

  2. 16 x 14 is a whopping…224 lbs. I weigh that much, and a basic day of food for me is a bowl of oatmeal, a latte, a turkey sandwich, a veggie burrito, and various fruits and vegetables. I should definitely cut out all those oats, lean protein, fruits, and veggies and send them to Africa, where I hear there are starving children.

    (And even if I ate a bathtub full of caramel-covered popcorn and three pizzas a day, whose business is it?)

    In other words, SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP, Fowler.

  3. thanks for the shoutout FJ! My decent writing is borne from good reading and i hasten to note that i have spent a lot of time reading the fine words of you & Kate & sweet machine & all the other whip-smart shapelings!

  4. Whoo! I have read and loved all three of those entries.

    Also, I am super obsessed with envisioning a tiny pony show where the ponies are covered in glitter and other shiny things.

  5. I loved Stichtowhere’s post! It made me think of that one line in the song “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” from the movie Hairspray: “There is nothing ’bout us that’s unsuitable.”

  6. #5 in Amy Mendoza’s list is flat out false. I have *regularly* been handed diet soda or had other low calorie food options forced on me as a thin woman. I’m pretty sick of having to take back my order and say “it’s wrong” because our society says thin people are always on a diet. The thinner I am, the more I get this kind of shitty treatment. The one advantage of being 165 instead of 120 is I haven’t had to fight for the right to eat what I *ordered* for a couple years. At 110, it was a constant uphill battle to get the damn restaurant to give me the food I ordered so I could recover.

    #8, also false. The last time I saw someone “my size” in popular media, I weighed 110 lbs and had a case of drug induced anorexia. This is not ok. (counting Kate Winslet being raked over the coals for being “too fat” at 130 lbs is cheating)

    #10 and 11 properly go together. And, they’re simultaneously true and false. I can walk into a store and find clothes that nominally fit. At 120 lbs, that meant if I bought pants, I had a fighting chance that no one could rip them off me… the joys of having full hips and a small waist. Just because there are thousands of garments, all with a label claiming that they should fit you, does not mean any of them *do*. Mostly, they don’t, and haven’t since I was about 10. And well, since I can’t buy clothes that actually *fit* me, I have to pay alterations. This is called paying extra.

    The fashion industry hates us all and wants us to be naked. After all, that’s what women are *for*.

    And well, yeah I have been treated as an object due to my size. Depending on where I’m living, I get fetishistic treatment once a day to once a week. (thankfully I’m in a once a week area now… much nicer) Doesn’t matter what size I am, to some people, I will always be an object because I am female. No thanks.

    18 is also false. My size is explicitly a *positive* social value. I get better treatment from strangers (when food, clothing and exercise are not involved) than the average fat person. I have seen this for every day of my life and it ticks me off. Being thin is *never* neutral. Never never never. About the only good element is I can force other thin people to treat my mom and sister like humans and not like a sideshow freak. I’d give up the positive treatment in a heartbeat if it meant they got treated as human.

    As a female, I get short changed in most sporting goods stores, unless I go in with a *specific* list of items. I will not get good service. Staff will not believe that I engage in the sport. Doctors will not believe it either. I will be steered towards products that are less functional or actively harmful, just based on my gender. If I go in prepared, I can usually come out with suitable gear… because I found it myself. Fat people (both male and female) have similar problems.

    Our culture is abusive to women. It is worse for fat women, but not all of the bad treatment fat women get is because they’re fat. A depressing amount is raging sexism.

  7. Torillin, I kind of agree with you on 5 and 8. Those are issues that affect all women (well, 8 affects all but the thinnest). But as for 10 – yes, when I wore anywhere from a size 4 to a size 12 (yeah, I’ve been all over the size map) my rack of doom, bubble butt and 28″ inseam made it difficult to find clothes that fit well. But if I was getting desperate, I could buy something that was poorly fitting but at least wearable (after I hemmed the bottoms). Now that I wear a size 16, I’ve had the experience of going into every store in the mall and not finding a single one where I could even put my legs into the pants and button them. The first situation was shitty, but the second made me cry in the dressing room because winter was coming and I didn’t have a single pair of pants that fit and if i just hadn’t gained those last 20 pounds I’d have pants right now. It’s just not the same. And I can only imagine how much more frustrating it would be to be a size 28 or 32 and not even be able to drive to the handful of plus sized stores in the city to find clothes that are wearable. When it came to clothes, I definately had more privilege when I wore a size 8 than I do now that I wear a 16, and wearing a 16 I have more privilege than somebody who wears a 28.

  8. Great writing. You rock.

    About the feed, I think it’s too short. I live in a non-USA timezone, and I think I miss things because they’re cycling through while I’m asleep. Can we make it a bit longer? Say 15 items?

  9. Oh HERE’s the response to that piece of crap I just read for the first time. I wondered if you guys had seen it, since it links to the BMI Project! I’m glad Eve responded, even though it did seem to be a pathetic and obvious attempt at trolling. And not even concern trolling, just the plain old everyday kind of hateful, emotionally manipulative trolling.

  10. The most telling part of the “thin privilege” list: I was all the way to #9 before I realized “hey, I’ve never even THOUGHT that people might say nasty things about my stair-climbing or peek inside my shopping basket before.” Honestly, the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, size-wise, are the occasional acquaintances who feel the need to ask “why are you on a diet? You’re so tiny you can eat anything you want!” when I get the salad. Which I’m sure rates just below “white noise” on the thin privilege scale.

