Re-visiting Average-sized Privilege

In 2003 Tish at Fat Shadow (one of my fat acceptance heroes from way back, who sadly hasn’t blogged for some time) posted an ‘Average-sized Privilege list’. I had which forgotten about this gem until ding at Bitch Ph.D. asked if such a list existed. It does.

And by the way, Tish’s archives are full of well-reasoned, patient-yet-hard-hitting fat and size activism and are well worth spending some time reading or re-reading.

The list is after the fold.

Fat Shadow’s Average-sized Privilege List

Everyday as an average sized person …

I can be sure that people aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me because of the size of my body.

If I pick up a magazine or watch T.V. I will see bodies that look like mine that aren’t being lampooned, desexualized, or used to signify laziness, ignorance, or lack of self-control.

When I talk about the size of my body I can be certain that few other people will hope they are never the same size.

I do not have to be afraid that when I talk to my friends or family they will mention the size of my body in a critical manner, or suggest unsolicited diet products and exercise programs.

I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.

I can go home from meetings, classes, and conversations and not feel excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped, or feared because of the size of my body.

I never have to speak for size acceptance as a movement. My thoughts about my body can be my own with no need for political alliance relative to size.

I can be sure that when I go to a class, or movie, or restaurant that I will find a place to sit in which I am relatively comfortable.

I don’t have to worry that if I am talking about feeling of sexual attraction people are repelled or disgusted by the size of my body. People can imagine me in sexual circumstances.

People won’t ask me why I don’t change the size of my body.

My masculinity or femininity will not be challenged because of the size of my body.

I can be sure that if I need medical or legal help my size will not work against me.

I am not identified by the size of my body.

I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double take or stare.

I can go for months without thinking about or being spoken to about the size of my body.

I am not grouped because of the size of my body.

I will never have to sit quietly and listen while other people talk about the ways in which they avoid being my size.

I don’t have to worry that won’t be hired for a job that I can do because of the size of my body.

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17 Responses to “Re-visiting Average-sized Privilege”


  1. 1 Tiana Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 7:29 pm

    That’s a great list on the whole and I will check out her site, but I’d say two of them aren’t true for people with average bodies:

    If I pick up a magazine or watch T.V. I will see bodies that look like mine that aren’t being lampooned, desexualized, or used to signify laziness, ignorance, or lack of self-control. – Uh, sorry? They do that with every single celebrity who dares to look anything but super-human.

    I do not have to be afraid that when I talk to my friends or family they will mention the size of my body in a critical manner, or suggest unsolicited diet products and exercise programs. – You don’t know some families.

  2. 2 Fatadelic Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Good points, Tiana. You are definitely correct in saying that actual body size has little to do with how critical family can be; I have witnessed mothers shaming their slim, pretty daughters over supposed ‘extra kilos’, holding them to ridiculous standards. With the first comment, though, I read that as that you are way more likely to see thin/average-sized people treated as human beings than fat people (e.g. the ever used example of fat Monica on Friends).

  3. 3 gnomeprincess Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 8:38 pm

    The only issue I have is that the “average” size is size 14 (I think) now, and that is “fat” so they do get a lot of what is on the list. I’d guess you mean more of a “thin but not horribly thin” body. Or I suppose average between thin and fat?

  4. 4 deeleigh Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Actually, I’d say that today, the average American woman is considered fat by herself, likely by her family, and possibly by strangers. She is excluded from the mainstream media and desexualized. In fact, there are only a few things on that list that someone who wears a size 14 would be unlikely to experience.

  5. 5 Patsy Nevins Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Good points. I read the post when
    Tish made it & I fear that she was really talking about THIN privilege, because the average-sized person in this country is not thin, & indeed the average woman wears a size 14, which is categorized as a ‘plus size’. It is true that those of us who are closer to ‘average’ generally deal with less crap from the world around us than the very fat people do, but virtually no one is exempt, & the bar for acceptability is constantly being set ever lower so that fewer & fewer people meet th standards every day. I, btw, am definitely fat, not average, but I have noticed that I do not experience as much pressure or discrimination or outward abuse for my size as has been described to me by my larger friends, & in my own experience,most of the size-related abuse has come from family members & abuse from others has been engendered by the fact that I have cerebral palsy & I ‘walk funny.’

