I’ve touched on the topic of small fat privilege before on both the Terrible Tumbles and in this article for Bustle but one of the predominant reasons I've decided to write this post is in the hope it answers some of the questions I'm most frequently asked by other smaller fats.
'When You're Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression'
The quote above is one I think about often in all elements of my life, I'm sure many of you have completed training around bias, diversity and inclusivity but privilege is something which (particularly amongst the privileged) goes unchecked.
There’s a truly brilliant comic strip by Toby Morris called “On a plate” which I’ve been able to use to illustrate the idea on many occasions where I’m getting nowhere with words. Privilege is rampant in so many areas; gender, race, ableism, age, class but I’m going to focus on small fat privilege in the fat community (because it’s what I know innit?). I’m also going to be using the terminology “Small/er fats” and “large/r fats” – If this offends in any way I’m sorry but this is the language I’m comfortable with and put frankly; it’s fact.
The “But my life hasn’t been easy, I’m the fattest of all my friends and not everything in Topshop fits me” conversation, simply doesn't cut it with me any more. This doesn't mean that I would EVER want to minimise your feelings because I genuinely know that it's not fun. We are, as humans, by nature, conditioned to “Fit in”, to not take up space and the funny fat friend trope is exhausting. But unless you’re at the top end of the fat scale or a smaller fat with a non-normative figure, I hate to say it, but we’ve had it easy pal. In no way am I saying that I'm apologetic for who I am and what I look like, that makes absolutely no sense BUT the occasions of fatphobia and micro aggressions I've encountered as a smaller fat boil down to around ten in my whole entire life. Other than the very occasional issue, I'm allowed to just live – This is my privilege.
When you get to a certain point of the fat scale, or when you’re a smaller fat with non-normative body, you are systemically assaulted by every element of society. It's not only clothes that don't fit your body, it's knee braces, seatbelts and chairs. It's people making assumptions about your health based on nothing beyond your physical appearance. It's being afraid to eat in public for fear of abuse. It's doctors waving off genuine health concerns as being weight related. It's being deemed unsuitable to raise a child due to nothing but your BMI. It's knowing that every woman on the TV who looks like you is either there to laugh at or as the "before" picture. It's every time you try to love yourself someone tells you not to. Please don't take my word for it, listen to the words of people who experience this on a daily basis here. These are just some of the experiences that set the ends of the scale apart and I want you to remember this.
Here are some of things I've done and will continue to do in examining my privilege:
If you dont know what the difference in experience between you and someone at the larger end of the fat scale is; Listen. There are people out there talking about it, be this on twitter, in forums or events. Listen to what they're saying whilst remembering that it is not someone's job to educate you on why you have offended them. Also, it's a tough lesson, but don't get butthurt if someone calls out your privilege.
The following articles have helped me to understand small fat privilege:
The Small Fat Complex In Body Positivity & Why It's Not Entirely Justified by Marie Southard-Ospina
I know there are plenty more articles out there so if you can think of something else, please let me know and I'll add a link.
Think about your own Fatphobia
I get the feeling that this is the toughest thing to do, it's certainly the issue I encounter the most in other people. Identifying as fat doesn't automatically rid you of a lifetime of fatphobic views, in the same way that being a woman doesn't automatically make you a feminist. If your version of fat acceptance focuses on your view of "health" or what's deemed as a socially acceptable version of fat, then it isn't fat acceptance.
As a plus size woman of any size, you will find a space on the internet where you can be be supported and loved. Not a day goes by where I don't thank my lucky stars that such a huge group of incredible, intelligent women have accepted me into their lives and are willing to tolerate my nonsense. My only words of advice would be, chill it with the “It’s not fair that smaller fats have a lesser voice”. Our voice is out there, we are represented, we are visible. We are in every plus size advert going, we are the "acceptable face of being fat".
Never erase or quieten the voices of women larger than yourself. Recognise that fatphobia is much bigger than not being able to buy clothes on the high street. It's about poor medical care, abuse, poverty and discrimination. Support larger fat women as dominant voices in the fat acceptance conversation and recognise your privilege.