  11. I’ve always felt like bitching about how hard it is to be thin is not just denial of privilege but actually an exercise of it, in some twisted covert way. It feels like putting fat people in their place. The comparison between NOT BEING ABLE TO COVER YOUR BODY and not always being able to find outfits that are optimally cute and form-fitting doesn’t even make sense unless we’re assuming that thin people are so much worthier than fat people that their struggle to achieve perfect style outweighs our struggle to participate in society on a basic level, or even to exist.

    Also when thin people make that comparison they are obviously thinking of in-betweenies, not the “really” fat people at size 32 or whatever, who might as well not exist.

    Same thing with food, etc. It’s one thing to mistakenly get diet coke because they assume you drink it to stay thin but it’s another when they give it to you on purpose to make a point.

    Bitching in front of fatties about the tribulations of thinness says, “let’s focus on me and how unfair it is that privilege doesn’t always work perfectly for me”……I mean really, how do you think it sounds to a fat girl when you make such a big deal out of how all the clothes are soooo much bigger than you need??????? It puts you in the same category as thin girls who complain about how “huge” their thighs are in front of someone whose arms are bigger than both of your thighs put together. And then expect sympathy, or worse yet, think they’re creating some camaraderie about how hard it is for EVERYONE.

    (ps I am white & just writing the above has given me HUGE insight into the white-privilege discussions floating around lately)

  12. I have to say… I got to #1 and thought “That’s all I worry about, every moment I’m in public.” If I’m walking slow, or limping, or breathing heavy, or leaning on the cart/my husband/the handrails/wall, or even just sitting down — I must be either overdramatizing, or faking it. OTOH if I park in a disabled spot, and I move like a “normal” person, with a moderate pace and no noticeable limp or any sign of the pain or fatigue I am feeling — I worry, and worry, and worry, because I know I am getting glares, I wonder if the people watching the security cameras are shaking their head at me — etc.

    When I went to the pharmacy after my surgery and had the hospital bracelets still ’round my wrists and the cotton taped to my hand from the IV — that was the ONLY TIME I have ever, EVER felt “safe” using that damn disabled spot. Even though I never use that spot unless I KNOW that I NEED it. (and trust me — my internal gauge is FUBAR, and I’m more likely to underestimate my need than over-.)

    This isn’t to deny the truth of the list — it’s really just rambling into nowhere.

  13. as far as #3 (which for me would be “I am uninsurable, period”), I do wonder why some idiot in the high ranks hasn’t gotten the bright idea to make “obesity” a preexisting condition, and start refusing insurance to the fatties too. Ugh.

  14. In general, I find a lot of the objections to the size privilege list are objections that boil down to: “This is a feminist issue.” Or would, if the objector were thinking much about it. Anyway. Yes, we are all treated as objects, as women, our sizes are all fetishized, we are all treated like shit by the fashion industry, we are all condescended to and damn near none of us are represented on tv. (Different story for men on that last one, at least.)

    *HOWEVER*, a lot of these things also do have UNIQUE effects on fat people, while still having widespread effects on women as a group. One does not exclude the other. And we need to point out what fat people face as fat people in addition to what they face as women (if applicable).

  15. Torillin, I think it’s a question of degree for most of the points where you disagree. Yes, all women’s food choices are questioned, and it sounds like you have had exceptionally judging experiences as a thin woman. I’ve had plenty of those, myself (put some meat on those bones, you’d better eat that whole bag of potato chips, etc. etc.). But I imagine those experiences are much more severe if you are *fat* than if you are thin and assumed to be on a diet. You know, fwiw, some Shapelings are thin enough to see people roughly “our size” in the media everywhere. Not everyone that size is anorexic, just thin – and besides, I think the point is that even *approaching* the appearances of everyone you see on tv is a privilege that fatter people lack.

    While I can’t disagree with the troll on Fatshionista that people on the far thin extreme have great difficulty finding their size to try on in most stores, and while of course mass-produced clothes are doomed to fit almost no one, it’s completely missing the point. Even if it’s hard to find adult pants in my size in most stores, often a few stores in a shopping mall will carry them. I don’t have to hunt all over town to find the one specialty, expensive, thin-person store or brand that carries my size. There is just no comparison.

    Fwiw, I don’t think that a person being treated as a sex object due to their femaleness, as disgusting as it may be, is at all the same thing as fetishism.

    But all that said, I completely agree with you about #18 – it doesn’t go nearly far *enough*. People sometimes ask me, “How do you stay so thin!” and when I answer, “Um, genetics?” they respond, “Oh, aren’t you nice!” Right, I TOTALLY said it to be modest, rather than, I don’t know, accurate or something. I mean, Jesus. I’m not thin because I’m virtuous, I’m thin by sheer chance of birth.

    Finally, I think many of the blogs in this wonderful spherosphere are all about how fat acceptance intersects feminism, so nobody is going to deny that the two are intricately connected. But that intersection often ends up meaning that to be both fat *and* a woman exacerbates negative treatment, so that a thin woman like me doesn’t experience the raging sexism you mentioned in quite the same way as a fat woman. Even with the strong gender component to fatphobia, sexist treatment that targets fat people has the added delight of fatphobic venom.

    amandaw, I think that it’s possible to lack, say, able-bodied privilege while being thin! Lists of privilege seem to usually assume (out of necessity) that the members of the privileged group described don’t belong to other marginilized groups, but of course they often do.

  16. I do wonder why some idiot in the high ranks hasn’t gotten the bright idea to make “obesity” a preexisting condition, and start refusing insurance to the fatties too.

    Some of them have. I know FJ has posted about being turned down by two insurance companies for her BMI.

