Acknowledging My Privilege During Eating Disorder Recovery

I have a lot of issues with my body image and my overall relationship with my body, and I have struggled with an eating disorder since the age of 12, however, I am also extremely privileged, and that is something I can fully recognise, even when existing in my own body feels impossible.

I am a cis, white, able bodied, young, thin woman, and all of these things benefit me substantially in everyday life. Even when I am completely incapable of accepting my body and acknowledging its beauty, I am always fully aware of the privileges I have because of it because, despite my crippling insecurities, well, I’m not completely ignorant or living in a bubble where my body is the least accepted body type in the world.
My whiteness, thinness, gender identity and abilities make me more ‘socially desirable’ and automatically give me privileges that other minority groups do not have. Western beauty standards are so narrow-minded, restrictive and shallow that so many beautiful, diverse body types are cast aside as being ‘unacceptable’ and ‘inferior.’ It's heartbreaking to see the impact this has on people and how it affects their self esteem, causing them to see their own bodies as damaged goods, because they are not that at all. It's also equally heartbreaking and infuriating witnessing the treatment people receive from others because of these western beauty standards, the racism, fatphobia, xenophobia, transphobia, misogyny and bullying that communities are on the receiving end of, simply for existing in their bodies, is so wrong. 

Whilst white people are claiming the body positivity movement as their own, we must remember that isn't the case at all when we were given ‘body positivity’ by fat activists, it was not created by thin, white women, it was created by black, plus size activists, and it’s tiring to constantly see such a lack of representation with women who fit within dominant standards of beauty being the ‘faces’ of body positivity. And, excluding trans women, black women and fat women from the movement, even when it isn't your place to do so, but then preaching about feminism with your next breath is completely ignorant and hypocritical, since feminism is nothing if it is not intersectional and inclusive of all women. Because, if we don't uplift all communities, if we don't fight for all people's rights, then what the hell are we fighting for? Because I, for one, certainly do not want my life to change for the better if it can't change for those more marginalised than myself. 
Body positivity cannot centre around ‘already attractive’ bodies. It has to work for EVERYONE, otherwise, it benefits NO ONE. Any movement or form of liberation must have the most marginalised at its core. Fat bodies, black bodies, trans bodies, gender non-conforming, intersex, sex workers, disabled, poor... far too many spaces in society are not inclusive and it is vital those of us with privilege utilise it to MAKE them inclusive. It isn’t the job of marginalised communities to do that. WE have to do that, otherwise, we are allowing toxic forces like fatphobia, white supremacy and diet culture to thrive. 

In terms of eating disorder recovery, despite how ugly the process is for me, I'm well aware of the privileges that have come with it. I am a thin woman, therefore, I have never been turned away from eating disorder treatment by a fatphobic doctor. I have never been told aggressively by a medical professional to "lose weight" and I am actually able to have conversations with eating disorder specialists and sit in a group session with other eating disorder sufferers without my body being the main focus or feeling like I am not worthy of help because I am "too fat" to have an eating disorder - it should be common knowledge that eating disorders do not discriminate and there are also various types of eating disorders. They do not have one "look" and assuming someone's health simply by looking at them is wrong and presumptuous. I so badly want the world to change before we lose more lives to eating disorders, which have the highest death rate of any mental illness. When I go for appointments at my hospital to seek treatment for my illness, I expect the professional to be exactly that, professional, to have an open mind and be willing to treat me regardless of how I look, and that should be the same for everyone, no one should feel ashamed seeking treatment and no one should be belittled or punished by doctors for their size.
EVERYONE should be encouraged to celebrate their bodies without being dehumanised or discriminated against for merely existing, and it's great to see more diversity in our media these days, but we still have a long way to go and we need to tackle this issue in all areas of society, not just the press, but by annihilating fatphobia in our families, in schools, hospitals, and in our own minds. Next time you're about to make a fatphobic comment about someone or even think something presumptuous, I encourage you to challenge that thought and see the flip side of it, then act out of compassion and support for people who aren't as accepted as you are. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but even something as small as being able to sit on an aeroplane comfortably in a seat that accommodates for your size is a privilege. 
And promoting inclusivity for others doesn't take away from your own struggles. I understand that may be hard to come to terms with if you have something like an eating disorder, but I can promise you that acknowledging your privilege doesn't invalidate your own mental health battles. In fact, by wanting society to change and wanting attitudes like fatphobia to be a thing of the past, you are helping prevent future eating disorders and negative thoughts someone like you own child could potentially have about their body.

Everyone of all genders, all races, all shapes, all sizes, all religions, all sexualities, all abilities, all ages deserves to feel happy and content in their own skin. Regardless of what stage anyone is at in life or how YOU personally view their body, being body positive isn’t some exclusive club, it isn’t something to preach about on social media but not fully put into practise in real life with actual human beings, it’s a movement that needs to be inclusive of EVERYONE, otherwise, it’s TRASH!Here's to more diversity in body empowerment campaigns AND more allyship from those of us with the privilege of having a voice that can amplify those that aren’t heard. Let's use our voices to vocalise our outrage at the suffering of others and our ears to listen to what we can do to be of support. Let's not ever speak on behalf of anyone, but instead, use our privileges as building blocks to uplift the voices of minorities actually experiencing this oppression. It is the last we can do.

Be intersectional, always.

Love, Emily

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