Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Between thin and fat: dichotomies, binaries, and the unacknowledged spectrum

It's hard for me to own my thin privilege. I was convinced of my fatness from a very young age. And I do take up a lot of space - much more than women are supposed to. I'm a very tall woman (5'10.5"), and when I was a child, I took it up with confidence and command of my intelligence. I walked alone to and from school without fear.

Until one day, when I was walking home from middle school, reading a book. Doing my daily thing in the winter, bundled up in a coat. Suddenly a man leaned out of a car window and yelled, "DOG!"

I was 12.

It never happened again (because I generally operate with thin privilege) but I never forgot it. It cropped up in the poems and stories I wrote for years and years. My sexual and social growth was already stunted, but this one incident triggered years of insecurity and body hate. That wasn't the only contributing factor - others included further abuse from classmates (my nickname at one point was "the beast"), and the lovely society we live in. But it's what started it, began to make me hate the space I took up, allowed others to make me feel that I wasn't beautiful and didn't deserve that space.

I overcame it. I went to a women's college and saw beautiful fat women everywhere, treated as beautiful and idolized for their style and grace. I learned to debate, to own my intelligence and the space I fill. I fell for a great guy who loved my body without fetishizing it. I still was pleased when I lost 20 pounds when anxiety made me throw up everything I ate, but not broken up when I gained it back. I was and am beautiful.

Though my bigass hips were once a feature I scorned, today I love them. I've given up the fantasy of being thin, and the diet I blogged about in just May. I'm trying to eat more vegetables, but for the cancer-fighting properties. I'm trying to exercise more, but because my boyfriend keeps speeding ahead of me. and I've realized that men are not just attracted to me because of my pretty face, but because of my soft stomach, because of the wide berth of my hips. Other men are attracted to other women because they are thin, but there are plenty of men who aren't for the very same reason. I feel free, now, to wear horizontally striped, patterned, and brightly colored skirts to accentuate the supposed flaw, or dresses that add to my hips rather than minimizing them (left). Where I once squeezed into size 12 because a 14 made me feel fat, I now wear an 12. Or a 16, or an M. Or a 14, an XL, a 10 - whatever fits.

Characters like Joan, singers like Beyonce, and actresses like Kate Winslet are changing the way hips are viewed, but not the way we wield language and fatphobia. And while I've embraced wearing clothes that fit and being an occasional 16, I still benefit from thin privilege, and I'm still blinded by it. In my post on street harassment on Monday, I was very careful to account for all of my privileges - except for thinness. Thinness is a privilege that ensures any catcalls I do receive will be (at least initially) menacing in a complimentary way and not in a way that serves to shame me for taking up space.

--

In the comments of yesterday's post on Joan of Mad Men, there were a number of comments about how she's not fat, or she shouldn't be considered fat, or whathaveyou. My intention was not to say that Joan was fat - she's not, and she benefits from thin privilege, as I noted - but that she is fat for TV, which she definitely is, and reveals the complete and utter lack of bodily diversity on television. I was trying to use fat as a descriptive term, and a positive one.

I was a little disturbed that so many were so quick to reject the term fat in its application to Joan yesterday. Many seemed to construct the word fat as an automatic slur, and said that it was being "misrepresented". No one wanted to apply a word that carries such ugliness to such a beautiful woman. Fatness is subjective in this case, and I don't blame people for being cautious in its use.

The people who had an issue also had point - its use can be easily misinterpreted. Fat has been made into a slur so thoroughly in our culture, it's hard to see how being fat could be the reason someone is beautiful rather than in spite of that.

Fatness is subjective in this case, and I don't blame people for being cautious in its use. But there's no way to describe a body that is may not be fat, but is certainly not thing - a body that takes up more space than is generally allowed women, but wouldn't be constructed and degraded as a fat body would.

I benefit from thin privilege, and I recognize that. I'm not understood to be fat (though I would if I were in TV!). My body fits normative standards, particularly in the South. Calling myself fat doesn't feel right. It's disowning my privilege.

But I'm not thin. I fit into "okay", but I don't fit into the ideal. It never has, and it never will. I've had days, weeks, years ruined by fatphobia.

When there's a well defined binary/dichotomy between fat and thin, how am I to describe my size, Joan's size, America Ferrera's size in a feminist context? Where is the spectrum, and where am I on it, and how do I describe it?

