This Woman's Response To An 8-Year-Old Girl Being Body Shamed Is So Perfect

Ad failed to load

Most people, at one point or another, experiences body shaming. This is especially true if you are a woman; If you're a plus-size woman, or a woman of color, or both, it's even more true. It’s like the moment you’re born, people — those whom you know personally and those you don't — take it upon themselves to let you know what they think is wrong with you: Too skinny, too fat, nose is too big, hips are too wide or not wide enough, hair is too frizzy or too limp, breasts are too small or too large, and let’s not forget the obsession with thigh gaps and getting our “pre-baby bodies” back

I know I struggled throughout adolescence as others (from family members and so-called friends to my ballet instructor) said hateful things regarding my protruding belly, the texture of my hair, my crooked teeth — you name it. I didn’t know how to respond in those days. Body shame wasn’t a frequently used term then, and it took years for me to learn the value of self-love, something no one should have to go through.

Ad failed to load

Recently, Kara Waite, a college professor in Boston, was approached by a friend whose young daughter was being body shamed at school. Having experienced body shame in her own life, Waite was deeply affected by this 8-year-old girl's experience.

She gave her friend some incredibly sound advice and afterwards, decided to write a Facebook post about the incident, in hopes that others might know how to respond to similar incidents in their own lives.

Today I had a long talk with a friend about her little girl. The child is overweight and, not only are children at school teasing her, but her doctor and teacher are making cruel comments about the girl in front of her. This makes me so sad that I can't even express it. I know that there are health risks that accompany being overweight. I understand that childhood obesity is a big problem. I get all of that.
Ad failed to load
But that doesn't change the strong possibility that, somewhere, there's a little girl being made to feel bad about her body, and that's bad. But what's worse is that, being female in this culture, that body isn't just her body, it's her self.
What the doctor says: you need to move more, you need to eat less, you're a smart girl, this is simple math. What that little girl hears: you are lazy, you aren't smart enough to make your body the way it should be, there is something wrong with your body. What the kids say: ew, you're so fat. What that little girl hears: we don't like you, being liked is for other people, not you. What the teacher says: you don't need another piece of candy. What that little girl hears: you are not allowed to have a thing that you enjoy, enjoying things is for other people, not for you.
And what will any of this accomplish? I'll tell you what might happen because I know: years of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and, very likely, a metabolism fucked beyond all recognition such that her body holds onto every calorie. A constant cycle of restricting and permitting. An obsession with food, thighs, cellulite, rolls, curves, lard, blah blah blah. Insecurity. Turmoil. A waste of time, money, energy, and happiness.
Ad failed to load
What it won't accomplish: making her skinny, making her fit a standard that is pervasive, that is at once systematic and completely arbitrary.
"I don't want to make her feel bad," my friend said. "What do I do?"
Take her outside. Plant a garden. Play in the snow. Play tag. Get a slip and slide and swing set and a hoolah hoop. Buy her a purple bike with bright yellow streamers. Teach her to play an instrument and dance like a crazy person. Buy her art supplies and show her all of the bodies that artists have celebrated throughout history. Feed her good stuff, but have conversations with her while she eats it. Say things that aren't about food. Read great books. Teach her to sew or sing or make balloon animals. Go back outside. Tell her she is beautiful, but say it half as much as you say that she is kind and generous and hysterically funny and at the top of your list of favorite people. Talk about anything but bodies. Turn off the fucking TV. Jump in the pool and don't talk about how big your splash is or how your thighs look in your swimsuit.
Ad failed to load
Tell her that the people who criticize her body have problems with their own bodies, or, worse, with their hearts and minds. If she needs a bigger size, buy it, but shut the hell up about it.
Love her exactly as she is. Accept her exactly as she is. Like her, too, and let her know it. Fill her up with love and like and acceptance so she doesn't learn to get it from cookies and Doritos and sundaes and pizza.
Love her exactly as she is. Accept her exactly as she is. Like her, too, and let her know it.
Ad failed to load

In the post, Waite advises her friend to "[tell her daughter] that the people who criticize her body have problems with their own bodies, or, worse, with their hearts and minds.” She goes on to explain to her friend how to encourage her to be both happy and healthy, by doing things like playing tag, teaching her to sew, getting her a bike, and talking “about anything but bodies.”

Waite also makes the observation that when it comes to body shame, it’s doubly hard on women.

Ad failed to load
I don’t think I fully realized the cumulative affects of body shaming and food shaming until I was in college. I remember being out with a really thin girlfriend. We were eating ice cream and she started calling herself a fat pig and I thought, "but, wait, you’re skinny!” And then I got it, “oh, this kind of thing – self-consciousness, the fear of fatness, the picking at every part of one’s appearance—is something that’s happened to a lot of women.” I guess I always just thought that I was criticized because of the way my body looked, but then I saw that it’s kind of a rite of passage for women, which is terribly sad. 

In her viral Facebook post (which up to now has been shared hundreds of times), she makes this related observation:

Ad failed to load
Being female in this culture, that body isn’t just her body, it’s her self. 

Waite's post ends with these two golden pieces of advice, which could be used for anyone experiencing body shame:

Tell her [she] is beautiful, but say it half as much as you say that she is kind and generous and hysterically funny and at the top of your list of favorite people. 
Ad failed to load

And also:

Accept her exactly as she is...and let her know it.
Ad failed to load

Waite is currently writing a memoir on loving her body after risking her health in the pursuit of impossible beauty standards. She leaves us with this one final note:

Realizing that you can be happy and healthy and loved without being “perfect” is an incredible, powerful thing.

Preach, sister.

Ad failed to load

Images: Courtesy of Kara Waite/Facebook(2); Giphy(1); Wifflegif(2)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}