What should we teach our children about calling people ‘fat?’ When Allison Kimmey’s daughter called her fat in a moment of frustration, Kimmey used it as a teaching opportunity.
The photo above is of Allison Kimmey and her daughter. Kimmey is a self-proclaimed ‘Self Love and Body Love Advocate’ and author of a soon-to-be-published children’s book about body confidence. Last week, Kimmey posted the photo on Instagram and Facebook along with an anecdote about her daughter calling her ‘fat’ in a moment of frustration. She wrote of the conversation with her children that followed that moment:
Me: “let’s talk about it. The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It’s not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy. Do you have fat?”
Her: “yes! I have some here on my tummy”
Me: “that’s right! So do I and so does your brother!”
Her brother: “I don’t have any fat, I’m the skinniest, I just have muscles”
Me: “actually everyone, every single person in the world has fat. But each of us has different amounts.”
Her brother: ” oh right! I have some to protect my big muscles! But you have more than me”
Me: “Yes, that’s true. Some people have a lot, and others don’t have very much. But that doesn’t mean that one person is better than the other, do you both understand?
Both: “yes, mama”
Me: “so can you repeat what I said”
Them: “yes! I shouldn’t say someone is fat because you can’t be just fat, but everyone HAS fat and it’s okay to have different fat”
Me: “exactly right!”
My daughter called me fat today. She was upset I made them get out of the pool and she told her brother that mama is fat. I told her to meet me upstairs so we could chat. Me: "what did you say about me?" Her: "I said you were fat, mama, im sorry" Me: "let's talk about it. The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It's not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy. Do you have fat?" Her: "yes! I have some here on my tummy" Me: "that's right! So do I and so does your brother!" Her brother: "I don't have any fat, I'm the skinniest, I just have muscles" Me: "actually everyone, every single person in the world has fat. But each of us has different amounts." Her brother: " oh right! I have some to protect my big muscles! But you have more than me" Me: "Yes, that's true. Some people have a lot, and others don't have very much. But that doesn't mean that one person is better than the other, do you both understand? Both: "yes, mama" Me: "so can you repeat what I said" Them: "yes! I shouldn't say someone is fat because you can't be just fat, but everyone HAS fat and it's okay to have different fat" Me: "exactly right!" Them: "can we go back to the pool now?" Me: no ?? __________________ Each moment these topics come up i have to choose how I'm going to handle them. Fat is not a bad word in our house. If I shame my children for saying it then I am proving that it is an insulting word and I continue the stigma that being fat is unworthy, gross, comical and undesirable. Since we don't call people fat as an insult in my household, I have to assume she internalized this idea from somewhere or someone else. Our children are fed ideas from every angle, you have to understand that that WILL happen: at a friends house whose parents have different values, watching a tv show or movie, overhearing someone at school- ideas about body image are already filtering through their minds. It is our job to continue to be the loudest, most accepting, positive and CONSISTENT voice they hear. So that it can rise above the rest. Give me a ?? if this resonated w u! Just do you! Xoxo Allie
Her post has since garnered more than 33,000 ‘likes’ from people applauding the message she gives to her children and for inspiring self-love and acceptance of all body types. The naysayers (because, always) are critical of Kimmey for teaching them that all fat is ‘okay’ because of the health issues associated with being overweight and for ‘glorifying’ being fat.
I agree that calling someone ‘fat’ should not be regarded as an insult. I commend Kimmey for teaching her own children about self-love and, by sharing her message via social media, helping others to feel confident in their own body. Absolutely.
However, I wonder if the emphasis could be shifted a little bit so that it’s not much about the semantics of the word ‘fat’ – it is both a noun and an adjective, after all – and it might be confusing to teach children otherwise. Instead, the emphasis could be on how we talk about and to others.
The truth is that everyone’s body is their own in every way and it’s an incredibly personal, private thing. In much the same way that touching someone without their consent is never okay, nor is commenting on someone’s body merely for the sake of commenting. Let’s reserve body commentary for a medical context.
Kimmey’s daughter has picked up on societal nuances and has deduced that commenting on someone’s body is meant to touch a nerve and to deal a blow. This is the issue that needs to be addressed. Other people’s bodies are none of our business and commenting on them – especially in a way meant to deliver pain – is not okay, whether they are fat, skinny, short, or tall.
What do you think?