A Little Blog Called “This is Thin Privilege”

Welp. It’s been a long time since I’ve swung round these parts. Time for an update.

Last June I founded a little blog called “This is Thin Privilege.” You might have heard of it. It took off like a mustang out of a corral. Since that first day in June we’ve grown from one mod to three, and from 1 (me!) follower to 6,200. We’ve been mentioned by Lindy West on Jezebel, and have created quite the buzz on Tumblr.

What is This is Thin Privilege? It’s a blog that approaches the subject of fat oppression through the lens of thin privilege. Thin privileges are unearned advantages granted to you for having a thin body, and similarly denied to you for having a fat body. Thin privilege exists on a spectrum, so even fat people can have relative thin privilege. Privilege as a social justice concept is structural, not individual: it doesn’t mean that thin people don’t have problems or can even experience body-shaming and other forms of hate. Thin privilege of course intersects with many other forms of privilege, which tend to interact and can magnify each other. You can also be thin privilege but oppressed along some other axis.

A typical example of thin privilege is: “Thin privilege is access to adoption services, fertility treatments, and birth control methods that have a BMI cutoff.” Another example is, “Thin privilege is going to the mall and being reasonably sure there will be more than one or two stores that sell your size, and that you can buy something that fits you and is affordable.”  There are more examples of thin privileges here. Still not sure what thin privilege is? Check out our FAQ.

Why, you ask, talk about thin privilege instead of what fat acceptance blogs (including Big Liberty) have traditionally talked about — fat discrimination?

As I said in a post on TITP: because most people don’t give a shit about fat discrimination. It doesn’t affect them, so they don’t fucking care. They hear there’s something called ‘fat acceptance,’ feel appalled at the idea that anyone could ‘glorify obesity,’ and that’s their sum total opinion on the matter. Informed by ignorance, ending in ignorance.

Talking about thin privilege stirs up the whole pot. Fat people know we’re discriminated against, so it can get fucking depressing/boring to talk about it all the time, especially amongst ourselves. But talking about thin privilege gets fat people angry. Because it reminds us that the oppression we face is structural. That this isn’t just our individual problems on any particular day. It reminds us how we WOULD be treated if there wasn’t fat oppression, how we DESERVE to be treated in the absence of fat oppression. Talking about thin privilege places how fat and thin people are treated in the sharp contrast it deserves.

There’s something that happens to you when you’re discriminated against fucking constantly. You kind of get used to it. It might sting, it might chill, but it starts getting so that you can’t imagine what it would be like without those stings and chills. Talking about thin privilege reminds the oppressed of their just deserts (in a just society).

From the perspective of the privileged, checking their privilege makes them realize how much they take certain things for granted. That some other people don’t have access to what they assume is every person’s due, and that they never even REALIZED it. Like being born it’s uncomfortable at first, but hell, it’s much better than staying it the womb. Good allies WANT to understand, to learn, to see their reality clearly.

Do you have an example of thin privilege? TITP accepts asks and submissions. I encourage you to get involved. 

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What this fat girl’s been up to

I don’t know about you, but the winter’s a hard time for me. First, the holidays (stress and body-shaming, ack!) then January (stress and body-shaming, ack!) then February (stress and why-won’t-this-winter-end-already, ack!). I tend to go into a kind of web hibernation this time of year–I don’t blog nearly as much, not here or on my writer blog. I’d say it was for survival, but it’s probably a little bit cowardice, too. Regardless, I wanted to pop my head in to say:

1. Happy FOURTH anniversary of Big Liberty Blog. Holy fucking shit, y’all. I’ve been liberated from that diet clusterfuck (not to impugn a perfectly good clusterfuck) for four whole goddamn years. Confetti!

2. I’m science fiction noveling. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you.

3. Is it my own disillusionment or is diet advertising getting more desperate and false-sounding? I still don’t think we’ve hit the peak of fat hate yet, which I predict will reach fever pitch when the baby boomers start developing the diseases of aging–cuz even though lovely ole Paula Deen got diabetes in her sixties it’s because of what she eats, donchaknow, not because most people will get diabetes as they age. Mythinformation and deviance-ology of teh fatz, it’s scienterrific!

4. A close friend of mine died, recently. Suicide. My dad made fun of her in a photo of mine on Facebook, once (heyo, awesome father with body image issues, hurrah!). Though I deleted his comment and reamed him off-line for what he said, I still feel like fucking shit because of it.

5. Speaking of my dad, my head’s going asplodey with his body image issues. He recently got divorced, and his go-to sore tooth in situations of emotional distress is his fat. He lost a fuckton of weight because of straight-up starvation due to depression — of course, his friends were all, “Hey, it’s the silver lining of divorce!” (what the fuckitty fuck?) Even worse, he and this other dude are doing this ad campaign for his realtor partnership. He photoshopped their heads on the bodies of two other guys, and then carved off half the body of the guy he shopped himself onto. He quite literally looks like a lollipop-man. Jeesofreakingcrimey.