    Sleepless, if you click on the “Notes from the fatosphere” link, you can see a lot more posts.

  17. actually, I don’t think the argument was that most women have trouble finding clothes that “fit well.” rather, the other poster and i simply stated that the same situation plays itself out at the 0/00 end of the size range. those of us in that range are in fact limited to only a few select stores where the clothing will fit. my definition of clothes that do not “fit well” includes pants that gap at the waist, while my definition of clothes that do not fit, period, includes pants that actually do not stay on one’s body. i think that these definitions are reasonable, but perhaps they are not?

    it is my understanding that the stated privilege is controlling for the vast majority of the non-fat size range, though i (and a very small percentage of others) do not enjoy it personally. as i said on fatshionista, i withdrew my objection to #10, as the objective was not to find all possible objections, and only a very small number of people are affected by the situation I’ve described. however, if you’re willing to accept allies in a push for a more all-inclusive sizing scheme, you may find some here.

  18. Slightly off the point I know, but if she ever bothered reading a label, she’d realise that most of Europe’s spuds come from either Cyprus or Egypt – not Ireland. We learned our lesson after the famine.

  19. 16 x 14 is a whopping…224 lbs.

    I’ve alway wondered when exactly a number begins to whop.

    I have a feeling this is going to be a looooong discussion.

    Most of the ones on privilege have been lately.



  20. Okay, sso, I see what you’re saying. My experience in the 0 range is that most stores don’t carry bottom-half clothes that *won’t* fall off me, you’re right. But I have, to name a few: Express, some brands at major department stores, discount stores like TJMaxx and Marshalls, I have a *lot* of luck at thrift stores (hell, half my wardrobe came from the Garment District in Cambridge), clothing swaps go surprisingly well if there are enough women (this really does surprise me!), most party-clothes/teeny-bopper (heehee i’m such an oldster) stores carry tiny sizes if you can swallow your pride enough to go into them… This is worlds more than fat-person options. Old Navy and Banana might be my worst enemies, but Express is usually right next door. (I’m not assuming Express fits ALL teeny women, of course, and when I don’t like their styles or don’t have the money it’s more difficult, but it’s a good example of super-thin-person-styles in almost all mainstream locations.) Even when the sizes all shifted ~5 years ago and it became suddenly a lot harder to find teeny adult clothes, without a stigma comparable to the kind that makes a chain decide to move its plus sizes to the back of the store/internet or do away with them altogether, I just don’t think it’s the same. Many stores don’t carry my size, but the feeling I get is that it’s because they don’t really care and probably don’t sell quite enough of them, not because of *hatred*. I can imagine that knowing where the missing-clothes-phenomenon comes from makes it feel like *much* more of a slap in the face every single time you go shopping as a fat person, no matter how frustrating our situation might be.

  21. I know I had zero luck getting a well-fitted bra when I was barely fitting into a 34AA. lol. (Y’all saw that prom dress? The magic of pasties, I say.)

    Lynne — points taken! And my rambling in the first two comments wasn’t meant so much to say “– so this list is crap!” It was just that, rambling. :) I’m known for it.

  22. Amandaw, of course there’s going to be overlaps between this list and an able-bodied privilege list, just as there are overlaps between this list and the one in Knapsack. (I’ve added a link to that essay so that people have the context.) Although it seems to me like the experience of having an invisible disability is the opposite of what Amy talks about in #1 — people don’t assume you’re unhealthy, even though you are facing a genuine physical challenge. Still, there’s an overlap as far as people assuming you’re lazy. Similarly, a thin black woman might be able to see positive examples of people her size in the media, but not people her race. A thin woman will still have unwanted attention on her body, even if people aren’t making assumptions about her health and habits due to her size.

    Lists like this are not intended to describe every individual person’s exact experience — multiple oppressions are just one of the reasons why that would be an absurd goal. Rather, they’re intended to illuminate the usually-invisible framework of privilege that privileged people take for granted. Coming at it from a defensive position — “but not every one of these is always true for me! I am oppressed too!” — is not productive. The goal is not to reject or explain away your privilege, but to become aware of things that you’d previously been able to ignore.

    And yes, I’ve been turned down flat for insurance, twice. I also have PCOS, but the stated reason was that my BMI was over 30.

  23. hm.

    I thought that it was obvious I wasn’t criticising, but rather taking a point and running with it (in a different direction.) (Though yes, defensive, but not because I felt the list was attacking. Just a touchy spot in general.)

    It may not be. That’s privilege — not seeing something that’s staring you right in the face.

    Thanks for taking the time to explain things for me.

  24. Lynne – since my wardrobe consists mainly of clothes I can wear to work (business attire), I guess I wasn’t even considering juniors’-style clothing as a viable option. Indeed, I could find clothes in the juniors’ department without much fuss…just that as an adult, I wouldnt feel it appropriate to wear them, and I wouldn’t be able to wear them to work. But yes, the option is there (as is the option to shop in the children’s department). But yes, the absence of small sizes is probably attributable to simply not selling enough to make it worth it. Sometimes it feels like designers who make business clothing have an expectation that no “grown up” would require such a size, but they probably just don’t sell enough to make it worthwhile. In a couple of cases, i’ve noticed stores that don’t carry 00 in the store will have it online, which probably lends itself to that interpretation as well. So yes, it is qualitatively different, but still overwhelmingly pushes me in favor of wanting a broad range of sizes available to everyone.

