I’m in the midst of grading season here at my university. And yesterday, after spending a few too many hours trapped in my office with logic exams, I felt the need to take a walk and get some coffee. And since I was hungry, also a snack. I left the office with pleasant thoughts of the chocolate chip cookies at the library cafe. But, as is expected since I work on a university campus in an outdoorsy city, I happened to walk by several rather thin people on the way there.
Now, normally the mere presence of thin people isn’t enough to dull my cookie-resolve, but somehow this time it was. Long story short, I got a coffee, no cookie. And when I got back to my office, I was vexed enough to post the following status update.
Walked by some thin people and failed to get myself the cookie I wanted. I don’t know what I resent most – the beauty norms, my obvious unwanted susceptibility to them, or the fact that I don’t have a cookie.
Of course I have some wonderful supportive feminist friends, which is a strategy I generally recommend for getting through life. But it wasn’t until I got home afterwards, to walk my wonderful dogs, that I thought more about the experience of writing about something like that online. Because despite the body image issues that I occasionally write about here, I absolutely have thin privilege. And the fact that I can publicly express my insecurities and know that my friends are going to tell me to just eat the damn cookie is a prime example of how that privilege works. And how it can so easily turn us against each other. Because what I (and all of us) should be told, is that eating a cookie is not morally wrong. It doesn’t have to be taken as a sign of weakness. Eating a cookie should only be a sign of wanting, and having access to, a cookie.
I’m not visibly overweight. But what if I was? How would the same post have gone over without my privilege? If I had exactly the same habits and lifestyle, but genetics had made me larger than I am? Would I even have posted anything? Or would I have worried that someone reading those words would think, “Maybe it’s for the best – she doesn’t really need that cookie, anyway.”
Occasionally I see backlash against the concept of thin privilege, pointing out that women of all sizes face judgement and have body image issues. But here’s an example for those of us with privilege, that our privilege even extends to the ways in which we can manifest those issues. We can talk about them and feel relatively confident in the fact that people will reassure us and tell us that of course we’re thin and should have a treat if we want it. But that just reinforces the terrible idea that we need to be a certain size to deserve our food. Because it’s absolutely not true.
And because all of us, when we really want to, should be able to take a deep breath and just eat the cookie.