Unpacking My Invisible Knapsack of Privilege

I came across Peggy McIntosh’s 1998 article entitled, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Privilege.”  It prompted me to consider my own privilege.  I am marginalized on three counts:

  1. race
  2. gender
  3. disability

I am a hearing-impaired African-American woman.  BUT, that does not mean I do not have certain privileges.  The first one that comes to mind is my body.  I happen to possess a body that is approximately the ideal.  I have been called a life-size Barbie, a living doll.**  I am tall, thin, and amply endowed with long legs.  In my daily life, I take it for granted (I’ve had this body for about 8 years). In addition to a fairly healthy self-esteem and self-image, I have a ridiculous metabolism.

My thin privilege grants me certain immunities in my everyday life:

  1. I can eat what I please without fear of gaining weight
  2. I am not perceived as sloppy, unhealthy or unkempt
  3. I do not know what it is like to step on the scale dreading the numbers
  4. I can shop a store without questioning whether they have my size in stock
  5. If my clothes don’t fit, I can have them taken in, whereas most articles of clothing cannot be taken ‘out’
  6. My body is less likely to be policed by strangers (unless I am deemed too skinny)
  7. I have only ever been likened to vegetables and legumes (string beans, anyone?) rather than animals (like cows and whales)
  8. I never have to worry that onlookers will assume that I am lazy from my appearance
  9. I rarely feel invisible
  10. I do not receive unsolicited advice regarding diet and exercise
  11. No one expects to change the size of my body
  12. I can pick up a magazine and generally expect that bodies like mine are not being mocked in the latest “Worst Bikini Body!” section
  13. I can sit comfortably in the seats in movie theatres, on planes, buses, trains
  14. My femininity is not challenged due to perceptions of my size

I can only think of 14 things.  But I do believe it is important to be aware of my privileges.

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