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because they understand that privilege is supposed to be about advantages you didn’t do anything to earn, like being born white, or a man— and the perception is that a thin/fit/lean body is *earned* through hard work. In today’s first ever #TransparentTuesday video, I unpack why I still consider it privilege, and how we can all better approach and understand the whole concept of privilege!
When privileges is supposed to specifically refer something that you didn’t earn and didn’t have any control over. And so many people, especially people in the fitness industry feel like, ah, excuse me, I worked my ass off for this body. So this, this really isn’t a privilege to be in a thin body. I worked for this, I earned it. This is something that I did not something that just happened to me like race, for example. And this is a great question. This actually was asked specifically for my friend rubs lover of bandana training. Specifically wanted me to talk a little bit about this in one of my recent posts.
And it’s really good point because so many people in the fitness industry, super prickly around the term thin privilege, they’re all on board for body positivity until we start talking about privilege specifically thin privilege, and then it kind of gets really hairy. So we’re gonna unpack some of that today. So first of all, just to clear this up, yes. If this is confusing for you, it’s understandable, but privilege does normally refer to something that you didn’t earn. So easy example is class privilege. You have a little kid who grows up in a family with lots of money, and that kid is going to have access to opportunities and resources, and that they, that are very positive and they didn’t do anything to earn, right? That little kid did not make themselves rich. They just happened to be born into a rich family. So that’s class privilege.
And then with a white privilege, we can see how obviously the color of our skin is not something we chose or did or earned. So being afforded all of the privileges based on the biases and resources and opportunities available to people with white skin in a, in a white supremacist culture, then that’s not something we did to earn, right? So that’s where most is about something that is unearned, that you did not do or have control over that said, um, sometimes privilege can be earned and I’m putting it in quotation marks here because it’s not exactly the same thing, but you can attempt to change or at least appear to change your presentation in the world to have upward social mobility, which means that essentially you can take advantage of a particular social hierarchy and conform more closely to the rules of being at the top of that social hierarchy in order to access the privilege afforded to the people who are there.
Now stay with me on this, because if we go back to the class example, then you can see how that kid may have had no choice, but to be born into a family with lots of money, they have class privilege. They did not earn that. Right. I was born into poverty, can also go through life, work hard and get lucky and have a whole bunch of things happen in the middle. And then end up shifting into an, a higher class position because in the end they may be, make a lot of money and granted classes tricky. Cause it’s not only about income. It’s not just about how much money you make. So this person would also have to shift into their new class regarding value systems and social, et cetera, but it’s possible, right? A person can go from lower class to upper class in one lifetime and that’s upper social mobility, but they earned that doesn’t change the fact that they now have class privileges as an adult that they didn’t have as a kid.
So I hope you can see that there is an earning of class privilege that is afforded to them now. Um, so they have changed their, they have changed the amount of privilege they receive. Now what’s important to recognize is that not everybody can do that. If this was something that absolutely everybody could do, that would be different. So we talk about earning, but also there’s a certain element of luck involved. There’s a certain element of other privileges at play, for example, um, you know, maybe this person is conventionally good looking and has a really great network and a really healthy family. And, uh, you know, maybe they’re more upper status class. In other ways, they have other privileges that afford them. They’re, you know, seen as likable. And so they get luckier throughout life. Maybe they are white. Maybe they are a man. Maybe they are cisgender.
Maybe any of these things allow for them to get as lucky as they do. So this isn’t something that’s afforded to everybody. It’s not something that everybody can do, but it is a thing that some people can do. Um, and nobody would judge that person for social climbing this way. This is really important to notice is that it’s obvious to want to be in a higher position of privilege to want to be at the top of a social hierarchy. Of course anybody would want that life is easier. Your status is better. And of course we’re all fed the lie that that’s where happiness and satisfaction comes from. Um, but not everybody can do it. So while it is a choice, in some ways it is not a choice in others. So a couple other examples, just to give you so that you can see how this plays out of people who are sort of earnings upward, social mobility in terms of privilege would be a transgender person who refuses to live as themselves.
