I was pointed to a post over at marginal notations, privilege – redux, where cheshire discusses the dynamics of privilege. As always, the post is worth reading, but I wanted to bring one question over to here since it gave me an avenue in which to voice something I’ve been struggling with all my life.
Can you think of the instances where we actively play a part in this game (I know I do) and are simultaneously victims of it?
When I saw this question, the first thing that popped into my mind is my (and my family, and society’s) obsession with weight.
First things first: I have thin privilege.
More than this, though, I’ve grown up in a family (immediate and extended) that is obsessed with weight. I’ve been taught by my family, by the media, and by society that “overweight” people (ie. people who aren’t paper thin like me) are sad, pathetic, unhealthy, undesirable, and disgusting. I’ve fought against this idea since I can remember but I still sometimes find myself judging people with extra weight. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been discussing something with my friends, whether it be weight, fashion, health or something like that, and I hear myself say something disparaging about overweight or obese people. And those are the times that I notice myself doing that, what about all the times that I don’t?
But I’m not free from it myself. It’s easy for me to advocate for society to adopt a broader image of beauty (and of health) because I’m thin. It’s easy to feel good about my body because I fit into what’s seen as the “correct” weight. But, as much as I try not to, I do think about my weight. I dress it up in pretty words like “healthy” and “toned” but part of it will always be about my body shape. It doesn’t help that every time I see certain members of my family I get comments about my weight. Snarling at, cursing at, and otherwise being angry with them has helped to keep the comments at a minimum, but I haven’t been able to get them to stop completely no matter what I do.
I’ve seen family members struggle with it, too – not just my sisters, my mother, my grandmother, but also my father, my uncles, and my cousins. I’ve sat by and watched my aunt tear into my cousin about being “fat” because he had a little belly. Sometimes she and my uncle would play it off as health concerns, which given his lifestyle of junk food I can agree with, but in the end it would come down to words like “fat” or “overweight” and the terminology associated with that. My other cousin who is a fairly active person, and who used to ride so she had some pretty impressive muscles, got similar comments from my aunt and uncle mostly because she has a broad frame. My mother hates having pictures taken of her, in large part, because she thinks she looks fat. My dad is always on one kind of diet or, more aptly, right about to start/resume one because his previous attempts failed. I was visiting my sister a few days ago, she currently works at Bally’s as a personal trainer, and one of the other trainers came over and told her that a new client asked specifically for her. Cool, right? Well, I thought so until he related that the client gave the reason as something like, “I want her because I have a weight problem and she’s the only one who can understand my weight problem because she overcame her weight problem.” Whatever the actual conversation, she had impressed upon the other trainer that my sister had (like her) had a weight problem that she overcame, thus making her more qualified to train this woman. I’m sorry, but my sister never had a weight problem except in the way she felt about herself.
But, that’s just the problem isn’t it? A lot of the problems that “overweight” (and even some “obese”) people have is not necessarily their weight, but how they feel about themselves. Having even 1% body fat in a world that says fat is evil and disgusting doesn’t make people feel good about themselves now, does it? Honestly, from where I’m sitting (which, again, is from the privileged position of being thin), it’s not fat that’s the biggest problem here, but how we treat people who we see as fat. Hell, even how we treat people who aren’t “fat” by any stretch of the word but aren’t personal-trainer- or eating-disorder-thin either. Am I the only one who think it’s a tad bit fucked up that it’s more acceptable in society to be too thin than have 2% more than the “healthy” percentage of body fat?
Maybe I’m just pissing in the wind here. I don’t know. All I do know is that I want one day, just one fucking day, when I can wake up and go through an entire 24 hours without think about weight at all. Hell, I’d settle for 12 if that’s all I could get.