Average and medium don't sound right. It's normalizing - constructing my body as the right kind of body, and placing an implied "too" before thin and fat. Curvy smacks of a euphemism with a troubled history - and many women have curves, and some don't. "Real" is really problematic - there is no one way to be a woman, and defining authenticity in sex/gender leads to transphobia.

I could say my weight (about 180) or size (anywhere from size 10 to 16), but not everyone is comfortable saying that. I've been staring at the cursor for some time, trying to come up with a term for myself, but I'm stuck.

Fleshy? Everyone has flesh.

Big is the best that I can come up with. I am big - I am tall, and my hips are wide. It's a term I'm comfortable with.

But not all women who are not thin and not fat are big. There are petite women in the same undefined space.

Is there an umbrella term for women who are not fat, and not thin? How can privileged be owned with comfort and without dismissing the ways in which privilege is lacked?

27 comments:

  1. You bring up a lot of difficult questions here. The thing is that fat, thin, and average? medium? really are perception-based terms that refer to the assigning of privilege more than the reality of the body. At my largest points (size 14 and pushing 16), I still benefited from thin privilege because my height and the way I dressed meant I was still perceived primarily as small.

    These sorts of terms by their very nature aren't going to accurately describe most bodies.

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  2. I'm honestly not sure there is a word for various spots in the spectrum.

    I mean, I'm 5'7", approximately size 8 and my stomach sticks out a little.

    I don't seem to fit fat or thin (like you don't) all that well but I'm not big either because of certain features I have (hands, face, shoulders) that are petite in structure. They make me look small, despite my 5'7" height and size 8.

    I almost want to say that the words fat and thin are in and of themselves poor descriptors. They measure perhaps one axis of body structure, and poorly at that.

    You would think (if we were trying to describe body shape) that actual shape words would be the best fit. And I really am starting to think that's the case.

    Like the hourglass figure, the pear shape, etcetera. The sheer variety of different body shapes represented by "fat" and represented by "thin" makes me feel like those words really don't offer any benefit at all but only serve to homogenize body structure in harmful ways.

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  3. Perception is a HUGE part of it - though BMI would have you believe otherwise, weight and size are not objective facts. (I'm not into average/medium because of the normalizing involved - not sure if you were referring to that or not).

    But yeah, even though I'm a 14ish and I'm big, I still significantly benefit from size/thin privilege.

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  4. RMJ

    Since I'm probably a lot of the crowd you're accusing of constructing fat as an automatic slur. I ain't. (At least, I'm not intending upon it.) There are definitely fat women I've found attractive, but they were fat, not just "not overly skinny". I used to date a woman who was five foot six and two hundred something pounds (not sure here, I'm terrible at guessing people's weight. But uh, she was on a weightwatchers diet at some point, and used the 200+ lbs guidelines. The unpleasantness of trying to support a girlfriend's diet enough not to be an unsupportive asshole but not so much as to be enthusiastic she lose weight aside.) She was really pretty, but she was fat, which was fine. I don't think she could've looked more attractive if she lost weight, for what it's worth. But Joan ain't fat.

    I sort of get the idea that "normal" connotates good for a lot of people (I dunno, it only connotates orthogonal for me, but I digress). Not as much for medium. I don't think you'll get away from similar descriptors for people within a standard deviation or so of the mean. They are what they are.

    The real problem seems to be the association between "normal" and "good". It's bizarre, but a lot of people seem to have it. But it's probably what needs to be taken down. There is an average height, an average weight, an average percent body fat, and we'll not get away from that. Better to just de-stigmatism non-averageness. Nobody gives me flak over my non-average blood type (A+). Why should they give me flak over my non-average height? (I'm about two standard deviations above the mean.)

    Weight and size are objective facts, though. At the earth's surface, at sea level, I weigh 250 lbs. That's just a fact, you can measure it with Hook's law or whatever. What's ideal probably isn't knowable (whether or not there's an objective answer), but what someone's weight is is something I can know.

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  5. I fall into this unnamed range as well. I'm not slender but I'm not overweight. I can't call myself "big" because I am only 5'3". The best I can ever come up with is just to say that I "have a tummy," or "am rounder than I used to be." Labels can never encompass everyone - I think everyone just has to come up with their own way of describing themselves.

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  6. At the moment, my body inhabits a similar space to yours. And it had never occurred to me before that self-identifying as "fat" would be disowning my privilege. That's an interesting insight & I'm glad to see it examined.