They might live as a cisgender person, meaning they don’t express themselves, who they really are in the world in order to get cis-gender privilege. Likewise, a gay person can stay in the closet for their whole life, and that would allow them to access heterosexual privilege or heteronormative privilege. Um, most likely they shouldn’t do this right, because we can see immediately how that’s going to cause so many problems for this person, but you can at least kind of see, start to see and put together the fact that, Oh, okay. So in how you present yourself, you can do things to get privilege. You can choose to trade your authentic life to earn specific types of privilege. Um, would they be trading their, their sense of self and joy and connection and uh, so many other things. Yeah. Maybe, but it’s possible, you know, you can, you can sort of see how that sort of is possible.
Um, but just because someone can social climate in this way doesn’t mean that they should. Right. Um, I hope that you can understand that these people should not do everything in their power to hide who they are in order to access privilege available to them. If they hide, that is not obviously a better thing to do. Um, but I want you to be able to understand that it is possible that you can pursue by conforming to the standards at the top of any particular hierarchy of privilege, or at least appearing to conform to those standards, you can earn privileges. Um, this is also the case when it comes to weight. So for example, a person could lose weight to social climb and avoid that phobia and access the privileges of thin people. They could assuming that diets worked, which they don’t, but we’ll talk about that in a second.
Um, but what would it cost them? And should they, is it good for them ultimately to spend their entire life trying to do that in order to access these privileges or no? Um, so 95% of diets fail. So this isn’t actually available to most people, but some people can. And also for those who do make it work, we’re looking at some really, really extreme lifestyle habits. So it’s, it’s often about forcing yourself to be something you’re not. So again, like the other examples, I hope you can see, just because you can doesn’t mean you should, that son let’s talk about personal trainers and other fitness professionals, because that is who is railing against the concept of thin, um, privileged the most because they of course have dedicated their entire lives to controlling their body. So they most feel like they’ve earned any privilege that they get.
So let’s just start by saying body diversity in terms of shape and size is a real thing. Just like height. Diversity is a real thing. Everybody has a different shape and size of their body wants to be. If everybody worked out exactly the same and ate exactly the same, they would still, we would still have a diversity in terms of shape and size. It exists. It’s real. Um, but also so much of a person’s shape and size, uh, or whether or not a person can sustainably diet down or lose weight. Um, it comes down to genetics. So we give ourselves a lot of credit for something which we can only really take a teeny tiny bit of credit for because so much of our bodies come down to genetics. Um, so for example, for years I controlled absolutely everything I ate, drank, slept, took supplements, trained and recovered for, for my body, for the performance and aesthetic of my body.
As a personal trainer in the fitness industry. Now I was significantly leaner. I will say that, um, I had more muscle. I had less fat, but are still about the same body size because this is about the size my body wants to beat. So I would have given myself all the credit at the time, if you’d asked me, like, did you earn this body? I’d say, hell yes, I do so much to earn this body. Yes. I earned this body in any privileges that I’m afforded because I live in this body are because I worked hard for it. That’s what I would have said, but the truth is that now I don’t work at all. I don’t do anything for that. I eat intuitively I train whenever. However I want, I don’t do anything to control the shape or size of my body anymore. And I’m still pretty much the same size.
I still basically look the same, which means that it’s genetics, which means that I would’ve been wrong to take that much credit for it before. Um, so another thing to look at is the fact that if 95% of diets fail after two years to actually keep the weight off, then what does that 5% about that 5% of people as often, people who would fit qualifications for eating disorder or disordered eating. And I would have been one of those people back when I was working so hard for my body and being so lean and fit and doing all this stuff, being so healthy, I would have absolutely qualified according to the technical definitions for disordered eating. So that’s just something else to keep in mind. If you have to dedicate your entire life to controlling your body through diet and exercise in order to get your thin privilege, is that really something you want to strive for?
Um, because it’s kind of a square rug, square peg round hole situation where you actually kind of are just trading who you really are and the life that you would maybe normally have wanted in order to access this privilege. So, um, I don’t know that that’s something to celebrate or strive for, but thinking that weight is in our control is a big misunderstanding leads to all kinds of problems, because for most people that’s just not true for most people. It’s way more about genetics and diets. Aren’t a sustainable way to lose weight. So thin privilege is just afforded to some people with certain genetics, certain body shapes and sizes, certain privileges. Um, so we all recommend if we all recommended to like poor people, that they should just work harder to get out of poverty, but we knew that 95% of those people would end up failing and that over 50% of those people would actually end up with like in more poverty.