  25. Thanks for the thin privilege list link. It’s really important for those of us who have it to know we have it.

    I like to think the tendency to say things like, “But clothes don’t fit me either,” or “But people criticize what I eat too,” is not just an ignorant flaunting of thin privilege but perhaps a reaction of empathy. I personally don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of my size. But I do know what it’s like to walk into a great boutique in LA and literally not find something that would fit on my body on the racks of 0s, 2s, 4s and 6s. That one experience was nothing to me. It sucked, but whatever, I couldn’t afford the clothes anyway. On to the next store.

    But when I take a minute to extrapolate and try to imagine what it would be like if that happened every time I went shopping, at every store I visited, I start to get a tiny slice of the larger picture in re: size discrimination.

    So I guess what I’m saying is: have patience with those of us with thin privilege. I think a lot of us are still working through what being discriminated against like this would actually be like and in the process, we sometimes make missteps. But, in general, I think it can be a *good* thing that thin people who read this list can recognize their own experiences, in at least peripheral ways. I think it helps to emphasize the fact that it is our *culture* that is effed up, and not our *bodies*.

    But yeah, I also get that being defensive about it is really not productive (fillyjonk).

  26. And by this: “I think it helps to emphasize the fact that it is our *culture* that is effed up, and not our *bodies*”

    I meant: “I think it helps to emphasize the fact TO PEOPLE WHO LIVE WITH THIN PRIVILEGE AND ARE JUST STARTING TO WRAP THEIR HEADS AROUND FAT ACCEPTANCE that it is our *culture* that is effed up, and not our *bodies*.”

  27. The privilege list numbers 10 and 11, you may dispute em, but think about this:

    I have to drive to the next township* to find clothing in my size, and there are only 3 or 4 retailers who go up to a 28/30 available to me. When I get there, I am guaranteed of not being able to afford the clothing offered to me unless the clearance rack has a few lonely $10 and under items in my size. Contrast that with the ability to find your size anywhere before complaining that #10 is unfair. I’d give anything to be able to buy my clothes at Wal*Mart like any other smaller poor person instead of depending on the fickle mercies of the Catherines clearance rack.

    *Every time we take the car out, there’s a good chance the car dies on us and we’re stranded. It’s a LONG walk back to Kettering from Miamisburg. I don’t know about you, but I’m not up to walking home 10 miles because I had the urge to window shop.

  28. sso: “Sometimes it feels like designers who make business clothing have an expectation that no “grown up” would require such a size”

    I think in some cases this is true. I’ve heard other women say that no fully grown woman could possibly weigh what I weigh, that no one over the age of 12 could weigh this. Last I checked, my age alone (30) put me in the category of “adult” so thus I must fully grown, even if I can still wear things that I wore in high school.

    However, this does not change the fact that it is exponentially easier for those of us who are thin to find clothing that can at least be tailored to fit us. True, if I go coat shopping at Macy’s, ALL of the coats are going to be too long on my 5-foot-tall body and size small is quite possibly going to be too large. Still, I can purchase the coat and have it taken up/in by a tailor (or by myself, if I wasn’t too lazy to learn how to use the sewing machine I bought on clearance). It’s a pain in the ass, sure, but not anywhere near the frustration of not being able to find something to cover your body decently. THAT is the point of the list on thin privilege. (FWIW, I can relate more when it comes to bras. US manufacturers do not make bras in my size. Apparently F or G cups should only exist on women who wear band measurements of 36 or larger. Fortunately British manufacturers make those cup size bras with smaller bands but I have to pay a fortune for them, and even the one brick-and-mortar store that carries the brands rarely if ever carries my size. Still, I am able to find them online and I am grateful for that privilege. Still pissed off at US manufacturers, though.)

  29. this is a little off topic, but relates to the um… ponies (which i know are clearly a joke) but, in the original fatshionista post there was a mention of weight limits for tanning, skydiving and horseback riding as arbitrary. For the first two – yeah, I mean, what, do fat people suddenly defy the laws of physics and have a higher terminal velocity or something? prolly not. But as someone who has ridden and trained horse and whose lifelong trainer was a fan-freaking-tastic example of HAES (she rode horses all day, every day – amazing), I don’t think weight limits for specific horses are arbitrary. It’s a matter of the health of the animal. That said, Unapologetically Fat had a great post a while ago about some rescue draft horses that may be able to be retrained to saddle, which is a great solution for heavier riders.
    Just wanted to make a mention so that people who want to ride can know to ask about draft or draft cross horses, but also to understand that a horse is not furniture, and there is some degree of legitimacy to weight restrictions for the horses’ health.
    keep up the good work y’all.

  30. labicyclette: the pony thing was as you said clearly a joke. while i didn’t state it explicitly in the post, i figured it was pretty obvious from the mention of the crowns & capes & the word “kidding” that i obviously don’t think it’s arbitrary or that the pony is denying me my right to ride it. the other things are abitrary… the pony not so much.

    understand that a horse is not furniture, and there is some degree of legitimacy to weight restrictions for the horses’ health.

    exactly. that was kind of the humourous contrast i was going for there. as for the pony missing out on me being able to ride it… well i (flippantly) stand by that (though, obvs, it isn’t so much the pony’s fault). honestly, i love ponies (even though all my experiences with the little darlings has involved them biting or stomping on me) and i really don’t think my post by any stretch of the imagination encourages pony abuse or hatred.

  31. I’m glad you clarified that, stitch, because I was so inspired by your post that I was seriously about to give the big fuck you to convention and go sit my ass down on a tiny pony of my own. Preferrably while eating a three-course gourmet meal, like I like.

