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  • Writer's pictureEi Ei Samai

Body Privilege: Unpacking my invisible knapsack as the owner of a cis, able, thin, neuro-typical bod

As an immigrant, non-Christian woman of color, I dedicate significant attention and energy towards the ways I am marginalized. I want to habitualize paying attention and energy to social contracts where I am the beneficiary. As an equity consultant and conflict strategist, I must practice the advice I give to opt in and contribute to human evolution. This article is a practice in recognizing the ways I am centered and in remembering how easy it is to opt out of the conversations when one is centered. It is a practice in growing humility as a DEI facilitator.

If you haven't read Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, please go read it first and come back. Body based privilege is the subject of a longstanding discourse, not a trend or a standalone statement. Engaging my thoughts as a piece of a larger quilt will not only make more sense, but will also support your gray matter upgrade because as the Fitzgerald quote goes, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless, yet be able to make them otherwise."

This is a working list of my privileges as the steward of a cis-gendered, able, thin, neuro-typical, and non-black body. Please add to the list with comments if you're inspired. Please check me if my words don't reflect what's in my heart or if there are more apt descriptions. I see it as a sign of care!

Here we go.

- I can wear just about anything without people questioning my gender in their minds or invading my privacy with questions about my gender.

- In my formative tween and teen years, I was able to try on identities by joining sports, clubs, student leadership, theater, and more without being institutionally or interpersonally limited by the gender or ability of my body. As a result, I looked good on paper for college applications, and got scholarships.

- Socially and academically, my brain and the rest of my body, supported and continue to support the development of my confidence, skills, and recognizable achievements.

- I had income as a teenager and was able to have social capital and physical assets because of my body's ability to perform paid work.

- I can plan travel easily because I don't have to think twice about the size and ability of my body fitting in seats, getting on and off modes of transport, or being comfortable in beds that are not mine.

- I can find clothes easily anywhere, whether it's everyday outfits, professional attire, athletic wear, or formal wear.

- I don't have to spend extra money or time looking for special sizes or items that go on a certain way to accommodate my ability.

- If I forgot or ruined something while traveling, I can replace it with relative ease.

- I don't hold stress and anxiety around clothing when it comes to events such as dressing up for work, attending a wedding, or going on a date.

- I can expect to find things in clothing and shoe stores that are comfortable and flattering.

- I can borrow items from friends and family, participate in clothing exchanges, or subscribe to an outfit service without much thought.

- When I adorn outfits that show parts of my body or express an outgoing mood, I am rewarded with compliments.

- My able-bodiedness (and class) allows me to drive myself where I want to in my own car or rent/borrow a car when I'm not home.

- People assume I am healthy and what I eat doesn't inspire lectures about healthy eating or passive aggressive comments.

- The prospect of appearing in photos and videos, for personal and professional reasons, does not bring up intense feelings about belonging. I readily use those tools for my gain.

- My appearance does not trigger discomfort, which helps me talk to strangers with ease at restaurants, work, parks, and so on. This affords me and my kids with quality service, opportunities, and community.

- Because Black is the unchanging margin against which Whiteness can remain elastic and centered as the demographics of this country changed over time (please read Tressie McMillan Cottom's essays if this is a new idea for you), my SE Asian brownness and straight hair are viewed without contempt by most people in my orbit.

- I have not been conditioned to view my own hair and the color of my skin with contempt.

Work outings and team building activities are almost always designed for people with my physical and neural range.

- When I start a new relationship, a new friendship, or a new job, I don't have to think through what, how much, and when to share certain things about my body and its needs.

- I don't wonder if what I share about my body might affect my employer, friend, or lover's judgment about my competence.

- I can engage with information around me easily because it is designed by and for people with a similar brain pattern.

- I can shape and articulate my thoughts in a way that will be understood by people around me. What's in my head and the sounds I use to portray usually match.

- I can code switch when needed.

To be continued.

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