Proud2Bme | Hating Our Thighs Before We Can Walk

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Hating Our Thighs Before We Can Walk

By Amanda Jones--Babies can’t read, so what’s the big deal? A baby wearing this onesie isn’t necessarily going to grow up in a fat shaming household, and surely they aren’t guaranteed to grow up hating their thighs just because of a onesie they wore when they were too young to read. Besides, a baby can’t understand what it means to hate their thighs anyway, right?

But what about the people who can read it?

Sure, maybe the onesie is being bought and worn in good humor, and maybe there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of a sarcastic little slogan to highlight the way that so many people love their babies chubby thighs.

But for those of us who can read, these messages further instill a covert cultural belief that we should be hating our thighs. Reading these slogans on a baby onesie reminds us of our society’s thin ideal, and the body shaming that accompanies anything different.

And sure, maybe we can pick up on the sarcasm and the irony, and maybe we can even laugh at it. But what about the children who see it? The ones who are too young to really understand sarcasm? The ones who hear you say the baby has chubby thighs, and see you laughing? What kind of messages are we pairing together for our little ones?

Is it possible that we are, maybe even unknowingly, informing our children early on of the message that big thighs are laughable? Shameful?

Children begin to pick up on sarcasm around the age of 8, by tone of voice alone- something a onesie doesn’t offer. It isn’t until the age of 11 or 12 that children begin to pick up sarcasm through understanding context.

Children are keen observers, poor interpreters. They may read the onesie, see the laughter, notice the comments made, and hear everything- but they may also interpret it inaccurately or inappropriately simply because they do not have the cognitive abilities to understand it.

And no, reading this slogan on a baby onesie will probably not be the end of the world for a child, but it may add to a slew of body shaming messages that they may come across throughout their life. Current research shows that

  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
  • In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (Smolak, 2011; Wertheim et al., 2009).
  •  81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).
  • Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight (Martin, 2010).

Children are like sponges, and they take in everything they hear. Be mindful of the message you send out, not only for their little ears, but for all who can read the message.

About this blogger: Amanda Jones is a recent Marriage and Family Therapy graduate from Lee University. She enjoys yoga, nutrition, softball, writing, and playing the guitar. Inspired by her own recovery, Amanda is currently working on eating disorder research within couples therapy, and hopes to further develop an equine assisted psychotherapy program. 

Photo courtesy of Wry Baby

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