The body positivity movement is in a perplexing place right now. While the use of the term “body positivity” continues to grow in mainstream visibility, the movement itself seems at an impasse amid corporations trying to boost their outward inclusivity with conventionally attractive “plus-size” models. Meanwhile, in real life, people of size are still being discriminated against in interviews, doctors’ offices, and physical spaces.
On Twitter, however, one leader in inclusive attire is putting the conflation of these agendas on display, calling on people with thin privilege to analyze the ways in which their thinness continues to be approved societally, and how it also acts as a detriment to anyone who doesn’t get that same reinforcement.
In a Twitter thread, Cora Harrington, founder of the Lingerie Addict, the world’s largest lingerie blog, wrote about thinness and the opportunities that were open to people because they’re thin: Even if they themselves didn’t feel thin, they are signaled thin privilege by the way that the rest of society accommodates their bodies.
“Hey, you don’t have to ‘feel thin’ to have thin privilege,” Harrington wrote. “Thinness isn’t a feeling. If other people perceive you as thin, you are thin. If you are able to walk into any clothing store and expect to see a wide range of options in your size, you are thin.”
Harrington went on to write that she works with women thinner than her and rarely “feels” thin, but she’s reaffirmed of her thin privilege by being able to walk into any clothing store and expect to be able to purchase something in her size.
Hey, you don’t have to “feel thin” to have thin privilege.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
Thinness isn’t a feeling. If other people perceive you as thin, you are thin. If you are able to walk into any clothing store and expect to see a wide range of options in your size, you are thin.
My job involves looking at photos of models who are much thinner than me, so I rarely “feel” thin.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
But I can walk into almost any clothing store and expect – without even thinking about it – to buy something in my size. That is thin privilege.
Thin privilege is also manifested in the way that other people treat people who are thin—thin people aren’t told to lose weight by strangers online, or are looked at disdainfully for eating a cookie or an ice cream cone. People with thin privilege aren’t treated negatively by strangers who have to share a space with them, such as on a plane or bus, Harrington wrote.
No one looks at a photo of me online and tells me I need to lose weight or sees me out and about eating a cookie or an ice cream cone and sneers at me in disgust.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
No one groans or rolls their eyes when they have to sit next to me on a plane or a bus.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
In fact, no one comments on my body at all. The ability to move through life without people insisting you need to be a smaller size…if you don’t have to think about that, it’s privilege.
Corporations, too, signal the acceptance of certain bodies over others with whom they select for their edgy-but-not-too-radical “body positive” campaigns. Even if this person is someone of size, they can still have some semblance of privilege over larger people based on how well they align with the fashion industry, Harrington wrote.
And this is something that I really need “body positive” influencers and fashion bloggers to understand.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
If you are getting gigs AT ALL, it’s because you closely align with fashion industry ideals. And it is what it is, I guess.
What’s not okay is pretending that you don’t.
Of course, this is never to say that people with thin privilege don’t face oppression in other respects. Considering intersectional identities, you might be thin but be discriminated against for your race, gender, or sexuality. Harrington, for example, said that her thin privilege allows her to find a bra her size at a store, but she still finds trouble finding a nude bra in her skin tone.
You can benefit from thin privilege and still be disadvantaged or inconvenienced on some other axis, like height or race. Thin privilege doesn’t encompass *every* privilege.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
Case in point, I have thin privilege and my bra size is a common one, but I can’t walk into any store and find a nude bra in my skintone.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
Does that cancel out my thin privilege?
My lack of privilege on the axis of race doesn’t negate my privilege on the axis of size.
And thin privilege certainly doesn’t mean that people haven’t bullied you for your thinness, or have put you down for your size.
But it does mean that, societally, you’re still valued for the body that you have. You can see a body like yours represented in media, even if you too face societal pressure to be even thinner. Many factors, such as the size of seats in a restaurant, or a doctor taking your health issues seriously without trying to correlate them to your size, reinforce the idea that your body is acceptable. That you have a “good” body, and that your reward is to be affirmed as such.
“It means you aren’t [denied] things like pay raises, healthcare, and airline seats because of your weight,” Harrington wrote. “It means societal discrimination and prejudice does not target you for being thin. It means your weight/body type are seen as ‘normal.'”
Once again: all thin privilege means is that your life isn’t made more difficult *because of your weight.* It means you aren’t defined things like pay raises, healthcare, and airline seats because of your weight.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
It doesn’t mean your life is easy or that no one ever made fun of your appearance or that you can find everything you want in your local Target. It means societal discrimination and prejudice does not target you for being thin. It means your weight/body type are seen as “normal.”— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
Everything not going your way all the time doesn’t disprove privilege. But the fact that you think having to get a hem adjusted is equivalent to being denied insurance is telling.— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) July 22, 2018
Harrington told the Daily Dot that she thinks it’s important for people who benefit from thin privilege, herself included, to be willing to discuss the topic openly. Particularly within her blog, talking about lingerie cannot be done without also talking about size, she said.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that if you’re a smaller size, your experience of living in the world is going to be very different than someone who’s a larger size—often in ways you don’t even realize or take for granted,” she said. “It’s not about judging people or shaming people or making people feel guilty. It’s simply recognizing that ‘OK, there are certain things I don’t have to think about when I’m living my day-to-day life, so how I can be more empathetic to people who don’t have that experience?'”
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While her tweets received thousands of reactions and were turned into a Twitter Moment, she also received negative comments from men telling her she needed to lose weight, and one that she needed to hang herself. However, she’s focusing on the positive, such as messages from plus-size people expressing relief that a thinner person understands, and from thin people who say her tweets have allowed them to think about their thinness differently.
Harrington was also adamant about her role within elevating this concept, stating that she didn’t invent it. She credited other writers, bloggers, and podcasters such as Lindy West, Gabi Fresh, Nicolette Mason, Ariel Woodson, and KC Slack, for having explored thin privilege before.
Despite the vitriol, however, many people took Harrington’s thread and added their own reflections, some elaborating on what thin privilege means for people of size.
I have difficulty finding pants sometimes because of my hip to waist ratio but I know I can go into a store and buy clothes in my general size. I will never go without. Privilege, simple as that. https://t.co/VMapD3YZz1— Corinne Noir (@StyledBlack) July 22, 2018
This thread is something to think about. I don't often "feel thin," because I don't like the shape my body currently is, but I'm definitely thin, and I have a lot of privilege because of it. https://t.co/LNKbS9QdFr— The Queen Says ACAB (@QueenofTacos) July 22, 2018
Thin privilege isn't just about ease of buying clothes. It's about being being discriminated against for your size professionally, socially, and medically— Heather (@uberheathen) July 22, 2018
and in case you need a quick primer on thin privilege — some of which I myself have, relative to people larger than I — here is a good thread: https://t.co/Gt9VOYaBBM— Kristin Chirico (@lolacoaster) July 22, 2018
I’ve honestly never looked at it this way before but now that I see it, holy shit this is so true. https://t.co/AdujJZTEof— sai (@Saisailu97) July 23, 2018
Harrington said she hopes her thread will lead to other people shifting their perspective, recognizing their privilege, and uplifting people who don’t have the benefits of that privilege.
“I’m not trying to change the minds of people who responded to me with insults,” she said. “I wrote those tweets for the people who never thought about thin privilege and who are ready and willing to consider the idea. And I hope it helps to open their minds.”