    I don't disagree, but I don't completely agree, either. I'm hesitant to see the debate framed with something that implies there's a boundary to police. In our culture, "fat" is a moving target and the threat of being called fat is a powerful weapon.

    M. LeBlanc guest-blogged something related to this at Shapely Prose recently: The Fantasy of Staying Exactly As I Am (or, This Far and No Further, This Fat and No Fatter) and there's important discussion both in the post and in the comments about comparative fat-ness. We need to get out of the business of worrying about how much fat is acceptable.

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  7. I'm also an "inbetweenie" as the community on LiveJournal (which deals mostly in sales of 10-18 size clothing, unlike its sister comm, "fatshionista", which accompanies the blog of the same name and chats about mostly stylish plus size clothing, but also everything from fat sex to bike riding) terms it.

    I feel like depending on who I'm with and what company I keep, I have both fat and thin aspects to my "ranking" of privilege: certainly as a solid size 16 I am bigger than many of my friends. As someone who gains weight disproportionately to my stomach, I often look a little bigger than I am, and feel a bit manlier because that's not where women "should" carry their weight and certainly not how clothes are cut. But I'm smaller than a lot of my friends (including my girlfriend) as well, and I can see where I have privilege there too, the way they immediately get looked at differently than I do (and I hate it because I know those looks are not seeing the beauty I do).

    I'm happy that I can look at myself and think I'm beautiful. Sure, I have issues with my tummy, or the lack of tone in my thighs and triceps. But I walk a ton, I know I'm healthy enough to function (aside from things like epilepsy and anxiety that aren't weight-related), I'm smart and a good person and pretty. And so who cares?

    I agree that being at Hollins and seeing women of much more varied (and closer to the average in many cases) body types, all appreciated for who they were, skinny or fat or in between, shaped my path to concern with fat acceptance.

    I wish everyone I knew could think of themselves as beautiful. I also wish that the myths about the links between weight and health would be less prevalent: it seems that people think that anything above a size 4 and you're destined to heart failure, when in fact thinness can be just as detrimental, and two people with exactly the same BMI - or even the same fat density - can have totally different healthcare concerns. I'm also concerned that our society doesn't put any emphasis on preventative care or symptom tracking UNrelated to weight -- we put all the emphasis on constant yoyo dieting - which isn't particularly good for the body.

    Wow, this was long.

    As a side note, I really wish Google ads gave you better choices :| Having "calculate your BMI" next to this post is oxymoronic, at best. Unfortunately, AdSense uses word searches to produce the ads. Blah.

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  8. As I'm only 5'2" (in the morning), I can't say that I'm big. I've got big breasts and wide hips and thick thighs, but a flat ass and flat stomach and tiny waist. It's a weird body space to occupy.

    I've recently been trying to frame my body issues in ways that others can understand, and the best I can come up with is "I'm bigger on the inside than the outside". I'm one of those who looks smaller than she is, and that really fucks with your perception of yourself. My mind tells me I occupy more space, the scale and my measurements tell me the same, but I am seen as thin by outside viewers. Science causes my body dysmorphia.

    I just wish we didn't have the urge to break ourselves into our component parts in such a way so that we could find the right label.

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  9. RMJ -- Average would work for you, mathematically at least. It can be neutral from that perspective.

    Sizes don't mean anything. When design houses look for fit models, they are looking for someone with a specific ratio of body measurements--hips and bustline "should" be about even, and waist "should" be about 60-70% of those measurements. Even fit models for "plus size" lines follow those guidelines.

    From a design standpoint, it makes sense to want a uniform set of measurements. It makes designing clothes and altering patterns very easy, which is important in the world of cheap & fast fashion, but not so great for the majority of people who do not have the same body ratios as the fit models. The fortunate few who share a body type with the house models look fabulous (my sister is one, and I refuse to shop with her). The majority of us just look "okay," but who can turn down a half-price pair of perfectly pre-washed jeans?

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  10. Folks, thanks for stopping by! I'm on my way out, but -

    I really really want to stay away from normalizing terms like average, medium, etc. to describe bodies. Just because I statistically am the average does not mean that I should position myself as such - even if 95% of woman in America were 5'10 180 lbs .7 w/h ratio, the 5% that aren't should be excluded from the definition of normal. Every body is different, and no one body should be seen as normal, average, or medium while another is freakish.

