When my godson’s seven year old sister Anaina visited her best friend J a couple of days ago, she was expecting to just be a seven year old and hang out with her friend. She was looking forward to playing with J, showing her the new present her uncle had bought her, and hanging out. But when she went back home that night, her mother (my bestie, Aro) noticed that she was upset. She had been crying.
Aro asked Anaina what the matter was, but she was strangely reticent; she is usually a bubbling, bouncy chatterbox who, typically, never stops talking. That night, she refused dinner and dessert, and went to bed hungry.
Aro, now thoroughly worried, called J’s mother to ask her if the girls had fought. The mother said that no fight had occurred, and that Anaina and her daughter had spent their time playing outdoors in the garden. Refusing to accept that nothing was wrong, she went up to Anaina’s room, only to find the little girl in bed, and in tears.
Aro got into bed with her daughter and held her and soothed her, as any mother would do, and eventually the story came tumbling out. In the middle of their play, Anaina had said she was hungry; J had taken her indoors to the kitchen to ask her mother for something to eat. Instead of a snack and a drink of milk, the two little girls had been treated to a lecture.
The woman had told them that they weren’t really hungry; they were only bored. She had spoken to them of the dangers of getting fat, and how horrible and life-ending it would be. Anaina, surprised, had said that her mother was fat and she was fine. The woman then told Anaina that Aro wasn’t fine and that if she didn’t lose weight she would have elevated blood pressure, and eventually, a heart attack. Then she had gone on to tell Anaina that she herself was fat.
Aro was horrified. When she related the story to me the next day, I was equally horrified. I was also disgusted. (I also had to restrain Aro from going to the woman’s house and knocking her nose out of joint, but that’s a whole other story.) Are we seriously SO FAR GONE that we’d tell seven year olds they’re fat even when they’re not? Anaina isn’t fat. I mean, she’s seven, for crying out loud. She’s tall for her age, and she always will be. She’s got the leggy good looks her mother had at her age. She looks healthy. She’s got a perfect complexion and shining hair. She’s perfectly normal.
And even if she were fat, it’s not your place to point that out. You can’t even tell what someone’s body shape is when they’re seven years old. That’s because they haven’t grown into them yet. One of my friends (who later went on to become a model) carried a certain amount of ‘puppy fat’ well into her teens. It is none of your business what someone else’s body size is. Stop faking concern, as well; we both know you don’t really give a shit. All you’re really concerned about is disguising your intolerance behind a veil of ‘concern’. Concern trolls are uncool and unwanted.
I want to call people like J’s mother fattists. Yep, I made that up. You’re a fattist when you think fat people don’t have the right to exist. You’re a fattist when you think that fat people are, somehow, less than you. You’re a fattist when you ascribe every negative stereotype in the world, such as laziness and meanness, to fat people. You’re a fattist if you’d like to force every overweight individual into a diet and exercise program so that they can somehow start to look acceptable around people like you, so that they can somehow meet your standards. Fattists are like racists, and sexists, by the way; in my eyes they’re just as bad.
And I’m not alone in feeling that way.
As if it wasn’t enough that J’s mother had just inflicted a painful emotional scar on a perfectly healthy and happy child, she had also scared Anaina into thinking that Aro is, someday very soon, going to die of a heart attack. Really? A healthy 37-year old woman is just going to drop dead of a heart attack, simply because she’s packing extra pounds? If you think that, congratulations; you’re just as brain-washed as J’s mother is.
Aro may be packing the extra pounds (she never quite managed to drop the baby weight, especially after her twins were born), but that’s because her entire body has changed. She works out for an hour every alternate day and at this present moment is probably fitter than I am. She lives a very busy life and is on the move all the time; I know this because I’ve seen it for myself. Although she does have help around her house, she is constantly involved in the children’s lives. She will look for missing toys and clothes, go up and down to find her children several times a day (shouting is not permitted in their household, and they live in a large house), and often cooks for them during the day (she likes to make their lunches herself). She runs errands, and she drives her children around. She’s carried more weights than I have; I’ve seen her walk around holding two toddlers, with one child clinging to her back. She is a hands on sort of mother. In fact, she likes to refer to herself as the Kelly CEO, and she really _IS_. That house (and her family) would simply not function without her. Is she a big woman? Absolutely. But that doesn’t translate to her not being healthy.
If you think she’s an exception to the rule, you’re wrong. She’s one of many. If you’re truly interested, then go here to read about the testimonies of other people who are all large, all active, and all healthy.
As we talked about J’s mother, Aro and I realised something. It was an epiphany of sorts. As the two main adult women in Anaina’s life, we haven’t been setting her a very good example either. Aro’s children have heard her say time and time again that she felt fat. She has ‘failed’ or ‘cheated on’ diet after diet; in an attempt to get her pre-baby body back, she has really been putting herself through the wringer over and over again without successfully losing the weight. The last time I spent some time at Aro’s (a couple of weeks ago) we talked about diets, and fitness, and being slim; I showed her my new control top tights (yes, I have a tummy; yes, I’m a woman).
Anaina’s been a witness to it all. She’s observed – and absorbed – every moment of it.
So, is it only J’s mother who is to blame? Aro and I both know the answer to this question.
The answer is, quite simply, no.
We, the adult women in Anaina’s life, are partially responsible for the fact that she thinks nothing less than the media’s version of what an ‘acceptable size’ is will do. We’ve talked about our dissatisfaction with our bodies. We’ve talked about the ‘ideal’, and we’ve talked about dieting, and we’ve voiced our hatred of our bodies loud and clear. We’ve been so loud that a seven-year old child heard us.
I’m ashamed. We tell the children in our lives that they are brave, and beautiful, and amazing, and capable. Why do we then forget to tell ourselves the same thing? Why do we forget to articulate our satisfaction with ourselves and our uniqueness where our children can hear it? Why do we never profess our love for ourselves as loudly or as regularly as we profess our discontentment and hatred of ourselves and our bodies?
We, as a society, have gone horribly wrong. We’ve forsaken acceptance for intolerance. We’ve been judgemental, hateful, and unwilling to admit that we may have been wrong. We’ve refused to take our blinkers off and continued on our mistaken and misguided paths.
We’ve shunned the word ‘healthy’ and embraced ‘skinny’ instead.
When was the last time you checked what skinny actually means? There is nothing attractive about the word. Go to Google and look up some synonyms for the word.
Synonyms: lean, thin, gaunt, scraggy, scrawny, meager, meagre, spare, raw-boned, emaciated
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to be the following words: ‘Attractive’. ‘Healthy’. ‘Desirable.’ ‘Curvaceous.’
I find that the word ‘skinny’ excludes people and gives them an impossible ideal. Skinny style, skinny food, skinny lattes, skinny taste, skinny jeans. Please, please. Just stop with the skinny. And if you don’t think that ‘skinny’ is about excluding people, and body shaming, then look at these ads by Lee for their skinny jeans.
Look at them, and then tell me if you’d ever buy Lee products ever again. I know I won’t be supporting any company that advertises discrimination of ANY kind.
I left the following comment on the website of the ad agency which came up with these vile ads; the comment is currently awaiting moderation. I’m almost certain it won’t be published, which is why I took a screen cap of it.
So, please, the next time you want to judge someone for the amount of space their body occupies, please remember that your actions reflect poorly on you, and not on the person you’re judging. Before you hate someone based solely on their looks, please think about how shallow that makes you.
And to everybody reading this, please know that your body is beautiful, no matter how big or small it is. It is yours to treasure and cherish for all of your life. Your body works tirelessly to keep you going; nourish it, take care of it, and please, please, love it. It will love you back.