Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/big/public_html/wordpress/wp-content/themes/StandardTheme_20/admin/functions.php on line 229
An Interesting Social Experiment | Manolo for the Big Girl

An Interesting Social Experiment

What Would You Do? is an interesting ABC news feature. Actors perform uncomfortable scenarios in public places to see how witnesses and passers-by react. The most recent one was of particular interest to me. In it, two actresses walked into Kleinfeld’s  Bridal Salon in New York City posing as mother and daughter. As customers looked on in horror and disbelief, the ‘mother’ berated and belittled her ‘daughter’ viciously. She told the girl she looked ‘slutty’ and ‘anorexic’ in every gown she tried on.

The experiment was then repeated the next day with a different ‘daughter.’ This time, the bride was a plus-sized lady (played by the Fatosphere’s own Zaftig Thespian with great gusto and realism), who was informed repeatedly that she was ‘a fat pig’ and ‘looked disgusting’ in every gown.

Over the course of two days, most of the customers just watched in horror as the train wreck went on and on. When the ‘mother’ left the room on both days, a handful of concerned onlookers would try to comfort the ‘bride.’ What interested me most was how people comforted the brides.

When the bride in question was thin, people reassured her that she didn’t look bad, but then counseled her to cut her mother some slack and meet her in the middle. They kept assuring her that mom really did have her best interests at heart and was just reacting to normal wedding pressure. The only exception was a professional bridal planner who advised the ‘bride’ to ignore her mother, get the gown she loved, and call her (the planner) anytime she had a question or needed a bit of hand-holding along the way. Not one person said one word to the mother.

When the bride in question was fat, I really girded my loins, certain I would hear a lot of diet advice or watch her sob to herself while nobody came to her aid. After all, they’d mostly told a thin woman that her mother meant well by calling her ugly names in public and humiliating her on what should have been a happy, exciting day.

Either there was a better class of human in the store that day, Zaftig Thespian sold the sad better than the other actress, or a high percentage of people in the store had been through something similar with a loved one giving them a huge public dose of body-shaming. More people seemed to go to the plus-sized bride and comfort her, but more than that, they stuck to telling her she was beautiful, that she looked great in the gown, that she should ignore her mother and concentrate on the fact that she was marrying a wonderful man who loved her just as she was. What’s more, two customers talked to the mother as well.

One attempted to mediate between mother and daughter while staunchly standing up for the daughter. Another took the mother aside for a heart-to-heart, telling her that she should never call her child ugly.

I’m beyond horrified that any customers even attempted to be apologists for the mother in that situation. There’s simply no excuse for body shaming or abuse. There’s no excuse for treating another human being the way both ‘bride’ actresses were treated by the ‘mom.’ On the other hand, I find myself heartened that at least one ‘bride’ really did have people come to her rescue. And if only one could get public support, I have to admit a tiny part of me was grateful it was the girl who looked more like me.

If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t have confronted the mom. I’m bad with confrontation and I hate public scenes. But I know in my heart I would have taken the opportunity once the mom was gone to have comforted the bride in a way that didn’t excuse her mother one iota. There is no excuse for abuse.

Fat or thin, tall or short, any color of the rainbow, any level of physical ability…I don’t care. Body shaming is never helpful. We need to love our bodies and help others to love theirs, too.

Take the time today to tell someone how beautiful (s)he is. And yes, that person can be you.

11 Responses to “An Interesting Social Experiment”

  1. staci March 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    the same situation happened to me when i bought my wedding gown. my grandma and aunt told me i ‘looked like a barrel in that dress.’ and called other memebers of my family to tell them how awful i looked. i was crying in the dressing room for an hour and was going to buy the dress they wanted until the consultant would not let me leave without my dress. i am so grateful for her, because i adored my gown.

    i think this situation happens all too often though.

  2. Twistie March 15, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    staci, I’m appalled that your family treated you so shabbily! Good on that consultant for supporting you. I’m sure you looked superfantastic in your dream gown.

  3. Margo March 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    This is really uplifting. I’m conflict-adverse, too, but the other day I was waiting for a ticket attendant at the station and witnessed her being verbally abused by a patron (some d-bag who hadn’t paid his fare, I think, and insisted he was going to be late for a business appointment). I couldn’t help but tell him to have a little respect & treat her like a human being – dude just swore at me and buggered off, but she was very grateful and I ended up feeling better about such a negative situation.

    Now – I’m off to tell someone I love that they’re beautiful to me.