    If this were a conversation where we're regularly using mathematical/statistical terms like standard deviation, average, and mean, then "average" would be appropriate. But we're in a feminist discourse, and medium, average, and normal carry the weight of a lot of alienation.

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  11. From the sounds of it, my body size is fairly similar to yours, but I have never thought of myself as having "thin privilege." Your post has really made me think about how I perceive my body. I've never owned my thin privilege because I've always been surrounded by dieting and suggestions that I diet and instances like the one you described from when you were 12, among other things. It has only been recently that I have started to feel more comfortable in my own body, but I am no where near accepting my thin privilege. But your post has encouraged me to think about this more.

    And I agree with you that we shouldn't use words like "normal" and "average" in describing bodies. Not only is there no such thing as a "normal" body, but it makes everyone who doesn't fit this unrealistic "norm" feel less than.

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  12. I have to disagree with the above sentiment that words like "average" shouldn't be used in feminist discourse. Math and feminism are not mutually exclusive. "Average" is not like "queer;" it has never been used as a slur or to give a name to an "other."

    Is there a huge problem encompassing the (lack of) visibility of diverse bodies, or even bodies that better represent the distribution of shapes and sizes in the world?

    Is it problematic when the beauty ideal is perpetuated using the (often digitally-altered) images of women whose heights are in the 90th+ percentile, but weights are in the 10th?

    Should we work on destigmatizing bodies outside of the beauty ideal?

    Absolutely. But policing statistically accurate language is not how we're going to go about fixing any of that.

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  13. Last fall, I had a freshman student who was, by just about anybody's definition, fat. And she has a harelip. Yet she's very popular with the male students . A lot of people, including me, like her because she's smart and just an all-around sweet person.




    Near the end of the year, I bumped into her and we started to talk. She said that fellow students have treated her well, but some faculty members would look at her as if she came off a UFO.

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  14. I agree that average, medium, normal, etc. are bad ideas. Among the good reasons already given, they are also not accurate because I feel like our body types/shapes are less common than 'fat' or 'thin' bodies. I might be totally wrong.

    at 5'8", and a size 10, I never consider myself thin with my large bust and big hips, ass, and thighs. They are way too chunky to be remotely near 'thin.' For the majority of my life I have felt quite fat, and growing up in a particularly thin-obsessed community (orange county CA anyone?) have been encouraged to feel that way by my parents and to always be watching my weight.

    Now that you mention it though, I like you, have also in ways benefited from thin privelidge in the way that I fit 'curvy' better than 'fat'. Though it's hard to call the obscene remarks I receive regularly on the street, a 'priviledge.'

    Your post is very interesting, and I wish I had some more ideas to add to it...

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  15. It's kind of... disgusting, actually, that in this thread A. James is told off for using the word normal, which he or she never did, and the word average, which he or she did use, in a math sense. IE, it's a math term, and he or she. backed it up by talking about percentage and range.

    It's disgusting because the word harelip is also used in this thread. This term means "cleft lip" and sometimes "cleft palate." If we're going to police language that is definitionally appropriate, maybe we should use words that do not animalize people with well-defined and very common anatomical irregularities.

    No one who cares about body issues in society would never call someone a whale because they were fat, would never call someone a cripple or a gimp because they had a limp or some impediment to their gait. It's just really upsetting to see that people are willing to use outdated terms that just read as cruel now that "cleft lip and palate" is the expected usage.

    And A. James, again, never said "normal."

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  16. Noren, I'm standing by my reasons for not personally using the word "average". However, I can see where A is coming from, and I don't think it's a clear cut slur, or as problematic as normal.

    And yes, "harelip" is definitely offensive language that needs to be avoided. Thanks for pointing that out.

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  17. I have to say, it would be really interesting to see people routinely identifying themselves by height and weight, because I think that would break down a lot of misconceptions about weight, how it's carried, and what makes someone "fat." Alas, I don't think that would catch on, and I suppose it wouldn't eliminate the problem of what to call people who aren't thin and aren't fat.

    I'm actually going to argue with the use of "average" defined mathematically to describe not-fat-or-thin bodies (although I also find "average" problematic from a linguistic standpoint, like you, RMJ). Mathematically speaking, a size 14 may be "average," but many people consider that size to be "fat." So that makes "average" a pretty poor term to use to describe not-thin-or-fat people.

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  18. I think "inbetweenie" (which Faye already mentioned) is the term I've seen that seems to work best...

