I bet I can predict at least one of your New Year’s resolutions: working out more, eating healthier, losing weight? If I was right, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. This time of year brings a tsunami of reflection that inspires change. This specific tsunami, however, is fueled by a toxic epidemic that has taken hold of our society: thin privilege. On the flip side of discrimination rests a collection of benefits known as privilege.
For white people who lived in the Jim Crow era, it provided the right to vote, access to better facilities and generous assumptions about class and education levels.
For thin people today, privilege imparts preferential treatment in the job sector; perceptions of stronger and more focused personalities; and freedom from daily humiliation and discrimination. Did you know that until protests in 2013 caused declining sales, Abercrombie and Fitch refused to make XL and XXL clothing for women because they wanted to cater to the “cool kids”?
Are you aware that size discrimination in the workplace is legal in every state except Michigan?
Have you ever realized the main characters of many comedy series — such as Peter Griffin on “Family Guy” or Homer Simpson on “The Simpsons” — are overweight and happen to be the laughingstock of the show?
Thin privilege: It’s hidden everywhere. Overweight people in our society take the brunt of jokes, are more likely to be labeled as lazy and are believed to lack self-discipline. Meanwhile, slim people avoid most of this humiliation and discrimination.
Thin privilege in America is overlooked because thinness is iconic. Models in commercials are strikingly lean. Lawyers advertising on billboards are almost always well-built. Chuck Norris and most people featured on exercise equipment infomercials are incredibly muscular and, now that I think about it, even the Allstate guy — Dennis Haysbert — is pretty fit.
The constant appearance of thin people in advertising leads to the acceptance of a flawed idea that thin people are more fashionable, active, educated and professional. As a result, thin people across the board are assigned these traits.
In a 2011 study by Manchester University and Monash University, researchers provided participants with resumes and pictures of women either before or after weight loss surgery.
Without knowing the aim of the study, the participants then answered a questionnaire as if they were potential employers. The post-weight loss pictures were subsequently awarded larger starting salaries, an increased chance of being hired and greater assumed leadership skills. That’s thin privilege at its finest.
Of course, eating better and exercising more are great New Year’s resolutions, but make sure you fulfill them because you want to be healthier. Don’t be motivated to avoid weight biases and seek unjust privilege. Let’s dismantle the prejudice that yields this discrimination and privilege.
Ask your legislator to ban size discrimination in the workplace. Avoid Abercrombie. Thin privilege and its effects go unnoticed because they’re everyday occurrences we just accept. Let’s not.
Christopher Wilde is a freshman biochemistry major.