Size Matters: Why Marie Claire's Fat-Bashing Is Bad For Moms

Marie Claire needs to learn that beauty comes in all sizes
Marie Claire needs to learn that beauty comes in all sizes

This column from Marie Claire has been making the Internet rounds. It’s one of the most raw bits of fat-bashing I’ve ever seen. The author unabashedly says she doesn’t want to watch fat people walk across a room, much less make out with each other on TV. Because she thinks body fat is gross.

Then she goes so far as to say she’s not being size-ist:

“Now, don’t go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.”

She’s posted an apology of sorts after the wrath of the Inernets crashed down on her. And yet.

I want to back up to the part where she says she has a few friends who could be called “plump”. All of us could be called “plump” depending on the lens we’re being watched through. And the lens of fashion magazines and popular culture demands some pretty extreme thinness.

I wear a size 4, and just yesterday, I was called “pudgy”. By my 6-year-old daughter.

On the one hand, my kid isn’t wrong. I have a pudgy little belly, leftover from carrying her and her sister for 9 months.

While the Marie Claire column is ostensibly focusing on “really fat people” (what does that even mean? Who decides? ew), the biggest market for weight loss programs and products isn’t the morbidly obese. It’s new moms.

A woman who has just had a baby is the most likely person to a) be reading a fashion rag like Marie Claire and b) have recently gained a lot of weight she wants to lose.

Inside the pressure to be super-thin, then, is the pressure to be eternally young, eternally maidens. To deny our motherhood. Never let our kids affect us. It’s OK to have children, as long as they’re confined to a photo on your office desk. The fashion industry presses us to never let them show, just like our work/life culture does.

I’m pretty comfortable loving my mama body.

What I’m freaked out by is that my kid thinks I’m fat. Fat is what she first called me, before correcting herself and saying, “Some people think fat is not a nice word. I should say pudgy instead, right Mama?”

I told her she’s welcome to call me fat or pudgy, but that some people don’t like either of those words. And that there’s nothing wrong with being fat or thin, as long as you’re healthy. And actually I’m not all that fat. I’m about normal size, maybe even on the skinny end.

More importantly, I have the body she’ll probably have when she grows up. It’s a healthy body, strong and capable and pretty fine, if I do say so myself. Not only do I want her to love bodies of all sizes, I particularly want her to love this one. Because she’ll have to live with it.

My weight is in the bottom third percentile for women my height. If my kid is looking at me and seeing a fat person, she’s seeing two thirds of women as fat. That’s not right.

She’s also apparently getting the idea that being fat is bad. This is complicated. I want her to be healthy, and carrying extra pounds can be a sign of poor health. But you can be healthy at any size, and beautiful too.

What did you think of the Marie Claire article? Our kids aren’t reading Marie Claire, but this kind of bias trickles down through the culture. How do you help your kids see beauty in all kinds of bodies?

Photo: brains the head

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