Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fat shaming kids on Halloween!

The shameful fat shaming trend continues.  Yesterday, I posted an article on Facebook about a very nice man who paid for a struggling mom's meal at Pizza Hut as he observed her dealing with her three kids, one of which was coming down off ADHD meds.  One of my friends liked the article, but then passed along an article about a woman in North Dakota with plans to give fat shaming letters to kids that she thinks are too fat…

This judgmental woman claims that "it takes a village" to raise a child and she has noticed too many kids in her neighborhood that are too fat for her liking.  So while she apparently plans to give candy to the kids whom she deems are "thin enough", the fat ones will be going home with a letter explaining that they shouldn't be eating candy because busybody neighbor lady says "in my opinion, your child is moderately obese".  Seriously?  What a bitch!  And who the hell asked her?

Then, to make matters worse, she continues with "… my hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween, not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits."  Wow… that's gonna make her very popular in her neighborhood!  Every parent wants some sanctimonious buttinsky telling them how to raise their children, right?  

This woman says that "the whole community is going to be paying for [obese kids]."  So she thinks Halloween is a prime time to call parents and their kids to task.  While I don't disagree the obesity is an issue in the United States and other developed countries, I do think that handing out these letters on Halloween is asking for trouble.  The lady runs the risk of getting egged or TP'd at the very least.  Maybe someone will leave a flaming bag of poo on her porch.  Perhaps some parents will simply write rebuttals that call out all the noticeable flaws this pushy woman has.  I know I would be tempted to.

On the other hand, the North Dakota woman's fat shaming plans have already enticed others to follow her example in another way.  One man in Florida responded with his own note, which reads

"Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays, Neighbor!

Your kid is awesome and so are you!  Take some candy."

The Florida man has lost lots of weight and knows what it's like to be fat.  He knows firsthand how it feels to be a heavy kid, too.  But he also recognizes that kids hear and internalize messages that wreak havoc on their self-image.  Halloween is not a night kids should have to worry about being judged by their appearances.

No kid wants to be called out for being fat.  It's bad enough that some school systems are sending home "fat letters" to call their parents' attention to their child's weight problems.  Why should your neighbor spoil Halloween with these holier than thou notes on a night that is supposed to be all about fun?  It may seem like a prime opportunity to confront these people in terms of convenience-- after all, they are coming to the door and asking for treats-- but was it really this bitch's intention to spoil Halloween for her neighbors' children?  The older ones already know they have a weight problem.  They don't need a news flash from a misguided neighbor who thinks she's a member of the fat police.

If she is so concerned about potentially contributing to childhood obesity by passing out candy to kids she thinks are "moderately obese" on Halloween, it seems to me she has many other options.  She could hand out small toys like rubber balls or yo-yos or healthy pre-wrapped snacks.  How about sugarless gum?  It's actually good for the teeth and low in calories!  Or she could simply keep her porch light turned off and not hand out anything at all.

Instead of judging and singling people out by giving certain kids shaming letters for their parents to read, she could write an article on a blog or a letter to the editor that doesn't call out specific people.  Or she could work with other concerned people to come up with some kind of fun, but healthy, activity for her community's kids.  The point is, there are so many other things she could be doing to promote the healthy kids cause… things that have nothing to do with humiliating little kids and their parents on a night that is supposed to be fun!

She says it takes a village to raise kids (trite much)?  Then put your money where your mouth is, you self-righteous meanie, and come up with real solutions that are sustainable and may actually do some good!  Do something constructive that requires more time, creativity, and positive energy than passing out a passive-aggressive fat shaming letter that ruins one of the most fun nights of the year for kids!    

2 comments:

  1. My mom used internet sources to get the North Dakota woman's address and to send her an expedited delivery letter urging her to reconsider. The lady might want to consider that my mother got her address very easily, and so could just about anyone willing to pay $9.99 for access to a people finder or background check service. Some people who would obtain this woman's address might have less noble intent than my mom had. One shouldn't go on the news spouting such disparaging content, as it's not even safe. My major concern is not for the woman's safety, though. I'm obviously more concerned about the children the woman judges to be moderately obese.

    My mom actually feels reasonably strongly about the issue of overweight children, as does this woman, and feels that parents have a responsibility to provide nutritious foods and to teach healthful eating habits. She thinks adults should do whatever they want with their own bodies but that they have an obligation to exercise reasonable measures in keeping their children healthy. In her previous job in the last town in which we lived, she was the mental health professional usually called in for students with serious cases concerning eating disorders or other mental health related to weight gain. She's seen first-hand the damage that is often done to a child by unlimited access to foods with high fat and sugar content but of limited nutritional value at best. She can be judgmental when it comes to such issues.

    At the same time, she says that sometimes there's far more involved in a child's weight than can be determined by glancing at the child and making a quick determination that he or she is obese, and hastily coming to the conclusion that the culprit absolutely must be an improper diet and lack of exercise. All sorts of other factors may be contributory, and furthermore, a child can weigh more than a growth chart recommends yet be in the "fit" category in every other regard. Similarly, a child may be thin while subsiting on a horrible diet and getting no valuable exercise whatsoever, and may be less fit than another child who is techinically overweight.

    When anyone is overweight, my mom says, they, like anyone else, may have far more serious problems than weight, and addressing their weight issues may be fairly low on the totem pole in the grand scheme of things. Regardless, the worst thing anyone can do is to make the person -- and this is all the more true in the case of a young person with a potentially fragile psyche -- feel inferior or otherwise bad about himself or herself because of a superficial issue such as weight. Adolescence is a particularly damaging time to call attention to anyone's appearance-related shortcomings, whether the issue is acne, legitimate or perceived obesity, or even underweight for that matter. Even a parent or trained medical or mental health should be cautious in approaching the issues. A stranger should not approach the issues, period.

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    1. Bravo for your mom! This comment may prompt a post length response tomorrow.

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