  6. 6 Katy Newton Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Isn’t this just a more detailed version of Kate Harding’s fantasy of being thin? It’s not what being average sized is actually like. It’s what fat people think that being average sized would be like. I’m fat myself but I have been average sized and most of my friends have been average sized and it does not feel like that at all.

  7. 7 PetiteGal Friday, 25 July 2008 at 12:50 am

    What exactly is “average”? In real life, people who “look like celebrities” in terms of body size are often told to “eat a cheeseburger.” If you’re short like many female celebs, you might even be directed to the KIDS’ SECTION at department stores. Quite a blow to the ego if you’re pushing 30! And a girls’ 12 probably won’t fit a size 0 body properly anyway. Add that to the cute list. Cute is for babies and pets.

  8. 8 alannaonline Friday, 25 July 2008 at 7:45 am

    im quite fat. ‘New Fat’ I like to call myself because its only after i had my first son i started to pile weight on. After my second child I went into overdrive. Its not a problem for me. I love my size, i love my food….what can I say? Size isn’t an issue when your just happy!

  9. 9 heatherlsimpson Friday, 25 July 2008 at 10:36 am

    THANK YOU for all that you are doing. We need more women like you! I have blog rolled you baby!

    ~Heather Simpson of http://wordsprout.wordpress.com

  10. 10 AnnieMcPhee Friday, 25 July 2008 at 10:36 am

    Some of them don’t apply just because you’re thin, either. I mean, yes, when you walk home from meetings and classes (?) feeling and being all those horrible things, you *might* not think it’s because of your body, but what’s the difference? Maybe it’s because you’re butt ugly, or you’re not very likeable or you’re a milquetoast – there are a zillion reasons skinny people feel the same way. I didn’t feel any better about myself in groups when I was skinny. Of course now I realize I just don’t like groups, or even people, all that much.

    Also about people not doing double-takes and staring…that happens to everybody. I think – I haven’t been everybody – but I had it happen plenty of times when I was thin. There are a ton of reasons people point, laugh, do double-takes and stare. I don’t have much explanation for WHY it happened when it did, aside from when I was young enough to be in school (in which case it’s that school kids suck.) Later? No real idea. And I can tell you, my daughter brings home some freaky-looking people, who are either very thin or have beautiful bodies, that I most definitely do a double-take and end up staring, who I guarantee get it on the street as well. Those are people who dress and style themselves to stand out pretty extremely, usually, but it can happen again just because you have really bad acne, or an ugly face, or “bad” hair, or bowlegs, or buck teeth, or a claw hand, or who knows what else. It’s just not exclusive to fat people.

    That said, there is certainly discrimination against fat people, and some of it is quite true. The more concrete things like being denied jobs or sometimes getting substandard medical care just because of fat are all too real.

  11. 11 AnnieMcPhee Friday, 25 July 2008 at 6:15 pm

    “Isn’t this just a more detailed version of Kate Harding’s fantasy of being thin? It’s not what being average sized is actually like. It’s what fat people think that being average sized would be like. I’m fat myself but I have been average sized and most of my friends have been average sized and it does not feel like that at all.”

    You said it better than I did. And that applies to being skinny as well as just a regular size. It is kind of funny to have experienced all three (skinny, medium, fat, very fat – ok four) and know that some of these assumptions are really just that. Though I would probably believe them all if I had always been fat, understandably so. I really believed when I was a kid that the tormenting/bullying I was subject to was seriously because of my hair. Of all things, but that’s what they chose to club me with year after year. Yet it wasn’t that; it was a big combination of things (including that schoolkids are rotten.)

    Well petitegal, many celebrities use a variety of ill-advised means of staying thinner than they ever should – the “eat a cheeseburger” thing isn’t always entirely without merit, even if it’s incredibly rude. Except here: http://tiffabee.wordpress.com/ And where you may get directed to the children’s section (which I might add usually carries some pretty sexy clothes that would make even an old lady like me blush), we get directed to camping or sporting goods to buy tents and tarps. Or at least stores full of hideous clown prints. So it’s rough all over. But at least you don’t have to worry about having your kids taken away because you’re fat and must be unfit, or get fired because your waistline doesn’t measure under 30″ or have to pay a fine right out of your paycheck for weighing more than the others…even if your health is bad, it will be assumed good and penalties won’t apply to you. So try to look on the bright side. I personally don’t buy into the “privilege” meme, but in some cases people do have it worse because of various prejudices. Few places more so than in the realm of fat or thin.