    I would be afraid to go skydiving, however, not so much because of my weight as due to the fact that I have seen too many Looney Tunes cartoons where a fat character is handed (instead of a parachute) a knapsack containing a spare tire. Get it? Spare tire? bwahaha! Hilarious.

  32. Sad, when at size 10 I’m considered ‘fat’ by society, but I have SO MUCH stinking thin privilege that it’s funny.

    I should stop bitching, shouldn’t I.

  33. “I’ve alway wondered when exactly a number begins to whop.”

    Not sure, but I kind of like this definition:

    whop Audio Help (hwŏp, wŏp) Pronunciation Key
    tr.v. whopped, whop·ping, whops

    To strike with a heavy blow.
    To defeat soundly; thrash.

  34. I think on the thin side there are more clothes than there used to be. I recall about ten years ago not being able to find anything smaller than an eight at a discount store. Now, they carry sizes down to 1. I have problems finding mature clothes in my size. Luckily, I’m a housewife so I can go around in jeans all the time.

    I’m still fat by BMI. I have pictures if you want of an ‘overweight’ woman that is fit and wear a size 8 dress. I’m no longer on Big Fat Blog since I talked about diet success rates and my post was deleted. I wrote about it on my site. Funny, we were on the same side of the argument.

    I started dieting this time due to the fitness books I have insisting that progress in fitness is requires weight loss. I’m not losing weight, but I’m getting fit. I can see definition lines cropping up all over my body, but I still weigh the same.

    See you can be fit, have nice shapely muscles and not lose weight. Another diet myth blown. Many diet and fitness gurus preach that a healthy weight is in the low half of the ‘normal’ BMI, feeling on women’s body image distortions. Even many medical doctors preach this nonsense. The Cancer Research done last year stated a number of times that ‘normal’ BMI should be no higher the 23.

    My body is fit and healthy at a BMi over 25. Prejudice against the obesity starts at 27. Lower it to 23 and everyone and their mother will be calling me obese. Oops, everyone did that until I reach the age of 24 and suddenly I wasn’t required by society to be super skinny to be considered normal.

  35. My question is: once you realize that you are the object of thin privilege (or white privilege, or male privilege), what, then, should your response to that understanding be?

  36. “I think on the thin side there are more clothes than there used to be. I recall about ten years ago not being able to find anything smaller than an eight at a discount store.”

    hmm. well, ten years ago i was a teenager and so shopped in juniors’ type departments and they did have 1s and 3s then. size 0 seemed to be much less common than today, and when there were 0s they were a lot smaller than a 0 is now. in general, clothes were smaller than the same numerical sizes of today. that seems to be a growing trend, the whole vanity sizing thing…so if you already wore the smallest size in that brand’s sizing scheme, when they make everything bigger, you fall off the end. i have a lot of clothes that are probably too big, but i tend to prefer a looser fit. im really only concerned when clothes are too big to the point that it looks unprofessional and sloppy, as i can’t go to work like that. i’m also part-time in law school, so money is tight and I can’t really afford to have to pay for tailoring, too.

    but thinking about it, i suppose it’s somewhat reasonable to expect that if you’re in either the extreme lower or extreme upper end of the size range, you probably won’t have as many options as everyone else, merely due to market forces. but here, if we stipulate to the average woman wearing a size 14/16, then a good 50% of the female population falls into the restricted category. and that doesnt make sense, monetarily or otherwise.

  37. I typed out a long comment to this effect earlier, then accidentally hit whatever keyboard key takes you back a page and I lost all of it. AAAAAAHHHHH!! I originally stated here that you are all probably better off without it, but this one is at least as long. Oops.

    Anyway, I just had a couple of points to make–the first was exactly as sso points out, that apparently stores only like to carry about 8 sizes at a time (14-28 in plus-size stores, or maybe 2-16 in straight-size) and I can understand, though it still sucks mightily not to fall somewhere in that range, that it is probably just a business decision not to simply carry more sizes period. (So I might buy it if I were told that if size 0’s and down on the one end, and 30’s and up on the other, are unfortunately SOL in most stores, this might be simply a dollars and cents thing.)

    As sso says, though, it’s the fact that the size of the average woman doesn’t fall in the middle of the current straight-size range that is suspicious. I doubt this is simply the industry being slow to catch up to the increasing size of the average American; for one thing, the average American isn’t getting that much bigger that quickly, and for another, I have to think they would find a way to change if they thought it would make them enough money, all other things being equal. And there is no reason extending the size range shouldn’t make them lots of money, frankly. So I can only assume that the industry is either working from prejudices that say plus-sized women don’t spend enough money to make it worth their while, or from prejudices that cause them to fear the hit to their “image” should they start carrying larger sizes. IOW I think mainstream stores probably don’t carry size 00 because they don’t sell enough of them to make it worthwhile, but they don’t carry size 20 or 22 because they have made a specific decision not to. It might be dollars and cents in the end, but there is some nefarious aspect to the calculation that stems specifically from negative assumptions about fat people. At least that is the only conclusion I can come to.

    The second thing is, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the way this discussion has worked out. Even in the recent past, when similar topics have been hosted at other sites or in real life, I swear some thin women have a sixth sense that allows them to detect the discussion immediately and to completely derail the conversation and make it all about them. (Not unlike how I suppose I have done in the past in discussions about white privilege, no matter how well-meaning I might have been while doing it.) The discussion becomes very watered down because nobody can say anything without disclaiming it with “Well, of course it’s wrong to criticize thin bodies too! No, of course you shouldn’t call someone a skinny bitch! It must really suck to try to find size 0 clothes!” I’m always that surly person trying to keep things on track by bluntly pointing out that yes, thin women face difficulties and hatred too, but it’s really not in the same league as what fat people face. I am really not willing to pretend that it’s “just as bad” for thin women, as someone invariably tries to argue. But then I sound like I’m comparing individual experiences so that point never comes out quite right either–though I do firmly believe it, it usually just makes people mad when I say it.