6. We got a breadmaker. Why the fuck haven’t I been making my own fucking bread until now? It’s awesome. I’m in love.

That’s it, for now. See you all in a few weeks or months. Keep FA-ing.

I don’t like her: She’s obese.

Today I was subject to such blatant, naked sizist hate that I’m still struggling to process its rationalization (that is, its lack of rationalization).

My very good friend is visiting my workplace for a couple weeks, to help train and be trained. Though I’m very lucky to work mostly from home, twice a month I commute into the city and to the office. I was excited to visit with her — we made lunch plans, and it was a beautiful day.

We talked about lots of things during lunch. I feel more comfortable speaking to her about my life than anyone, even probably my husband (sorry, sweetie!). After a while she brought up a colleague of ours, asking me how I felt about him. He’s a megalomaniac, believes he’s a super-special snowflake who is genetically superior to most people, and his stated goal in life is to prove himself “better than other people” (and yes, that is a direct quote. Amazing, huh?). He’s also the big boss’s new protege. Eh-heh. It’s like that.

I express this to her, though she’s heard it before. She’s in agreement. Then she tells me she’s at the point where she doesn’t feel the need to say another word to him, ever. Sensing a story, I ask her to back up and explain. You can imagine my surprise (and how proud I was of her) that the reason had to do with me. She, him, and a few other colleagues were out at lunch. There are animated arguments, the typical fare between competitive scientists. Then she overhears this person say my name, then:

“I don’t like her. She’s obese.”

My friend, being the lady-in-shining-armor that she is, and also being a strong ally, anti-sizist, and fat-positive — not to mention well aware of my activism and views on sizism — presses him on his statement, asking him why he’d say such a thing. He responds:

“She’s obese. And you know, she gets defensive about it.”

My friend’s got a hold of the special-snowflake now, and won’t let go. She says:

“Defensive? Defensive? Don’t you think she might have a good reason to get defensive, that, you know, certain people discriminate against her because of the way she looks?”

My friend is a ballet dancer. She knows how to use every bit of her body expressively — she showed me the look she gave the special-snowflake, and it was not, in any way, ambiguous. She was pissed, y’all.

The special-snowflake didn’t have much to say to this, apparently.

Later on I’m talking to a colleague and friend about my novel (he was honestly interested and asked, I don’t just bug people about my novel!) and special-snowflake makes an appearance. He challenges something I say, I respond, but it’s time for me to leave so I can fight with Boston traffic. So I close out the impending brawl with a sugary-sweet, “Oh, I can’t argue with you. I wouldn’t want to sound — defensive — or anything.”

Down the stairs I went, every — obese — bit of me.

I think I handled it fairly well, considering the special-snowflake’s ingenue status with respect to the big boss, and my friend handled her end extremely well. But it’s still bothering me. Eating away at me. And this is after a week away at a writer’s conference, where the response to my work, and the great people there, boosted my self-esteem enormously.

I know it’s not rational. This dude has real deep-seated issues, he’s got a toxic personality, and is a scary person in other ways (he harassed my friend — the one who stood up to him — a couple of years ago). I don’t care what he thinks. But that raw hate, so close to me, makes me feel extremely uncomfortable in my work environment. Especially considering the favoritism he so obviously enjoys.

It bothers me. It bothers me that I’ve spoken to this person at length and on several occasions about a wide variety of topics, ranging from poetry to physics, and this — this — is his opinion of me. I’ve been reduced to a superficial visual characteristic. Part of me is thinking, “Are you serious? Really, dude? How in the world can you pretend to be any kind of intellectual, to know anything about philosophy and political science, and not see your own views in this matter as deeply problematic?”

Also this — this — is the kind of person who gets ahead in my industry. This is the person getting showered with praise and opportunities. This–a nakedly obvious small-minded bigot, who feels just fine hating you, thanks–is the person bending the ear of the powerful. The idea that this person will eventually, and probably soon, be leading people under him, makes me shudder.

EDIT: I just found out that dozens of people from an old messageboard haunt of mine — where I met my husband — linked to my blog and snarked me in a thread on the messageboard. Some of the people I’d even been friendly with; that was a wake-up call. They actually went to the extent of analyzing some picture of mine to see whether I’d gained weight in the four years since I was active there (I certainly have), then suggested that this blog exists because I’m irresponsibly attempting to claim victimhood status when of course my weight’s entirely in my control, and blah-ed on and on about how fat hate doesn’t exist (ironic, much?), or creepily that it does exist and is justified (ew).