    I never mind being called cute; it doesn’t happen a whole lot, but it does happen. I’m short, and have a round face. (Well, a fat face.) Many women object to “cute” on sexist grounds, of course, as a diminutive term, but I like it. Of course that doesn’t include the “So you’re a feminist? Isn’t that cute!” insult. But there are worse things than being cute :)

  12. 12 Oh Indeed Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 6:35 am

    I’m a size 2, and believe me, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for us “average sized” people. I have been tormented about my weight many, many times…I’ve been told to eat a cheeseburger, a sandwich, etc. When I would eat something like that, people would make snide remarks about how I’d certainly be going to the bathroom to throw it up. If I ate healthily, I was anorexic. I could never win. If I went to the gym, or worked out in any way, I was a compulsive exerciser with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder. I worked with a lot of fat people, and nobody EVER said anything nasty to them about their weight. EVER. But they certainly loved to comment on mine! So forgive me if I don’t weep for the poor, poor fatties, because they are the ones who seem to love to obsess over other (thin) people’s looks and weight. Maybe if they could practice what they preached (tolerance and acceptance of ALL sizes), they wouldn’t have the problems they do. Believe me, I’ve heard way more snotty, hateful comments directed towards those average-sized people than I ever have towards any fat person…but that’s right, average-sized people don’t count! We don’ have feelings or anything like that, since we are the evil oppressors, right?

  13. 13 Jude Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I really like this list. It must be dead-on since people are quick to claim it’s a fallacy. I think it is spot on and it’s really annoying when people start trying to invalidated the lived experiences of others as merely “assumptions”. It’s nothing like the fantasy of being thin, especially since it is a list generated by the experiences of real LIVE people.

    Thank you for posting this.

  14. 14 Jude Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Also, I’m shaking my head at Anne McGee who sounds more ignorant that should be allowed access to the internet. Privilege “meme”? What the hell does that even mean?

  15. 15 AnnieMcPhee Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 8:11 am

    You got my handle wrong. And when calling someone too ignorant to be on the internet, you might want to use the right word (for example, “than” instead of “that.”) We all know what a meme is; I learned it from feminists first, in fact :) Then from liberals, then from Ebaumsworld ;) Sort of like the questions accompanying the evolution of intelligent species – “How should we eat?” then “What should we eat?” followed by “Why should we eat?” followed by “Where shall we have lunch?” It’s a meme about learning about memes hehe.

    Perhaps you missed the part about my having *lived* in all those sets of shoes myself, for significant life periods. Or precisely why I objected to the ones I believed were reaching. Or where I agreed with others.

    Find better stones to throw.

  16. 16 Fatadelic Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 11:17 pm

    OK, sorry for the bulk response here. I’ve had loads on the last few days…

    gnomeprincess:
    I didn’t name the list (this is quoted from another person). But I would hazard a guess that the name was intended to highlight what averaged sized people (the so called ‘normal’ among us) don’t have to think about on a day-to-day basis.

    deeleigh:
    True. Our culture certainly does encourage all women to despise their bodies, regardless of their actual size, however I would argue that women who are fat (or what our sick society considers fat) would experience far more discrimination.

    Patsy:
    I used Tish’s name for the list, but had I had the naming of it I would also have called it a Thin Privilege list. Although I don’t know Tish’s intentions, I can’t help but wonder if it was intended to acknowledge that thin people also have to be aware of their body size and receive the kind of labels that a couple of other commenters have mentioned.

    I am also definitely FAT rather than average, and my experience is that encounter the almost-under-the-radar stuff at least weekly, the overt stuff less frequently. The last few mornings I have had to deal with crowded Sydney train carriages where people take one look at my size (stats: 5’2 @ 114kg, Australian size 22) and deny me entry to the carriage (i.e. block my entrance) while letting on multiple thinner people. I can only put that down to my size.

