I never forgot when my aunt stood up and berated my mother in front of a table full of family and friends for allowing me to have, “one more piece of meat” during a holiday meal. Funnily, most kids can’t wait to sit at the ‘adult table.’ It’s a right of passage I suppose. But for me, being a kid with the adults simply meant more eyes, more potential pot shots under the guise of concern, tough love and reminders to sit up straight. Sure, the latter had health benefits I’d appreciate later in life but the rest? Body shaming.
Last month, a Mall Santa in the town of Forrest City, North Carolina, resigned after fat-shaming a boy who visited him. “Lay off the hamburgers and French fries,” said Santa to Anthony Mayse, a 9-year-old boy who had merely asked Santa for an iPod Touch and Drone. He left Santa’s lap in tears.
For many the holidays aren’t a happy time. It’s a time of great anxiety and mental preparation to be surrounded by “loved ones” who will police each others’ every bite, encourage weight loss New Year’s resolutions, self deprecate through fat or DIEt talk, or profess having “starved for a week” so they can partake in your holiday dinner. And if all that isn’t enough, Aunt Gertrude, who’s still stuck in her ‘80s sweaters, may even offer some unwanted fashion advise on your “best colours” while at it!
Body shaming does absolutely nothing to bring family and friends together or to inspire greatness. In fact, it’s the very reason why some of us don’t make it home for the holidays. For some, it’s easier to eat in isolation than to have one’s morality and character judged by whether they have dessert or not. Body shaming is a sure-fire way to tell someone they aren’t good enough just the way they are.
So as we move into a new year, let’s remember to take stock of what really matters – being here, thankful and putting our smartphones down so we can actually engage with what or who’s in front of us. As we create more memories with our loved ones in the year ahead, rather than obsess over calorie counts, we can reflect on the reality of all too many Canadians who don’t have anyone to count on for a warm meal, let alone seconds, and take action to change this. Now there’s a new year’s resolution I can get behind.
Jill Andrew is the co-founder of the Body Confidence Canada Awards, a Canadian Women’s Foundation community partner. Andrew is also advocating to have size and physical appearance discrimination made illegal in Canada. For more visit www.BodyConfidenceCanadaAwards.com and join #SizeismSUCKS today at www.change.org/SizeismSUCKS!
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