The othering of privilege

As I’ve learned more and become more aware of the different types of oppression, and have learned in what ways I’m privileged and what ways I’m oppressed and how that has affected my life, there’s one piece that still doesn’t fit, one thing that I’m mostly happy with and am certainly in some ways privileged by, yet that still makes me feel like an outsider and leaves me often feeling unsafe to talk about anything related to the issue: my weight.

I’m thin, I always have been. As a child my mother was constantly complaining about how she could never find pants that fit me because of how in children’s clothes length is related to waist size, and vice versa. (As an adult, the problem shopping has moved from pants to lingerie, though at one point both were impossible). So I’ve also always been aware of it.

Thanks to our culture’s obsession with thinness, especially among women, and weight loss, there’s another thing I’ve always been aware of–jealousy. I’ve always known that I had something that many people work hard to achieve, and that many fail at getting, or even die trying. And that’s made me very nervous around the issue, because I’m afraid of invoking those feelings of envy among others when it comes up. Even without bringing it up, I’ve gotten random comments about my weight or how I eat, and it’s one of those things where I can’t really win with people who want to bring it up.

More importantly, though, there are far more people who have tried to lose weight than to gain it, and that’s where the real feeling of other-ness comes in. Many people use their struggles with weight loss as a bonding element, something that I’ve never dealt with, and with that on top of the jealousy issue I’m very reticent to join in any conversation anywhere near the topic. But where things coalesce into a perfect storm, of sorts, is when I’m having issues relating to my own weight, minor gripes I may want to get out of my system, or more pressing issues like trying to gain a few pounds after or while being sick. Because frankly, I’m scared to talk about it a lot of the time. I’m afraid of it being dismissed because of the privilege I already possess, or of stirring up feelings of resentment (even if they don’t wind up being directed back against me)

I wouldn’t say that things are remotely as hard for me as they are for someone who struggles with weight issues on the other end of the scale. I know I still have things very easy in comparison to many other people. It’s that awareness that makes me feel so out of place sometimes.


One response to this post.

  1. I think you’re right. We are cautious to step on toes regarding certain ‘privileges.’ Depending on my social circle I do as well. We’ll know society is in balance when we can share freely. Great insight. I enjoyed the post.


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