I’m aware that you’re the fashion Bible and this is a fashion site. I know that I should probably show you some reverence. I’ll apologize to EIC Jennifer Wright now. Sorry if I’m making your job more difficult.
But Vogue has crossed the line from controversial to downright horrible. In the April 2012 Shape issue, writer Dara-Lynn Weiss opens up about a difficult motherhood experience. She talks about her year-long struggle to enforce a strict and publicly humiliating diet regimen on her daughter, Bea.
This story starts out almost illiciting sympathy for the writer, who is faced with a pretty scary parenting dilemma. Her seven-year-old daughter is deemed “clinically obese” by her pediatrician. The little girl is 4’4” and 93 lbs. As a mom, I often worry about the balance of teaching healthy habits and encouraging body acceptance in my daughter. We focus a lot on foods that “help us grow big and strong” instead of ones that “don’t make our bodies feel better.” We talk about the importance of staying active and getting outdoors to play. And even with my four-year-old, I bring up the concept that different foods help our bodies in different ways, and we need to balance our bodies’ needs and balance the food we eat. In other words, veggies, fruits, meat and grains all have their own place.
Childhood obesity is a problem in this culture. It’s one that mothers need to start addressing and we need to start being honest about. But the issue of health is no excuse for the torture that this young child is put through. In the author’s own words:
I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate. I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week. I dressed down a Starbucks barista when he professed ignorance of the nutrition content of the kids’ hot chocolate whose calories are listed as “120-210” on the menu board: Well, which is it? When he couldn’t provide an answer, I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter’s hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out.
I cringe when I recall the many times I had it out with Bea over a snack given to her by a friend’s parent or caregiver … rather than direct my irritation at the grown-up, I often derided Bea for not refusing the inappropriate snack. And there have been many awkward moments at parties, when Bea has wanted to eat, say, both cookies and cake, and I’ve engaged in a heated public discussion about why she can’t.
Um by the way, those Starbucks figures probably depended on what type of milk you used and whether you had whipped cream. I’m just saying. [tagbox tag=”fat-shaming”]
When faced with a difficult motherhood decision, this mom didn’t support or encourage her daughter to make the right choices. She didn’t teach her the importance of health, why obesity matters or try to help her make smart choices on her own.
Weiss went about “helping” her daughter in the least helpful way possible. She publicly shamed her. She counted calories instead of nutritional value. And oh yea, SHE PUBLICLY SHAMED A SEVEN YEAR OLD. Sorry, just making sure you caught that.
Vogue ran this article as if it were a triumphant piece about a woman helping her daughter lose weight. After a year of strictly enforced dieting, little Bea has lost 16 lbs, even as she’s grown 2 inches. The mother and daughter pair posed for adorable, cheerful pictures drinking tea. Apparently we’re supposed to be excited that this child was made to feel horrible about her obese body.
The only highlight of this story is that the little girl seems to be more self-aware and thoughtful than her mother. While Weiss is lamenting, “It is grating to have someone constantly complain of being hungry, or refuse to eat what she’s supposed to, month after month,” her daughter seems to see the last year more clearly. “That’s still me,” she says of her former self. “I’m not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.”
I truly hope that little girl remembers that she’ll always be the same person, no matter what size she. But if Bea turns out okay, it will be in spite of her mother’s harsh and cruel tactics, not because of them. This story was not a triumph. It was a tragedy about a girl who deserved support and help, and instead faced embarrassment at the hands of her mother.