We have all experienced body shaming on some level. And with the rise of social media, it is even more prevalent. You’re either too fat or too skinny. Your boobs are too big or too small. Either way, you can’t win.
We also live in a society that judges parents more harshly than ever before. People are so quick to pick up their pitchforks and shame mothers for their parenting decisions. These judgy types know what you are doing “wrong” and what you need to do to “fix it,” and they’re eager to publicly shame you.
I have been body shamed in my life, but I thought my daughter had more time before it happened to her.
From one innocent, adorable picture posted online, thousands of people fat shamed my baby, at one year old, and judged my parenting. One picture, that’s all it took — and with zero knowledge of my parenting or our family. The fact that her picture was circulated so far and wide and so many people didn’t even blink at a 1-year-old being called fat shows how relentless body shaming has become in our society.
One year ago, my husband made the mistake of posting our then 14-month-old daughter’s picture on imgur. He thought it was private, but instead it was set to public. And it didn’t take long for the trolls to come out. This is the picture:
This is our healthy, amazing daughter who comes from a long line of chunky babies. I had rolls and so did her dad, so it’s no surprise that she was a baby who heavily resembled the Michelin man. It was adorable.
But after this picture was posted, the offensive, ignorant comments rolled in: “Why is she so fat? What do you feed her?!” “She is clearly overweight.”
What these people didn’t know is that she had (and still has) a completely well-balanced diet. She wasn’t overweight and had followed the same growth curve from birth. Her doctors weren’t concerned at all. Hell, she still lived mostly on breast milk at the time. But that didn’t matter. She still went viral for being “fat.”
A couple of days after the picture was posted on imgur, I received a personal message from a friend who lives across the world in Australia. She told me my daughter’s picture was posted on a popular Australian news site. In the article, they talked about the subject of toddler fat-shaming. Horrified and in full-blown mama bear mode, I messaged the site and asked them to take the picture down immediately. They refused and defended their decision to keep it up because the subject was already garnering a lot of attention.
I did a quick Google search of “toddler fat shaming,” and there I saw tons of articles using this now infamous picture of my daughter. Comments sections filled with people calling her fat and calling me a negligent mother. These people who know nothing about my child and her health felt the need to judge her body and my parenting — from one picture.
Some sites blurred her face, others didn’t. Nobody reached out to me or my husband to ask for permission to use her picture. I couldn’t believe my daughter who was just a little over a year old was already being shamed about her body. I felt physically ill.
The photo garnered most of its attention in Europe and Australia, never hitting the United States or Canada. But it was even the topic of conversation on a very popular British morning show. One of the hosts mentioned how concerning her arms looked. I wanted to reach into the screen and punch his face. The ignorance was alarming.
Here is my sweet daughter — perfectly healthy — being critiqued from across the world.
Listen, folks, this has got to stop. It is hard enough for adult women to deal with the constant shaming, but she is a fucking baby.
I’m still recovering from the tremendous guilt over accidentally sharing this photo of her, but I thought we were all better than this. Please put yourself in my shoes and imagine how sad you would be if your baby was being shamed and mocked by strangers from all over the world, how violated you would feel to have your child’s image plastered across the internet for the sake of uneducated critique and name-calling. Sickening.
My husband and I learned some valuable lessons from all of this though. First, you have to be careful where you share photos of your children because you never know what is going to be shared with a wider audience than you intended. And most importantly, all of us have a bigger responsibility than ever before to teach our children body positivity. And respect. This is completely out of control. Our children are watching and listening, and this behavior is harmful to their mental and physical health. I’m just glad my daughter was young enough to be shielded from this. And I plan to raise her to love her body, no matter what.