Score for the day: Bigotry: 2, Tolerance: 0

Biscuits and Gravy

“Biscuits and gravy! Heh, I can’t believe she ordered it.”

“Heh, I can. Heh, biscuits and gravy.”

The worst part? Those biscuits were the consistency of spongy hockey pucks, and the gravy something between glue and edible. I picked at them, had maybe one bite, and any part of my appetite not killed by the sad copy of food on my plate was killed by humiliation.

We were on a road trip, to some hot state in the middle of the summer. Hotel prices in the sweltering states were cheaper in summer, and my parents more likely to take vacations. So in the van we packed pillows, Walkmans (Walkmen?), luggage, sandwiches, and our sorry selves. Twenty hours later we reached some kind of human destination, unbearably humid.

The best part of the trip, I remember, was when my dad drove and I kept him company, up front in the passenger seat. It was midnight or thereafter; my stepmother and brother slept in the back. We drove through the orange groves in Georgia. The air was spiced with the scent of the groves and honeysuckle. We played the game from the Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol, “The Minister’s Cat”.

I’ll include it here, since I still feel warm and fuzzy thinking about it:

The next morning we stopped at a southern version of Denny’s. Shoney’s, maybe. As a kid I hated breakfast foods, except hot and cold cereals, and toast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, English muffins, bagels? Blargh! Breakfast foods were either too sweet or too salty, and sometimes they combined the two in freakish horrors like bacon covered in maple syrup, or the abomination that is chocolate chip pancakes.

At any rate.

So, of everything on the menu, “biscuits and gravy” looked the least breakfast-y. I was hungry, having stayed up all night to keep my dad company while he drove (I was probably 10 at the time). We didn’t have biscuits and gravy for breakfast up North; to me, it was the perfect solution to my breakfast-nausea-dilemma.

I was duly mocked, as noted above. But it didn’t stop there. It turned into the joke of the trip. Then, the joke of the year. The last time I heard it was maybe five years ago, so that’s a good 14 years of torment.

And why was I tormented and mocked for my breakfast choice?

Because that 10-year-old girl was also chubby. And chubby people love gravy, donchaknow!

Maybe they didn’t realize how much their jabs hurt. Maybe they didn’t realize how deeply I internalized the shame I felt, how an intelligent little girl heard, “Biscuits and gravy, heh!” and translated it to mean that she was bad, out of control, a terrible person, a terrible daughter. So when my dad told me later that I should eat veggie burgers, plain popcorn, plain cucumbers, and drink water as my whole diet? I tried, for him. Because I didn’t want him to think I was some gross, out-of-control chubster, some human eating machine that goes bonkers at the idea of gravy. He was the first person to give me diet pills. I lost rapidly, and when I refused to eat even vegetables out of fear of remaining fat or gaining back lost weight, I thought about how I’d vindicated myself. No way he’d accuse me of the sin of “biscuits and gravy” again!

Sometimes, when I’m sitting, my heart flutters in my chest for no reason. I wonder if it has to do with all the diet pills I took when I was a teen. That, maybe, biscuits and gravy would have been a better option than diet pills.

But I guess I’ll never know.

This post is dedicated to my husband, who has never made me feel bad about what I eat.

Update from the Wintry North

Hi, all. First of all, I apologize for my scarcity. A lot’s been going on in Big Liberty-land, some of it good, some of it not-so-good, and lots with potential to go either way.

I don’t usually blog about personals, but fat acceptance has been getting awfully personal for me, lately. It’s been on display in my writing, walking around with me in a suit at a high-powered conference in Manhattan, and making new friends. It’s there when I wake up, and tucks me in at night.

I say ‘fat acceptance’ rather than ‘fat’ because in Western Society you can’t just be ‘fat’ and leave it at that; fat’s something you are required to accept or not, seen as a choice by most, and used to your detriment in nearly every area of life. Want to date? You better make sure to tell them you’re fat, or risk being labeled as a con-artist of the flab (conflab?). Want that new job? Better hope they guy/lady who interviews you isn’t a biased fuck. Want to address that chronic pain in your hip? Better have your HAES gun locked-and-loaded, in the nearly-inevitable circumstance your fat is blamed for your ailment, or the sacrifice of which is suggested for the future of your health.

On that note, please read Red3’s post about the medicalized death-threats constantly leveled at fat people and parents of fat children. It’s superb.

So I walk and wander, accompanied by my fat acceptance. What choice do I have? Before finding fat acceptance, I was chained to fatphobia for most of my life. Fatphobia is a vicious companion, turning one against others and oneself, in need of constant feeding, and always pooping on the good rug.

Fatphobia damaged me: it was in the fists of the kids that beat me on the playground; it was in the words of family who wanted me to shrink for ‘my own good;’ it was in the tortuous loops round the college campus as I worked off no food, hopped up on diet pills; it’s in the flutter in my chest, the silent echo of how far I was willing to go to be the woman I thought everyone wanted me to be.