    Katy:
    Well, given it was written by Tish in 2003, you could say that Kate Harding’s fantasy of being thin is a version of this :). Seriously though, I think this list has a different slant. I don’t know if you are aware of the Privilege lists in general (male privilege, white privilege) but they are designed to help people who aren’t in minority groups realise how their privilege (not being part of that minority group, for starters) means they don’t have to think about or deal with the kinds of stuff that the minority groups deal with daily (e.g. men not being wolf whistled at construction sites). This is not so much ‘what my imaginary life would be if i was thin’ as ‘this is what your life would be like if you were fat’. Kinda.

    PetiteGal:
    Hmm. Yes, all things are relative. Normal to Hollywood is different to normal on the street. If your point is that our culture discourages any woman from feeling comfortable in her body, then you have no arguments from me. That’s what I’m here to challenge.

    Alannaonline:
    By George! I think she’s got it!

    Heather:
    Thank you. And good luck with your new blog.

    AnnieMcPhee:
    Feel free to debate; I’d like to hear more about what you would include on the list in lieu of what you take issue with.

    I take your point that feelings of shame about one’s body are not necessarily something that only fat people feel and that thin (or thinner) people can be made to feel shame about their bodies too. And I agree. And i also agree that sometimes what we interpret as ‘feeling fat’ is really a manifestation of other issues. But that isn’t relevant to the current discussion.

    And I can tell you, my daughter brings home some freaky-looking people, who are either very thin or have beautiful bodies, that I most definitely do a double-take and end up staring, who I guarantee get it on the street as well. Those are people who dress and style themselves to stand out pretty extremely, usually, but it can happen again just because you have really bad acne, or an ugly face, or “bad” hair, or bowlegs, or buck teeth, or a claw hand, or who knows what else. It’s just not exclusive to fat people.

    True. What you are describing here is people’s reaction to some perceived abnormality in appearance or behaviour (bad acne, ugly face, bad hair, freaky clothing). Fat is just about the most abberant it is possible to be these days, and people perceive fat people as both being of freaky appearance and having frowned upon behaviour (the old overeating lazy person stereotype). Hence I would argue that being FAT does make actual overt or covert discrimination more likely to happen to you. In my reply to Patsy above I wrote about some incidents that I have experienced recently.

    Oh Indeed:

    So forgive me if I don’t weep for the poor, poor fatties, because they are the ones who seem to love to obsess over other (thin) people’s looks and weight. Maybe if they could practice what they preached (tolerance and acceptance of ALL sizes), they wouldn’t have the problems they do.

    Honey, repeat after me. This isn’t all about you. A discussion of the societal privileges thin and average-sized people experience (i.e. the flip side of fat discrimination) is not about denying you your own experience. Nor is it about ‘obesessing over other (thin) people’s looks or weight’. I really don’t care what weight or size you are.

    Your attitude, though, caused you to remain in the moderation queue for a few days while I considered whether I would allow your comment to stand, as it certainly trod the razor edge of what is acceptable for this blog. Should you choose to post a comment here again, I expect you to read and adhere to the Comments Policy, else I reserve the right to baninate.

    I am an activist for both size acceptance (i.e. helping people of all sizes accept their body) and fat activism (i.e. working to stop discrimination against fat people). There are no scornful or snotty comments about the appearance of anyone – fat or thin – on this blog.

    That said, you are exactly the audience for this blog post. You are so wrapped up in your own experience, you appear not to be able to consider that if you, as a size 2, have experienced discrimination and a cultural imperative to hate your body then a size 22 is going to have that to the Nth degree. Seriously, if you believe you are so hard up, why don’t you create a Fat Privilege list and see what you come up with?

    Jude:
    Thanks. This lost gem was well-worth bringing to the forefront for people who may not have seen it before. Please be respectful of other commenters, though, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. :)

  17. 17 moonchild Wednesday, 30 July 2008 at 12:28 am

    A couple more:

    I can buy well fitting, reasonably priced clothing from just about anywhere.

    My tush will fit into most chairs, even airline seats, without being compressed or having overhanging flesh.

    If a chair breaks under me, it won’t be put down to my weight.

    People show concern if I lose my appetite due to illness.


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