So I’ve been sent by a few folks to news of a new book due out this October called “Maggie goes on a diet“; intended for audiences ages 6-12. Regan over at Dances with Fat already did a brilliant take-down of this but here I’ll add my own few pennies of thought.
The story, of 14 year old Maggie, can be summed up in this hopeful phrase from the book’s description: “Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight.”
So, it follows the path of any other supposed Fat to Formerly Fat plot-arc. Namely, how Losing Weight just completely transforms this one little girl’s life! From non-confidence and self-hatred to thin confidence and pretty-dress wearing! Wow! Now THERE’s a story we haven’t all had rammed down our collective throats a million times in a million different guises over the decades. Really? Just type “Fat” or “Weight Loss” into Amazon.com for an idea of how easy it is to find this plot-line. And that doesn’t even take into account all of the items without this tag or title or by-line which still use this over-used weight-loss meme as a story. Only now, let’s market it to YOUNGER generations exclusively! I mean, we ARE aiming for the ultimate goal of babies hating themselves upon taking their first womb-free breaths, right?
Hell, I can’t even be all surprised at this book since I remember reading Catundra from a very small age; which has the very same theme/plot-arc. And THAT was geared towards children aged 4-8. Trust me, we have no new news here that people hate fat and strive at every moment to ensure that anyone with a fat body learns to hate it and themselves properly.
Honestly, stuff like this just makes me so frustrated. Which is why I like to have something more uplifting to pair it against to give me hope that as hard as some keep struggling to keep Fat and Fatties pushed into that dirty, naughty corner of forgotten hatefulness, there are also a growing number of spots of light shining through. It makes posting what feels like the same over-long ranty post basically boiling down to “Stop being assholes”* bearable sometimes!
So I found myself scrolling through my Google feed-reader and found a few things of note. I love the bit on Paula Deen responding to the very bitter Bordain’s nasty comments on her and her cooking. But even that smacks too much of vitriolic back and forth (though major kudos to Deen!).
Then I cam to the story of 6-year-old LaNiyah Baily: author and youth advocate, who took the strength of her family and loved ones and used it to turn her childhood bullied taunts into a marketable book: “Not Fat Because I Want to Be.”
There are beautiful nuggets and moment in the book about the confusion a young girl who eats healthy but remains fat feels at hearing Michelle Obama bemoan obesity and how fat people/kids never eat healthy. It offers a lovely phrase “Never Judge Someone Based on How They Look” that really should be the simple phrase by which many could improve their “-ist” ways. (Size, Race, Gender, Sex, what-have-you-ist)
However, my slight frown for this book is that it does seem to be leaning towards the idea that you shouldn’t make fun of Healthy Fatties. Like that little quote that seems to go around Facebook every so often that you don’t know what “invisible diseases” people are suffering so you shouldn’t make fun of them, Just in Case They’re Actually Sick (and…not just lazy??). So, it feels like an unnecessary addition of a modifier to an otherwise perfectly good catchphrase in my mind. But, I’m not able to read the whole book online so this could just be my gut feeling from one or two of the “tips” that appear at the end of the book.
This book calls for love and understanding, but still clings to a few ideas about helping your child “conquer obesity”. Yet, it is a slight improvement over a call to encourage all children to begin their lives with body hatred and food restrictions.
So, as I say, not necessarily the most glowing and amazingly best book out there but it is a step towards sanity, a call for respect and love and a bit of understanding for now. Moreover, it is written by a 6-year-old with far more compassion than many of those folks more than 5-10 times her age who continue to call for constant fat-shaming to teach us fatties our place. I have hope for the coming generations. It comes in small doses, but it does come!
*Or, as a like reading Wil Wheaton put it: “Don’t Be a Dick!”