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Question of the day - all about "fat"

What do you do when you and your offspring are out in public, and they make reference to someone in a derogatory way, not understanding that it was derogatory?

So here's an example, Alex was trying to show me something that was across the way, and referenced it by saying, "It's right over there, beside the fat lady."

The lady being referenced, was morbidly obese, and I'm pretty sure she heard Alex, but was pretending she didn't.

"Honey, we don't call people 'fat'. It's not a good word. It's not a nice word. We don't call people names."

"I wasn't calling her a name Mom, I said she was fat, because she is, like that guy over there is short and the other one is tall."


"But sweetheart, people get their feelings hurt when others say they are fat. We just don't use that word - it's not a nice word. We don't want to hurt people's feelings, and her feelings would be hurt if she heard you say she was fat."

"Ok Mommy, I won't use that word."

I debated making her go over and apologize to the lady, who was either doing a good job of ignoring the situation, or perhaps had genuinely not heard. I decided against it, because if she hadn't heard, I certainly didn't want her to hear about it now, and because I was concerned the apology would come out something like, "I'm sorry I called you fat even though you are." I felt pretty horrible for the lady, and pretty embarrassed about the situation.

This is approximately the fifth time I've had this conversion with one or both of the children. It doesn't seem to be sticking.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
I'd say if the lady heard Alex call her fat, then she'd most likely heard your explanations too and wouldn't be offended so an apology wasn't necessary.

Although Alex has a point. She wasn't being offensive at all, just stating that the lady is fat. I rather wish we could call someone fat like we do tall, or blonde etc. If it's descriptive rather than offensive, why not? Maybe Alex's generation will sort it all out :)
Jul. 15th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
This. I struggle with this issue, because I really don't think the word 'fat' should be pejorative. I'm okay with being fat - fat is a shape like any other.

I don't really know how to explain to my son that calling someone 'fat' can be hurtful, while at the same time teaching him that all body shapes are fine and people are just who they are.

It doesn't help that I reacted badly one day to my son telling me he thinks I'm fat. :/ Now he asks me if I'm fat or not fat. Augh. I can't wait for his thought processes to become a bit more sophisticated.
Jul. 15th, 2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
Children are generally short on empathy
Jul. 15th, 2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
I think you handled it excellently.

When I was at the bitter end of my first pregnancy - like at the "any minute now" phase of it all - a child in a store pointed me out to his mother as being "really fat".

He was, ya know, not wrong about it at that moment, but the mother was mortified, and apologized for her son. I laughed it off, but then again, my relative "fatness" was situational and kind of temporary. A larger person might take it harder, or snap more readily, or maybe they've had more time (like more than nine months) to come up with graceful and witty responses. Either way, addressing it immediately was very appropriate.
Jul. 15th, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
Mya did the same thing with the ugly man on the bus. :/
You appear to have handled it well as mortifying as it was Alex will figure it out.
Bugs the shit out of me that fat is practically a four letter word when it really shouldn't be.
Fat in any form whether its food or people or w/e has positive & descriptive points that we shouldn't be offended by.
That said if someone pointed and called me fat I'd most likely feel bad. :/
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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