    I definitely think you're right, RMJ, that this not-thin-and-not-fat space is a tricky one, and it also happens to be (predictably) in this space that the battle is being fought over what kind of bodies are fit to be displayed... as with Christina Hendricks, who gets to be an Officially Sexy Lady, but only if her size is constantly commented on just so we all remember that she's a rare exception to the rule of Any Fat On A Lady Is Gross.

    I know "average" is a loaded term in this thread (and actually "mean" is probably a more relevant concept) but I do think it's important to talk about where the top of the bell curve lies in terms of the size of women's bodies, and we need some language in which to do that. As far as I can tell, the average/mean (the places I found that mention this are pretty sloppy about terminology) size for American women is somewhere around 14, which is right there in that inbetweenie space. Which isn't accidental. I don't have a really well-thought-out thing to say about this, but I do think it's really interesting that it seems like there are probably many more women (myself included) who fall into that inbetweenie space -- where they both benefit from and are denied thin privilege to some extent -- than women who are either clearly "thin" or clearly "fat" (oy, I feel like I should be putting ALL of those size-words in quotation marks ALL the time because there is so much cultural noise around all of them). And it's worth questioning who benefits from having so many women perpetually in that destabilized space, where they can be plausibly told that if they just join Weight Watchers they can be "thin" and that "thin" is what they should want to be, and if they aren't already "thin" then it's their fault because they're bad people.

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  19. RMJ

    You're right that normal carries a weight of alienation, but the solution isn't pretending that everyone's normal, but destigmatising abnormal/unusual/whatever. Just as we can't pretend no one is fat, and instead have to destigmatise "fat" as an adjective, so can't we pretend everyone is normal, and must destigmatise "abnormal" for progress.

    I'm two standard deviations above the norm in height, and probably about the same in mass. My size is abnormal, and no amount of sophistry is going to fix that. (I realise that's not much of an admission, as being tall is generally a plus for how you're judged. Nonetheless.) All that's left is to destigmatise abnormal.

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  20. A really good way to prevent layman confusion over mathematical terminology that is used in a problematic way in non scientific areas is to denote context with a qualifier.

    So when discussing a statistical norm or average, you can literally say "statistical norm" or "statistical average" (or say "stats average" like I do. XD)

    In situations where there's a risk of problematic usage (and that's basically anywhere where you don't have a bunch of scientists talking the terms), defining context is usually a good idea.

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  21. Yeah -- as thedrymock and others point out, the point I was trying to make before in my parentheses was that the statistical average of human bodies IS considered fat, not that it was normal. Sorry if that got lost in the terminology.

    Anyway, I think there are a TON of good points coming up here.

    To Noren, thanks for calling out other problematic word usage. I hadn't noticed it but I agree: that's a really outdated term.

    And I hadn't actually considered the animalistic implications similar to "whale", as much as the outdated, unprofessional terminology of it, so even having not been the one using the word I've learned something here.

    I think correcting offensive word usage is always appropriate in threads -- I also think, at times, discussion about intent is. So maybe "disgusting" is the wrong word: we can all stand to be more comprehensive with calling each other on things, discussion, and learning how to be better people.

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  22. Okay, I just found your blog from a Google search on "Thin Privilege".

    As someone who's been overweight most of my life, I don't buy the idea of "thin privilege". Maybe for the people who can eat all day long and still be skinny, but not me. I busted my ass for a year, dieting hard and training hard, and I'm in great shape because of it. And yes, people (especially women) treat me very differently because of it. Does it suck that people weren't so nice to me before? Yes.

    However, my main issue with this is that we (the royal we) are ultimately responsible for our weight, health, and self-esteem. Not anyone else. If being so overweight and everything that comes along with it is so bad, you can change that by dieting and exercising. No it sure as hell isn't easy, and unfortunately people feel as if it should be.

    And yes I am aware that I have a very arrogantly-titled blog, and that you possibly might me off as a total douchebag because of it. But at least hear me out.

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  23. This is to GoodLookingBastard -

    the thin privilege that is being referred to is exactly the reason you WANT to be thinner. People treat you differently; you get to walk through life without being judged by statements like this one,

    If being so overweight and everything that comes along with it is so bad, you can change that by dieting and exercising

    which is patently untrue, especially for women.

