We live in a society where fat jokes are still seen by many as “funny”, where models who are closer to the average sized woman are labeled as “plus-size”, and where thinness is still mistakenly equated with health. It’s not wonder, then, that feminist moms are talking to their kids about fat shaming, because, well, eating disorders are being observed in elementary school-aged children and fat-shaming is often perpetuated by the very organizations that are supposed to be trying to help reduce obesity.
As feminist parents, we already have to work round the clock to make sure the patriarchy doesn’t get the best of our kids. We struggle to remind our daughters that they are just as good at math as boys, remind our sons that being a boy isn’t an excuse for poor behavior, remind all our children that they have autonomy of their bodies. We also do our best to make sure our kids never feel like less of a person because some misguided individual criticized their bodies in some way. Most kids are fat-shamed in some way during the course of their lives, or will witness others being fat-shamed. Whether it’s giving them tools to know how to respond to fat-shaming or helping to build their confidence in other ways, it’s up to us to be there for our kids.
Which is why any feminist parent is going to say these 17 things when their kid is being fat shamed. By giving our kids the tools to end a hurtful and (sadly) common practice, we can end up nudging our society towards a more positive, inclusive and accepting future.
"If You Witness It Firsthand, Call It Out (If It's Safe To Do So)"
As with any injustice, feminist parents usually opt to simply speak up when they hear a fat-shaming comment. We might ask the person what prompted them to make the comment, tell them to mind their own business, or inform them that what they said can be damaging. Of course, putting yourself or others in an unsafe position isn't worth calling out someone for acting inappropriately and you (and your children) are under no obligation to be a martyr for the cause. Personal safety trumps someone's (obviously, very necessary) learning moment. however, if it is safe to do so, learning how to stand up for others is always a good thing.
"You Can Always Try The Ol’ Switcheroo Instead"
If it’s someone we know is impossible to argue with (like a stubborn grandparent or, you know, Donald Trump), we might just divert the conversation to something else. “So how about that last Game of Thrones episode? I mean, Sansa Star, right?!”
"I Will Always Listen To You"
If our kid informs us that someone called them a derogatory name or made fun of their weight or their eating habits or anything of the sort, we will always make sure to listen to and believe our child. It’s hard enough to vocalize when someone has hurt us, and it helps when parents and others listen attentively and believe wholeheartedly.
"All Bodies Are Beautiful"
In case we haven’t already told our kid(s), this is a good chance to remind them that all bodies are wonderful, beautiful, capable and, most importantly, deserving of respect.
"People Often Say Things That Are Mean Because They're Misinformed"
We’ll of course have to say this again, and again, and again throughout our child’s lives (while also reminding ourselves). It's not about giving rude/misinformed folks a free pass or excusing their horrible behavior, but it's important to recognize (especially if they are children) that many people say things without actually thinking about the weight of their words, or are regurgitating something they've learned from their own family members that they've (unfortunately) haven't yet questioned.
"It’s Okay For You To Stand Up For Yourself"
One thing most of us know about bullies: they will usually keep it up as long as they think it’s bothering us. Honestly, most will stand down once we make it clear we’re not putting up with it or they'll no longer garnish some kind of reaction from us. Arm your child with this knowledge and help them figure out positive (and safe) ways to stand up for themselves.
"You Are Wonderful"
We do our best to remind our kid about all the things they are totally wonderful at: drawing, singing, football, math, trivia, making friends, baseball, whatever. It's important that children know from the earliest possible ways that how they look to someone else, is not remotely close to the most important thing about them. They're infinitely more than their outward appearance, and drawing attention to all the other wonderful things they are, when their appearance has been mocked, can remind them that the hurtful words of others pales in comparison to their many strengths.
"Do You Want Me To Talk To Their Parents?"
If another child fat-shamed our kid, we sometimes try and bring it to the attention of their parents and try to discuss the matter in a calm way. (Full disclosure: emphasis on the word calm, because that can be extremely difficult. I mean, we're protective of our children. It's just science, you guys.) If it was an adult, we give them some hard facts about why this type of language is detrimental to everyone.
"Do You Want Me To Talk To Your Teacher?"
Who knows, the teacher might actually listen and incorporate some tactics into their curriculum on how fat-shaming (and shaming in general) is wrong. Perhaps the teacher is so overworked and stressed that he or she hasn't noticed what has been going on, and simply bringing the problem to their attention could be all it takes to put an end to it (in their classroom, at least).
"I Know What You're Going Through"
It always helps if we let our kids know their experiences are more in line with our own than they think. It's important to let our children know that they're not alone, without trivializing their experience. They're unique, the situation is unique to them, but reminding them that you've been there too, you understand, and you're willing to give them some hard-earned advice, can be extremely beneficial.
"Let's Watch And/or Play With [Insert Body-Positive Media Here]"
There are plenty of body positive books out there, not to mention movies, videos, even songs. We help our kids celebrate diversity by presenting them the types of toys and media that allow them to do so.
"Just Imagine What [Insert Body-Positive Role Model Here] Has Gone Through"
For starters, there’s fat-positive bloggers like Amanda Levitt, body-positive activists like Virgie Tovar, and even actual models like Tess Munster to look up to. That's the wonderful (although, to be honest, sometimes scary) thing about being a parent: we're not the only ones capable of shaping our children's lives. There are plenty of other wonderful people out there that can help instill a healthy sense of body-positivity in our children.
We Teach Our Kid About Self-Care And Help Them Develop A Routine For It
Everyone needs to feel good about themselves, and our kids are definitely no exception. We make sure to ask our kids if there’s anything they want help with so they can feel better (outside and in). Whether that’s going for a swim every week or taking an hour to read per night or eating more veggies or protein, help them figure out what’s best for them and then help facilitate them.
"Fat Does Not Equal Unhealthy And Skinny Doesn’t Equal Healthy"
There are plenty of statistics and medical studies that prove that being overweight or even obese doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhealthy or less healthy than any thin person. And we all know (or, you know, should know) that there are folks who are thin and very unhealthy; keeping trim at the expense of crash dieting, yo-yo dieting, or worse, living with and suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia.
"I Have Made Mistakes Too, And I'm Sorry"
Sometimes we end up fat-shaming our own kids without really knowing it. It’s times like these we need to step back and figure out if we’ve been inadvertently hating on our own bodies, or discussing diets or working out to “burn fat” rather than to simple be strong and healthy.
"Fat-Shaming Is Wrong"
If we catch our own kids fat-shaming themselves or others, we are quick to nip it in the bud and end that type of behavior. While we would all like to think that our children are above those kinds of actions (I mean, they're just the perfect human beings, right?!) we are well aware that our kids are going to make mistakes because, hey, they're human.
"I Love You And I'm Always Here For You"
Our kids are loved and know that they are loved and appreciated. Honestly, when a kid is surrounded by a foundation of support, sometimes (although, not always) the thoughts and opinions of others just won't matter.