AXES OF PRIVILEGE

It took me an embarrassingly long time to really grasp the concept of privilege. I think that positions me well to help explain it to other folks who struggle to feel like they have privilege. An interesting thing about privilege is that it varies depending on where you are, what you're doing, and that since we all hold multiple identities, it is possible to have some identities that hold a lot of privilege, and others might be more marginalized.


Recently, within the HAES community, Lindo Bacon (author of "Health at Every Size", but not the original developer of the concept of health at every size) has been called out for engaging in tokenizing and other shitty behaviors all rooted in white supremacist culture. I'm not going to attempt to summarize the concerns, but will instead link you directly to the accounts shared by Marquisele Mercedes, Veronica from ASDAH, and Lindley Ashline. It's quite a bit of reading, but I think it is important.


I said at the start that I didn't understand privilege for a long time. I'm a white person who grew up pretty poor and I had to struggle a lot to get myself to a better place. To tell me that I had privilege as I was working my ass off through college felt like a slap in the face. What I didn't understand was that saying I had privilege didn't mean that I wasn't working hard to overcome a lot of shit. It just meant that I didn't also have to overcome the obstacles of racism, religious intolerance, or anti LGBTQ bias (not an exhaustive list, just a few of the top hitters).


I currently sit at a place where I have some pretty privileged identities: white, cishet, middle class. And some that are a bit more muddy: I describe myself as smallfat, a term often used to describe people who are at the lower end of "plus size". As a smallfat person, the amount of privilege my body has varies quite a bit depending on the circumstances. I can generally fit into standard size seating, and I also encounter fat stigma in healthcare. I do not frequently experience antifat street harassment, and I also have been treated really shittily in fitness jobs because of my body. I share this to illustrate the way that privilege can vary, and that it's not a thing that you either have or do not have. Most of us move through some experiences where we are privileged, and others where we're treated like crap because of our identity.


I grew up around some pretty racist family members, and some who were trying to be better -- I'll likely share more on this in the near future... I haven't because (I told myself) I didn't want to center myself, but I'm coming to realize that maybe I was actually just ashamed. Anyway, I've made fumbling, error-filled steps towards being actively anti-racist and more broadly body liberationist, and accepting that I do benefit from privilege. Since our nation's 2020 wake-up call, I have taken a lot of steps to move further towards being actively anti-racist. I have not been publicly sharing these actions, because I didn't want it to be something I did for display. I wanted to engage in behaviors that might not be of particular personal benefit to myself, but were useful to BIPOC communities. A few of the things that I did were to intentionally seek out and support Black owned businesses. I also sought training from Black experts (some specifically on DEI related issues, but I also got some training about stuff nothing to do with race).


After seeing the ways in which Lindo Bacon's behavior has been harmful, I plan to expand my body liberation library. It has never sat right with me that some of the primary texts I recommend to people interested in HAES or intuitive eating are authored by thin white or white passing people. I definitely need to seek out more resources written by fat and/or BIPOC people. I'm also seeking some professional consultation to help me better present information in a way that isn't harmful to marginalized people. I have also signed up for an ASDAH membership, and if you're interested in HAES, I encourage you to do the same. They offer sliding scale and equity based membership options, so you might find it more affordable than you expect.


Returning to the subject of Lindo Bacon, I really wish they would respond to the concerns being raised. Being called out doesn't feel great, but it's an opportunity to self assess and do better. When we think of it as an opportunity rather than just having a knee jerk "I'm being cancelled" kind of freak out, we can really dig in and find ways to actually make the world better.

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