We wouldn’t recommend that to people, right. But for whatever reason we get in our heads that, uh, even though there’s no treatment for, uh, no sustainable, safe, effective longterm treatment for losing weight, that that people should strive for that anyway, they should spend their whole lives trying to do that in order to earn this privilege. Um, so I don’t know if it’s really earning it, if it’s something that other people, most people can’t do. Um, but there’s also room for nuance in this conversation. So for example, in sports, we recognize that an athlete both has to work very hard and be born with a certain set of genetics, right? Like their DNA doesn’t take away from the hard work they put into their sport and their hard work doesn’t take away from the fact that they were born genetically predisposed for a certain sport. So it both can be true and it wouldn’t make any sense to say that like anyone can work hard enough to, to be in the NBA.
And it also would not make sense to say, if you’re seven feet tall, you don’t even have to work hard. You can just be in the NBA. None of those is true, right? There’s nuance in the middle. So thin privilege refers to a series of benefits afforded to folks who live in smaller bodies, um, including a simple lap lack of obstacles and oppressions that are facing people who live in larger bodies. Um, and this includes positive biases about us, uh, positive assumptions being made about us more accurate and effective medical care. Um, and having an easier time getting hired, getting loans, adopting children, um, and getting into higher education, all these things. These are a set of privileges that are afforded to people who live in smaller bodies, and it’s easier for those people to get those things in a smaller body. So yes, it is privilege.
It is afforded to you whether you worked for it or not, no matter how you ended up in your smaller body, this is, these are the privileges afforded to you. And, um, also if you are somebody who just happened into this and you didn’t earn it, it’s privileged. If you are somebody for whom you worked really hard and got there it’s privilege. Um, but since so few people are actually really working hard to get this Bonnie and, and a lot of that comes down to genetics. I’m not comfortable saying that you really earned that even though you kind of absolutely scoot yourself up this hierarchy with certain amounts of willpower, discipline, you know, changing who you are and dedicating your life to that process. So this is true, whether it comes to or when it comes to beauty privilege and look as them as well.
So some people can spend lots of time and energy and money, uh, looking closer and closer and closer to the conventional beauty standard, which means they will get more and more and more of the privileges afforded to people who fit this conventional beauty standard, no matter what they look like, bare faced, and with no makeup, no nothing done to them. So I hope you can see that it’s the same thing. However you get there. It is still a set of privileges that we’re talking about, that benefit people who are at the top of this hierarchy and for most people, when it comes to weight, it’s really not an issue of controlling and working your ass off to get there. Although for some people it may be that doesn’t take away from it. Lastly, I just want us to remember that privilege is invisible to those who have it.
Like it is so difficult to see privilege when you were at the top of a particular hierarchy, which means that then people fit people, lean people. We are going to be the people for whom it is the most difficult to seek. Then privilege always way easier to see the privilege when you are, or sorry. Yeah. To see the privilege and to see depression when you were at the bottom of the hierarchy. And when you are looking around and going, this is some unjust bullshit, what the hell? It is always, always easier to see that when you are being oppressed than when you are experiencing the privilege, because when you’re experiencing the privilege, you just see yourself as normal. Um, everyone wants to believe that they earned all the good things in their life and our culture supports that idea. For sure. Um, but I just want us to recognize that this is still happening.
Whether you can see it or not, these privileges are real, whether you are able to see them as earned or unearned, or even just to see that they exist or not. Um, but it’s really, really important that we not talk about this from a place of, Oh, I earned this privilege, which means that anybody who is in a larger body just didn’t work hard enough to earn it, which means that their oppression is on them. It’s very blaming of the oppressed to say that they could just work harder and they could have what I have if you live in a thinner body. Um, and that’s why this is such an important conversation to be having, because that causes huge damage. Um, and if you’ve learned anything about weight stigma, you’d understand that if your goal is health, then this is, this is absolutely the wrong direction to go. Um, so that’s then privilege is real. Um, it is a little bit of a nuance topic and I completely understand why it gets tricky, but we need to be talking about it more and more. And I hope that this helps clear up some of that stickiness around whether or not it’s earned and why people are talking about it. If in fact it is earned as something that is like just given to you. So I’m open to your questions, comments, leave them below, and let’s talk about it.