‘Horizontal stripes will make you look fatter!’

This story from the brilliant Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals:

Buyer Beware: “Oh no, not that skirt. Horizontal stripes will make you look fatter.” -Grandmother shopping next to me says to a little girl, slapping the girl’s hand away from a really cute tiered skirt. The little girl shrinks. My mouth and Amelia’s mouth fall open in shock.

I want to climb on top of the rack of clothing, and scream at this woman, telling her how cruel and damaging Fat Talk is to girls, especially when Fat Talk comes from the people this girl should be able to trust the most. I want to screech out the stats running through my head — percentages of little girls who hate their bodies and diet and have low self-esteem. I want to grab her and shake her and tell her what awful messages she is planting in this girl’s head. I also kind of want to hug her, and tell her to stop projecting her body hate onto this young child. Not wanting to get kicked out of Target, and not being a crazy person, I didn’t. But I really, really wanted to.

Instead I picked up the exact same skirt, and held it up for Amelia. I’m not trying to be an ass, I just can’t let the grandmother’s words be the last thing the other girl hears in that moment.
“Hey Smalls, look at this! How awesome are these stripes!? Wouldn’t they look so fun and colorful while you run and spin? How fun!” I say.

“I’d say it is full of awesome,” 6yo Amelia offers while waving to the little girl.

What if we all tried to be as creative and proactive as Melissa when we heard people make these kinds of comments to girls? Do you have any stories? Any good ideas? Please share.

8 thoughts on “‘Horizontal stripes will make you look fatter!’

  1. According to QI, it’s actually vertical stripes that make you look wider, not horizontal. Not that it matters, of course. Fat shaming is wrong, full-stop.

  2. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t worth being a bit of a busybody in a case like this. So somebody thinks I’m a jerk if I actually stop and say something, what difference does that make? Maybe she would think about it, and if nothing else, the kid would hear it. This seems like a good time to try out some fantasy scripts.

    I could try to be disarming. “Shopping for clothes can be really frustrating, isn’t it? But you know, your granddaughter seems like a beautiful little girl, and I bet she has other great qualities too.”

    Or I could murmur, as if to myself: “You know, I’m really glad I got to enjoy being a kid for awhile before society taught me to hate my body.”

    Or pin her with a look and just say “Really? Projecting much?”

    Or how about this one: “Wow, you must have good health insurance, because treatment for eating disorders is expensive. It took me years of therapy to get over comments like the one you just made.”

    Or just yell “Geez! Give the kid a break!” loudly over my shoulder as we walk away.

    Or say to my companion, “You know, when I see people slap their child over nothing in public, I always wonder what they do behind closed doors.”

    Wow, I feel better now.

  3. LOL…Was the girl fat? Would those horizontal stripes accent her girth? While I agree there are other ways to handle fashion decisions I suspect her grandmother is trying to save her from what some cruel child will say when G-Mo is out of earshot . It is a tough world…we can make a difference in it. Maybe let’s put ourselves on the front line instead of our children and let them see us, the parents, in action. Let them see first hand, how WE handle cruel people.

  4. It sounds to me like what you were really up to was putting grandma down in front of her grand daughter. What option did the little girl have?

  5. Beautiful! Let’s all encourage our girls to wear horizontal stripes! My daughter has several pairs of horizontal striped leggings, the which I will encourage her to wear in honor of that moment. (Not to mention how the hand is one of the primary ways that people learn about the world, and having it slapped is a hugely damaging thing to do to children….from http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/discipline-behavior/spanking/10-reasons-not-hit-your-child: In follow-up studies of these children seven months later, the punished babies were found to be less skilled at exploring their environment.”) My only recent good story not about body image so much, but having gone to Target (after I heard about the DP week partnership, oy vey) and trying to find a plain Etch-A-Sketch. They all had Cars, or Disney Princess, or something else that was essentially a commercial spanning the border. There were two Target employees nearby. I told them how frustrated I was that there weren’t any Etch-A-Sketches without advertising. The man said, “Yeah, and unless I mis-remember, the screen was much bigger on the one I had as a kid.” At the check-out, I told the cashier that the only thing I hadn’t found was an Etch-A-Sketch without… I stopped myself saying “crap” on the outside. She knew what I meant. “Yeah, it’s everywhere.”

  6. But it isn’t it kinda rubbing it on the other girl’s face? And making her more miserable that she isn’t getting the shirt?

      • Yeah, but it’s the grandma’s opinions she’s gonna have to live under. It feels a lot like rubbing it on her face “yeah, you can’t get this, but I can”. Especially because of the little girl waving at her.

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