Another great article from the folks at Everyday Feminism!
Everyday Feminism has many really great articles about privilege. No matter who you are, you have some privilege that others do not. Take the time to educate yourself. Understanding your own privilege is a vital step in any form of activism. Examinations and discussions of privilege are not meant to make you feel guilty, but simply to educate all of us on the ways that society is set up to benefit the few at the expense of the many. By understanding your own privilege you can better see the injustice around you. The more you see the more you can work to stop.
1. Educate Yourself About Health
Modern classifications of “overweight” (over what weight?) and “obese” are derived from theBody Mass Index (BMI) Scale.
The BMI scale is inaccurate, misleading, and contains multitudes of limitations and shortcomings.
Studies conducted by researchers for The British Medical Journal have found that “the determination of the categories of normal, overweight, and obese is entirely arbitrary and at odds with the underlying evidence about the association between body mass index and mortality, a fact that destroys the index’s scientific pretensions and diagnostic value.”
Physical activity and nutrition do positively affect good health – but body weight does not!
You cannot tell how much someone exercises or how nutritiously someone eats by their body size. Remember that you cannot make any assumptions about anyone’s health or lifestyle by looking at them.
2. Reassess Your Intentions
So, you can’t make assumptions about people – but even if someone were unhealthy, why is it your business anyways?
It is not true that weight is an indicator of health or that obesity is an “epidemic” that needs a “cure.” However, even if it were true, fat people still deserve to be treated like human beings.
People who fat-shame very often defend themselves by saying that they have the best intentions. They just want to help. They care about healthy lifestyles and the well-being of others.
But think about this for a moment: If you really, truly wanted to help someone make a healthy lifestyle choice, do you really, truly believe that shaming them and dehumanizing them will work?
Get off your high horse. Someone else’s body, even someone else’s health, is never your concern!
You have no right to shame them. You don’t get to define their value.
3. Call Out Concern Trolling
Concern trolling is fat-shaming commentary poorly disguised as good intentions. Some examples:
- “I’m just concerned about your health!”
- “You would be so pretty if you just lost a few pounds.”
- “For your own good!”
- “Obesity is a huge issue in our community/society, and I think it’s important to address it.”
- “I don’t hate fat people, but…”
- “I’m with you, but…”
- Or any comment that hinges on a “but.”
These comments are not only unhelpful, but quite harmful.
If you hear someone trying to concern troll, intervene where you can. Ask them if it’s any of their business, and ask them why they are being so rude and narrow-minded.
Throw out some health facts that complicate the picture because human health is complex and never binary.
Let them know, especially if they are someone close to you, that what they’re saying is oppressive.
4. Understand the Intersections
A white cis heterosexual man who is fat has a very different life experience than fat people with other marginalized identities.
Fatness is stigmatized on all bodies – but on certain bodies, it adds a greater burden.
Furthermore, people who struggle with eating disorders may feel that the words “thin privilege” are galling because it is not a privilege to experience marginalization and ableism from an eating disorder.
This is where we must again remember that oppressions are intersectional.
Privilege in one form does not cancel out oppression in another form. Oppression in one form does not cancel out privilege in another form.
5. And Most of All: Humanize
It all comes down to this: How do you think we, as human beings, should treat one another?
Do you think that arbitrary definitions of health or misconceptions about where our tax dollars go are more important than someone’s humanity?
Do you think that a privileged person’s biases trump an marginalized person’s humanity?
We should always treat one another with empathy, compassion, and respect.