When kids are younger — especially before they’re consuming tons of media and have friends — they get almost all of their behavioral cues from their parents. If their parents think it’s okay to call people names, then they’ll think it’s okay to call people names. If their mom hates her body, they can learn to hate their bodies, too.
If you want kids to learn that all people are equal and good, it requires vigilance. You can’t change the world around you — and you can’t always protect them — but you can explain to them that everyone’s equal, and you can say it again and again.
This goes double for disparaging your own body in front of your children. My mom always struggled with what she perceived to be fatness, and therefore was always on a diet. I don’t know how may disparaging comments I’ve heard her say about herself in my life, but if I had a dollar for every one, I could probably pay for my enormous amounts of therapy.
It’s hard enough to be a woman in our sexist culture, and the greatest gift we can give our girls is confidence in themselves — and that includes their bodies. As a parent, you’re competing with a plethora of outside influences — TV, advertising, friends, bullies, teachers — for your child’s attention. Inevitably, we’re all fucking up the kids around us — don’t worry, we’re teaching them good lessons, too! — but this is one thing that’s so fucking important. A girl’s sense of self is everything.
Skinny Witch vs. Chubby Fairy
What our poll shows about the assumptions women hold…
Heavy women are pegged as…
- “lazy” 11 times as often as thin women;
- “sloppy” nine times;
- “undisciplined” seven times;
- “slow” six times as often.
While thin women are seen as…
- “conceited” or “superficial” about eight times as often as heavy women;
- “vain” or “self-centered” four times as often;
- “bitchy,” “mean,” or “controlling” more than twice as often.
Even the “good” labels are unfair. An overweight woman may be five times as likely to be perceived as “giving” as a skinny one.
“But it just fits into the stereotype that thin women are not that way,” explains Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D. “It’s still putting women in a box based on their body size.”