I’ve been reading through the responses to the “What it’s like to be a fat woman” questions, and they’re really interesting. I hope that some men and non-binary people answer the questions as well, because I would love to read a broader range of experiences.
But one of them had a line that made me stop dead in my tracks:
Being a mother now myself this is a tricky one. I want my child(ren) to grow up the happiest way they can and so the truth is I don’t want my daughter to grow up fat. I don’t think that she is genetically wired that way and I’m going to try to ensure she doesn’t develop the weird relationship with food or body image that I did.
I don’t even know where to begin with my rage at this one. It’s so, so frustrating and painful to come across attitudes like this while reading supposedly fat-positive blogs.
You can’t tell by looking at someone, especially a small child, how they’re “genetically wired.” Some fat kids grow up to be thin. Some thin kids grow up to be fat. Puberty does some weird shit to people’s bodies. The interactions of genetics and environment are complicated, and thinking that because your kid is thin now, they’re meant to be thin forever, is only going to hold them to an impossible standard.
Fat doesn’t mean unhappy. Fat doesn’t mean having a weird relationship with food or body image. Believe me, plenty of thin women have that too.
I can understand why someone who’s dealt with fat stigma wouldn’t want their children to face the same stigma. But the problem isn’t the child’s body–the problem is the stigma itself. Saying you hope your daughter doesn’t grow up to be fat contributes to that very stigma: to the idea that fat is inherently a bad thing, something to be avoided, something less than ideal, something that needs an excuse (like “genetics”) to be acceptable.
It’s like a gay person saying “I hope my kid doesn’t grow up to be gay” rather than “I hope that by the time my kid grows up, no matter what their sexual orientation turns out to be, society has become much more accepting of queer people.” (Which is not to say that fatphobia and homophobia are the same–they definitely operate in different ways, and many people deal with the intersection of both–but I think the basic analogy works. In each case, a parent who hopes that their child does not develop the same marginalized identity they themselves have is contributing to the stigma against that identity.)
If you don’t want your kids to face fat stigma, then fight the stigma itself.
Make it clear–through both words and actions–that all bodies are good bodies. That’s there’s no wrong way to have a body, period.
Anything less is bullshit.