    Thinking about it in terms of white or straight privilege, a couple of the many situations where I am the privileged party, I figure there are two beliefs I can have. One is to reject the entire premise of the discussion and insist that there is no such thing as white or straight privilege. In that case I guess I can either leave immediately since it’s clear I will never find common ground, or just insist over and over that the entire discussion is flawed until the host gets bored with me and bans me. But if I agree there is such a thing as white or straight privilege (and of course I do), and I simply disagree about some of the specific points being made, I have found especially recently that those are the points that it’s important to sit with before I make a knee-jerk response. Often as I listen to the other commenters’ opinions, I come to understand what is meant by these points and they don’t seem so far-out anymore. As someone else said, you can always find an exception to any instance of privilege, and these “exceptions” can be extremely shitty and hurtful to individuals whether they are in the privileged group or not, but I think if you constantly keep in your mind that the discussion is ABOUT privilege, not about experiences, it can help to keep things on the right track.

    I still can’t quite come up with the right words to say what is in my mind about this (I keep getting kind of close to saying something like “if people want to discuss ‘fat privilege’ then they shouldn’t do it in a space where the topic is thin privilege”… but really I don’t think the ‘fat privilege’ discussion should exist because it puts discrimination against thin people on a par with discrimination against fat people, where IMO it shouldn’t be). What I mean is something more like, there are individual mean fat people who are prejudiced against thin people, but there is not a privileged class of fat people who as a whole can put those examples of prejudice into action. And since the discussion is “thin privilege” and not “mean things people have said to me and frustrating experiences I have had,” then I think “here’s why I also have a hard time buying clothes” is off-topic. It’s kind of like an example Kate gave a while back (except it related to dieting, but it seems to apply), that she wouldn’t go into a discussion about gay rights and insist that everyone there repeatedly acknowledge and affirm that straight people and straight sex are also awesome just because she was in the room. You get affirmation that straight people are awesome just by living in the world.

    Anyway, I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. I promise I am not directing my ramblings here at anyone participating in this discussion–it’s more that I am pleasantly surprised at how different the interactions here have been from the abortive, frustrating attempts to discuss thin privilege that I have been part of in the past (before I even knew the term “thin privilege”), and I am trying to work out in my head why that might be so I can try and steer future discussions that I am part of in a similar direction. Of course Amy’s list is going to be invaluable for this.

    Although I agree 100% that stitchtowhere’s post in no way appears to condone people riding horses that can’t tolerate their weight, and the pony stuff was clearly a joke, I do take labicyclette’s point about horses in general. I once went horseback riding on vacation and was too embarrassed to correct my friend when she said we both weighed about 200 lbs.–I was more like 250–and then felt really bad for my horse because I think he wasn’t really strong enough to carry me. He was in a lather the whole time and I felt very guilty. (In fairness to me, I suppose the stable folks should have recognized I was bigger than 200 and picked a different horse, or told me they wouldn’t be able to accommodate me if they thought it was a safety issue for their horses, as much as that would have sucked for me. And perhaps the true moral here is “don’t lie about your weight.”) That being said, “weak-ass ponies” is hilarious.

  38. I had a relative who worked for years at a clothing store and couldn’t ever quite grasp why I wouldn’t shop there just because they rarely had anything in my size. She was so impressed that they had sizes all! the! way! up! to! a 14, but they sold out quickly. (Meanwhile the clearance racks were crammed with smaller sizes.)

    I asked why they didn’t order more of the larger sizes and fewer of the smaller sizes, since that seemed to be how their customers spent money, and she got really perplexed. I really believe that in her opinion stocking those two or three 14s was a generous favor to the fat girls, and the actual business of selling clothing revolved entirely around smaller women.

  39. spacedcowgirl:

    I had exactly the opposite experience to yours when I went horseback riding for the first time. I was asked my weight, and told them it was 180. I was assigned to a horse whose temperament seemed pretty relaxed. However, our trail guide took one look at me and apparently decided that my fat ass would be the straw that broke the horse’s back, and so I was told to get off the horse and reassigned to a much larger, more belligerent horse called (get this) Shamu. Shamu was way bigger than any of the horses my friends (including guys not much lighter than me) had been matched with. Being a first-time rider, I had a good deal of difficulty controlling Shamu, to the point where he actually threw me off. I wasn’t seriously hurt, fortunately, but it was a harrowing experience, and it could have been avoided if the trail guide hadn’t done what she did.

  40. Some more:

    If I’m single, people don’t tend to assume it’s because I can’t find anyone who’s attracted to me.

    If I’m coupled up, people don’t tend to assume I’m lucky to have found someone who’s attracted to me.

    If my partner is fat, nobody assumes we’re finding solace in each other’s arms.

    If my partner is not fat, nobody thinks there must be something wrong with him/her.

    When I make jokes, I’m not seen as trying to be funny to compensate for my body shape.

    If I talk or write about fatphobia, I’m not seen as trying to justify my own greed and laziness.

    If I go running, people don’t assume it’s the first time I’ve ever gone running in my whole bloody life.

    People don’t look at me with disgust if I eat cake in public.

