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.