Instant thin privilege

A thin, female video game character in a short skirt, carrying a bow and standing on an icy stone platform in the mountains.

Bear with me for a moment while I get a bit nerdy. Trust, there are fat politics coming up, as usual.

Especially during these pandemic times, I’ve been spending a great deal of my free time playing a video game called Final Fantasy XIV. It’s a massive multiplayer online game, or MMO, which means that lots of other human beings are in the same make-believe world at the same time.

This particular game is a swords-and-sorcery-style fantasy, with the usual Tolkein-derivative races (elves, dwarves, and so on) plus anime-inspired cat- and bunny-girls. 

It’s a beautiful world with world-class worldbuilding, intricate storylines and lots of things to do besides just combat (crafting! gathering! fashion! interior design!).

I love it.

More things you need to know:

1. Since it’s a multiplayer game, there are many aspects of the game that can only be explored by banding together with other players, like hard fights that give special rewards. These fights can be extremely difficult and require the players to be very skilled.

2. As in many MMOs, players form clubs or guilds (or as they’re called in this game, “free companies”) to take on those extra-hard monsters, socialize and share the experience of the game.

3. Though you have some level of customization when you create a character — including height, breast size for female characters, and hair, skin and eye color — there’s no control over weight. Every character has an idealized body.

4. My character’s name is Kirra, and she looks like the image above.

Now that you’re all caught up….

I was in voice chat (like Zoom, but without video) with a big group of players from my free company, laughing at a silly running joke we’d started (“KIRRA YES” when I did part of the fight correctly, “KIRRA NOOOOO” when I didn’t), when I realized something astounding:

I’m popular.

My personality, voice, sense of humor and moderate awkwardness are exactly the same as they are outside the game, and I feel like I fit in. 

People like me to an extent they never do offline. They sound pleased when I log into voice chat. They say my character’s name as if the very sound makes them happy. I’m not very good at the combat we do together — something people generally take very seriously — but it doesn’t seem to matter, they’re still delighted by my presence.

The only difference is that no one knows I’m fat. My “body” fits in.

Is this how I’d be treated if my real human body were thin? Is this what it’s like to not be oppressed, to be judged for my character and not my shameful body?

I want this so badly for the rest of my life, out of game, that it nauseates me. It makes living in my “bad” body so much harder to experience just a little of what it’s like to live in one that’s “good.” 

When my guildmates tell me I’m adorable, there’s never an unspoken-and-probably-subconscious “for a fat lady” at the end. When they laugh at my jokes, there’s never a tinge of pity for the funny fat woman. When they say they like my outfit, there’s no unintended hint of “…for a fatty” at the end.

This is why I’m fighting, and why I hope you are too. I deserve to be treated the same way in my fleshly body as I am when I am separated from it.

Let’s dig deep. Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources for changing the way you see your own body and the bodies you see around you. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.

Hi there! I'm Lindley (she/her, pronounced LIN-lee). I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock, which provides body-positive stock photos for commercial use, and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work at https://staging.bodyliberationphotos.com.