    If I buy a huge lump of Gorgonzola, that makes me a Gourmet who Appreciates the Finer Things In Life, not a big ol’ glutton.

    If I can’t be bothered to dress stylishly or wear make-up, I don’t get accused of “letting myself go”.

    If I do dress stylishly and wear make-up, I don’t get accused of “kidding myself” I’m attractive.

    (I wear a UK 14-16 (US 10-12), so I’m not “thin” by fashion standards. But that’s the thing – even though nobody’s body is ever good enough, there are still degrees of privilege that het middle-class educated currently-able-bodied Englishers struggle to comprehend. Forgive us our cluelessness as best you can, and give us a slap when we need it.)

  41. TC – I, too, am perplexed that no one will stock extra larger sizes – since my friends in retail have noticed the same thing.

    While I understand that all women have a hard time finding something that will fit RIGHT – I have to say that I don’t think most women who fall into the non-plus size category understand the sheer scope of the limitations of trying to find clothes 14+. My very dear friend (who is a size 8) had been wanting to go shopping with me for ages – since we tend to talk a lot about fashion. I quietly put her off, since shopping is a fruitless experience for me. Finally – I agreed to hit a mall with her.

    We went from shop to shop (Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Espirit, Benneton, Emporio Armani, the Limited, on and on) and she searched the racks, usually find a few things to try on. I looked with her, commenting on what was nice, etc – but after several stores she asked “why aren’t you trying anything on? I thought we were doing this girl bonding shopping thing? We saw lots of things you would look really cute in!” I had to show her that in every store, there was nothing that I could even squeeze onto my body. As a size 18 (and 5’9″) – there was nothing in women’s sizes. She started to become very conscious about this at all the rest of the stores and finding one or 2 things in “XL” saying “here – these should fit..I mean, look, there really huge (thanks)” I kept explaining that XL was NOT big enough to encase my copious bosom and expansive swimmer’s back. I finally humored her (she was starting to panic now and really wanted me to buy something) and tried an XL on – showing her how it got stuck under my arms and then engaged her assistance getting it off me.

    She didn’t bother going shopping with me again.

    There ARE certain places you can find plus sizes (and these places are far and few), but the problem is that the clothes they have are often NOT stylish or youthful and I can work the entire store and be lucky to find one thing that isn’t hideous. I still would like to shoot the Jones NY plus size designer who decided a few years back to convert the line from a stylish Armani-esque elegant look (which I loved and bought many things) to a line designed specially for stereotypical old maids from the countryside looking to teach Sunday school: dowdy tweeds, large schoolmarm neck ruffles, and a brown and pink color palette. Bastard!

  42. “If I can’t be bothered to dress stylishly or wear make-up, I don’t get accused of “letting myself go”.”

    Well no, not really. If you occupy a female type body, you’re going to get that. Feminism, for the win.

  43. Godless Heathen: “Well no, not really. If you occupy a female type body, you’re going to get that. Feminism, for the win.”

    To a point, sure, but think of how often you’ve heard people say “oh, she’s really let herself go” about a woman. The majority of those times, it’s about a fatter woman. A thinner woman standing next to her, wearing the same grubby outfit and no makeup, isn’t as likely to draw criticism.

    As I re-read it, the really disturbing thing about the thin privilege list (like the white privilege list before it) is that it is so true, once you really stop and think about each point- but you really have to stop and think about it. Earlier, I was about to comment that probably ALL women have had their food choices criticized (I know I have, and those times have usually been the trigger for a spate of disordered eating). However, the criticisms I’ve received have mostly been limited to a few hellish years in high school and undergrad, you know, when girls are generally at their bitchiest and most self-centered. Sometimes I still I get dirty looks from the salad-eaters when I’m tucking into a burger and fries, and I spent a few months working with a super-thin woman who would make comments on my lunches that I wasn’t ever sure were insults (you know the super polite Southern types), but as a thin woman, people don’t generally make comments to me like “if you’d stop eating that, you’d lose the weight” or “don’t you want diet soda?”. Based on some of the things I’ve heard come out of others’ mouths around me, I assume that fatter women receive nasty looks and snide comments a lot more often. And that really, really sucks. I don’t know how to make things better other than to not fall into those behaviors myself and to challenge them in others.

    Life is so short. I don’t know why so many people are bent on spending that short time on making things hell for each other and refusing to change when confronted with their behavior.

  44. Eve–wow, I am so glad you are OK after that. It must have been really scary. Oddly, the friend I went riding with on that occasion was also thrown from her horse. She just lay there on the sand without moving for several seconds, and I couldn’t really go over to her because I didn’t know how to dismount my horse and I didn’t want to get too close and have him step on her. It was awful. She was fine in the end, but it was pretty terrifying for her. I was recounting the incident later to a friend who boards horses and she asked if the riding stable had had us wear helmets. I said no and she just shook her head.

    You have got to be kidding that the horse was named Shamu–holy crap. Not to mention that the fact that guys your size were put on smaller horses is the kind of thing that I wish were surprising to me, but it totally isn’t. Grrr.

    MissPrism, those are really great additions. I was trying to single out which ones I liked best and got #’s 4-11, so I guess that means I love them all. So true.

    That is interesting to hear everyone talk firsthand about the attitudes/beliefs of people in retail. Anything I speculate about in that area would be just that, speculation, but you guys have talked to folks in retail and the fact that even they sometimes don’t understand (when called on it) why fewer larger sizes are stocked is VERY interesting.

