Like many children, a nine year old boy in North Caroline went to visit Santa and share his Christmas list. Unlike most children, this Santa lacked the self-control to keep is size-based bigotry in check and couldn’t let the boy go without fat-shaming him.
Anthony Mayse, 9, asked for an iPod Touch and a drone for Christmas when he was allegedly fat-shamed.
“When he got done, he said, ‘Lay off the hamburgers and french fries,” Mayse told WLOS. “And that really just disrespected me, and I felt awful.”
It affected me so bad that I was crying until I went to bed that night,” Anthony said. “And I want to say to him, ‘You don’t want to disrespect a 9-year-old. Even though what shape and size you are, it doesn’t matter.”
I’m so happy that Anthony is clear that this is completely disrespectful and inappropriate. It’s easy to write this guy off as an asshole, but I think it’s important to look at how messed up our culture has to be for a mall Santa to think it’s cool to fat-shame a child.
First let’s look at what he did, then we’ll look at why he did it.
He felt that, based on what the kid looked like, he could ascertain what he ate. Let’s remember that for all he knows this kid is a vegetarian who has never had a burger in his life. But our culture – from the government down – actually encourages people to stereotype fat people based on how we look.
First he states his guesses about what the kid eats as fact, then he suggests to the kid that he should stop eating two specific foods. He never really says what the point of that is – does he believe that the kid will be healthier or thinner as long as he doesn’t eat burgers and fries? Maybe he should stick to being jolly and taking pictures with screaming toddlers.
It’s unfortunate that he is a stereotyping bigot, but it’s more unfortunate that he chose to be a stereotyping bigot out loud.
The question as to why this would happen has, as its center, the fact that stereotyping, stigmatizing, bullying, and harassing fat people is encouraged in our culture. To be very clear – fat is NOT the last acceptable prejudice – racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, Islamophobia, ageism, classism and more are all alive and well and far too accepted. So too is weight-based bigotry. There are a few reasons why I think people typically engage in this type of behavior:
I find that very often this is about people who want to say that they earned their “Save the Fatties” jacket and commemorative pin. These people need to remember that other people’s bodies aren’t their business, and that they are not the Fat Person Whisperer.
Some people like to be cruel (often because they are desperate to feel better about themselves and trying to get that done by putting other people down) this is an opportunity to do so under cover of claiming it’s “tough love” and claiming credit for the incredible “bravery” of fat shaming children.
They think they are helping?
If this is actually true (and not just a crappy justification for one of the above reasons) then I think that the person is pretty out of touch. I would compare it to a dude catcalling a woman from a moving vehicle and then saying that it was because he really wanted to get to know her. Even if that’s true, it’s still just completely not ok. And intent doesn’t override impact.
The fact that there are mall Santas who think it’s ok to fat-shame children who are supposed to be there to have a joyful experience, the fact that many children (and many adults) believe that they deserve to be shamed and given unsolicited food advice by total strangers, shows us that our culture has a problem with weight-based bias and harassment. We need to be clear that this is not ok, that there is no justification that makes it ok, and we won’t put up with it.
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16 thoughts on “Santa Fat-Shames Nine-Year-Old”
I’m glad you keep reminding people that fat is NOT the last acceptable prejudice. As you clearly pointed out, it’s not the last and it’s not acceptable!
I am totally dismayed here. The story ran on my local news channel and all the comments were mean, saying santa was right, the parents should be ashamed because they let their kid be fat and one nice guy said that since another person there stuck up for the kid, they must be fat and to go kill themselves. I got the station to remove that comment, at least.
Would you happen to know if the Santa was reprimanded for this issue…? I would hope so, considering it did make the news.
I read that the Santa and store apologized, but that was it. The guy is still their Santa, AFAIK.
Saint Nikolaos of Myra is spinning in his grave so hard it’s affecting Kilkenny’s gravity.
“When you have an intact, healthy sense of worth, you value other people. You know who you are, which means you can accept others as they are. When you are not sure that who you are is enough, you will do your darndest to prove you are better than someone else.”
While the aforementioned quote was not originally intended for use in a fatphobic context, it sure fits.
What a great quote! And very true!
I hope the kid or his parents complained about that Santa.
My first thought! Second thought….”hold up! Isn’t Santa fat?”
The character is fat, but this is probably a thin man in a fat suit.
Or possibly just a thin man, wearing a red suit with white trim, and a beard. Because sometimes, “Santa” has “gone on a diet,” or “gotten healthy,” or something.
I was not brought up with the idea of Santa Claus, but I am amazed that there was no “Santa” orientation or class in which prospective Santas were told not to criticize any of the kids who came to see them. This of course goes doubly for fat shaming or body shaming of any kind.
The really scary bit is the part where more total strangers weighed in, in support of the arsehole in Santa’s clothing. God help our fat children in this day and age of open hatred and inspired cruelty.
I agree. Every news site where I’ve seen this news story written about is filled with the most disgusting comments in the feedback sections. Things really were bad already when I was a kid, but I think it’s getting worse. My heart hurts so much for what kids are going through these days.
I think many people just don’t get the possible long term damage that comes from cutting comments like the one the mall Santa made. It’s not just a once-in-a-while rude comment, but frequent ones, often coming from multiple sources, saying that you are unlovable, not enough and not worthy until you look a certain way, which tells the world what kind of person you are.
This emotional damage can come in the form of low self-worth, which may lead someone, especially a woman (our culture places more value on a woman’s appearance than a man’s), to pick a partner who is abusive and treats them in ways they don’t deserve. They may also cozy up to the first person who blows into their ear and tells them that they are beautiful because they have been craving that validation their whole life after growing up in a culture that repeatedly says one’s value is based on their physical appearance and what others believe it says about them — or a large part of it is, anyway.
Oh, God, I read the comments. Why did I read the comments on the linked article? WHYYYYY?
If you’ll excuse me, I need to go cuddle a kitty and remind myself that the world is not a complete ball of flaming poo.
I have made a rule to NEVER read the comments after a fat positive or even fat neutral story or article. It is clear these people feel fat people are not human beings and deserving of the kind of abuse one used to reserve for criminals, heretics and really irritating in-laws. if I want a wake up call to just how awful the world is becoming, I will go to my local junior high school and hang out in the parking lot at 3. In a neon green track suit, with a bag of Doritos.