    It's true, "busting your ass" for a year will make you lose weight, but for many people, diet and exercise can provide a body change for a while, but for a significant portion of the population, they will always trend back towards their average weight, their plateau. Even if they're eating healthy, moderate diets, many people are just heavy, just like those people you mention that can eat and eat and never gain a pound.

    For women, this is enhanced because it is not seen as "feminine", particularly, to replace fat with muscle. For guys, getting leaner is a plus, but so is bulking up: they are admired for abs and biceps. For women, simply working out will not, in many cases, giving them the figure they want when they look at models and sex objects. It will certainly reduce their bust size, often make them gain weight (as muscle is heavier than fat) - which can be ego-damaging to people brought up on the idea that the scale is what matters - and, many times be an unsatisfying and unproductive path to tread.

    Additionally, as long as one's health - here I'm talking about cardiac health, blood pressure, liver function, etc etc etc - is meeting benchmarks, it doesn't MATTER whether you're fat or thin. Why should someone look at you differently on the street or make false assumptions about your eating habits?


    For example, I am a pescatarian. Most of my fat intake is composed of "good" fats like avocado, fish, etc; I do snack on junk food but limit it; I use whole wheat bread when possible. This diet has changed a bit lately because I'm BROKE and it's hard to buy anything healthy when you're poor - white, processed flour is what you have available - which is another tangent unconsidered by many people, the fact that the poor have no options but unhealthy food - but for most of my life I've eaten reasonably portioned meals, moderate on carbs, high on vegetables, like sushi, etc. I walk ~three miles a day with no problem, and enjoy exercise regularly.

    We are responsible for our own health. That's true. That simply doesn't have to correlate with THINNESS.

    For that matter, it isn't particularly socially acceptable to treat people who have been diagnosed with, for example, renal failure or lung cancer as disgusting and at fault for their problems. If I saw a man with a trach or bald from chemotherapy and went on a comment spree about how he should stop going out in public like that and he should have known better and controlled himself, I'd be flamed to death! But in some cases things like drinking and smoking, which ARE entirely under one's control, are partly or entirely to blame for these illnesses.

    So I don't buy the health angle, either.

    Fat people are simply being punished for an aesthetic which is not in style.

    You, by insisting that you should be respected for having busted your ass, ARE respected more now that you're thin, and that everyone could have this respect if they just tried hard enough, are proving it.

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  24. Knockout, Faye. Thank you for sparing me the trouble of refuting it myself.

    Now that that has been directly addressed, comments like "Well, why don't you lose some weight, fatty fat fat? Or are you too lazy?" or "don't you realize fat is unhealthy?" will be deleted - unless it goes up while I'm sleeping and someone chooses to write an applause worthy takedown, as Faye has.

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  25. Faye, thank you for your response. And no, I didn't come here to belittle anyone because of their weight. I'm only here to get a better understanding of this topic, and engage in some intelligent (and RESPECTFUL) discussion.

    Okay, I just read a little more into it, and some of the things regarding "thin privilege" I can understand would piss you off. Such as not getting a job and being discriminated at work due to things that have no effect on your ability to perform on the job. Ideally yes, your ability to earn a living should be based SOLELY on your ability to perform, and should have NOTHING to do with your looks. I totally agree with that.

    But aside from that, regarding the other stuff, I don't agree with it. Like I said, we are responsible for how we feel about ourselves. It's not society's job to make us feel good about who we are. If we're overweight and not happy about it, we have options. We can either lose body fat and get in better shape, or we can be more accepting of our weight. I'm obviously biased towards weight loss, but to each his own. There are people who are overweight and are very happy with their bodies, despite the fact that society doesn't deem that to be the ideal. Do they suffer from thin privilege too?

    Either way, you can't simply flip a switch and be *happy* with who you are. Just like you can't flip a switch and be in great physical shape. It takes hard work and dedication. It's a personal issue that every one of us has to deal with; it's not something we can push on someone else.

    And no, I'm not thin and I don't consider myself thin. Thin is not always healthy, and it's not always aesthetically pleasing. I consider myself to be fit and athletic. And that IS healthy.

