Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rethinking a Thin Privilege Checklist

A while ago I happened upon this thin privilege check list, probably via twitter or something like that, I can't remember. While most of the list was pretty on point, I was kinda bothered by pieces of it. I have a number of friends who live in various non-fat bodies. I live in a death fat body, and we frequently talk about what the experience of living in these different bodies is like. My understanding of the experience of living in some non-fat bodies is that some of the things on the list are just as true for people living in other non-ideal body types as they are for people living in fat bodies.

The problem I had the most with the list was that it's called a thin privilege checklist and I take thin to mean something similar to skinny rather than "average". The dictionary seems to agree with me. That general problem mentioned, I have some more specific things to say about specific items on the list.

People won’t ask me why I don’t change the size of my body.
A close friend (and ex-boyfriend, if it matters) of mine is naturally what many people would call "very skinny". The number of times I've heard people ask him why he doesn't gain weight is not insignificant. The number of times he's been asked that is probably similar to the number of times I've been asked why I don't lose weight. I somehow doubt that this is unusual for people on the "very skinny" end of things, and as such have trouble accepting this as a marker of thin privilege. Beyond that we live in a society that seems to believe that unless you poses the ideal body (and no one does) you will be asked why you don't change this that or the other thing about your body, so I'm not sure anyone gets away from this regardless of their size.

I am not identified by the size of my body.
Anyone whose body is non-average in any way at all gets identified by the size or shape of their body. The friend mentioned above is generally described as "skinny with a beard", another male friend who is 7 feet tall is "the really tall guy", and some of my female friends are described by people who don't know them based on the fact that they have rather large cup sizes and not so large anything else. This is a somewhat obnoxious thing, and I'm not sure that "skinny guy" is the same sort of identifier as "fat girl", but it's certainly not an experience that is unique or even significantly more common among fat people.

I am not grouped because of the size of my body.
I'm pretty sure everyone is grouped because of the size of their body. That's the sort of category that we're used to grouping people by. Again, obnoxious but not just something fat people deal with. I would suggest that maybe fat people get a negative connotation along with their group that is unique to that grouping, and that there being less value judgement given to members of other groups is a mark of privilege for those other groups, but the grouping itself isn't.

I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.
Women who are naturally very thin get called anorexic with very irritating frequency. Perhaps if you fit in the window of "average" this isn't a problem you face, but people who are fat and people who are thin both get this sort of accusation. It is wrong and a very bad thing, but not a marker of thin privilege but a marker of average size privilege.

My masculinity or femininity will not be challenged because of the size of my body.
Men who are very thin are often considered "too feminine".

While I definitely am bothered the "but skinny people have it bad too!!!" argument that comes up pretty much any time you try to have a discussion about being fat in any forum on the internet, I felt that if we were making a list about thin privilege we should probably make sure the problems being discussed aren't problems that thin people also have. Much of this issue would be fixed by simply calling it an "average sized person privilege" list, as was done here, and perhaps some of my issues here are really just me being pedantic. However there is one item on the list that list that I strongly believe doesn't belong on any size privilege list.

I can go for months without thinking about or being spoken to about the size of my body.
If you can do that, then I'm pretty sure you live in an entirely different world than I do. Sure, people who are "average size" are probably spoken to about the size of their bodies less often than thin people who are probably spoken to about the size of their bodies less often than fat people, but I get the feeling everyone is spoken to about the size of their body occasionally, especially if they're a woman. Beyond that, I'm unsure how anyone (especially women, and at least in modern American society) can possibly go for month singular much less months plural without thinking about the size of their body. We are constantly bombarded with images of excessively photoshoped "perfect" people, magazines that tell us how to make our bodies look like whatever they aren't, and ads for diet products that suggest that everything would be better if you just lost 10 lbs. You don't have to be fat for these things to make you think about the size of your body. Beyond that, you have to put on clothes sometimes, sit in chairs sometimes, exist around different sizes of people sometimes, and generally live inside your body. Maybe it's the eating disorder thing, but all of those things sometimes make me think about the size of my body. Sure, it's likely that not everyone thinks about the size of their body with the frequency that I do, but going for months without thinking about the size of your body seems to be in the realm of hyperbole to me.

