Navigating Public Spaces: Gender, Race, and Body Privilege in Everyday Life
Abstract

Abstract:

Borrowing from and refining Peggy McIntosh's (1988) ideas on white privilege, this article introduces the concept of "body privilege" and examines how a lack of body privilege materializes in everyday life. Interviews with forty-two "overweight" women and men reveal a body privilege continuum distinctly patterned by gender and race. Specifically, while a majority of participants are not able to experience a level of comfort when navigating public spaces, women generally report more instances of body nonprivilege. Moreover, a number of Hispanic and white women experience a heightened level of "body consciousness" that leads to some form of "body management." This article documents and discusses this body privilege and its racial and gendered embodiment, along with differences between body privilege and McIntosh's original concept. It also discusses how body privilege sheds new light on crucial debates regarding cultural ideals, women's bodies, and agency.