It’s never fun when your child is being bullied at school — watching tears stream down their face, as you sit there, at a loss for words on how to console them. Having said that, these are the trials and tribulations around raising a school-aged child, and in many ways, goes with the job of being a parent.
My daughter was victim of bullying. Yes, I know, parents these days tend to throw that term around like confetti, but in this case, it wasn’t just a child being mean, girl drama, or perhaps “kids being kids” – it was bonafide bullying. A little boy was calling her stupid and fat daily, drawing parody pictures of her in different situations with the words F-A-T across the paper. He taunted her about her eating; he reminded her each day that she’d be “fat” and “stupid” for the rest of her life; he even told her that her mom was fat, and that she’d end up like me when she grew up.
Now, I am a woman who is comfortable in her own skin. At 44 years of age, I’m not as athletic as I use to be. Do I exercise daily? Yup! Do eat healthy? Absolutely! I feel great, but I don’t skip dessert, I do indulge in food, I love my wine on a Friday night, and after all these years I am very okay with the way I look and what I’ve accomplished with this body.
Having said that, some may think I’m fat, but I don’t care. In terms of my daughter, I’d say she’s extremely far from an unhealthy weight; however, even if she was “fat,” this boy had NO RIGHT to shame her at all. Sadly, despite all this, the comments had really affected her body image.
It took weeks for her to come forward because she was embarrassed — embarrassed that the so-called boy bully didn’t think she was “pretty,” embarrassed because this boy was the cat’s meow to all of her friends. And she had some girls in her circle laugh as he called her fat.
Not only that, when she DID approach the teacher (second time she received a note), the entire thing was initially swept under the rug. While school administration did handle the situation very well after my husband and I approached them, the damage had been done.
Nonetheless, I found it very interesting how my little girl didn’t believe the “stupid” comments the boy made, but the “fat” ones hit hard.
I stumbled across a rant of sorts on social media shortly after the incident that I’ve seen circulating on my network, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter from author, film and TV producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist (but best known for that little book series Harry Potter) J.K. Rowling. A snippet of it is below:
“’Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her,’ I said; I could remember it happening when I was at school, and witnessing it among the teenagers I used to teach …how strange and sick the ‘fat’ insult is. I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? …
I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’
‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’
What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!
I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’.”
THIS! ALL OF THIS! Shout if out from a mountain top, and add a “halleluiah” (or two) in the mix. By the way, this is only a portion of what Rowling wrote, the entire note, which ironically enough was first published in 2006 on her website, can be found here.
It’s weird to think that Rowling’s rant has been circulating for about 14 years now, yet we as women still struggles with body image, the word “fat,” and how it turns into such an ugly insult. How even though women have come so far in the fight for equality in the workplace — to be respected for our minds and not the outer shell we live in — we know and understand the negatives around how women are presented in the media.
Despite years, decades, and centuries of movements — a women’s revolution in the sporting worlds, and so much more — there are still little boys out there body-shaming their female classmates in this day and age, with little girls who escaped the shame giggling in the shadows and pointing fingers rather than supporting their friends.
But, why? We talk about this next generation, and their narcissistic selfies on social media, but the finger really does need to point back at us parents in some ways. We are our children’s first and most powerful role models, and if we are using the word “fat” to insult someone, or even looking in the mirror and using that word to describe ourselves, then we are doing both our little boys and little girls an injustice.
If we find that we are pointing out weight loss and appearance as an accomplishment beyond substantial life milestones, then maybe we are the problem. If we are not applauding fierce, passionate, and courageous actions, over how “cute” or “pretty” our children are, perhaps we need to start.
Above everything else, if we are still using the word “fat” to insult people, then there is no hope for this generation, or the next, as we will just be creating a never-ending cycle of self-absorbed individuals who value shallow qualities over substance.