Thin privilege, related to weight bias, stems from the unrealistic ‘ideal’ of a thin body type for everyone, or for a preferred thin body type. It supports the idea that those with a thin body type have more advantages than those who do not. These advantages can be represented in scenarios such as easily finding your size while shopping at trendy stores, being offered help versus being told that nothing will fit you, not being judged by what you choose to eat, finding a place to sit on a bus or an airplane, and even finding a seat that properly and comfortably supports you. Others include not being associated with labels such as “lazy”, having more employment opportunities, receiving unbiased healthcare, and being accepted by peers, colleagues, and family members1. The adverse effects that result from those who lack these advantages can be detrimental to one’s well-being and include less engagement in self-care behaviour2. These unjust social advantages3 lead to not only unequal access to resources or health inequity, but also poor interpersonal relationships4.
This is not to say that judgment can’t be felt by thin individuals as well. Just because someone has thin privilege, does not mean that they feel accepted, have high self-esteem, find clothes that fit them, or necessarily have all of the said advantages noted above. This is why thin privilege can be such a contentious topic. It’s important for us to remember that no one is immune to hardship and we are each fighting our own battles. In addition, those who are thin due to serious health issues or poverty, are most definitely not privileged5. However, recognizing that thin privilege exists can help to bring awareness to the topic, and hopefully end the stigma that surrounds it. It’s crucial for us to be aware of how such biases can be harmful to those of any body weight.
One way in which we can combat this is by educating ourselves and others about the existence of thin privilege, because being aware of it can help us to be more aware of our own actions and biases as well. We can also educate ourselves and others about dated information regarding health, such as the use of BMI as a determinant of health. Fortunately, with the help of the HAES® movement, education regarding Health At Every Size is making it’s way around. It’s about time! Every body is deserving and should be treated with equal respect.
The more we know, the more capable we are of standing up to unfair practices. It’s essential that we talk to each other about circumstances like this so that we can support each other and prevent them from happening in the future. We are all deserving of equal opportunities and body equity is something that is to be celebrated. So let’s rise above and instead of judging, remember to practice love and compassion to others but also to ourselves.
- Bruce, K. (2018). What exactly is “thin privilege”? Retrieved from https://www.kristinabruce.com/blog/what-exactly-is-thin-privilege
- Kater, K. (2015). Hope for the future: transforming the destructive assumptions of thin privilege and weight stigma. Retrieved from: http://nedic.ca/conference/closing-keynote-%E2%80%93-april-17th-2015
- Bacon, Linda. (2010). Health at every size : the surprising truth about your weight. Dallas, TX :BenBella Books
- Nutter, S., Russell-Mayhew, S., Arthur, N., Ellard, J.H. (2018). Weight bias and social justice: implications for education and practice. Retrieved from: https://link-springer-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs10447-018-9320-8.pdf
- Nash, M., Warin, M. (2017). Squeezed between identity politics and intersectionality: a critique of ‘thin privilege’ in fat studies Feminist Theory Vol. 18. Retrieved from: https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/doi/pdf/10.1177/1350506812456461