    On an anecdotal note, I once walked into a Chico’s in a new mall near here and asked if they carried plus sizes in that store. They said “Oh, we have things that will fit YOU.” Um, no. That’s not what I asked, and my reaction to that is not “Oh, thank God I’m not a plus size in your store!” My reaction is to be irritated that i wasn’t given a straight answer. Plus what they said probably wasn’t true (I didn’t try anything on to find out), and I would rather be told straight up that there were no plus sizes then do the walk of shame out of the fitting room and have to explain that nothing fit. WTF?

  45. Thanks for the education – until I started reading on this site I hadn’t even heard of the term ‘privilege’ used in this way. I realise that I have ‘thin privilege’ at a UK 14, but that society still considers me too big.

    The list gave me an insight into what my lovely sister puts up with every day of her fecking life – and, if I’m honest, the judgemental attitude sometimes come from me. I will try harder.

  46. I do wonder why some idiot in the high ranks hasn’t gotten the bright idea to make “obesity” a preexisting condition, and start refusing insurance to the fatties too.

    They already have. No one will sell me private insurance at 5’9″, 240 lbs.

  47. In fairness I just want to say that part of what I meant when I said I now understand other privilege discussions better is that sometimes you just need to TALK BACK and have it be all about yourself for once, even if on a purely logical level your arguments are a bit overstated.

    Also, when thin women get judged for eating, etc, the whole purpose is to remind them of the danger of losing their privilege. Privilege is rarely if ever free, especially if it’s about something changeable. Membership in the privileged group always has costs (that the privileged exact from each other); that doesn’t mean it’s not privilege relative to everyone else.

    Cf. “patriarchy is bad for men too, they’re required to suppress their feelings”

  48. curvygirl, that is awesome that you are recognizing the privilege you do have and are using that awareness to make your sister’s life a little easier.

    You mention you have thin privilege as a UK 14 (I’m probably a bit bigger than you as a US 12) but that doesn’t mean you aren’t “too big” to fit in. That is so true. Kate wrote a while back about how people will see her picture and email to say “oh, you’re not that fat,” which I guess they think is a compliment because they might think this guy over here is (smelly, lazy, a drain on society, greedy, whatever) but it’s OK, because Kate is not THAT fat, so they don’t assume those things about her. Whereas the issue is a) that of course you shouldn’t assume those things about anyone, so it’s not exactly a compliment to be “thin enough” to just barely avoid judgment and stereotyping, and secondarily b) in some ways it really doesn’t matter if you are a US 8 or a US 32, if you aren’t bone-thin, you are likely going to face similar pressures to diet during your formative years that will have similar impacts on your relationship with food and your body. In many ways it’s easier if you are fat, but thin enough to “pass,” but in many ways it’s all the same. That is one reason why I always refer to myself as fat (I mean, as it comes up, not incessantly) and try not to let people off the hook if they pull the “oh, you’re not that fat” thing.

  49. Thanks spacedcowgirl, you expressed much more eloquently what I was trying to say! My relationship with my body and food is quite messed up. My size has been all over the place, going up and down on a sliding scale from a UK 8 to a UK 20 (Iost lots of privileges with that one). I haven’t been comfortable with my body at any size – too big, too small, too curvy, too fleshy… Imperfect, in fact. I’m trying to accept my body exactly as it is, and stop judging myself and other people by their size because it is meaningless – it’s like ascribing meaning to blonde hair.

  50. Also, when thin women get judged for eating, etc, the whole purpose is to remind them of the danger of losing their privilege.

    This is an excellent point, Elizabeth.

  51. I haven’t been comfortable with my body at any size – too big, too small, too curvy, too fleshy… Imperfect, in fact.

    Yeah, smart people had been telling me for years that this was the case, but I didn’t really believe or understand it until I was the thinnest I had ever been (which, I mean, is not that thin, but I always figured this particular number would make me OK) and I still wasn’t satisfied. You mean all of those thinner women are telling the truth and being them isn’t just sunshine and roses all the time either? :)

  52. I’m hoping no one took my rant as “thin privilege is good”.

    Just for reference, Mom is somewhere in the 28-36 size range (like anyone else, it varies based on manufacturer). The only place where she can reliably find clothes is Nordstroms. She lives 2.5 hours away from the nearest Nordstroms. She’s lucky, and can afford Nordies. If she couldn’t, she’d fulfill the fashion ideal, and be naked all the time, because other stores don’t carry large enough clothes. It takes her less time to shop for most clothes than it does for me to do the same. Epic all day shopping trips to get *one* woman an outfit are the story of both our lives.

    Thing is, my thin privilege is not ok. Not only does it dehumanize Mom, it dehumanizes *me*. A major part of our relationship is based upon me providing a Magic Thinness Shield around her so she can function in our society. She doesn’t go out alone if she can avoid it. If one of her children or her husband is present, she’s got her Magic Thinness Shield and can get something vaguely resembling treatment as a human.

    I’ve watched her deal with the real world when the other person thinks she’s just a fat old lady. The change in behavior the moment a thin person appears is horrifying. It doesn’t mean she gets good treatment… just that there’s some vague chance that the other person won’t be actively abusive. If the other person thinks they can get away with it, they’ll do things like only talk to the thin person, as if fat is a dread contagious disease. Or they’ll magically start treating mom like an adult once there’s a thin daughter present. Alone, she’s treated like a child, ignored, and sometimes verbally abused.

    I don’t know what she goes through if she goes to a restaurant alone. I don’t think she ever does, which leads me to think it’s awful. She’s not timid or shy about defending herself… but there’s only so much she can do without having a screaming fit. Without a Magic Thinness Shield, she’s not real.

Comments are closed.