According to an article in the social-justice blog Everyday Feminism, being “physically average” is now another “privileged class.”
In an article titled “3 Unfair Ways Being Perceived as Physically Average Privileges and Protects You,” Rebecca Lays explains that although the social-justice movement frequently discusses the privilege of the “idealized images we see in media,” “it’s not often that we unpack the concept of ‘average’ when it comes to physical appearance.”
“The more ‘physically average’ I look, the more privilege I hold, and the easier it is for me to live in my community,” Lays writes.
In the first section, titled “The World Around You Was Designed for Your Body to Easily Access It,” Lays explains that people who are “physically average” get to do great things like “fit into seats on public transport.” And in another section, titled “A Variety of Products and Media Cater Specifically to Your Diverse Needs,” Lays talks about how truly privileged she is to be able to “easily find things in non-specialty shops that are branded ‘nude,’ which pretty much accurately represents [her] skin tone.”
The rest of her piece centers around the idea that “‘physically average’ looking people are not something to be shocked by when they go about their normal life.”
“They can go to the beach, wear a swimsuit, go for a run, eat a salad or a giant plate of chips, and it’s not something that incurs mocking, praise or shame,” she writes.
“Being physically average means I’m almost never singled out for ‘security purposes,’” she continues. “Even though I spend the majority of my time outside my house pushing a double stroller – in which I could hide all sorts of things, even though in reality it’s stuffed with snacks, wet wipes, and nappies.”
Pretty convincing stuff. Or, at least Lays thinks so, because she ends her piece by recommending an article on “privilege guilt.” But do you know what? I read the whole thing, and I still don’t feel guilty about being able to fit into a seat on the subway.
Now, I’m not denying that there are issues with profiling that absolutely do lead to certain people being singled out for extra security purposes. (Although, to be fair, I’m also pretty sure that having your baby stroller raided for drugs is probably not something that happens to anyone, unless she’s, like, walking around in dirty Looney Tunes pajamas and screaming at voices that aren’t there.)
Average people aren’t ‘privileged,’ they’re average.
But profiling isn’t really what Lays’s piece is about. It’s about being an “average” person, and the idea that we should be considering “average” people to be a privileged class — which is insane. Average people aren’t “privileged,” they’re average. Are there certain things you don’t have to deal with because you look like everyone else? Sure. We’re all different, and all of our differences come with their own unique positives and negatives. Some people might not fit into a subway seat as easily as I do, but those same people can probably push their way onto the train during rush hour much easier than I can. Should we start writing pieces about “Rush-Hour-Push-and-Shove-Privilege”? I hope I didn’t just give anyone at Everyday Feminism any ideas.
What’s more, in some of Lays’s examples, “privilege” really is in the eye of the beholder. For example: Yes, being “physically average” does mean that you don’t draw as much attention in public. But is that always a good thing? Sometimes, it’s much better to have people paying attention. If I were to eat a “giant plate of chips,” I would definitely prefer people to throw some “shame” my way. That’s just too many damn chips, and I wouldn’t consider anyone who would let me do that without telling me it was disgusting to be a friend who truly cared about my well being or my stomach.
There are benefits to fitting in. There are also benefits to standing out. It’s great to count and think about your blessings, but believe it or not, it’s totally possible to do that without making it about identity politics.
— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.