Fatphobia damaged others: sweet boys suffering, turned down because I couldn’t see myself as attractive; family disappointed, unable to see past this chance shell to the cultivated promise beneath; husband wounded, wishing only that his wife wouldn’t cry in frustration as she wonders whether she’s getting passed up for promotion because of her size.

So I keep fat acceptance close. This fourth year of my journey is no easier than the first, but far easier than navigating the briar patch of self-hate. Lots of FA bloggers have come and gone in the meantime, others have slowed their posting or sped up, and there are many new faces. We are doing well; we are changing lives; our message is getting through. We must continue. And keep fat acceptance close to you, when you’re busy and can’t find time to write. I know I will.

What’s Your Anti-Diet Commercial?

Ah, the season of diets is upon us! There have been some particularly horrendous early contenders — like the one from Nutrisystem about how much better life is for those who’ve dieted away X lbs on Nutrisystem’s diet junk food.

The common theme uniting all these commercials is to promulgate the belief that going on X diet is temporary. You just need to sign up for Y months of Hip Watchers and you’ll lose “the” weight. “The” meaning the extra stuff, above some arbitrary Thin Fantasy boundary which can be anywhere from 5% – 30% less than your current weight. After losing “the” weight you can stop the diet, resume  normal life like eating how your thin husband/wife/friends eat, and exercising how they exercise.

When you actually do that? You gain it back. Plus 10%. Just in time for the new diet season. Shock!

So another round of Hip Watchers or DietJunkFoodSystem is in order. And it happens again. And again. And again.

Because there’s no such thing as losing “the” weight unless your weight gain was caused by something outside yourself. And then losing “the” weight usually just means recovering from an illness, having the baby, and so on.

Still, the idea of diets being temporary and weight loss being permanent is the most prevalent — and profitable — myth of the December 26 – February 15 diet season.

We’re told by the suggestive after-photos and testimonials that life is so much better after the diet is over. We’re aren’t told that the diet is never over. The pain, severe restriction, part-time job sweating at the gym, calorie account books, obsession over ‘bad’ and ‘good’ foods, fake diet junk food or refusal to eat whole food groups without a good medical or ethical reason, brain-fogginess of constant low-grade hunger, metabolic state of starvation even though you don’t look like you’re starving — it doesn’t end. Not after “the” weight is lost. And when we finally capitulate to a state of well-being that would be considered torture by any natural thin? — it means we’re broken .

Fuck that.

It’s time to push back against these insidious messages, the ignorant assumption by friends and family and coworkers that losing weight is always good and definitely permanent if you “do it right.” It’s time to expose the reality of the tortuous condition of the dieting life, and that other diet called maintenance.

How? By creating an anti-diet commercial.

Ideally, it would be a foil to Nutrisystem’s most recent commercial (can’t find a link), but ultimately to any commercial that tries to sell you on how much better life is after dieting, the typical — “more energy, cute clothes, bikini body, can now climb mountains, so happy, play with kids all the time, have constant sex with spouse, etc.”

I put together a short anti-diet commercial for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Here’s my diet success story. What’s yours?

Include your anti-diet commericals in the comments, or send them to me at big dot liberty at yahoo dot com.

How To Be a Fat Novelist

Hi folks! I’ve been neglecting this blog of late due to exciting indications that my writing career is starting to gain some traction. Currently I’m in the midst of revising one novel and writing the next. With 100+ hours split between my day job and my (as yet) unpaid writing job, I don’t have much time to post. But never fear, I’m still here doing big fat things and thinking big fat thoughts. To prove it, I’ve made this little list for aspiring fat novelists.

HOW TO BE A FAT NOVELIST – 5 EASY TIPS!

  1. Put down the two whole cheesecakes. You can’t write with cheesy fingertips. I suggest getting those Philadelphia cheesecake poppawhoozits, much cleaner.
  2. Tell the dude playing the tuba to stop following you around. He’s distracting your delicate muse.
  3. Hire an on-call repairman to fix all the desk chairs you break. While he’s there he can patch up the cracks in the floor from you walking to and from the refrigerator between paragraphs.
  4. In order to write a novel, you have to write. So training for the Two Whole Cakes,  Baby-Flavored Donuts, Live Deer, and Crisco Sandwich -eating competitions? Might need to be put on the back-burner for a while. Unless they’re research for your novel. Then go nuts. Salty, salty nuts.
  5. Have a sense of humor. Some things really are satirical. That goes for you skinnies, too. I’m watching you. I can’t see you all that well in the tall grass, but I’m watching you. Yeah, sure, it’s probably because I want to eat you, but HEY LOOK OVER THERE! Nom.