Baby clothing company Wry Baby has found itself in some hot water about a baby onesie that they manufactured that says “I hate my thighs.” They were immediately taken to task by Ms. Magazine and, not one to let an opportunity to profit off body shaming pass them by, they brought another onesie that says “Love me for my leg rolls” out of retirement (because that’s not a joke based on body shaming at all!) and suggested that people should buy the one they like best to “vote” for which one they should keep. Because maybe a contest will make me forget that both of these reinforce a dangerous message and that this is a company that I would never in a million years support financially.
This is one of those blog posts where people will be like “why are you so uptight about everything, can’t you take a joke?!” I’ve already discussed the answer to that question in depth here but the short answers are: Can I take a joke? Yes. Do people sometimes couch shitty oppressive ideas as “humor”? Yes. Do I have to stay silent about that? No. Am I going to? Not today.
The only reason this is “funny” is because a girl baby wearing this doesn’t yet know that she was born into a culture that will teach her to hate her body for not meeting some ridiculous stereotype of beauty. This will become less funny 8 years later when this same little girl is dieting, setting herself up for a life of dysfunctional relationships with food, exercise, and her body and making her an excellent customer for the diet and beauty industries. It will be dramatically less funny if she becomes part of the 119% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 that happened in the last decade.
The ability to get the “joke” of this onesie is predicated on people knowing that this is the reality for this girl, and laughing at the idea that she would be worried about the size of her thighs as an infant instead of waiting a couple of years to start hating her body. This is “funny” because of the juxtaposition of the truth that this baby couldn’t even fathom hating her thighs, with the reality of how society will do basically everything in its power to make her hate them in just a few short years. (Not to mention that it enforces negative body messages to the people who see the baby wearing it.)
Hating our bodies for their shape and size is a learned behavior and that lesson is taught to us by industries that profit from them (like the diet and beauty industry) that make billions of dollars by teaching us that our bodies will never be good enough, that we should be ashamed of the ways in which we deviate from a photo shopped version of a stereotype of beauty, and that we should spend a lifetime buying their products trying to hate ourselves just a tiny bit less.
It’s also taught to us by a society made up of people who are products of the lessons of these industries (which often includes our parents.) People who internalize the idea that women should be judged on our appearance, that some bodies are good and some bodies are bad, and then enforce it on others, including and especially on those who speak out against it.
That is, I think, what is often happening when somebody says “Putting a baby in a body shaming outfit is a bad idea” and others insist that it’s not – it’s just funny because of the society we live in. If we find ourselves defending the hilarity of body shaming baby clothes then I think that the joke, unfortunately, is on us.
Tell Wry Baby what you think:
On their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wrybaby
On Twitter: @wrybaby
E-mail their customer service department: firstname.lastname@example.org
Give them a call: 888-909-9048
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