Basically, my suggestion here is that we maybe talk less about "thin privilege" and more about "average size privilege" and remember that the whole society we live in lends itself to an obsession with body size regardless of what size your body happens to be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adventures in Gynecology: Part 1

So, I have this problem. The problem is that being penetrated hurts. Not just like a little moment of ouch and then everything is fine. It hurts badly and, though it does dissipate after a bit, it's really difficult to get through the pain and in to the fun part. I seem to remember partnered sex being less consistently painful, but it's been a while so I'm not really sure anymore. I do think that part of that was a position thing, and possibly an arousal thing. I'm not sure.

In any event, one day I got a diva cup and attempted to put it in and was prevented from doing so by the pain. I've lived with this pain for as long as I can remember and my GP told me that it was just because I don't relax enough, but I couldn't help but think that there was something very wrong with not being able to get a diva cup in, and that this was something that could be made better, so I made an appointment with a GYN. Besides, I thought, I'd really like to get on a different form of birth control anyway, so I'll just get it out of the way.

I was nervous about the appointment, basically a combination of the general nervous feeling that new doctors cause (I'm fat, I've had some doctors be jerks, it's a scary experience) and of the general nervous feeling that knowing you're going to have a pelvic exam causes. I went in and things seemed like they were going to be ok. When I told the nurse that I'd prefer not to see or be told my weight she went along with it without comment, then the doctor came in and began to ask questions. First, she suggested that I try nuva-ring and kinda scoffed at me when I said that I was unsure of how that would work for me because of the pain that I was also there to see her about. Then, somewhere in the conversation she asked me how many partners I've had in my lifetime and when I became sexually active (7 and 16 respectively) and suddenly the conversation became very much "oh, well you probably have an STD" specifically gonorrhea or chlamydia. Now, this is a reasonable thing to ask about and I understood that, so I said something to the effect of "that seems really unlikely, I get the screening for that done every year when I get my pap done, I also never have sex without condoms and know the general sexual history of everyone I've ever had sex with, and this has been this way since before I started having sex." This statement apparently didn't stick, because I spent the rest of the appointment being told about the importance of condoms and how I should make sure to be in a committed monogamous relationship before having sex.

The pelvic exam was painful, probably more painful than it could have been because by this point I was rather uneasy, and seemed useless. She seemed to blame me for her difficulty seeing my cervix (because clearly I can do something about the fact that it hurts a lot and I can't stop clenching my muscles because of the pain) and in the end suggested that some sort of trauma had happened to the opening area of my vagina. She said that she still thought it might be an STD and was going to do the test again just to see, I suggested that it may have something to do with the number of yeast infections I had one summer when I was about 15 and taking antibiotics for acne. In response to my comment about the yeast infections, she informed me that I need to lose weight so that I won't get those so much, I said that it had really mostly happened when I was 15 and that I almost never get yeast infections unless I'm on antibiotics. She continued to tell me that being fat causes yeast infections and that if I could just lose weight maybe this would go away. I told her that I have an eating disorder. She told me to try to lose weight without "going overboard." She wrote me a prescription for a steroid cream to try, and I left rather shocked by what had just happened.

After talking with some people, I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to go back to that doctor. The problem is that now I'm scared to try to go to another GYN, but I'd really like to fix this problem. I never tried the steroid cream, but I did get the test results. As I suspected, I don't have an STI. What I do have now is an increased fear of trying to figure this out, and much less trust that women who are GYNs will be nice and/or open minded.

The point of writing this, for me, is to get it out in to the world, to let other women know that these sort of appointments do happen to people other than them, and hopefully to find some help myself. So, does anyone out there in internet world know of any ways to find a GYN who isn't a jerk other than trial and error? Alternately, do you have any idea what could be causing this pain?