Thursday, 8 December 2016

Santa Fat-Shames Nine-Year-Old

ShamelessLike many children, a nine year old boy in North Caroline went to visit Santa and share his Christmas list. Unlike most children, this Santa lacked the self-control to keep is size-based bigotry in check and couldn’t let the boy go without fat-shaming him.

Anthony Mayse, 9, asked for an iPod Touch and a drone for Christmas when he was allegedly fat-shamed.

“When he got done, he said, ‘Lay off the hamburgers and french fries,” Mayse told WLOS. “And that really just disrespected me, and I felt awful.”

It affected me so bad that I was crying until I went to bed that night,” Anthony said. “And I want to say to him, ‘You don’t want to disrespect a 9-year-old. Even though what shape and size you are, it doesn’t matter.”

I’m so happy that Anthony is clear that this is completely disrespectful and inappropriate. It’s easy to write this guy off as an asshole, but I think it’s important to look at how messed up our culture has to be for a mall Santa to think it’s cool to fat-shame a child.

First let’s look at what he did, then we’ll look at why he did it.

Stereotyping:

He felt that, based on what the kid looked like, he could ascertain what he ate.  Let’s remember that for all he knows this kid is a vegetarian who has never had a burger in his life.  But our culture – from the government down – actually encourages people to stereotype fat people based on how we look.

Bad advice:

First he states his guesses about what the kid eats as fact, then he suggests to the kid that he should stop eating two specific foods.  He never really says what the point of that is – does he believe that the kid will be healthier or thinner as long as he doesn’t eat burgers and fries?  Maybe he should stick to being jolly and taking pictures with screaming toddlers.

Out loud:

It’s unfortunate that he is a stereotyping bigot, but it’s more unfortunate that he chose to be a stereotyping bigot out loud.

But Why?

The question as to why this would happen has, as its center, the fact that stereotyping, stigmatizing, bullying, and harassing fat people is encouraged in our culture. To be very clear – fat is NOT the last acceptable prejudice – racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, Islamophobia, ageism, classism and more are all alive and well and far too accepted.  So too is weight-based bigotry.  There are a few reasons why I think people typically engage in this type of behavior:

Ego

I find that very often this is about people who want to say that they earned their “Save the Fatties” jacket and commemorative pin. These people need to remember that other people’s bodies aren’t their business, and that they are not the Fat Person Whisperer.

Cruelty

Some people like to be cruel (often because they are desperate to feel better about themselves and trying to get that done by putting other people down) this is an opportunity to do so under cover of claiming it’s “tough love” and claiming credit for the incredible “bravery” of fat shaming children.

They think they are helping?

If this is actually true (and not just a crappy justification for one of the above reasons) then I think that the person is pretty out of touch. I would compare it to a dude catcalling a woman from a moving vehicle and then saying that it was because he really wanted to get to know her. Even if that’s true, it’s still just completely not ok. And intent doesn’t override impact.

The fact that there are mall Santas who think it’s ok to fat-shame children who are supposed to be there to have a joyful experience, the fact that many children (and many adults) believe that they deserve to be shamed and given unsolicited food advice by total strangers, shows us that our culture has a problem with weight-based bias and harassment.  We need to be clear that this is not ok, that there is no justification that makes it ok, and we won’t put up with it.

Announcing the 2017 Body Love Obstacle Course!

Last year 30 people participated in the first ever Body Love Obstacle Course. Some joined on the live calls, and some used the recordings on their own time. Based on their feedback, we’ve created two separate options – the BLOC Power Circle – an intense course that includes a series of live calls and is limited to only 10 people, and the BLOC e-Course which is self-paced and utilizes recordings. Both include the same curriculum and are coached by me, Jeanette DePatie, and amazing guest coaches.

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