    As to your point that women aren't supposed to gain muscle, I say that's completely wrong. Due to horrendous nutrition and health education, people have very wrong ideas about fitness. Yes, muscle weighs more than fat, but it's also more DENSE than fat. Meaning that it takes up less space in your body. You'll be much more fit and healthier if you gained 20 lbs of muscle than if you gained 20 lbs of fat. And a woman's body, sans a few exceptions such as the super-athletic, isn't capable of putting on huge muscle mass. So even if you lifted all day and drank 50 protein shakes all day, you'd never look like the Incredible Hulk. Your bodies lack the massive amounts of testosterone for that. The same goes for the majority of men, hence the widespread use of steroids. Ask any decent personal trainer and they'll tell you the same, a woman would benefit just as much as a man from losing fat and gaining muscle (even as little as 5-10 lbs). And unlike a man, you're not going to look bigger and bulkier because your body isn't designed to be that way. You'll be healthier and stronger too, in addition to being thinner. Is it easy? Absolutely not. But it's very doable, with the right amount of hard work and knowledge.


    Additionally, as long as one's health - here I'm talking about cardiac health, blood pressure, liver function, etc etc etc - is meeting benchmarks, it doesn't MATTER whether you're fat or thin. Why should someone look at you differently on the street or make false assumptions about your eating habits?


    I agree that people shouldn't look at you different because of your weight, and that body fat isn't the main factor in determining health. But it does matter, as there are strong correlations between body fat and cardiac health, blood pressure, as well as increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So for anyone concerned about those things who is overweight, it's common sense that lowering your body fat is the smart thing to do.

    That's about all I have to say about it.

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  26. Fair enough, GLB. :) Respectfully, then:

    If we're overweight and not happy about it, we have options.

    This is true. And if the choice to lose weight is the one that's the best for you - we shouldn't judge.

    And I admit, I'm guilty of doing that. I see someone go "I'm so glad my dieting/gastric surgery/working out/whatever paid off!" and I think, "why couldn't she just accept herself?" instead of "I'm glad she's happy."

    However, I think the problem is, the stigma against fat is so prevalent that society plays a large part in defining our self-worth. Other media messages, such as that one isn't a complete person without a partner, or that your life isn't worth living without the latest trends, can play into this -- if your body type isn't seen as conventionally pretty, and you don't fit the clothes at most stores, you're going to feel bad or unworthy. Feeling unhappy doesn't come from a vacuum, or from hormones emitted from fat cells.

    There are people who are overweight and are very happy with their bodies...Do they suffer from thin privilege too?

    They do. And here's where we get into society's standards even more. For example, let's talk about the standard sizes carried in (women's) clothes stores. 2-12? 0-10? Let's not even discuss places that only carry sample sizes. Shoe stores don't carry wides or extra wides very often and they CERTAINLY don't carry wide or extra-wide -calf boots.

    Sizist attitudes can also be seen in the way fat people are portrayed and perceived, the standard sizes of seats, airplane ticket policies, seatbelts, space between restaurant booths and tables, etc.

    Similarly to being right handed, thin people can do things without thought that fat people can't, because of manufacturers enforcing a certain standard which emphasizes the "otherness" of those who don't meet it.

    You'll be much more fit and healthier if you gained 20 lbs of muscle than if you gained 20 lbs of fat.

    Here I want to clarify.

    Because of thin privilege, because of the way the media emphasizes thinness to the point of photoshopping even thin women, because of the high standards we set - the number on the scale becomes very important. That's what I'm trying to say: I know it's healthy to gain muscle. But I literally had a friend - not the only one - complain to me in high school that her weight training class was making her gain weight. She was beautiful and healthy. But in her mind, no matter why her weight increased, it was negative.

    But it does matter, as there are strong correlations between body fat and cardiac health [etc].

    There are sometimes correlations. However: correlation and causation are very different things, and the reason for this correlation hasn't been identified. Is it really that fat is just bad? Is it that there's a genetic link between the two and therefore the fat is a symptom, rather than a cause? Who knows?

    No one here is ADVOCATING obesity. And I totally lobby for better diets. Cutting things like HFCS and simple starches out except for special occasions. Red meat is something to cut back on and maybe replace with fish, chicken, etc. No one wants high blood sugar or veins filled with plaque.

    But this is not a no-fat diet plan: Iceberg is worthless, replace it with mixed greens, get some avocado and sunflower seeds, maybe some beets and hummus to top off a salad that'll give you vitamins, iron, and a serotonin boost. (Mmm, salad.)

    It's entirely possible to be healthy, even without losing a lot of weight.

    The thing is, yes. You may and probably will lose incidental weight doing these things. But starting out with the goal of losing weight is the wrong place to start in the aim to get healthy.

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