  4. Beth C. March 16, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    The only thing I can think of as to why anyone would tell the one bride to “cut her mom some slack” when she quite obviously didn’t deserve it is the simple fact that as strangers we really have NO IDEA how the family dynamics are working in that situation and while you want to make the girl who’s obviously being very hurt feel better you don’t want to accidentally step on toes or unknowingly tread into dangerous territory. Families are weird, and we all innately know that, so it’s in most of our natures to tread lightly. Add to that that most people hate confrontations and really will avoid them whenever possible and I think you have a situation similar to what was seen.

    Anyway, I’m glad there were folks who comforted both brides, regardless of their physical attributes. Sometimes it’s nice to see people at least try to do the good thing even if they don’t know exactly what the best thing to do is.

  5. Bree March 16, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    I can’t bring myself to watch those “What Would You Do” shows, but I’m glad those that did speak up didn’t tell the thin bride to gain weight or our own Zaftig Thespian to lose weight.

    I don’t know if I personally would comment myself, but if I did, I would tell the mothers that since their fiances love them and didn’t give a hoot about their weight, neither should they. And to tell the brides that maybe the courthouse might look better after this! ;-)

  6. Christine March 16, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    My sister, a very beautiful girl, was quite slim until her early 20s…she met and married her husband who has never known her to be less than a size 20 and he coudn’t care less. But, my father, no skinny minny himself told her once “You used to be so pretty before you gained all that weight”. She called me in absolute breakdown, and could hardly talk, she was crying so hard. My sister is indeed gorgeous, but she is so much more, intelligent, a great mother and wife, my best friend (and I’m sure many more feel that way about her) and she has a great sense of humour.

    She said she couldn’t talk to Dad about what he’d said. Well, I sure could! I gave him a lecture and told him to apologize. Naturally, he denied ever having said it. he did apologize though, “because Christine thinks I said something wrong” but my poor sister. Ironically, when I gained weight post-baby, he gave me a lot of money to buy new clothes.

    My sister has a tall, slightly overweight 6 year old daughter but my sister and my bil are wonderful with her. I’ve heard sales clerks tell Charlotte that she’s fat and should stop eating sweets. A 6 year old girl! On the other hand, my son, at 5’10” and 120 pounds is applauded for being so trim. It’s insane…

  7. mini_pixie March 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    did you guys see this article?
    http://omg.yahoo.com/news/meghan-mccain-defends-weight-against-critic/20055?nc

    I think it’s disgusting that Ingraham thought she could criticize a thoughtful young person (who is only size 8!) about her weight and get away with it. I do NOT agree with Meghan’s politics, and I haven’t read her column, but I’ve seen her interviewed and it seems to me that she’s a smart enough person and she truly has the best interests of her party at heart. To go after her personally like that is just dumb. If fat people aren’t allowed to have opinions, then what’s up with Rush having so much sway? Dumb Dumb Dumb.

  8. Twistie March 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    I think it’s pathetic that Ingraham chose to attack Meghan McCain’s figure rather than address her views…and that she continues to fight the battle on that front instead of making a reasoned argument about the issues McCain raised.

    Unfortunately, as McCain points out, this sort of attack on the face and figure of the messenger is a frequent response to political questions raised by women. It’s not limited to any political party, either. It’s a classic tactic when faced with an argument one is unable to dissect to instead attack the person who made the argument. When that messenger is a woman, the fastest way to gut her credibility has always been to call her ugly or somehow unfeminine.

  9. Kimks March 16, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    I would probably have stepped up to the mother and said Lay off- its her day, and regardless of the family dynamics you need to bite your tongue and be supportive of your daughter or leave. I am just that way.

    When I was trying on my wedding gown, which was a bridesmaids dress that I ordered in Ivory because when I saw it I knew it would work with my great grandmothers antique cathedral length train that my great –great- grandmother had hand tatted the lace for and that my grandmother and mother had both worn on their wedding days. My dress was beautiful, more of a full length suit with a broad neckline and three quarter length sleeve top and a full a-line skirt, styled like a 1950’s Cocktail Suit. The train was able to attach under the collar. Another bride in the shop made a sly comment, that I” was probably too fat to fit into a real wedding Dress.” That comment stung a bit.
    I was going to say something when The brides grandmother stepped up to the plate and said “I was wearing a suit similar to this when I married your Grandfather- I’d say this is a real wedding dress, after all, my suit led to 52 years and counting of marital bliss.”

    Right on Grandma!

  10. peaches March 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    speaking to the moms in real situations would probably be useless. a verbally abusive person isnt going to be swayed by a few words from a stranger. kind words to the “brides” is the best that can be done.